Im not sure if anything we see on Saturday could possibly top what we saw on Friday, with Rachel Alexandra’s dominating performance in the Kentucky Oaks, but It’s time to pick a winner for the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby. By 6:30 tomorrow night, the world will have it’s newly crowned Derby champion. A field of 20 has gathered for the time honored run for the roses, and the greatest 2 minute spectacle in all of sports. Who will enter racing history as the next champion?
The field for the 135th Kentucky Derby (Grade 1):
- #1 West Side Bernie (S. Elliott/ K. Breen) 30/1
- #2 Musket Man (E. Coa/ D. Ryan) 20/1
- #3 Mr. Hot Stuff (J. Velaquez Jr./ E. Harty) 30/1
- #4 Advice (R. Douglas/ T. Pletcher) 30/1
- #5 Hold Me Back (K. Desormeaux/ W. Mott) 15/1
- #6 Friesan Fire (G. Saez/ J. Jones) 5/1
- #7 Papa Clem (R. Bejarano/ G. Stute) 20/1
- #8 Mine That Bird (C. Borel/ B. Woolley) 50/1
- #9 Join in the Dance (C. Decarlo/ T. Pletcher) 50/1
- #10 Regal Ransom (A. Garcia/ S. bin Suroor) 30/1
- #11 Chocolate Candy (M. Smith/ J. Hollendorfer) 20/1
- #12 General Quarters (J. Leparoux/ T. McCarthy) 20/1
- #13 I Want Revenge (J. Talamo/ J. Mullins) 3/1*
- #14 Atomic Rain (J. Bravo/ K. Breen) 50/1
- #15 Dunkirk (E. Prado/ T. Pletcher) 4/1
- #16 Pioneer of the Nile (G. Gomez/ B. Baffert) 4/1
- #17 Summer Bird (C. Rosier/T. Ice) 50/1
- #18 Nowhere to Hide (S. Bridgmohan/ N. Zito) 50/1
- #19 Desert Party (R. Dominguez/ S. bin Suroor) 15/1
- #20 Flying Private (R. Albarado Jr./ D. W. Lukas) 50/1
All of the recent buzz seems to be surrounding Friesan Fire, Dunkirk, and Pioneer of the Nile, leaving the morning line favorite, I Want Revenge, as something of a forgotten man. I haven’t forgotten him. His performance in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 4 is simply too impressive to overlook. With the exception of possibly Quality Road’s performance in the Florida Derby, that has to rank as the most impressive prep race we saw from a 3-year-old colt this season. Further, I feel he’s positioned perfectly in the 13 hole to secure a good trip…although it’s not like he needs a perfect trip, as evidenced by that performance in the Wood. It’s time to make it official, I’m anointing I Want Revenge as the pick. Here’s hoping the recent whirlwind of excitement surrounding some of his main competitors gives me a better price than his current 3/1 listing.
If our “10 burning questions” poll from the beginning of Derby week is any indication, the Larry Jones trainee Friesan Fire will take quite a bit of play at the windows following his dynamic performance in the Louisiana Derby (Note: we had 110 responses to the “who will win the 2009 Kentucky Derby?” question, with Friesan Fire receiving 30 votes. I Want Revenge trailed with 22 votes, Pioneer of the Nile (15), and Dunkirk (13) The long layoff since then is the obvious concern folks will have to deal with. He’s trained exceptionally well leading up to this, enough so that I’m making him my second choice overall. It would be fantastic to see Larry Jones go out on top with a Derby winner in his final try, and I think Friesan Fire will give him a chance to write that storybook ending.
As for Pioneer of the Nile, I think he could be any kind of horse. I know he’ll be involved, and he’ll likely be right there at the finish. Breaking from the outside he should be able to move tactically to save as much ground as he can entering the first turn, and then when Gomez asks him for his run I’m expecting him to respond in a big way. I’m not making him the official pick, and I’ve recently stated publicly (on Facebook and Twitter) that I’m “tossing him”, but I’ll certainly cover his number in the Pick 4/Pick 6 plays. I guess that means I haven’t fully tossed him. Oh well. Nobody’s perfect.
Dunkirk is a runner I could go either way with. Back in February he probably would’ve been my top pick hands down, and while I still like him, I have these other runners rated just a tad higher. Ultimately I’m left thinking that if Curlin couldn’t do what he’s attempting, then it’s probably going to be a bit much for Dunkirk as well. He’s another number that you leave off the exotic wagers at your own peril, but I simply didn’t have enough to warrant making him a top choice. I love the way he runs, but I’d prefer a bit more muscle in his chest area and overall in his body before predicting brilliance on the Triple Crown stage. That being said, a repeat of his effort in the Florida Derby definitely has him right there at the wire.
As for the rest of the field, I think Papa Clem can make some noise from the 7 hole, and I’m not ready to count out the Dubai invaders in Regal Ransom (30/1), and Desert Party (15/1). Likewise, Hold Me Back has been rumored to have made a strong impression on everyone watching the workouts at Churchill this week, and as such he deserves consideration to hit the board as well.
The last horse I’ll consider using to round out my plays is Chocolate Candy. There’s just something about this runner that intrigues me. I would be more intrigued had he got to Pioneer of the Nile in the Santa Anita Derby, and I’m a bit more concerned with his ability to handle the synthetic to dirt transition than I am with Pioneer of the Nile, but so far that move has been golden for I Want Revenge and Papa Clem.
$1 Kentucky Derby Trifecta:
13 / 6, 7, 15, 16 / 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 15, 16, 19 = $28
As for the undercard races, I like Kodiak Kowboy in the G2 Churchill Downs (race 6). In the G3 Eight Belles (race 7) I’ll play the heart pick and go with Larry Jones’ Just Jenda. Always a sucker for the Lemon Drops, I’ll play Lemon Chiffon in the G2 Churchill Distaff (race 8), although Visit and Ballymore Lady also look intriguing. In the Humana Distaff I’ll spread a bit and cover Informed Decision, Game Face, the speedy Secret Gypsy, and longshot Roayale Michelle. Finally in the in the G1 Turf Classic (race 10) I like Einstein, Court Vision, and Cowboy Cal.
The $.50 Pick 4 ticket I’m considering playing would look like this:
1,2,7 / 3,5,7,9 / 4,6,8 / 6, 13, 15, 16 = $72
A bit larger plays than I’m usually accustomed to, but it’s Derby day, and you only live once. Might as well take a shot if you ask me.
Best of luck to everyone, and here’s hoping all horses and riders return safely.