Calvin Borel comes flying home in the 2009 Derby with 50 to 1 shot Mine That Bird for his 2nd victory in 3 years (with a 3rd place in between).
Hear Tom Durkin understandably bungle the stretch call: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlXCC7otxQo
Those of you who have graciously followed my rantings for the past several years may be familar with the “Peach Derby Curse”, which kicked into high gear the past two years. My top pick in 2008 was Eight Belles, the filly who ran a gutsy second to Big Brown but then broke both front legs galloping out after the wire, and was euthanized on the track. It was horrible, and a friend of mine punctuated the dread by pleading with me “…never to pick him to win anything, ever.” Last year, my top selection, pre-race-favorite I Want Revenge, was scratched the morning of the Derby, and hasn’t been in the starting gate since.
Well, the magic continues into 2010, you’ll be pleased to hear. Going into Derby week, I envisioned a Barbaro sort of Derby, with Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial winner Eskendereya blowing out the field by 10 lengths, and two other decent horses grinding out 2nd and 3rd. The runners-up I had in mind were Rule (winner of the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, also a stubborn 3rd after a grueling duel in the Florida Derby) and Endorsement (winner of the Sunland Derby, Mine That Bird’s final Derby prep last year). Welp, Eskendereya came up lame Sunday morning, Rule was ruled out by trainer Todd Pletcher the same day, and Endorsement fractured a bone in his final workout Wednesday morning, shattering Shannon Ritter’s dream of becoming the first female trainer of a Derby winner.
Having wiped out three prominent contenders with my karma, I can now take one of two paths: (1) Just walk right into traffic, and take one for the team, or (2) Drop back, take a deep cleansing breath, and reassess the terrain. As a nonreflective Roman Catholic who accepts medieval judgments about the nature of the afterlife, I’m not willing to risk Hell or even an extended stay in Purgatory as a result of what could only be considered a mercy killing. So I am forced to gather myself and go dumpster diving into what may be the weakest surviving Derby field since, well, to be honest, last year. Let’s just see if there’s anybody left who can run a mile and a quarter without stopping…
First, a few words about the favorites, and the likely texture of this race. On second thought, no, first, a really awesome picture:
Just one more reason why the Kentucky Derby is so often referred to as “The Totally Stoopidest Most Awesome Sporting Event in the History of this Big Wet Rock”
Uh, where was I? Oh yes, the favorites — Lookin At Lucky (1) and Sidney’s Candy (20). Just look at those crappy posts. This was the first year I can recall where they just picked the posts out of the hat — for years they’ve been picking the horse, and then the trainer gets to pick the post he likes (of what’s left when he gets there). Lookin At Lucky is 3 to 1 on the morning line, but has had troubled trips in his last two races (the Rebel at Oaklawn Park and the Santa Anita Derby — LOL’s jockey Garrett Gomez got into a fist fight with Victor Espinoza, as Gomez accused Espinoza of trying to jam him into the rail on the far turn. LOL had to check hard, and was gutsy in recovering for a hard-earned 3rd place finish). Now Lookin At Apparently Not So Lucky, who is a mid-pack stalker by nature, will likely get trapped along the rail as the crush of horses stampede for position down the opening stretch. He’s a dead game runner who has overcome trouble before, but you gotta give me better than 3 to 1 to hope for a better trip or a huge step-up in speed from that post.
Sidney’s Candy, owned by Jenny Craig and named for her late husband, is another solid performer who won both Santa Anita preps (the San Felipe and the SA Derby), and is a front-runner — he’s 5 to 1 on the morning line. Two problems: (1) there is a ton of speed in this race, with four horses including Sidney’s Candy needing the lead, and at least 3 others who want to be right up close to the pace, AND (2) Sidney’s starting post is like trying to bowl in Lane 5 from Lane 8. Big Brown managed to win the 2008 Derby from post 20, but with all due respect to the Queen of Lean and Mean, Sidney’s Candy ain’t Big Brown. If SC can hit the board from out there, well…. if my mom had wheels, she’d be a sandwich cart.
I wanted to bet against these horses anyhow, because I’m an anti-Californian — on everything, but also on horse racing — and now I can feel good about that. Thanks, Bingo Man, for your blatant East Coast bias in post selection.
So as I was saying, there will be a lot of speed in this race. When there’s a LOT of speed in the Derby, the race can break down. Meaning: everybody up front runs out of gas, the final stretch turns into a half-parking-lot/half-cavalry-charge mess, and some longshot from way back who still has gas in the tank comes flying in the final sixteenth to steal the show. This happened in 2001 when Monarchos won (in the second fastest Derby time ever) and in 2005 when Giacomo ran down Closing Argument and Afleet Alex in the last few jumps (he was 50 to 1 like Mine That Bird). The cutoff point appears to be somewhere in the 45’s — meaning, if the first half mile goes faster than 46 seconds, the race could break down, whereas if it goes 46 seconds or slower, the finish tends to stay more conventional. In 2001, they went in 44.86 seconds for the first half (fastest ever), and in 2005, it was 45.38 seconds.
