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Meanwhile, Further West…

‘Undefeated’ has been the hot tag for Derby contenders the last few years (even if they rarely carry that honor away from Churchill Downs); last week saw Big Brown (few starts because of his fragile feet) head to the top of the hype class, and this week we (finally) see Denis of Cork again in the Illinois Derby. You may recall that back in February he was the little-raced horse on everyone’s list; of late, he seems to have been listed as a potential starter in just about every Derby prep since then, only to send regrets at some point in the week before.

What is unclear is whether he’s simply been ducking stiffer competition (making this weekend a crucial earnings test) or simply was not ready for one reason or another (which begs the question — is everything all right physically?). Whatever the case, he is a strong favorite here. While Atoned may be a threat, if Denis of Cork is the horse he’s rumored to be, he should easily beat this field (and then while away the time until the first Saturday in May — incidentally, I understand that is the title of a little film you’ll shortly be able to see at a cinema near you).

I think he has talent, but given that he is untested against the better-class horses in his cohort, I don’t like his chances come Derby Day, even with a nice win here. A little seasoning can go a long way (see: Curlin).

But there is Derby trail action out west as well – El Gato Malo and Colonel John (pictured) face off in the Santa Anita Derby. In the absence of Georgie Boy, this does look to be a two-horse race; Bob Black Jack and Yankee Bravo have been up there, but neither one has caught my eye to the same extent. Having said that, I’m not overawed by anything coming out of California this year — but a Bellamy Road Big Brown-style finish could change my mind. I’m leaning toward El Gato Malo as that victor.

In the meantime, I have some Future Wager activity to attend to (and I will say that I’m glad I waited for this round)…

Bet on the Kentucky Derby

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