I’ve been looking at the Derby past performances way too long. That’s what happens when you have a 20+ year losing streak going on – you press. You try and find something that you missed. The entire world calls it a wide open affair so you spend time hunting for value, that missing piece that pulls the contender off the page at you. I went cross-eyed this year trying to end my string of futility. What it finally came down to was stop looking so damn hard and lay your money on the best horse. You can’t handicap racing luck so it’s the best you can do.Here is the rundown:
1. Archarcharch (Fires/Court): The Rebel made me think that the he possibly couldn’t get the distance. The Arkansas Derby just showed that he wasn’t ready to. The rail is not to his advantage, but has had its share of winners in the past (See Ferdinand). As always, the concern for a deep closer is having to navigate the field.
2. Brilliant Speed (Albertrani/Rosario): A personal favorite of mine thanks to our wonderful trip to Live Oak for the TOBA Pedigree & Conformation Clinic. A nice horse, but one that probably prefers the grass or synthetic.
3. Twice the Appeal (Bonde/Borel): You can never count Borel out of a Derby, but it is very unlikely that this horse, twice removed from $30,000 Maiden Claiming company, is going to be able to compete with these. The horse was taking a lot of money yesterday and is being WAY overbet for its ability which is helping to create value elsewhere.
4. Stay Thirsty (Pletcher/Dominguez): The OTHER Repole horse that’s still in the race. Which horse shows for the Derby? Is it the hard charging winner of the Gotham or the trounced, up the track finisher of the Florida Derby? My guess is going to be Florida Derby.
5. Decisive Moment (Arias/Clark): Not a chance.
6. Comma to the Top (Miller/Valenzuala): Near the top of everyone’s list in January, the colt still has yet to win in 2011. Showed some life in the Santa Anita Derby but still faded at the end. Probably should cut back in distance where he can still do so damage.
7. Pants on Fire (Breen/Napravnik): Along with Nehro, this is a horse that you hear the ‘wise guys’ talking about. Everyone loves the Rosie Napravnik storyline as well. Sharp winner of the Louisiana Derby where he turned the tables on Mucho Macho Man while showing a lot of determination. May need to try and wire the field and that’ll be no easy task.
8. Dialed In (Zito/Leparoux): Morning line favorite with a good draw, overdue jock and a trainer that can get them to the winner’s circle, the horse was sharp all season. I know losing in a $60,000 optional claiming race isn’t ideal, but the colt was sent out for his first try over turn turns AND was against older horses in early March. Winner finished third in the Alysheba yesterday over many that were in this gate for this race in previous years, losing by less than a half. If the foundation is there, should be very tough.
9. Derby Kitten (Maker/Castellano): Only off the turf/synthetic effort resulted in a 27 length drubbing.
10. Twinspired (Maker/Smith): Could say the same for this as I did for Derby Kitten, though the dirt loss wasn’t as bad/
11. Master of Hounds (O’Brien/Gomez): A long way to come for a start, this overseas shipper hasn’t seen as much as a single public work over dirt and has only broken his maiden thusfar. Coming off an excellent effort in the UAE Derby in his only effort of 2011 against older horses on the synthetic. Hard to tell where the form is at, but can’t believe O’Brien comes all this way to be an also ran.
12. Santiva (Kenneally/Bridgmohan): Last prep over a synthetic strip in the Blue Grass was less than impressive and certainly prefers the dirt. May be a cut below these.
13. Mucho Macho Man (Ritvo/Maragh): “Sponsored” by Minnesota’s 3M and trained by a feel good story in and of herself, the colt has hit board in every start but one in his career. Tired after a wide trip in the Louisiana Derby, there are still real distance concerns with this one.
14. Shackleford (Romans/Castanon): Have to love the name. Colt bounced badly in the Fountain of Youth but came back strong in the Florida Derby. Been working superbly up to this race but I have concerns about his ability to get the mile and a quarter.
15. Midnight Interlude (Baffert/Espinoza): Another that has been working very well leading into this race. May prefer the front end or track the speed and that’s going to be more difficult to do from the 15 spot. While I don’t think his Santa Anita Derby win is as ‘bad’ as folks have said, I don’t think he’ll be fast enough to get to the spot he wants to be in today.
16. Animal Kingdom (Motion/
Albarado Velazquez): First start over the dirt. The one work has been solid and a colt that has impressed everyone he’s come in contact with so far in Louisville. Had a great win in the Spiral and the distance should not be a concern. Will certainly be a factor if he handles the surface.
17. Soldat (McLaughlin/Garcia): Threw in a real dud in the Florida Derby after two impressive victories going to the front. If he needs the front to win, he can’t win this one.
18. Uncle Mo (Pletcher/Velazquez): SCRATCHED
19. Nehro (Asmussen/Nakatani): Much talked about horse and another ‘wise guy’ pick. The two seconds at a mile and an eighth make you think another eighth and he would have got there. I’ve been burned by that enough in my time to take a pass this time.
20. Watch Me Go (O’Connell/Bejarano): Huge upset winner of the Tampa Bay Derby, showed distance issues in the Illinois Derby and probably should have stayed home.So there you have the field. With all the talk of this being such a wide open field and anyone’s race, I’ve dialed it down, went back to basics and will simply pick who I feel is the best horse with the best chance. Isn’t that what ends up happened when all is said and done? The race is run and you say, “I guess it really wasn’t that wide open after all?”
1. Dialed In
3. Master of Hounds
4. Pants on Fire
There it is in black and white. Run, don’t walk, away from Dialed In if you believe in my curse, but this is my fearsome foursome and I’m leaning on Dialed In to get me my first Derby win.