I personally do not see this race breaking down. I think the first half will go in something like 46.5 seconds. Despite there being plenty of speed, there is no clear “rabbit” in this race (a horse entered just to create pace that will benefit another horse) — none of the speed horses are enormous long shots and their trainers probably feel they have a shot to win, but not if the pace blows up. So there will likely be some restraint out front. Accordingly, I have two top picks here, one of whom would benefit from a breakdown, while the other can win with a more moderate pace scenario.
Pick #1: Another filly, with sentiment on her side. Devil May Care (11) is trained by Todd Pletcher, world-class trainer with no luck to date in the Derby. Eskendereya was his best chance ever to win this thing. I took that off the table for him. But now he has decided to run Devil May Care, a fabulous filly who won the Bonnie Miss at Gulfstream on the same day Ice Box (my other pick!) won the Florida Derby — and she ran faster than him at the same distance. Watch her race — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1n5zrUkfm8 — she takes the lead with ease, and could have run even faster had she not freaked out after being tapped with the whip by jockey John Velasquez.
Johnny V was supposed to ride Eskendereya, who would have been the prohibitive favorite in this race. The owner of Devil May Care said he only wanted to run his filly in the Derby if Johnny V would ride her. The only way that would happen was if Johnny V were cloned (illegal everywhere except Northern Europe and California), or if Eskendereya dropped out of the Derby. The more natural solution arose.
Believe me, I am appropriately concerned about this selection, given my history. But I have to be true to the sheets — she’s better than most of the boys on paper, has the right running style to come off a fast but reasonable pace, and had a great workout over the Churchill Downs surface. She’s a little green, and would have benefitted from another prep race or two, but history waits for no one. And everyone who knows me knows that I live for Girl Power. Women own me — I came out of one, have been nearly bankrupted by two, fathered another, and will likely be spoon-fed by one in my extended dotage (which could begin any second). And I love every minute of it. Being laid low by the fairer sex is my destiny, and the pain of it is delicious to me. So go, you crazy, stretch-running filly. Beat this sad pack of bums, only two of whom could manage to run a 100 Beyer figure to date.
Same advice on betting her goes as for 2008. Everybody loves Girl Power, especially people who bet one horse race a year. She’ll be overbet in the simple bets (Win Place Show), but more lightly bet in the “exotics” (exactas, trifectas, superfectas, and multirace wagers). If you can get “live” on a multirace ticket (either the Oaks/Derby double bettable on Friday, or a double or Pick 3 into the Derby), that’s probably the best place to be. She could be 7 or 8 to 1 at post-time, but could be an implied 15 to 1 in the exotics.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamt of attending the Kentucky Derby in person. Then I see stuff like this. And I realize that going to this thing, except for the 2 minutes of the actual race, probably doesn’t compete very well with a trip to the Palisades Mall in West Nyack, NY. As a purist and a misanthrope, I realize the place for me is in my own living room, by myself, with a nice $7.99 Merlot, some beef jerky, and access to online wagering.
Pick #2: On my original, pre-disaster list of “hit the board but probably can’t win” picks was a game horsey named Ice Box (2) who came flying late in the Florida Derby to nose out Pleasant Prince (who will be watching the race from the shedrow, having come up a few bucks short on the graded earnings list). Ice Box, trained by Nick Zito and ridden by Jose Lezcano, is 10-1 on the morning line but probably needs a race breakdown to win. He could still hit the board (2nd or 3rd) if the pace comes up more reasonable. The Beyer guy, Andy Beyer, and a horse-nut buddy of mine from a prior employer are both all over this horse, for those of you who need outside confirmation. I’m not offended, really.
Given how crappy this field is — you can make a case for 10 horses of 20, at least — you gotta spread it pretty wide underneath the top slot. I’ll be using up to 8 other horses as I construct my lottery tickets (in order of preference):
- Super Saver (4) — gutsy grinder, 2nd in the Arkansas Derby, and (drumroll) his jockey is rail-skimming maniac Calvin Borel! The horse won a race at Churchill as well.
- Awesome Act (16) — late-running winner of the Gotham at Aqueduct, grew up in Britain, so you have to figure he’s smarter than the other horses
- Noble’s Promise (3) — lost the Rebel to Lookin At Lucky by the head, and then stunk it up in the Arkansas Derby. He’ll be a big price.
- Jackson Bend (13) — my aforementioned buddy talked me into this one. If he hits the board and I don’t have him, I’ll have to listen to a lot of crap. Why risk that?
