Kentucky Derby Predictions and full coverage please
It wasn�t the late afternoon post position draw
itself, but the random pill pull mid-morning on Wednesday that
clarified much about this year�s Derby field. The contenders who
suffered most from the draw were undoubtedly Cowboy Cal,
Recapturetheglory, Gayego and Big Brown�all early speed horses that
ended up in posts 17-20 respectively. With Recapturetheglory and
Gayego�s stamina-challenged pedigrees, these posts look to be the
proverbial �kiss of death.� And what is Dick Dutrow smoking?
Deliberately picking post 20, when both the 1 and 2 slots were still
open? Last time I looked, on any oval race track the inside posts
cover less distance than those on the outside, and so why
deliberately travel farther, especially when your early speed can
carry you to the lead right out of the gate?
Which contenders most benefited from the post position draw?
Selecting first, Michael Matz chose post 8 for Visionaire, the same
slot from which Barbaro ran to victory in 2006. Colonel John also
gets the perfect mid-field post (10), and will get to load last
(along with Big Brown). With the second choice, Barclay Tagg put Big
Truck in post 7, just inside Visionaire. In selecting sixth, Larry
Jones ensured his filly Eight Belles gets a prime post (5), and
running in blinkers for the first time, Court Vision will break
directly inside her from post 4; to her outside will be Z Fortune in
post 6. Pyro also got a nice slot, in post 9.
The only unknown factor at this point may be the weather on
Saturday, which, as of this writing, calls for an 80-100% chance of
a.m. thunderstorms and wind (both The Weather Channel, and National
Weather Service). An off-track could benefit Visionaire, Pyro,
Smooth Air, and Cool Coal Man�all of whom have already proven
themselves on wet to sloppy tracks. Additionally, Tomlinson wet
track numbers for Colonel John (399), Eight Belles (402),
Recapturetheglory (426) and Adriano (434) indicate they could
perform well�if other factors are considered. It�s those other
factors that are the kickers.
So, all things considered, who�s worthy of your betting dollar?
Let�s first deal with who isn�t. With total confidence, here are
five to toss:
1. Anak Nakal�Yes, he won over the Churchill surface
last November, but his three races this year have been abysmal. The
added blinkers didn�t help in the Wood Memorial, so taking them off
here won�t �wake� this Rip Van Winkle.
2. Z Humor�His winning Delta Downs Jackpot form wasn�t
flatter by neither Turf War�s poor performances nor his own pitiful
races since. While I respect Bill Mott, this horse doesn�t deserve
to be in this race.
3. Cowboy Cal, and 4. Monba�Poor Todd Pletcher. A nice
turf horse and a decent all-weather track runner are the best he
could produce this year? Not even a decent filly in his barn (� la
Rags to Riches) to spring a surprise? Sad�To his credit, Monba did
win (barely) on Churchill dirt last November, but his other dirt
attempt was an abysmal twelfth place finish (nearly 40 lengths back)
in the Fountain of Youth. Pletcher worked both of them at Keeneland
instead of Churchill so there�s no way to gauge Cowboy Cal�s ability
over the Derby surface. The final straw for both are their terrible
post positions�Monba (14) and Cowboy Cal (17).
5. Recapturetheglory�Notwithstanding his Illinois
Derby victory, he has serious stamina issues (by Cherokee Run out of
a Dehere mare); starting from post 18, amid the outside pack of
speed horses, should use up him up early, leaving nothing for the
On the other hand, morning line odds make
Big Brown (3-1) the favorite, followed by
Colonel John (4-1) and
Pyro (6-1). Of these three,
Colonel John has demonstrated a great affinity for the Churchill
surface, posting an impressive 5f bullet workout (:57.80) on
Tuesday, and I can�t leave him off my tickets. His breeding (by
Tiznow out of a Turkoman mare) is perfectly suited for 10 furlongs,
and he�s never finished worse than second running against tough
fields in California. Eoin Harty knows what he�s doing and what he�s
got. If there�s an off-track, I�ll consider Pyro. Otherwise, his
Blue Grass performance and subsequent workout simply aren�t enough
for me to think him worthy of victory�he just doesn�t appear to be
sitting on a big effort. Big Brown�s far outside post is a huge
concern, as is the very quick 3f work (35.40) on Thursday�just two
days before the Derby. Watching that workout, he fought his rider
quite a bit, and looked quite keen to go on. Still, he�s
lightly-race (only 3 times), he�s got bad feet (quarter cracks), and
the DRF notes in Thursday�s edition that he will be wearing front
leg wraps on Saturday. For value, I�m looking elsewhere.
So, who could break out and win,
particularly at long odds?
1. Court Vision
(20-1)�Blinkers on for the first-time, Mott seems to have this one
primed. He�s posted two extremely sharp workouts at Churchill,
including a 4f bullet (:46.20) on April 17, and his post position
(4) will save ground for his late run. He won the G3 Iroquois at
Churchill last year. Top jock Garrett Gomez reported turned down a
ride on Pyro, to stay aboard this son of Gulch. Just a very strong
gut feeling about this one.
2. Eight Belles
(20-1)�Saying this filly doesn�t belong here is pure ignorance. In
every conceivable way, she more than stacks up favorably against
this field. She�s physically big (16.2 hands); well-bred
(granddaughter of Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, by his son
Unbridled�s Song, and a great-granddaughter of Kentucky Derby winner
Northern Dancer, out of a Dixieland Band mare); well-raced (with 9
lifetime races, she�s run more often than every other horse in the
field); and has run well in every race this year (4 wins in 4 races,
all on dirt, each with a BRIS speed between 98 and 103�better than
most in this field).
3. Visionaire (20-1)�He
closed deceptively strong last out in the G1 Blue Grass, and his
biggest race to date was his victory in the sloppy, foggy G3 Gotham
so an off-track wouldn�t be bad news. Michael Matz has been
relatively low-key about this son of Grand Slam, but he�s steadily
improved this year�the sign of a horse mastering his craft. The
biggest concern is, of course, can he outrun his pedigree.
4. Smooth Air (20-1)�I
can�t help myself. This little Smooth Jazz colt and his connections
appeal to me. Trainer Bennie Stutts (70 years young) has been around
this sport a long time, and he trains Smooth Air in an old-fashioned
way�lots of regular, long works. His fitness level is phenomenal,
and probably why this colt is outrunning his breeding. Breaking from
post 12 (between Z Humor and Bob Black Jack) is a bit of a concern,
especially with those outside speed horses moving over after the
start�he may get shuffled back a little too far in the early going.
And that fever he spiked last weekend is a bit of a bother. Still,
in a mediocre year with no real dominant core of favorites untainted
by disappointments or questions, why not support the underdog?
Kentucky Derby Predictions and full coverage please
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