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Thanks, But No Thanks

While I appreciated Cowboy Cal adding some points to my Road to the Roses stable, I’m not convinced his placing behind Monba (with Pyro finishing up the track) in the Blue Grass means much in terms of the Derby picture. Pyro missed the break and seemed to have little (of course, the ‘he didn’t like the surface’ excuse is built-in), while Visionaire had a really terrible trip — twelve wide at one point — and still managed to get up for fifth. The one really nice thing about TVG’s coverage was the little stat showing how far the horses actually ran, and Visionaire was the only horse on the first page of results with a large ‘extra’ figure; at least he picked up a check. (Big Truck had an equally unpleasant race but finished closer to Pyro territory).

One could argue that perhaps Monba is peaking at the right time, but Cowboy Cal (with his affinity for grass) strikes me as a Polytrack specialist. The way this race was run was probably good practice for those already going on to the Derby, but I remain unconvinced that we saw the Derby winner in the top finishers.

Hey Byrn’s snail’s-pace victory in the Holy Bull was not much to see either; he got the job done, but I don’t see him competing with Big Brown, Colonel John or the ‘real’ Pyro. It would certainly be a nice story for his connections, but as with many of this year’s Derby hopefuls (see below), I don’t think he’s on the same level.

The Arkansas Derby turned out to be interesting after all (and not just because the runner-up again added to my Road to the Roses total); Gayego’s victory proved that the California contingent is something to be reckoned with after all (and that they can run on conventional dirt). However, I think Z Fortune was the better horse in the race — he lost a lot of ground and was going on at the end, while Gayego struck me (as Mike Smith struck him repeatedly) as a tired horse who was gamely hanging on for the win.

If the Derby field stays anything like the current top 20, there’s going to be a big traffic jam at the 1/8th pole as certain horses hit their distance limitation wall.

Here is the current top 20 in terms of graded earnings:

  • War PassDon’t see him getting the distance
  • Pyro – Should be a top contender despite the Blue Grass
  • Proud Spell – Likely going to the Oaks
  • Tale of EkatiShould get the distance
  • Colonel JohnHas the pedigree and stats
  • GayegoNice win, but perhaps better suited to the Preakness
  • Big BrownJust the feet, ma’am
  • Z HumorNot after the IL Derby
  • MonbaI am uninspired, but you never know
  • Kodiak Kowboy – Hasn’t beaten much lately
  • Turf War – Should be better next year, like brother Grasshopper
  • Court VisionHas not lived up to early promise
  • Z Fortune – I like sons of Siphon
  • AdrianoDerby Fever casualty
  • Recapturetheglory – Interesting, let’s see more
  • Smooth Air – Worth a shot at a price
  • Salute the SargePreakness-bound?
  • Cool Coal ManNot impressed
  • Anak NakalHas not improved enough
  • Eight BellesLegit contender, numbers-wise

On the bubble: Tomcito (#29) is much more deserving of a Derby berth than most on this list — he’s already proven at the distance. Here’s hoping he doesn’t run into any trouble in the Coolmore Lexington (or that the needed cash might magically appear in his account). Visionaire (#22) should also be in the gate come Derby day. I don’t see Denis of Cork (#25) being ready in time after the Illinois Derby debacle.

Given the opportunity, I would toss the following (some of whom are off the trail already) from the top 20: Z Humor, Kodiak Kowboy, Turf War, Court Vision, Adriano, Salute the Sarge, Cool Coal Man and Anak Nakal. That makes plenty of space for legitimate contenders (and I would love to see talented horses like Adriano and Cowboy Cal on turf or otherwise in spots that make more sense for them). I’ll formulate a new Superfecta Derby Top Ten tomorrow…

Kentucky Derby winning odds

2 comments to Thanks, But No Thanks

  • DerbyDave

    Thanks for your analysis and views. However, I don’t see how anyone can be high on Pyro for the Derby. We all throw out races much like we did for Monba in the FOY. However, Monba had a bad trip, suffered a gash in his hoof and required some low level surgery after the race. Pyro did not fire at all and can’t blame it on a bad trip. Prior to the BlueGrass he was training well well on the synthetic surface. For now its wait and see but my money is on Monba considering he’s peaking and the fact that he has won on dirt in Louisville showing that he is not a one surface runner. I wouldn’t take Pyro off my list of contenders but to win the Derby he’s going to have to fire up all cylinders.

  • Superfecta

    I’m actually not that high on Pyro, but he’s got a record of consistency (minus the one race) that suggests he’s got a lot more right to be there than, say, Anak Nakal. I’m still leaning toward Tale of Ekati or Tomcito myself…

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