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Kentucky Derby 2011: On the Record

Hoping for a repeat of this scene, but with rosesPerhaps more than most years, this season’s Derby preps have demonstrated just how hard it is to get to the big race, regardless of how much time and money you’re willing to throw at it.  The Curse of the Wood Memorial (or Twitter – take your pick) has claimed Uncle Mo, although given the rumor mill that’s been operating of late, his scratch is likely not changing many handicapping minds at this point.  I am disappointed that Toby’s Corner did not make the race, but I look forward to seeing him in full health later in the season (perhaps at the Belmont?) – he seems to have real promise.

While many may grouse about the quality of this field, I would argue that we have yet to see what most of them are truly capable of – a combination of light racing schedules and (for many) not-terribly-taxing preps might be hiding their true talents.  My more optimistic position is that perhaps we are seeing a group of later-maturing 3-year-olds – or at least, those that are left after the hot 2-year-old burnouts have left the building.   Without having had much of a chance to prove themselves yet, they might stick around longer and become top-class older horses; hey, it could happen.

It’s true that we are seeing considerably more maiden special weight and allowance victories in the past performances than one might be used to seeing on Kentucky Derby Day, but I’m willing to believe that at least a few of these horses will distinguish themselves in the future -starting with this race.

While I’m committed to Archarcharch and Pants on Fire, my other wagers are up in the air.  I will probably include Soldat and Stay Thirsty in my exotics (and I’m still undecided about Mucho Macho Man and Midnight Interlude).

But rather than waffle on about it here, I invite you to enjoy my handicapping (such as it is) in handy table form – and remember to follow @superfecta on Twitter for updates throughout the weekend –

PP Horse Jockey Trainer ML odds
1 Archarcharch Jon Court William H. ‘Jinks’ Fires
It’s true, I hate his post position, but I still love Arch3 – not only am I still thankful about the nice payoff I got on him in the Arkansas Derby, it seems that if anyone is ‘due’ a Derby win, it’s his connections. I love his breeding, I like his experience and he’s striking to look at. Here’s hoping he can overcome the unlucky post, so that I can implement Operation Awesome Archarcharch T-Shirt (and no, it’s not a math joke, but it is a certain number of kinds of awesome).
2 Brilliant Speed Joel Rosario Tom Albertrani 30-1
Yes, he won the Blue Grass, but the rest of his record is thoroughly uninspiring. I’ll take a pass.
3 Twice the Appeal Calvin Borel Jeff Bonde 20-1
He’ll no doubt be picking up some money with Calvin Borel and an inside post, but as with many in this year’s race, his other past performances are, perhaps, more suited to the fourth at Parx.
4 Stay Thirsty Ramon Dominguez Todd Pletcher 20-1
He’s been looking like the more likely Repole/Pletcher horse for a while; not only is his pedigree better suited to classic distances than his unfortunate stablemate, but he seems like he’s starting to get his head together.
5 Decisive Moment Kerwin D. Clark Juan D. Arias 30-1
He seems to be in the ‘just happy to be here’ category.
6 Comma to the Top Pat Valenzuela Peter Miller 30-1
He may be the only horse in the field with a real winning streak to speak of – last year. But he was close to Midnight Interlude in the Santa Anita Derby last time; it’s a positive, though I’m not convinced he’s over his tendency to drift outward in the stretch.
7 Pants On Fire Rosie Napravnik Kelly J. Breen 20-1
He will have plenty of support at the Derby party I’ll be attending – not only is jockey Rosie Napravnik a local favorite here, but his breeding and general gameness also appeal. My 6-year-old is also backing him, for more obvious reasons.
8 Dialed In Julien R. Leparoux Nick Zito 4-1
He’s got the pedigree, a solid (albeit brief) record – and having Julien Leparoux aboard should also help here. Certainly a threat.
9 Derby Kitten Javier Castellano Mike Maker 30-1
I look forward to seeing this horse later in the year on grass.
10 Twinspired Mike E. Smith Mike Maker 30-1
He’s improving at the right time, but is another who seems better suited to the turf or synthetics.
11 Master of Hounds Garrett Gomez Aidan O’Brien 30-1
It makes perfect sense for him to contest the Kentucky Derby, rather than trail Frankel around Europe all spring; if ever there were a year when it seems worth making the trip, this is it. It’s true his breeding screams ‘grass,’ but it also shouts ‘distance’ – he may just need the pace to collapse to pick up the pieces. He’s getting Lasix again for the first time in a while.
12 Santiva Shaun Bridgmohan Eddie Kenneally 30-1
He has a win (his only one) here, but he’s slow – that is to say, slower than many (most?) in this field.
13 Mucho Macho Man Rajiv Maragh Kathy Ritvo 12-1
He’s got his own Village People cover band – what’s not to like? Well, his Louisiana Derby performance was a bit of a worry, and he seems to find his way into bad racing luck, and it’s been a long layoff…
14 Shackleford Jesus Lopez Castanon Dale Romans 12-1
He’s been working well, but his last few performances were not encouraging. Did great in allowance company – but he’s not alone in that this year.
15 Midnight Interlude Victor Espinoza Bob Baffert 10-1
Has only four starts, but is on a two-race winning streak; his pedigree is interesting, and Bob Baffert seems to think he’s sitting on a big win – it just may not be this weekend.
16 Animal Kingdom Johnny Velzquez Graham Motion 30-1
I really like this horse, despite his turf breeding and light foundation. In any other year, those together would probably keep him from consideration, but this year, anything goes. I absolutely love his pedigree, and picking up Johnny Velazquez will not hurt. If he takes to the dirt, he’ll be there at the end.
17 Soldat Alan Garcia Kiaran McLaughlin 12-1
Has a little more seasoning than most, but his Florida Derby effort is still a concern. He’s the only horse (still) in the field with a triple-digit Beyer, if you’re into that sort of thing, though it was a while ago.
18 Uncle Mo Johnny Velazquez Todd Pletcher SCRATCHED
I don’t think there’s any surprise here.
19 Nehro Corey S. Nakatani Steve Asmussen 6-1
He’s quickly becoming the wiseguy horse – he’s been close to two quality horses (Archarcharch and Pants on Fire) in his last two races, and he seems to want extra distance, but he’ll have a lot of ground to make up from this position. But given his running style, that should not be a huge issue – if all goes according to plan.
20 Watch Me Go Rafael Bejarano Kathleen O’Connell 50-1
He seems like an honest, hard-knocking horse – I’d be curious to see how he fares in solid G2 company.

Predictions: 1) Archarcharch 2) Pants on Fire 3) Nehro 4) Dialed In

Longshot win bets: Master of Hounds, Animal Kingdom

2 comments to Kentucky Derby 2011: On the Record

  • Toni

    Good to see your analysis. I’m very tempted to just bet everyone to show and see what happens! I do have to bet Archarcharch to win, though, just because he’s the best-looking horse right now. Kinda reminds me of Einstein.

  • I hope you are wrong. Master of Hounds looks like he deserves the class descriptor in this race.

    Too bad for the folks he races for but I was glad Mo did not make it to the race. There oughtn’t be any questions about a horse’s health before trying a long race in a big field.

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