Slop, the great equalizer. As if this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) isn’t equal enough, we’re about to get bombarded with a prolonged rain unlike anything the
With so many uncertainties compounded with Bob Baffert not allowing me to pick Lookin at Lucky for fear of some dreaded Haskin hex adding to his post position and sloppy track problems, I will turn to those always enticing longshots. Most of them have been discussed already, but now we can break them down into possible plays at the mutual windows.
Let’s start by saying that Lookin at Lucky, despite his post, would be my natural selection, based on the large number of positive factors in his resume and the way he’s been training, looking, and acting. But not wanting to incur the wrath of Mr. Baffert at such a stressful time, I will put Lookin at Lucky off to the side and concentrate on the horses who are potential longshot possibilities.
Next, let’s get Stately Victor out of the way. Not having seen him train over at Trackside, it would be difficult to pick him based on his training, which is the main basis of this column. But as we said yesterday, you will not find a better bred horse for the slop. Add to that, he does look fantastic physically, and we have stated all along we loved his Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) victory and feel that may not be the fluke most people think it is. This horse has overcome a severe illness and it could be he is just now coming into his own and is ready to peak. So, with that said, he is a definite play on Saturday, especially at the more than generous 30-1 morning line odds, which seems pretty high considering how impressive he was at Keeneland and the fact that he did run a big race on the dirt (on a ‘good’ track) in his career debut at Saratoga.
Anyone who has been reading this column knows I’ve been high on Mission Impazible and Paddy O'Prado for several weeks now – Mission Impazible, actually several months since the Southwest Stakes (gr. III). So, those two definitely would be part of my exotics. Paddy O’Prado had as good a work as anyone and generates a great deal of power in his gallops each morning. In our eye, Mission Impazible is the most visually appealing horse, his gallops have gotten stronger in a controlled sort of way. And he handled the off track just fine in his work last week. Remember, the horse he worked with, Rule, was withdrawn from the
Of all the works we’ve seen here, Devil May Care gets the prize for best work. That has proven successful before with Real Quiet, Fusaichi Pegasus , Monarchos, Smarty Jones , Barbaro, and Street Sense . Her gallops have all been strong as well, so based on that, she must be considered a live horse and will also be included in the exotics.
Back in December, when we made up our first Derby Dozen, we had Super Saver ranked #1 and have kept him pretty high for most of the winter. He has done nothing wrong in the mornings. He has looked sharp in his gallops and his half-mile breeze was deceptively good, especially the way he closed and galloped out. But he has had only two starts this year and only that one easy half-mile breeze since the Arkansas Derby (gr. I). Todd Pletcher said he felt he didn’t need a five-furlong work, but from a handicapping standpoint, having only one short breeze in three weeks leading up to the Derby, with only two starts under your belt at 3, is a bit unusual. It could have no bearing on anything, and Pletcher knows what his horses need, but it still is worth pointing out.
Several other points of observation regarding some of the other starters: American Lion looks spectacular and he appears to be a horse peaking at the right time, both from a racing and physical standpoint. His coat is blossoming and his gallops have all been strong. We don’t know how he’s going to handle what promises to be an extremely wet track Saturday. That is the big guess with him, but he does have some slop influences, and how could he not handle it with a dam named Storm Tide, who is a full sister to Thunder Ridge and Weather Warning?
Noble's Promise , who could actually move up a little in the mud if it helps stretch him out that extra furlong, also is thriving. He works have been sharp, his gallops strong, and I absolutely love the way he attacked his feed tub Friday morning. And I don’t mean in the figure of speech sense. He literally attacked it, which is something you always want to see. With him, he cannot hit the front too soon. He has to wait and come home late like he did in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I).
Awesome Act, a horse we’ve loved even going into last year’s Breeders’ Cup, is a complete mystery, because we just don’t know how he’s going to handle the 1 ¼ miles. He has a quick turn of foot, like many Europeans, but it has to be timed perfectly. He had excuses galore in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) and is a legitimate threat. The sloppy track should not be a problem, based on the solid work he had on Tuesday. You’ll have to decide whether he’s worth the price as co-third choice on the morning line.
As for the John Sadler horses, Sidney's Candy has been galloping like a tiger, as has Line of David, who has turned in two powerhouse gallops the past two mornings. Sadler no doubt is turning the screws on both colts and gearing up them for the arduous trip they are about to face.
Ice Box had a very strong half-mile work a week ago Friday and looks good physically. With him, it’s all about the trip and if he can come 18th, 19th, or 20th and make it through all the track traffic. I’d just like to see him a bit more adept at changing leads. But if the pace collapses and takes all the speed and stalkers with it, he’s the one you’d look for coming late. One thing is for sure, there shouldn’t be many holes too small for him to fit through.
Is there a Mine That Bird this year? The closest thing approximating last year’s
Dean's Kitten made a good physical appearance Friday morning, and seems like a colt with a lot of character. How he’ll handle the track is anyone’s guess, but being a turf/synthetic horse, it could help move him up.
The horse I just don’t know what to make of is
Jackson Bend and Backtalk have done nothing wrong, and we have great respect for both of them, but they also haven’t done anything noteworthy enough to rank them near the top. Conveyance should be right up there a long way, and maybe the slop can carry him a little farther if he doesn't get caught up in a speed duel with Line of David.
So, while there are a number of horses you can play with relative confidence, we’re going to stick with Lookin at….oops, never mind. Make that Stately Victor,
None of the others mentioned above would be a surprise by any means, but with this being such a wide-open race, it was difficult enough narrowing it down to three or four.