I can end my column with that one word because I think Dortmund’s is the best horse in the entire field. American Pharoah is the early favorite but after watching Dortmund’s impressive win in the Santa Anita Derby, he is my choice to win the Kentucky Derby. It can also be a huge day for Bob Baffert who trains both of these horses.
Why Dortmund should win. This is a giant horse standing at 17.2 hands tall and weighing 1,360 pounds. He is the son of 2008 Derby winner Big Brown. He is undefeated in his six starts. He won the Santa Anita Derby by 4 1/2 lengths going wire to wire after a bobbled start and losing his right front shoe. Some of his races have included fields with as many as 12 horses. He already raced and won at Churchill Downs so he likes the track. Dortmund’s last three races have had a Beyer speed figure over 100. He has also shown that he can win wire to wire or come off the pace to win. Also of note is that two of the last three Kentucky Derby winners had previously won the Santa Anita Derby. The only negative about Dortmund is that his jockey, Martin Garcia, has never won the Derby and has only one win in a Triple Crown race. Betting wise I’m going to key Dortmund in a bunch of exotic bets and hope for the best.
Other horses to consider.
Carpe Diem was purchased by Winstar Farms and Stonestreet Stables for $1.6 million as a two year old and is trained by Todd
Pletcher. He will be another horse to contend with after his five length win in the G-1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Carpe Diem also won the G-2 Tampa Derby by five lengths. In his five life time starts (5-4-1-0) he has won over $1.5 million, more than any other horse in the field. He has also raced from coast to coast although not at Churchill Downs. Also of note is that his jockey, John Velazquez, choose to run Carpe Diem instead of Materiality, a horse he rode to win in the G-1 Florida Derby and who is also running in the Derby. Velazquez will have to get him out of the horrible #2 post fast and clean for him to win this race. He also has had gate loading issues and with a 20 horse field he’s going to need to be patient for a long time. If it wasn’t for his post position I would have had him on top of a few wagers.
American Pharoah, probably the most impressive horse in the field. He won his last four starts by a combined 22 plus lengths with three being G-1 one wins. His bullet workout on April 26 at Churchill Downs for five furlongs was so good that private clocker, Gary Young said “…he might be the best horse I’ve ever seen.” And Young has seen his share of horses over his 35 year career. I personally do
not like to see a horse workout that hard six days before a major race, especially the Derby. His time in the Arkansas Derby 1:48.2 over the 1 1/8 mile was the fastest finish since 1993. I do have to take into consideration that only three of the last 70 winners of the Kentucky Derby had less than three starts as a three year old. American Pharoah has only raced twice as a three year old. He also drew post #18 which means he will need to fight early if he wants to stay with the lead pack. He’s never raced in a field of more than nine horses and in the Derby he will have 17 horses on his left and another two on his right. It won’t be an easy trip but he remains the early line favorite at 5/2. By the way, the last and only winner from post #18 post was Gato del Sol in 1982.
International Star, owned by Ken and Sara Ramsey is riding a three race winning streak and could be a contender. His biggest win came in the G-2 Louisiana Derby on March 28th at Fair Grounds Race Track. His sire, Fusaichi Pegasus, won the Kentucky Derby as the favorite in 2000. I like this horse because he comes off the pace to win. If Dortmund, American Pharoah and the other speed horses in the race beat each other up with blistering fractions and International Star is within range he can steal this race.
Materiality, I always like trainer Todd Pletcher’s horses and this horse is no different. Materiality is coming off a monster win in the G-1 Florida Derby which earned him a 110 Beyer figure. He is undefeated in his three career starts, all this year. Regrettably, he will have to try to break the curse of winning the Derby without running as a two year old. The last Kentucky Derby winner to win who did not run as a two year old was Apollo…133 years ago in 1882. Also not in his favor is that only three of the last 74 Derby winners had less than six starts. To make matter worse he drew the #3 post and no horse has won from the #3 post since Real Quiet in 1998.
