The 135th Kentucky Derby: The Populist Choice


I seem to have done it again.  I Want Revenge has been scratched due to an ankle injury.  Anybody want a piece of my karma, give me an email address….

I’m going with Dunkirk (15), Papa Clem (7), and General Quarters (12) on top now.  I expect Friesan Fire (6) and Pioneerofthenile (16) to get cooked out front.

Let’s adjust to:

$7 exacta box 7,12,15 ($42)

$1 trifecta 12,15/6,7,12,15/1,2,5,6,7,12,15,17 ($36)

$1 super 15/6,7,12/6,7,12/1,2,5,6,7,12  ($24)

Borrow an extra $2 from your HELOC. 



Big Brown surges past Eight Belles in the 2008 Kentucky Derby; the filly did not survive the finish

What a year it has been since we last shared a quality equine moment.  Since the first Saturday in May of 2008, I lost my job, joined a fascinating startup, watched my 401(k) disintegrate, halved my commute, and met 1000 new people wondering what I wanted and when I’d stop talking.

No one will ever forget the Recession of 2008-9, as it changed an election, wiped out Wall Street, and brought Luddites back into the mainstream.  So what better choice could there be for the 2009 Kentucky Derby than a horse who got his start in the People’s Republic of California and goes by the moniker I Want Revenge (13).

I Want Revenge came east for the Gotham at Aqueduct in early March and showed speed and power on the dirt that had not been apparent on California’s ridiculous synthetic tracks.  You will see from the replay that this is a horse with great tactical speed who runs with and then completely puts away a very good horse in Mr. Fantasy, who flattered IWR by coming back in the 1-mile Withers with an easy win in 1:34.  IWR then finished his prep work with an unbelievable bad-trip, versatility tour-de-force in winning the Wood Memorial.  In Steven Crist’s words, he was “so much the best that day” that he was able to overcome a bad break, traffic trouble, and altering his course in the final furlong, and still managed to win by daylight.

IWR is trained by Jeff Mullins and has a lesser known jockey, Joe Talamo, who is making his Derby debut.  Journeymen have fared well recently, with Stuart Elliott bringing home Smarty Jones in 2004, Jeremy Rose riding Afleet Alex to a 3rd place finish in the 2005 Derby and wins in the Preakness and Belmont, and Calvin “Bo-rail” Borel skimming his way home in the 2007 Derby.


You have to watch how I Want Revenge managed to get the wire first in the Wood

Now for the hard part — he’s going to be the favorite.  He’s 3 to 1 on the morning line, and may go as low as 5/2 by post time.  You may recall that Big Brown went off at 5/2 last year (and won).  So naturally you ask me, “How am I going to make the kind of money I need to survive in this environment at 5/2?”  The answer, of course, is that we have to get it right underneath.  The key to glory is figuring out who’s coming in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.

The next three choices on the morning line are Friesan Fire (6), Dunkirk (15), and Pioneer of the Nile (16) at 5-1, 4-1, 4-1.  This is where we get it done.  I think we can toss one of these horses and include the other two underneath, hoping they’ll underperform.

Friesan Fire is a Larry Jones horse — Jones put Hard Spun on the lead in the 2007 Derby and he almost wired the field until Street Sense came flying up the rail.  The horse’s last work indicates that he may be going to the lead in a race that appears to have almost no other controlling speed — two speed horses (Old Fashioned and Quality Road) both went off the Derby trail with injuries.  This makes him dangerous, but trainer Todd Pletcher somehow managed to enter a throwaway horse, Join in the Dance (9), as a rabbit for the deep-closing Lexington winner Advice (4).  This could make it difficult for Friesan Fire to get loose on the lead, and should give our top selection something to run at in the stretch.  If he gets the lead, he could hold on for a piece, so you have to include him underneath on broad tickets.

Pioneer of the Nile is Bob Baffert’s horse in the Derby — Baffert won it wire-to-wire with War Emblem in 2002.  There’s been a lot of wise-guy talk about this horse, how he glides over the dirt, but I look at his past performances and I see the kind of mediocre garbage I saw under Colonel John.  I shorted him in favor of Eight Belles last year and did ok, despite the fact that I killed the poor filly by picking her.  I can’t tell you how many people sent me emails last year and asked me please never to pick them to win anything.

Dunkirk is a classic horse built to run forever with limited experience — reminescent of Curlin in 2007.  He ran a strong 2nd to Quality Road in the Florida Derby against a speed bias that resulted in several track records that day.  The Beyer number on the race has been questioned and upgraded, so it’s hard to tell exactly how fast they went, but it validated Dunkirk’s ability.   On a fair track with a long stretch like Churchill Downs, Dunkirk outruns Quality Road all day long.  But he’s still green and will not have the kind of pace to run at that he might need.  I think he gets into the superfecta — maybe 3rd, 2nd not impossible, but I don’t think he can win.

There are lots of good tossouts in this Derby, and after IWR and Dunkirk, I only want to include five other horses: General Quarters (12), Musket Man (2), Papa Clem (7), Summer Bird (17), and West Side Bernie (1).  I don’t think any of these horses can win, but one or two could get into the superfecta.

