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Kentucky Derby 1-3 to the-4

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Clyde van Dusen…that’s the only horse ever to win the Derby out of the 20 post, and he did it in 1929, and he sounds like he was named after a huge dork. But, undaunted, odds on favorite Big Brown and his trainer Rick Dutrow passed on the 1, 2, 18, and 19 and went for number 20. Now, I can relate with being disoriented at Fourth Street Live (although I’m not proud of it with all the jorts and ankle tats and all), but you would think Dutrow would wear his sober hat until after the draw. Still, makes you wonder if he knows something we all don’t. Guess we’ll wait and see. Twenty horses short on experience but long in stride + 200,000 drunks + Kid Rock= your guess is as good as ours.

Post Position Tidbits: Since 1900, 82% of Derby winners have come from posts 1-10…of all the posts, the 5 and the 1 have gleaned the most winners (12) although the last horse to win from the 1 was Ferdinand (1986)…even though the 20 has only one winner, only 15 horses have ever broken from the 20, so the percentage is a bit misleading.

Derby Prep Tidbits: In the past 20 years, Derby winners have come from Santa Anita (6), Bluegrass (5), Wood (4), Arkansas (3), Illinois (1), and Florida Derby (1)…75% of the Derby winners have been in the exacta in their final prep…only eight horses have won their final prep before the Derby (last one being Barbaro in 2006). –Broseph

(1) Cool Coal Man: another curious victim of the Bluegrass Stakes, which saw this rapidly improving Fountain of Youth winner finish a distant 9th. I would be willing to throw that first foray on the Poly out, except for this ominous post position. Nineteen horses haphazardly breaking from the gate to his right means this pace stalker had better find a spot quick. The connections are there: Zito-Leparoux-Farish, as is the stock: Mineshaft, but there’s nothing that tells me this colt will be the first since ’86 to win from the rail. –Intern

(2) Tale of Ekati: Was able to catch lightning-fast War Pass in the last strides, but War Pass ran stupid fractions, and not sure if they’re going to go out quite that quick on Derby Day. Also, I mentioned shortly after the Wood Memorial that the Ragozin Rating on the race was poor. Whether or not you put any weight into somewhat arbitrary numerical rankings (and by the way in which we Cat fans watched the RPI, you do), the Wood was one of the weakest prep races of the year. Probably ran his best race in New York. –Broseph

(3) Anak Nakal: This will be Evan’s pick because he has a complete man crush on Bejerano, but this horse has little chance. All Zito has been saying all week is, “We need to hope for another Giacomo.” You can say that he’s got something under his sleeve, but it seems to me that he is being sincere. Very little to like at this point. –Broseph

(4) Court Vision: This horse hasn’t won in his last two (with the Fountain of Youth being a bit of a disappointment), but he knows how to hit the board. In his last two preps, he has come rolling in from off the pace to finish a game third. The trip he gets Saturday is worrisome, but I refuse to keep him out of exotics because he will have enough late kick to hit the board again. Even though War Pass is out, there will still be pace (Bob Black Jack, Recapturetheglory) to run at. –Broseph

(5) Eight Belles: When it comes to horses, losing to a girl doesn’t exactly carry the connotation it does for us humans. After all, we’re dealing with horses (and females) here and they lack rationale. But there is also a reason why they run the Oaks and successful exceptions to the rule have been very few and far between. This is a terrific filly who would dominate her “girls” in the Oaks. Although her daddy Unbridled won this race back in ’90, this is not Winning Colors, nor Rags to Riches for that matter. She certainly isn’t doomed, but it would require more than she’s shown thus far. –Intern

(6) Z Fortune: The “other” Asmussen entry ran the best race of his young life last month in the Arkansas Derby…unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to get by Gayego that day, though, considering he broke from the 11th hole and was 4-5 wide the whole way, it may have been just as impressive of a trip. He crawls in his works but he’s a striking colt with some versatility and Albarado gets the mount. Might be ready to uncork his best stuff. –Intern

(7) Big Truck: Bitten by the Bluegrass bug (11th), the Tampa Derby champ would appear primed for a solid rebound effort. At least, that’s what his sizzling workouts suggest. He may not have a Hemi, but he does have Barclay Tagg. Huge stamina questions though as he failed to fire in his two starts at 1 1/8th. Not sure he can rate with this group. –Intern

(8) Visionaire: Don’t put much stock into jockeys, but Lezcano is pretty green. Plus, I never listen to good news prior to the Derby as far as workouts and morning gallops (excepting Colonel John’s monster 5-furlong workout in 57.80), but I always listen to the bad news….and there is some bad news surrounding Visionaire’s pedigree and his last workout. Apparently, he didn’t gallop out like many would have wanted him, and his chances are slim at best. –Broseph

(9) Pyro: not winning the Bluegrass is fine. With a talent like this a trainer really just wants to keep them healthy and fine tuned, but also fresh. It’s why Borel didn’t push the ‘all-out’ button in last year’s Bluegrass, for example. But you certainly hope to do better than 10th. True, some horses just don’t take to the Poly, but it’s pretty rare that a horse flat refuses to run on it. With a less-than-stellar 4f breeze at Churchill last week, you have to wonder if he left it all in Louisiana, he’s hurt, or the connections are simply playing some ball. The Bluegrass was his first career dud, and he’s far too fast and powerful to not be there in the end…unless of course, he’s not fit. But at 6/1 I’ll bet that he is. –Intern

