It's something you have to do every spring – pick a Derby horse. It's traditional.
I usually go way overboard with this but I think I'll keep it simple this year.
You can download the DRF PDF and follow along if you like.
Uncle Mo looks like a monster on paper, but is scratched due to the fact they have no idea what is wrong with him. Gastrointestinal stuff. Anyway, he's gone. Good riddance.
That leaves only 19 horses. You can only pick one official “horse.” Sorry. You may mention several other contenders, possibly ranking them, but that's just dust in your eyes. You get one horse.
If you key that horse in the WIN slot of every type of exotic you might make a small fortune if you pick the right winner. If you bet your horse “across the board” you can cash something if he can just manage 3rd. Third doesn't pay much. Go for it, bet to WIN!
If you look at the remaining horses, only one of them ever managed to crack 100 on the Beyer scale. That could mean they all suck. Soldat's 103 came in an Allowance race at Gulfstream and might actually be incorrect. Perhaps a fluke performance. Perhaps a clue to this race.
The popular selections being talked about were longshots before winning their last race. Midnight Interlude being the exception to prove the rule.
Most of the speed horses in the Derby figure to be long odds. The common theory for the Derby is that it takes a good closer to win by making a great run on the turn for home. Sometimes that works. Azeri was a perfect performance.
I think a speed horse can win, he just needs some class. In fact, if there were only one classy, speedy horse in the field (Uncle Mo) I would bet him with both hands. Such a horse is not always as obvious as War Emblem (25-1) who came off a victory by a large margin then wired the Derby field.
Only three horses had the speed to lead a Grade I after a half mile. Comma to the top, Stay Thirsty and Shackleford. Pants on Fire and Decisive Moment are both capable of vying for the lead but have not proven so against top company. Stay Thirsty's Grade I speed may have been a fluke as well.
So, there are five possible leaders after a half mile. Only three quarters of a mile to go. Can one of these establish a clear lead? If one of these can, he may be able to carry his speed to the end. If no one gets away, then all five are in trouble. Given that the race is very long, most handicappers expect the speed to collapse. Cheap speed breaks down but class will expose itself much as War Emblem did.
So, of the five who has the class? Well, it's harder to say than that. Different tracks, different surfaces, different purse structures. It's all very confusing and these horses are still young enough that you had better check their breeding!
I think one of these five is going to step up his game, gain a clear lead and surprise a field of plodders.
Who? Which one? Can we bet all five and make a profit? That's cheating. One horse, Steve. One.
I read some book once that described horses as if they were each on escalators running either up or down. Some horses are getting better right now and others peaked last week. Who is ascending?
Stay Thirsty, Decisive Moment and Shackleford have recent bullet workouts.
Finding the horse that can clear the other four by the half mile is the trick. Who is the real speed if speed is class.
Stay Thirsty led the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga as a two year old but hasn't shown that kind of ability since. He broke his maiden wire to wire but won the Gotham Stakes lurking off the lead. Not really a speed ball and might only be listed via technicality.
Decisive Moment worked his way up to this race step by step. He has consistently progressed and may just have a little something in him. Homebred in Florida by Just for Fun Stables. Florida horses don't win the Derby too often, not Florida breds.
Comma to the Top has all the connections but looks like another good sprinter out of Indian Charlie. On paper, he looks like he may be the fastest to the half mile unless someone steps it up. Maybe he will step it up. I hope he has the guts to stick it out.
Pants On Fire is the cool horse to pick. It's the girl jockey and all. He is also progressing well and makes the biggest start of his life (who isn't?) Still, his speed looks limited to Gr II. I don't think he's going to be fast enough.
Comma to the Top, Shackleford and Decisive Moment. One of these three...
Shackleford is working brilliantly and missed to the favorite by a head last time out. He also has a tendency to throw a clunker. Run like cheap speed then collapse?
Comma to the Top is a gelding, very fast and quite professional. We're going to see a lot of this horse in the future if he stays healthy. He may not improve much from where he already is.
Decisive Moment is a great story being a home bred from a small operation. I like these guys and I like the horse and its odds. Both of the above horses are “classier,” on paper but this one is well-bred. The winner doesn't have to wire the field, just get two lengths clear at the half. The trainer expects to be on or near the lead. The owner and trainer are both originally South American.
Shackleford and Decisive Moment share a grand sire in Storm Cat. That's class, not Indian Charlie.
Shackleford was bred in Kentucky, not Florida and is also a home bred.
Can Shackleford clear off and sustain? The others may follow fast horses. He was 68.9-1 last time.
Yep. Shackleford. The rest are dust in your eye. He's already undefeated at Churchill.