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Sunday, April 24, 2011

My Kingdom For a Horse

With less than two weeks to go now before Kentucky Derby 137, I find myself bereft of a fan’s most important asset—a Derby horse. Anyone else likewise so afflicted?

Those horses who looked most promising early on are injured (Premier Pegasus, Rogue Romance, To Honor and Serve), proven vulnerable (Uncle Mo, The Factor, Soldat), or have just flat-out disappointed (Brethren, Stay Thirsty). The far-more-talented fillies (Joyful Victory, R Heat Lightning, Zazu, Summer Soiree) are Oaks-bound instead, unfortunately. That leaves a host of interesting contenders with potential but thus far lacking that “wow” factor for me.

Putting together a Top Ten list for the Paulick Derby Index has been a challenge in recent weeks, not so much for what horses to include, but in what exact order to rank them. Right now, my list is completely fluid, and likely to remain so until workouts, jockey assignments, post positions and race day conditions bring more clarity to the situation. Believe me, I’m ready and willing to give away my heart so, like most everyone else I suspect, I’ll be pouring over every tidbit of information proffered, be it ever so minute.

As I did last year (when I nailed the Super Saver-Ice Box exacta), I’ll be providing in-depth pedigree analysis on the Derby entrants for Hello Race Fans! Lacking any clear favorite, careful study of stamina potential is probably more important than ever this year—and a number of horses offer intriguing possibilities. Those are the ones that dominant my list.

While not entirely ready to articulate reasons for each of my selections, let me just say that, all of the Derby prep races, I believe the Louisiana Derby has proven to be superior. Thus, Pants On Fire, Nehro and Mucho Macho Man find a prominent place among my contenders.

How appropriate would it be for Rosie Napravnik to become the first female jockey to win the Run for the Roses? With Pants On Fire, she’s got an excellent chance—and I’m truly excited by deeper evaluation of his pedigree. Nehro appears to me peaking at exactly the right time, after narrow runner-up finishes behind Pants On Fire and Archarcharch. I’ve never been a fan of Mucho Macho Man (maybe the name turns me off a bit), but you can’t question his consistency. It would be fantastic for Kathy Ritvo to smash that glass ceiling for female trainers in the Derby as well.

I love the late closing style of Dialed In, while the pedigrees of Archarcharch, Midnight Interlude, Animal Kingdom and Brilliant Speed enthrall me—even though I’m not totally convinced the latter two can transfer their turf and synthetic form to real dirt. They have the most to prove to me in workouts.

It’s a wide-open field for Kentucky Derby betting, and likely one that will result in more than a few surprises. Let’s enjoy the ride, folks.