Musket Man, Summer Bird, and West Side Bernie are all deep closers who should still be running when the others run out of gas in the stretch, a la Denis of Cork last year or Imawildandcrazyguy in 2007.  They could come flying for 3rd or 4th in the final sixteenth.  WSB finished 2nd behind IWR in the Wood, but would have been beaten 10 lengths if IWR had any kind of trip.  Still, 4th could be 15 lengths behind on Saturday.

General Quarters is the story horse of this Derby, the only horse in the stable of aging trainer Tom McCarthy.  GQ is a horse McCarthy wanted to buy at auction, underbid, and then was able to claim in his maiden race from $20,000 out from under Wesley Ward.  He’s a gritty fighter, has some tactical speed, has run well on dirt and synthetic, and won the SFDavis at Tampa Bay and the Blue Grass stakes at Keeneland (a race that has become an enigmatic prep).  He’s rumored to look a tad tired in workouts but should be fit by Saturday.

Papa Clem won the Arkansas Derby in a rousing stretch battle with Old Fashioned, who sustained an injury and will be eating grass for awhile — probably until Saratoga starts.  He’s another colt with tactical speed and is a gritty fighter in the stretch.

So here we are.  I want to make sure you have all the tools you need to do your own homework:

Derby Watch — a summary rundown of all the players.  This is the 4/24 version, and you’ll want to check for an update pre-race.  Privman and Watchmaker make it fun.

Past Performances — soon it’ll include the post numbers that were drawn today.  It’s a diverse field with less speed than usual.

Steve Crist’s blog — the best there is.  Fun, edgy, smart, often right, always a great read.

The final field for the 2009 Kentucky Derby:

PP Horse Jockey Trainer Owner ML Odds
1 West Side Bernie Stewart Elliott Kelly Breen George and Lori Hall 30-1
2 Musket Man Eibar Coa Derek Ryan Eric Fein & Vic Carlson 20-1
3 Mr. Hot Stuff John Velazquez Eoin Harty WinStar Farm LLC 30-1
4 Advice Rene Douglas Todd Pletcher WinStar Farm LLC 30-1
5 Hold Me Back Kent Desormeaux Bill Mott Winstar Farm LLC 15-1
6 Friesan Fire Gabriel Saez Larry Jones Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm 5-1
7 Papa Clem Rafael Bejarano Gary Stute Bo Hirsch 20-1
8 Mine That Bird Calvin Borel Bennie Woolley Double Eagle Ranch & Bueno Suerte Equine 50-1
9 Join in the Dance Chris DeCarlo Todd Pletcher Rashard Lewis, Jake & Reed Ballis, Reagan & William Swinbank 50-1
10 Regal Ransom Alan Garcia Saeed bin Suroor Godolphin 30-1
11 Chocolate Candy Mike Smith Jerry Hollendorfer Sid and Jenny Craig Trust 20-1
12 General Quarters Julien Leparoux Tom McCarthy Tom McCarthy 20-1
13 I Want Revenge Joe Talamo Jeff Mullins David J. Lanzman & IEAH Stables, Puglisi Racing, Charles Winner 3-1
14 Atomic Rain Joe Bravo Kelly Breen George and Lori Hall 50-1
15 Dunkirk Edgar Prado Todd Pletcher Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith 4-1
16 Pioneerof the Nile Garrett Gomez Bob Baffert Zayat Stables LLC 4-1
17 Summer Bird Chris Rosier Tim Ice K. K. and Jayaraman Vilasini 50-1
18 Nowhere to Hide Shaun Bridgmohan Nick Zito My Meadowview Farm 50-1
19 Desert Party Ramon Dominguez Saeed bin Suroor Godolphin 15-1
20 Flying Private Robby Albarado D Wayne Lukas Grand Slam Farm LLC 50-1

One final contingency — the forecast in Lexington is cool (64) with “few showers”.  If the track comes up muddy or sloppy, you have to take a careful look at Friesan Fire.  The horse ran a monster race in the Louisiana Derby in the slop.

And finally, for loyal masochists, my betting suggestions, which tend to be money-burners.  Despite the recession, I’m going to work with a $100 kitty.  Make some friends, share the joy.

$25 to win on the 13 ($25)

$5 exacta part wheel, 13 over 6, 7, 12, 15 ($20)

$1 trifecta part wheel 13 over 6,7,12,15 over 1, 2, 6, 7, 12, 15, 17 ($24)

$1 superfecta part wheel 13 over 7, 12, 15 over 6, 7, 12, 15 over 1, 6, 7, 12, 15 ($27)

$2 ex box saver 6, 13 ($4 — will get you half your money back if Friesan Fire pulls off a miracle)

If you can get 13 12 7 1 in that super, you’ll have a fat wad to talk about on Sunday!

Regards and Well Wishes, Your Friend in Dissipation,

Captain America

Posted in Reason. 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “The 135th Kentucky Derby: The Populist Choice”

  1. Steve Grannis Says:

    I don’t have time to read all of this now, but I will. Anyone bold enough to bet the UYG a few months ago, successfully (so far), after the worst financial crisis in 80 years (not to mention after losing his job), who then blogs at length about betting on a horse race, deserves my full attention.

  2. steve becton Says:

    Tim, since you left Citi, DRF has become a restricted website that we can’t access. Is there something you said in your exit interview you need to tell us?

Comments are closed.

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