To start, this is as tough a
I cannot remember a
But you don’t hear his name mentioned much, and very few handicappers and media members are picking him. As I mentioned in a previous column, I do not pick favorites in the
From a looks standpoint, no one is thriving here more than Pioneerof the
Going by their potential odds, I would bet Pioneerof the
The horse I’m really struggling with is
That pretty much is where I stand with the horses who likely will go off at lower single-digit odds.
Now, let’s get to the real business at hand. I admit to being a hopeless romantic who cannot resist the lure of a great story. But I never allow that cloud my judgment when it comes to observing a horse. In the case of this year’s Cinderella horse General Quarters, however, I am seeing a horse who is primed for a big effort, both physically and mentally. He is galloping out of his skin and is getting tough. He is bright and alert and appears to be in the zone. He just needs it all to come together on Saturday. I have no idea how good this horse is or if he’s fast enough; I’m just getting the signs he is sitting on a big race. And remember, he did turn in a sensational work over this track before the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (I can’t believe I’m liking another horse coming off the Blue Grass). There is no guarantee he’ll handle a sloppy track, but he has enough slop influences (A.P. Indy, Unbridled's Song ,
As shocked as I am about liking the winner of the Blue Grass, I am doubly shocked that I also like the runner-up Hold Me Back , who is another who has been tearing around the track in the mornings as if he means business, and I loved his most recent work in company. I normally wouldn’t like a big, long-striding horse like him in the slop, but I think he’s getting good right now and he’s coming off an excellent prep that should set him up for a big effort. If he doesn’t win I still think he’ll be flying late, as long as we don’t have a pronounced speed-biased track.
The third horse at a price I like is Chocolate Candy, even though I wasn’t crazy about his getting hot and bothered when Jerry Hollendorfer changed his schedule and brought him later in the morning when there was more acitvity. This is one of the most easy-going horses in the field, so that was surprising. He’s done well since, so you just have to hope whatever was bugging him won’t be an issue on Derby Day. What I really like about this colt is the way he has improved physically since he arrived here. And one of his best mornings was when he galloped over a sloppy track and was loving it, according to his exercise rider Lindsey Molina. Also, if you like Pioneerof the
The other horse I am struggling with is Desert Party , who I was all set to pick as my best bet at a price. I still will bet this horse to win, because he’s had a number of terrific mornings, including an eventful, but overly impressive work. He is all class with an air of nobility about him, and he will be Godolphin’s best chance to win the
For a 50-1 shot who could hit the board, Flying Private has been looking and training super.
So, in a nutshell, my main win bet will be General Quarters, with possible savers on Desert Party, Chocolate Candy, and Hold Me Back, depending on their odds.
My exotics would be to box General Quarters and Desert Party in exactas and trifectas with the favorite or favorites of your choice (I Want Revenge, Friesan Fire, Pioneerof the Nile or Dunkirk); General Quarters and Hold Me Back with one or more of the four favorites, and General Quarters and Chocolate Candy with one or more of the four favorites.
If you want to try for a monster score and toss the favorites altogether, how about a four-horse exacta or trifecta box of General Quarters, Desert Party, Hold Me Back, and Chocolate Candy?
There are some surprises in the odds as of 2 o’clock Friday, as this is being completed, such as Chocolate Candy at an unappealing 8-1 and Hold Me Back at a so-so 11-1. I am hoping those odds go up.
Watch tomorrow for any updates in the column, as we get a better idea who the best bargains will be. But right now I’m still sticking with General Quarters, despite his sentiment-driven odds, and Desert Party as the best overlay at 26-1, despite his post.
Whether or not you pay any attention to these ramblings, don't forget about the best work/overall appearance (Pioneerof the Nile and I Want Revenge) and the slop and fitness factor (Friesan Fire) to include in any exotics, but you don't need me to tell you that.