Tough finding Kentucky Derby favorite to back

Apr 1, 2014 3:05 AM

After the last weekend of prep races the Kentucky Derby picture got murkier rather than clearer.

Toast Of New York was probably the most impressive of the runners when he captured the U.A.E. Derby in Dubai.

There is almost zero chance he’ll be in the starting gate on May 3. I’ve heard no rumblings from his European connections that he even has any interest in coming stateside to run for the roses.

Regardless of the whether they want to or not, winners of the U.A.E. Derby have rarely even made the trip. Daddy Long Legs tried it and was pulled up before the finish line.

Constitution, a son of Tapit, won this third race in three starts when he scored impressively in the Florida Derby. Javier Castellano saved ground on the turn and scooted Constitution along the rail when it opened.

It was a courageous effort by both jockey and horse as Constitution fought off well-regarded Wildcat Red in the race to the wire.

I still have my doubts. The Tapit’s are not the greatest stayers. This is Tapit’s sixth crop to race. I could only find two runners among his progeny that have won a stakes race at the derby distance of a mile and a quarter (10 furlongs).

Constitution’s dam is by Distorted Humor, who provides some nice stamina to the pedigree. There are multiple examples of horses by Distorted Humor to get the classic distance. Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide and Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer are the two best known. Both won and/or placed often at a mile and a quarter or more numerous times.

Nonetheless, with only three races on his resume, I think he’ll come in a little short. Trainer Todd Pletcher could elect to run him once more before the Derby. Personally I think it’s a good idea, but I don’t want to question one of the most successful trainers in the business. I get the feeling he’ll bring him to the race as is.

Cairo Prince, who I had written about earlier, was among those beaten by Constitution. After a nice move on the turn, he ran a dull fourth.

He was in position to be a fairly strong favorite on Derby day with a good performance. Now he’s in serious jeopardy of missing the race because he will likely lack the points necessary to enter.

Vicar’s In Trouble was another impressive performer in winning the Louisiana Derby. Rosie Napravnick guided him to a front running victory, widening his lead in the stretch over favored Intense Holiday.

I have concerns about Vicar’s In Trouble, as well. Both his stamina and ability raise serious questions for me.

That being said, I haven’t seen anyone among this crop that really thrills me. Some are mentioning California Chrome as a possible Derby favorite. I’ve already written about my reluctance to believe in his ability to get the distance.

We still have the Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial coming up this weekend. The following weekend will be the Bluegrass and the Arkansas Derby. Maybe someone will step out as a clear favorite after those races.

Right now I wouldn’t count on it. We might have a Derby chalk with odds of about 5/1 without a step out performance.

If there is one horse that might have the ability to capture the public’s attention it is trainer Bob Baffert’s lightly raced Bayern. He could be the star of this crop. Of course, he has only two races under his belt at this time. Even with a win in the Santa Anita Derby, he would be attempting to win the Derby as most the most lightly raced ever.

It’s a two edged sword handicapping this year’s Derby. Finding a winner is going to be a challenge. If you are sharp enough to find one, though, you should get a nice payday out of it.

Chris Andrews has over 30 years of experience as a bookmaker in Nevada. Check out his new website at www.againstthenumber.com and www.sharpssports.comYou can follow him on Twitter@AndrewsSports. Contact Chris at [email protected].

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