The Kentucky Derby is here and I will try and give my perspective on the possibilities in this year’s “Run For The Roses,” which has humbled many a handicapper.
I always look to the past in order to get a line on the future as would any general going into battle. Believe me this is a battle coming up with a strategy for the race.
I hate to buck any streak, especially one that has gone on as long as the “curse of Apollo.” Apollo won the Kentucky Derby back in 1882 paying $169.80 for two bucks. He did not make a start as a 2yo and no 3yo has since been able to win the Derby that way.
In the last 57 years, 48 three-year-olds have gone to the post in the Derby with no races as a 2yo and all have failed. The closest were Strodes Creek in 1994 finishing second behind Go For Gin on a sloppy track and last year with Bodemeister finishing second after setting some blazing fractions.
So that will be our start.
What has the new point system done to the race? One thing, it has eliminated many speed crazy horses that won races as a 2yo and added more off the pace and deep closers, which may help the few early speed types this year.
The first thing I like to do with a race like this, which could offer some huge payoffs, is think out of the box. I will make a box and put the four most likely winners in it. Then I will think around them looking for the fifth, sixth or seventh horse that could get there at an overlaid price.
So let’s begin from the top in terms of point-getters.
1-Orb 5-1: Trained by Shug McGaughey, 111 points with red hot jockey Joel Rosario. He will definitely go inside the box. I love this horse, but will be over bet. A must use in all the exotics especially with “I can do no wrong” Rosario getting the leg up. And, he does have those all-important 2yo races. Will be on all my tickets except win.
2-Verrazano 9-2: Trained by Todd Pletcher, ridden by John Velazquez back from an injury. Will also be in the box. He’s one of several runners Pletcher has entered, but doesn’t have any races as a 2yo. Will only use in the back of the exotic bets. His times have been going backward since the distances have been getting longer.
3-Goldencents 8-1: Trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Kevin Krigger. O’Neill won last year with I’ll Have Another with little known jockey Mario Gutierrez and we give him credit for sticking this time with Krigger. This colt is a flat out runner and if able to sit off the pace second or third has a huge shot at the win.
We will keep him in the box, waiting for the post draw and the price. O’Neill reminds me of Bob Baffert when he first hit the Derby scene winning with Silver Charm ($10) in 1997 and coming right back the next year and winning with Real Quiet ($18.80). Can O’Neill do the same?
4-Java’s War 20-1: Trained by Ken McPeak and ridden by sometimes too patient Julien Leparoux. This colt has not been looking real since his win in the Blue Grass. He’s never won on dirt and has a tendency of breaking slow. That will not give him much chance if the pace is slow in a 20 horse field. Will get some action being out of the McPeak barn and is a good second behind Verrazano. If used, will be only in the 3 or 4 spot in the trifectas and supers.
5-Overanalyze 15-1: Trained by Pletcher and ridden by Rafael Bejarano. A convincing winner of the Arkansas Derby against little. Has never won two in a row and is on a win every other race pattern. Not his win race, use in the back.
6-Revolutionary 8-1: Just another of Pletcher’s entries. This colt, winner of his last three starts, will be ridden by future Hall of Fame jockey and three-time Kentucky Derby winner Calvin Borel, who will have this one spotted for a big run turning for home. He has hit the board in all six of his starts and can come from the back or race midpack. Will use and maybe bet depending on the price and post position.
7-Lines of Battle 40-1: One of these days trainer Aiden O’Brien will bring a colt in from Ireland and win this race. Jockey Moore, who was on for his big win in the UAE Derby, will come along for the ride. We will take a wait and see approach. Most likely will toss, but he is the question mark.
8-Vyjack 15-1: Trained by Rudy Rodriguez and ridden by Garrett Gomez. This gelding raced at 2 and 3 with good results. Rudy, an ex-jock, has been on him for his training sessions at the Downs. Anywhere close to 15-1 we will be on. Definitely out of the box; we only need the price and the right post.
9-Will Take Charge 20-1: Trained by Wayne Lucas and ridden by John Court. This one has not beaten much and just does not have any appeal to this handicapper. Pass.
10-Itsmyluckyday 12-1: Trained by Edward Plesa and ridden by Elvis Trujillo. This one could be overlaid. Has the tactical speed to be right there down the lane. Love the fact he has 10 races under him, seven as a 2yo. This trainer looks to have him ready for a smasher. Second behind Orb but could turn that around today at a price. Was a 7-5 favorite over Orb that day. We’ll keep him out of the box. At 12-1 or higher will use in all spots. Could be walking around lucky!
11-Black Onyx 35-1:Trained by Kelly Breen and ridden by Joe Bravo. Improving, but also seems overmatched and may not be a real dirt horse. We will pass.
12-Palace Malice 20-1:Another Pletcher horse. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith gets his first ride on this colt as Gomez jumped ship for Vyjack. At first glance was going to keep outside the box, but this colt has only one win coming in a 6 furlong sprint when breaking his maiden. He could not hold off Java’s War in the Blue Grass. Pass.
13-Normandy Invasion 6-1: Trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Javier Castellano. One of the wise guy horses in the race we will put in the box. Will be making his late run, but this one-time winner will not be the right price. Needs a perfect trip for any shot. Will use in the back and wait for the Belmont in June when the allies launched the “D” day invasion of the Normandy beaches. A must use but not on top.
14-Frac Daddy 45-1:Trained by Ken McPeak and ridden by Victor Lebron. Was far behind Orb and Itsmyluckyday in the Florida Derby. Can’t beat either so we will pass.
15-Mylute 40-1: Trained by Tom Amoss and ridden by Rosie Napravnik (who just was on 60 Minutes). Rosie will win a Derby in the very near future. Could it be this one? Win or lose this bettor will be making a wager on her and putting Mylute outside the box, especially at a big price. This Midnight Lute colt had seven races as a 2yo and never put in a bad effort running at five different tracks. The one time Rosie was on he won by 10. We will be betting and using at a monster price.
16-Oxbow 25-1: Trained by Wayne Lukas and ridden by Hall of Fame jockey and comeback kid Gary Stevens, who knows how to get home in the Derby but not this time. This colt’s name is right out of the movie Last of the Dogmen about the Cheyenne Indian dog soldiers in the Oxbow region of Montana. Pass.
17-Falling Sky 50-1: Trained by John Terranova and ridden by Luis Saez. Will be part of the early pace and fold faster than yesterday’s newspaper. El Passo!
18-Charming Kitten 50-1: Yet another Pletcher colt, but this one does have some long shot appeal even though this will be his first try on a conventional dirt track. Will use in the back of our exotics at what will be a very big price.
19-20? These spots are open. We doubt Pletcher will wheel back Forty Tales who just won the Derby Trial last Saturday. No matter who gets these spots we will pass.
So we wait for the draw this Wednesday. Hope to see you all at our huge Kentucky Derby seminar this Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Palace Station race book. Everything free – food, cocktail service – and your very humble correspondent there along with the very informative Ralph Siraco and top handicapper Paul Truitt.
This will be our inaugural Vic Vivio Memorial Seminar. Come have fun and get top insight into the race.
Richard Saber, a former director of race and sports at the famed Stardust book, is GamingToday’s horse racing and sports handicapper. Follow Richard on Twitter @SabesBet. Contact Richard at [email protected].