- Lookin At Lucky (1) — he’s the legitimate favorite, and could hit the board even with a troubled ride
- Sidney’s Candy (20) — the bad post draw will keep him from winning, but he’s never run on dirt, and may jump up another notch and hit the board as well
- Backtalk (18) — has no business being in this race and should be 100 to 1, but he won two races at Churchill and anything can happen in a field like this one
- Paddy O’Prado (10) — also looks like a candidate for the glue factory, but had a great pre-race workout, and has an Irish name (sort of). Need I say any more?
So there you have it. The stone cold locks for 2010. If you prefer, stick these 10 numbers in a hat and pick 3. That’ll probably work just as well.
Here are links to the standard indispensable resources that you can’t live without, although you’ll probably try to, because rational people stopped reading paragraphs ago:
- Past performances for the race, featuring the new Girl Power DRF logo (that’s supposed to be Zenyatta): http://www.drf.com/tc/kentuckyderby/2010/pps/derby2010classic.pdf
- Derby Watch, a handy and somewhat sarcastic summary of two handicappers’ view of the field: http://www.drf.com/tc/kentuckyderby/2010/watch/watch.html
- Steven Crist’s blog, literally the greatest thing in the whole world if you love horseracing and vitriol: http://cristblog.drf.com/crist/
- All the prep races (except for the Bonnie Miss, which was a chick race), so you can see how they all got here: http://www.drf.com/tc/kentuckyderby/2010/preps.html
Next, please find below the gritty if unspectacular field for the glorious, all-too-quickly-completed 136th running of the Kentucky Derby:
|1.||Lookin At Lucky||Garrett Gomez||Bob Baffert||3-1|
|2.||Ice Box||Jose Lezcano||Nick Zito||10-1|
|3.||Noble’s Promise||Willie Martinez||Ken McPeek||12-1|
|4.||Super Saver||Calvin Borel||Todd Pletcher||15-1|
|5.||Line of David||Rafael Bejarano||John Sadler||30-1|
|6.||Stately Victor||Alan Garcia||Mike Maker||30-1|
|7.||American Lion||David Flores||Eoin Harty||30-1|
|8.||Dean’s Kitten||Robby Albarado||Mike Maker||50-1|
|9.||Make Music for Me||Joel Rosario||Alexis Barba||50-1|
|10.||Paddy O’Prado||Kent Desormeaux||Dale Romans||20-1|
|11.||Devil May Care||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||10-1|
|12.||Conveyance||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||12-1|
|13.||Jackson Bend||Mike Smith||Nick Zito||15-1|
|14.||Mission Impazible||Rajiv Maragh||Todd Pletcher||20-1|
|15.||Discreetly Mine||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||30-1|
|16.||Awesome Act||Julien Leparoux||Jeremy Noseda||10-1|
|17.||Dublin||Terry Thompson||D. Wayne Lukas||12-1|
|18.||Backtalk||Miguel Mena||Tom Amoss||50-1|
|19.||Homeboykris||Ramon Dominguez||Richard Dutrow, Jr.||50-1|
|20.||Sidney’s Candy||Joe Talamo||John Sadler||5-1|
Finally, I humbly offer to you my suggested deployment of a mere $100 on what is, by far, the Totally Stoopidest and Most Awesome thing there is:
Warrior Track wagers
- $10 to win on 2 and 11 — let’s cash a ticket here! ($20)
- $3 exacta part wheel with 2, 11 over 2, 3, 4, 11, 13, 16 ($30)
- $2 exacta box, 2 and 11 ($4)
- $2 exacta part wheel, 1 over 2, 11 ($4 — a saver that might get you your money back)
- $1 trifecta part wheel with 11 over 2, 3, 4, 13, 16 over 1, 2, 3, 4, 13, 16, 20 ($30 — girl on top!)
- 10 cent superfecta with 2, 11 over 2, 4, 11, 16 over 1, 2, 3, 4, 11, 13, 16 over 1, 2, 3, 4, 11, 13, 16 ($12)
Society of Actuaries Track wagers
- $10 to place on 2 and 11 ($20)
- $2 exacta box with 2, 3, 4, 11, 13, 16 ($60)
- $2 exacta part wheels with 1 over 2, 11 and 2, 11 over 1 ($8)
- Same 10 cent superfecta as above (even wussies have to live a little)
Note that I didn’t include the 10 or 18 horses in these wagering options. If you want to single a horse on top of your superfecta, you’ll be able to include those horses underneath (and widen out a bit), and still stay under budget. OR, just say “Devil May Care”, go to the window with a fat wad, and get into this thing at a 45-degree angle. How can that be wrong?
Between the end of professional football and the first days of summer lies an endless abyss of nothingness which threatens to steal our very souls. God Bless the Sport of Kings, which paves a shining path between the two other realms of joy that make our pointless lives worth living. I am humbled and grateful to share this journey with you, and wish you every success as you make your way to the magic window. And here’s to a better call this year from Tom Durkin.
Your faithful ambassador of flying dirt,
Captain America, Defender of the Faith