Saturday, May 2, 2015

Kentucky Derby Day Preview; Oaks Day Recap

My Oaks day started off frustrating, peaked and then was downhill from there.  The best thing I can say about it is that I didn't get shut out.  In the Edgewater (QUALITY ROCKS) and the La Troienne (SHEER DRAMA) I finished 2nd.  In a thrilling Alysheba, if it wasn't for a Herculean effort by PROTONICO to fight back after being headed in deep stretch to win, I would have had my 3rd place finish in a row. 
I took stabs with longer shots in the Turf Sprint (CHANNEL MARKER) and the Eight Belles (EKATI'S PHAETON) and finished off the board in both. 
In the Oaks, I'M A CHATTERBOX left herself too much to do and, though she closed adroitly, it was too little, too late and she finished 3rd, behind the impressive LOVELY MARIA and long shot SHOOK UP.
The final stat line: 6 races - 1 win, 2 places, 1 third for my top choices.
This may be the hardest Derby I’ve ever analyzed.  Judging from my highly publicized track record (1 for ever) you’d think they were ALL unbearably hard, but this one was brutal.  I’ll admit, right now as I type this up at lunch at an Italian restaurant in Mauston, WI I STILL have no idea who my final Derby selection will be.  Before that, though, I CAN go ahead and give the thumbnails for my Hello Race Fans selections on the undercard.  By the time you read the Derby pick, I would have returned home and taken my stab!

COMPETITIVE EDGE is the big favorite in this one and while I really like him in here, it’s hard to like him at 6/5.  Especially since he doesn’t seem to tower over this field of 8.  The Pletcher trainee is undefeated and really hasn’t done anything wrong, but is liable to get hooked early by the likes of HILBILLY ROYALTY and GIMME DA LUTE.  The race seems to set up very nicely for LORD NELSON and I look for him to take it late.

A large field with no clear favorite so I’m going with one that hasn’t disappointed anyone yet: GRANNY’S KITTEN.  This Ramsey homebred had a very professional debut at two and now makes his 3-year old debut here.  His work pattern is solid and Maker is a fair 17% off a layoff.  Admittedly he’ll be a price but I felt this was a race to take a stab.

The scratch of GRANNY'S KITTEN made me re-evaluate the race and I landed upon NUN THE LESS.  Sure, it's a step up but this isn't exactly the Derby group going here and he's a Minnesota owned horse.  He should track well and if the race sets up right he could be right there at the end.


The shortest priced favorite of the day should be JUDY THE BEAUTY in here and I’m not going to try and get cute and beat her.  She stands over this field and should win it with ease.


A nice, big, betable field in here.  There are several to make a case for, but I went with SANDIVA.  She never seemed to get untracked in the US after her arrival until she won at 9/2 in a Gulfstream overnight stake.  She then stepped up in the Grade 3 Suwanee River and won again.  She just got nipped at the end of the Grade 2 Honey Fox last out by Lady Lara.  While she may prefer a little longer, a second straight shot at a flat mile should be more to her liking and I’m hoping she turns the tables on her rival.


BAYERN or PRIVATE ZONE.  PRIVATE ZONE or BAYERN.  Which way to go??  How about PANTS ON FIRE?  The two top choices as well as C. ZEE and BREWING should all want a piece of what’s going on up front in the 7 furlong sprint.  PANTS ON FIRE should be perfectly positioned to take advantage of the pace scenario, sitting right behind the leaders and building off of his 2015 debut win in the Sir Shakleton.  With the two favorites behind him, we should get a nice price as well.


We have a girl against the boys in the Turf Classic with STEPHANIE’S KITTEN tangling with FINNEGAN’S WAKE among others in here.  The problem for both of them is lack of pace.  No one is really going to want to go in this group…except for CHOCOLATE RIDE.  Joe Talamo has already proven that he can rate CHOCOLATE RIDE and he has 2 gate to wire wins in his last two races – both graded stakes going a mile and an eighth.  This is a tall order but if no one goes out to challenge, Talamo will control the pace again and we’ll win with double digit odds.

This was one hell of an exercise.  I started by eliminating those, in my view, that really didn’t stand a chance to win the race.  I was able to clear half the field but then again, that left half the field.  I read articles, watched replays and listened to the radio and what I learned is that with this Derby group I can be easily swayed.  Every ‘expert’ with an opinion could sway me.

Here is why AMERICAN PHAROAH can’t lose.  Okay, I buy that.
Here is why his stablemate DORTMUND will win.  Okay, I’m in.

No horse that hasn’t run as a 2-year old has won the Derby since Columbus crossed the ocean.  BUT…here is why MATERIALITY can break that streak.  Sounds good!

And on…and on…and on.

It seems as if we have a subset in the race of closely matched, very good horses with differing running styles and that, for the most part, prepped in different locations coming together for the first time to try something that none of them have yet: a mile and a quarter race with 150,000 people screaming at them every inch of the way.
The reality probably is that by the time Saratoga and Del Mar are finished up we’ll have a much better indication of what this crop is like.  Will there be a super horse? Is this the best group of 3-year olds since [insert favorite crop year here]? Have a few separated themselves from the rest?  Do we have a rivalry like AFFIRMED and ALYDAR?  All these questions will be answered then. Now we need to pick the Derby and start answering the questions.

My choice is FROSTED.

He was a solid and promising 2-year old, finishing 2nd in the Grade 2 Remsen before heading to the bench but then couldn’t get untracked as a 3.  His Holy Bull effort was decent by he was soundly defeated by UPSTART.  In the Fountain of Youth he looked very strong until he faded back to 4th in the lane.  He was sent off to undergo a throat procedure which was designed to help his breathing from an occasional displacement of the soft palate. If I get any deeper, I’m lost…net/net: he was breathing better under the stress of exercise.

His first race with the new and improved breathing system was a strong closing win in the Wood Memorial to win by two while posting his best lifetime Beyer Speed Figure (103).  Reunited with Joel Rosario for the Derby, Frosted should be able to get decent position while breaking from the 15 spot and shouldn’t have too much work to do when the real running starts.  He should be able to get the mile and a quarter, giving trainer Kiaran McLaughlin his first Derby win in his 5th start.


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