Pioneerof The Nile set for big Kentucky Derby run

Apr 28, 2009 5:09 PM
by Ed Golden |

There are contenders and pretenders in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. The major players are Pioneerof the Nile, I Want Revenge and Friesan Fire; unfortunately Quality Road was taken out of the race on Monday because of his quarter crack problems.

Longshots with an upset chance are Dunkirk, Chocolate Candy, Papa Clem, Win Willy and Square Eddie.

Victory by others in the field would light up the tote board.

Dunkirk is being asked to do something that hasn’t been done since 1882 when Apollo won the Derby: win without racing as a 2-year-old. His surge to reach equal terms with Quality Road in the Florida Derby was impressive, but he was readily repulsed when the real test came. Chocolate Candy was beaten a length by Pioneerof the Nile in the Santa Anita Derby after handling softer in Northern California.

The jury is out as to whether he can defeat the likes of the top four. Papa Clem, thought to be a "speed horse" before rallying to upset Old Fashioned in the Arkansas Derby, also was close to Pioneerof the Nile in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, but has to show he’s good enough to defeat that horse and others of his ability.

Who is the real Win Willy? He was impressive winning the Rebel at 56-1, but disappointing finishing fourth behind Papa Clem in the Arkansas Derby. Square Eddie should benefit from his third in the Lexington Stakes, but he may have lost too much time overcoming shin issues from the San Rafael on Jan. 17 until the Lexington on April 18. However, he did beat Pioneerof the Nile by eight lengths at Keeneland last Oct. 8.

Friesan Fire has not been seriously threatened in winning three straight, and has the running style to win the Derby. Very dangerous. I Want Revenge won with panache in New York, but beat little and was twice defeated by Pioneerof the Nile in California.

Pioneerof the Nile has won four straight stakes since Bob Baffert took over as trainer, and while critics point to his unspectacular victories in the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby, his late acceleration to win the Lewis displayed a dimension most horses seldom show. Still, no Santa Anita Derby winner has won the Kentucky Derby since Sunday Silence in 1989.

Quality Road probably would have been the morning line favorite. His Florida Derby victory over Dunkirk displayed potential greatness.

Post position, especially on the inside, could be a factor this year. While the No. 1 post has won 12 times, along with post five the most successful in the Kentucky Derby, no horse breaking from No. 1 has won since 1986 when Ferdinand got the job done under Bill Shoemaker. The last horse to win from No. 2 was Affirmed in 1978. Post four (10 wins); post five (12), and post 10 (10 wins), are most successful. The draw will be held at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

My selections: Pioneerof the Nile, Friesan Fire and I Want Revenge.

Kentucky Derby Early odds
I Want Revenge
Pioneerof the Nile
Friesan Fire
Chocolate Candy
Hold Me Back
Desert Party
Papa Clem
Regal Ransom
General Quarters
Musket Man
Win Willy
West Side Bernie
Square Eddie
Mr. Hot Stuff
Summer Bird
Join in the Dance
Mine That Bird
Flying Private

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Ed Golden