Today is the first Saturday of May. And aside of many celebrating Cinco de Mayo, and the “Supermoon” event of the moon appearing 14% larger this evening, it’s time for the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby. This first of the three jewels of horse racing’s Triple Crown has made winners, discovered unknowns, and created legends. While this accomplishment has gone un-earned since 1978, today always signifies the chance that one horse will achieve the feat and obtain everlasting glory.
The field of twenty horses will be at the post at 6:24pm EDT, where undoubtedly a traffic jam will form as the oversized field takes to the 1 1/4-mile race length. Post position is normally a big deal, where those with the very low post positions near the rail and those on the higher end have a relative disadvantage to those closer to the center of the field. Most Derby winners come from around position 4 through about 14, with the extreme ends of the field a much lower historical finish. And no horse has won from the #17 hole (sorry, Done Talking)
Rain through Friday and into Saturday has seriously affected track condition; so much so that Churchill Downs track managers cancelled morning workouts (a relatively infrequent occurrence). Expect the more high-strung entries to be at a disadvantage Saturday afternoon, as they will not have had the opportunity to work off some of their additional energy prior to entering the starting gate. So for those late-betters, keep an eye out for those overly-antsy contenders in the paddock area and in the Post Parade. While numerous television and media outlets have already begun their broadcast day, network coverage begins at 4pm EDT on NBC. While the track may have been Sloppy this morning, the Churchill Downs track can drain very quickly; expect Good to Fast conditions come Post Time, depending on if any additional showers move through the area.
The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports awaits. Victory, Disappointment, or a path to greatness–which will it be?
Best Bets: While a variety of opinions exist (as always) of who will take home the Roses, there is much consensus that today’s Derby will likely be run at a blistering pace (but likely no so fast as Secretariat’s historic sub-two minute run in 1973).
#6 Bodemeister (Tr: Bob Baffert/Mike Smith aboard) – This son of previous Derby contender Empire Maker is one of the sentimental favorites this week, as this bay colt is named for Baffert’s son, Bode. A Virginia-bred champion, he blazed the field in the Arkansas Derby, winning by nearly ten lengths, and posting a Beyer Speed rating of 105. For that matter, he’s posted a 1-2-1 finish in his last three outings, finishing second in the San Filipe G3.
He’s one of few Derby contenders who did not race at all his two year-old year, but posted a Beyer rating of 108 his last outing. With Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith on board, you can bet he’ll be in the mix at the wire. Morning Line: 4-1
#4 Union Rags (Tr: Michael Matz/Gerard Leparoux aboard)– For those with short memories, Matz trained the ’06 Derby winner and heart-stealer Barbaro, whose Derby run brought great hopes of a Triple Crown victory, only to be dashed in the Preakness brought a nationwide outpouring when Barbaro was injured shortly after coming out of the gate. Matz thinks he has another horse of Barbaro’s strength. This son of Dixie Union (of sire Dixieland Band fame) is also a grandsire of Mr. Prospector son GoneWest.
Union Rags is currently on a Beyer rating of 93 his last outing, but he posted a blistering 109 in the Breeders Cup Juvenile last year, coming runner-up to fellow Derby contender Hansen. He came up with additional speed a little late in his last run of a mile and an eighth in March. With the mile and a quarter distance of the Derby, if he’s got the extra gear before coming up with an empty tank the last eighth-mile, spectators could see Barbaro’s second coming today. Morning Line: 9-2
Probables: While not quite garnering the media attention as the previous two entries, these two horses will likely show themselves in the mix for quinellas and trifecta bets.
#15 Gemologist (Tr: Todd Pletcher/Javier Castellano aboard)– Gemologist is the only Derby 138 entry who has yet to taste defeat. He won the Wood Memorial in classic fashion, and posted a 98 Beyer rating his last outing. A son of 2000/2001 Breeders Cup Classic winner Tiznow, his maternal grandsire is renowned super-sire Mr Prospector. Morning Line: 6-1
#14 Hansen (Tr: Mike Maker/Ramon Dominguez aboard)– This winner of the Breeders Cup Juvenile last year has been making some waves, as a very noticeable roan (grey) colt. He’s finished 2-1-2 in his last three outings, posting a 100 in his runner-up performance to Dullahan in the Blue Grass Stakes at nearby Keeneland race course, expect him to finish strong. And starting from the #14 hole, he’s got a good shot at getting good position once the gates open. Morning Line: 10-1
Long Shots: Lots of spoilers in this year’s Derby field. Any or all of these would make good exotic picks, or if you’re looking to go for broke and dump a larger bet on long odds, these may be your horses.
#18 Sabrecat (Tr: Steve Asmussen/Corey Nakatani aboard)– Posting a 92 Beyer his last time out, this colt has some good blood with Bluegrass Cat (Son of Storm Cat) as his sire, and Mr. Prospector son Forty Niner as his maternal grandsire. Bloodline, along with Nakatani’s flare for the dramatic and swagger, could be a factor. Morning Line: 30-1
#16 El Padrino (Tr: Todd Pletcher/Rafael Bejarano aboard)– Placed fourth in the Florida Derby, won the Risen Star at Fairgrounds, with a 100 Beyer in his last outing. This maternal grandson of stakes-winning sire Giants Causeway and paternal grandson of AP Indy (himself son of Triple Crown Winner Seattle Slew) could be trouble if he can find a way clear in the homestretch. Morning Line: 50-1
#3 Take Charge Indy (Tr: Patrick Byrne/Calvin Borel aboard)– Anyone remotely watching horse racing over the last few years should know the name Calvin Borel. This Louisiana native has ridden three of the last five Derby winners (Street Sense ’07, Mine That Bird ’10, Super Saver ’11), and could end up riding the spoiler this week with Take Charge Indy. He stole the Florida Derby a few weeks ago, and posted a respectable 95 Beyer his last time out. Son of the aforementioned AP Indy, he’s got the blood to steal another one. Morning Line: 15-1
So get out your Derby Hats, Mint Juleps, and settle in for the Fastest Two Minutes In Sports. It’s time for Boots and Saddles to be played one more time, followed by the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home”. AND THEY’RE OFF!
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