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2012 Kentucky Derby Closers
The Kentucky Derby is considered “the greatest two minutes in sports” because of its high-flying action. There are the speed horse, those who attempt to make their move turning for home and the cavalry charge that comes flying in the final furlong. Covered here is the last group, the closers. Hanging way back early to avoid the fast and furious early fray, these come-from behind mavens will try to swoop in late and get all the spoils. None of the horses here will be the favorite, though many will occupy that second tier of runners on the tote. Let us take a look at this crew, going alphabetically.
Daddy Nose Best is the first closer (alphabetically) among the come-from-behind group. He also possesses the most early “speed”, so he figures to be the horse closest to the lead (though still a dozen or more lengths behind down the backstretch). He is the only horse among the field who has two wins at nine furlongs. In both wins, he showed guts in the stretch to win. In the El Camino Real, he ground his way to victory holding off Lucky Chappy. In the Sunland Derby, he went out and nailed Isn't He Clever, who had spurted away at the top of the lane. His works at Churchill have been the buzz of the backstretch the last few weeks, so he will take some money. He picks up multiple Eclipse award winning jockey Garrett Gomez for the race. He would be the most likely to make first run at the leaders.
Done Talking earned his way into the field by clunking along and winning the Illinois Derby. He is a deep closer who will likely be last at some point during the race. His pedigree says ten furlongs is within his scope. He has yet to run anywhere near as fast as some of his competitors in his races, though he seems to be improving slowly. He could pick off some runners late in stretch.
Dullahan is the half-brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. He closed with a rush to win the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes, his 2nd Grade 1 win on the surface. However, those two wins are his only two in his career. His dirt form is less impressive, with a 3rd being his best effort. He finish a well-beaten 4th in Breeders' Cup Juvenile over this track last fall. He has shown the ability to sustain a run even after adversity, which is a necessary trait to win the Derby. His trainer Dale Romans finish 4th in the 2011 Derby with Shackleford, who went on to win the Preakness.
Optimizer snuck into the field after the late defection of Mark Valeski. He has gone 0-for-8 since winning his debut race 9 months ago. His best effort since is finishing second in the Rebel Stakes. His trainer D. Wayne Lukas has won the race four times, though the last time he hit the board was in 2002 with Proud Citizen. Optimizer should have no problem with the added furlong being by multiple long distance turf horse English Channel out of a mare by Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy. He will be with Done Talking early on, looking to pick off runners in the stretch.
Rousing Sermon has run 3rd twice this year in his Derby preps, using his closing kick to pick off runners. He is trained by hall of famer Jerry Hollendorfer. He worked well at Hollywood Park before shipping to Churchill Downs. Jose Lezcano will pick up the mount on him for the Derby. His arguably best race came off a similar five week break late last year. He might struggle a bit with the ten furlongs, but he has a chance to pass up several runners late if a hot pace unfolds.
Sabercat earned his way into the Derby last November with a fast-closing win in the Delta Jackpot. He has two preps this year, with his 3rd in the Arkansas Derby last time out being the significantly better of the two. He figures to be in the next-to-last flight of horses early on. Trained by Steve Asmussen (who also trains Daddy Nose Best), he had a solid breeze coming out of the Arkansas Derby. His sire Bluegrass Cat ran second in the 2006 Derby behind Barbaro. His form gives off an air of improvement from his two-year old form; with one more step he has a strong chance to snatch victory late.
These closers look to join last year's winner Animal Kingdom as another winner who came from well off the pace to wear the blanket of roses. Which one of these wondrous animals will make their mark on this year's Derby? We will find out this Saturday. In the mean time, check out our Kentucky Derby Picks to learn how to bet the race!