(10) Colonel John: His results speak for themselves: 1st or 2nd in all six lifetime starts, as does his speed: 57 and change over the Churchill dirt last week. He is game, versatile, and very live. He also ships from California, where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano, and where there is nary a dirt track to be found. Though all 6 starts have been over the cushion, that 5f bullet on Churchill’s dirt suggests the surface will not be an issue. With an impressive win from the clouds in the Santa Anita, the sexy workout, favorable post position, and the infinite amount of John’s at betting booths out there looking for any sign at all (guilty), don’t be surprised if he’s at least a co-favorite come Saturday. Hard to argue. –Intern

(11) Z Humor: Trainer Billy Mott is simply one of the best in the biz, and while his dominance has recently been felt on the turf, he wouldn’t be in here if he didn’t think he could win it (this might sound obligatory, but it most certainly is not). Impeccably bred for this track but he’s yet to win in ’08, so you have to wonder if he has the thirst for the finish line necessary to navigate through 19 other foes. It will be interesting to see where they try to rate him, as he lacks the speed to sit atop the pace, and has had little success from off the pace. –Intern

(12) Smooth Air: had a helluva trip in the Florida Derby, but no one was sniffing Big Brown’s big brown that day. Still rounded that 1 1/8th in a solid 1:48, which is as good as any other horse in the field. Although he’s been on the sprint circuit most of his career, he’s handled the gradually added distance nicely and conditioner Bernie Stutts is a no-nonsense pillar on the Florida circuit. Intrigued. –Intern

(13) Bob Black Jack: Should be your leader at the half-mile pole. Again, if you think this year’s field is a slow one, it wouldn’t kill you to put him in your exotics, but I highly doubt he wires this field. Still, he’s added blinkers, and they may just tell Migliore to let him try and steal it. –Broseph

(14) Monba: Strong closer in the Bluegrass after a dismal Fountain of Youth. Pletcher is going to win the Derby one of these days, and this is his best shot this year. If you include the Cash Call Futurity, he seems to perform much better in Grade I’s than Grade II’s, so maybe he needs the competition around him to get the best from him. Also, doesn’t have a long way to ship from Lexington. –Broseph

(15) Adriano: if the son of A.P. Indy out of a Mr. Prospector mare weren’t enough to command respect, Edgar Prado shuns Tale of Ekati for the keys to this regal Lanes End champ. Like Hard Spun a year ago, the connections decided to keep their colt on the shelf after conquering the Turfway Polytrack in March. Certainly a long layoff, but by no means a disqualifier. The only real concern I see is the obvious: 1 career race on dirt, 9th place (Fountain of Youth). His trainer thinks he’s the one to beat, and although the biased boastfulness should often be ignored, he appears to be primed for his best effort to date…if he handles the track…and 19 rivals. –Intern

(16) Denis of Cork: with only 4 lifetime starts notched into his saddle, this Florida bred (booo) is the obligatory mystery horse capable of sewing his way to stardom, or just as likely to be panic stricken by the buzz of 200k people and dense traffic. His first career start, and the only as a 2 year old, came over the Churchill track, and his workouts there have been impressive. Fortunate his hugely disappointing 5th in the Illinois Derby didn’t relegate him to the undercard, as his first try at 1 1/8th fell flat. But I like this colt as he reminds me a bit of Afleet Alex. But the Churchill track on the first Saturday in May is not the ideal time and place to make your 5th career start. –Intern

(17) Cowboy Cal: Plenty of readers here had him tagged as the winner of the Bluegrass, and he nearly delivered. Still, his best races seem to be run on turf, and the softer Polytrack lends much of an edge to grass runners. Much like Tale of Ekati, he left his best in his last race. Also, he will not be able to get out front in slow fractions and try to steal the race Saturday, like he almost did in Lexington. –Broseph

(18) Recapturetheglory: I have seen this horse picked anywhere from fifth to not on the board, but I can’t help but put him in the exotics because he could be on the front near the end. Much like Hard Spun and Lion Heart, he could round out a nice exacta if you have the faith. War Emblem was able to do it, and all I’ve been hearing this year is how “slow” the field is…so, why the hell not? –Broseph

(19) Gayego: unlike some, I was impressed by his victory in the Arkansas Derby. He may not have buried a stacked field, but he was pressed the whole way and held off a game Z Fortune in the stretch. I like his power and consistency, but this is a gnarly post position, especially for speed. Jockey Mike Smith will do what he can to get this colt comfortably near the front, but for a lightly raced 3 year old, you can’t expect much from the extreme outside. –Intern

(20) Big Brown: This horse’s Florida Derby was awesome for many reasons: overcoming his post (12), setting fast fractions, and winning by daylight. Barbaro destroyed the myth that a lightly-raced horse can’t win the Derby, and Big Brown took to the track well yesterday morning. Jill Byrne said his gallop was impressive because of the ground he can cover with each stride. Also, a wet track only helps this guy if he can stay on or near the lead. Shaky favorite, and you have to wonder about the post decision. –Broseph

Broseph’s Picks
1. Big Brown: move over Clyde van Dusen
2. Monba: like Andre Woodson, left Lex Vegas a winner
3. Court Vision: he likes third place…that’s cool with me
4. Recapturetheglory: can’t shake the War Emblem vibe
5. Pyro: maybe he just didn’t like the Polytrack

Intern’s Picks
1. Colonel John: the outside speed could set up nicely for him
2. Adriano: in Edgar Prado I trust
3. Pyro: if he’s right, he’s capable going away
4. Big Brown: silly power and speed, silly post position
5. Smooth Air: saving his best? mintjulip.jpg

Article written by John Dubya

The Twitter: @Johnawilk