Ah, it’s about that time, and I dread making a Kentucky Derby selection for fear of dooming another contender. All those I’ve touted this year—Maximus Ruler, Odysseus, Eskendereya, and Endorsement—have now fallen by the wayside, so I’ll whimp out and instead outline who I think can (and can't) win and why.
I wrote a piece for Hello Race Fans! about Derby pedigrees, and the top three I analyzed there also happened to have worked extremely well this week and have great off-track credentials—Super Saver, Discreetly Mine and Ice Box.
I liked Super Saver’s sharp 4 furlong work in the slop, and don’t think you can ever discount Calvin Borel riding a big race at Churchill. He drew post 4, which will save this early speed horse ground running to the first turn. Other things to like: he’s won over this track (G2 Kentucky Jockey Cup); this is his third start off a break; his numbers have improved each race; and, oh, did I mention Calvin Borel?
Unfortunately, Discreetly Mine drew post 15 so this early runner may have to use up too much speed, and, despite his victory in the G2 Risen Star, he just hasn’t been going quite as well as the others. I doubt he can pull another Mine That Bird surprise, so I may leave him off my exotics.
Ice Box, on the other hand, looks awesome! I have no doubt he can get the distance, and, though it took awhile to get him going well, his late closing style should serve him well with the number of speed horses in here (Sidney’s Candy, Conveyance, Line of David, etc.).
I like Mission Impazible a lot—I’m a big fan of Rajiv Maragh who rode this horse perfectly in the G2 Louisiana Derby, and his workout with stablemate Rule last Saturday was impressive with the ease he worked over the sloppy track. If it rains Derby day, he (and Super Saver) will probably be my top picks. Come on, as good as Unbridled’s Song progeny are, they have got to win a Derby—and nearly did with Eight Belles. Plus, former Pittsburgh Steelers Terry Bradshaw owns a piece of him. Who doesn’t want to see that coon-ass in the winner’s circle?
There are legitimate reasons why Devil May Care performed poorly in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (hated Pro-Ride surface) and in the G3 Silverbulletday (agitated by gate crew’s use of ear tongs). You can pooh-pooh all you want about her chances, but she and Conveyance are the only two horses in the field who have twice run 100+ Bris speed figures, and that G2 Bonnie Miss was faster than the same-day Florida Derby, as well as the Illinois Derby, Arkansas Derby, Wood Memorial and Louisiana Derby. And she will wear blinkers on Saturday to better focus, and hopefully avoid the erratic running late.
Some I don’t like at all in Derby include those who haven’t proven themselves capable of running on dirt—Stately Victor, Dean’s Kitten, Make Music For Me, and Paddy O’Prado.
Other than his distant second-place finish behind Winslow Homer in his maiden effort at Saratoga, Stately Victor hasn’t run that well on dirt, turf or all-weather surfaces, except for the G1 Blue Grass which I no longer consider a legitimate test for Derby contenders. Other than providing graded stakes earnings, the Blue Grass is a complete fraud as a Grade 1 contest, thus stick Paddy O’Prado on my list of “not-a-chance-in-hell” horses too. Yeah, yeah, Paddy threw a bullet on the sloppy Churchill track last Friday. I’m still not buying him as a legitimate Derby horse. Ditto Make Music for Me who I suspect has serious distance limitations (in addition to potentially being a nice turf horse, à la Cowboy Cal), and Dean’s Kitten who can run all day—on turf.
Dublin was on my Paulick Top Ten list until this week when word leaked out that on two occasions while training he reacted strongly to relatively minor crowd noise, including 5,000 cheering marathon runners. How’s he going to react with the huge Derby crowd on Saturday? I love Backtalk, but in no way is he performing well enough, and his half-sister Bsharpsonata had some distance limits that I think apply to him as well. Ditto Homeboykris! Talk about ruining a nice potential miler by tossing him into the mix, especially being off for more than two months!
As for Lookin At Lucky, I’ve never been a fan, although he did run well on dirt in the G2 Rebel, and endured a piss-poor ride by Garrett Gomez to get third in the G1 Santa Anita Derby. But, breaking from the rail? No thank you. Same with Sidney’s Candy out in post 20. If he had drawn in closer, I would seriously consider Sidney’s Candy a threat to wire this field, but not betting on it now.
Noble’s Promise just won’t be able to run 10 furlongs; same story with Conveyance. A Florida powerhouse 2-year-old, Jackson Bend is the proverbial bridesmaid when running against the best. Don’t see that changing on Saturday. Awesome Act is probably better than his lost-shoe Wood Memorial demonstrated, but he beat nobody in the G3 Gotham. Not sure about the hype, but willing to bet against it unless he looks awesome in the post parade or it’s an off-track.
That leaves G1 Arkansas Derby winner Line of David and G3 Illinois Derby winner American Lion, both of whom look prime for a big bounce after their last career-best races. Unlike my dear friend John from The Race is Not Always to the Swift, I won’t be there in person, but will place my wagers via online Kentucky Derby betting—considering the crazy crowds and potential dreary weather, I’ll gladly watch from home. Good luck to all, and may all come home safe and sound.
P.S. Todd Pletcher will finally win his Kentucky Derby—bank on it.