Upstart is another interesting horse. He has the Beyer figures to pull an upset if the front runners set a suicidal pace and he closes fast. I don’t look for him contest for the lead. His loss to Materiality in the G-2 Florida Derby was not good but he won the G-2 Holy Bull. He also won the G-1 Fountain of Youth in February but was disqualified from first to second for drifting out into Itsaknockout. Drawing the #19 post isn’t good but since he is a come off the pace runner he can sit back and try to make a move in the last half mile.
Mubtaahij, is the foreign horse in the field. He had an impressive win in the United Arab Emirates Derby, a $2 million race where he won by
eight lengths. He is probably the best overseas horse to run in the Derby in years. Six winners of the UAE Derby have gone on to race in the Kentucky Derby but not one has come close to winning. Could Mubtaahij be different? Possibly, but another factor that could hinder Mubtaahij is the feed he was eating overseas is not approved in the U.S. so they had to change his diet. Keep in mind also that trainer Mike de Kock has run only six horses in the U.S. and has never run worse than third. Mubtaahij also won’t race on any medication, making him the first Derby contender to do so since 4th place finisher Don’t Get Mad in 2005.
Firing Line, here is a horse that may get over looked. His lone win this year came in his last start at the G-3 Sunland Derby which he won by over 14 lengths. What I like most about Firing Line though is that his two previous losses were only by a head to Dortmund, in the G-1 Los Alamitos Futurity and G-2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes. Those races were 1 1/16 mile which gives me reason to believe I should put some money on this horse with the Derby being run at 1 1/4 miles. Firing Line will be ridden by jockey Gary Stevens, a three time winner of the Kentucky Derby. This is another horse that can sit off the pace and follow the leaders before making his move. Drawing the #10 post should not hurt his chances. Either way, I will definitely have at least one win ticket on Firing Lane come Saturday.
Frosted, his big win came in April in the G-1 Wood Memorial after coming back from throat surgery that can prevent a horse from displacing his palate. Obviously it worked along with putting the blinkers on for the second time. Can Frosted come to the Derby and give another huge effort? He will need to have another monster race with the field he will be facing on Derby day. One other thing to consider, the winner of the Wood Memorial has not finished in the top three of the Derby since 2003. It’s going to take a herculean effort for Frosted to pull it off.
El Kabeir, will be one of three starters for Zayat Stables in the Derby along with American Pharoah and Mr. Z. El Kabeir will have to come from the back of the pack to win this race with Calvin Borel in the saddle who has three Kentucky Derby wins in his career. Borel is one of the best jockeys that can battle through a large field of horses. The last time Borel rode El Kabeir he went on to victory in the G-2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last November at Churchill Downs.
Other contenders who may surprise are Far Right and Bolo. Far Right finished 2nd to American Pharoah in the Arkansas Derby and has the most experience at Churchill Downs with three starts and finishing in the money in all three. Far Right drew the dreaded #20 post but Jockey Mike Smith will be aboard Far Right so you know he will get an honest run. Bolo on the other hand is more of a turf horse but when he took to the dirt in his last two races he finished 3rd to Dortmund both times. If Bolo can take home the Run for the Roses for trainer Carla Gaines she will become the first women trainer in Derby history to win.
A field of 20 horses will once again start from the gate so wagering on the Kentucky Derby can be overwhelming. Although if you are lucky enough to pick the race winner and place additional bets on an exacta or trifecta that win you will go home happy. Now, if there are four horses you really like I would take a shot at the superfecta where you can clean up. The $2 superfecta in recent years has averaged a payout of $84,000 since 2000 according to SB Nation. Even with the favorite California Chrome winning last year the superfecta paid over $15,000. Chances are that after the first quarter mile you will know if you’re a winner or not. The weather is predicted to be in the mid-70’s so keep this statistic in mind; no Derby winner of the race was more than six lengths off the lead after the first quarter mile in seven of the last nine Derbies run on a fast track.
This may be the best Kentucky Derby field in years. There is a ton of speed in this race. If the fractions come in lightning fast and hold we may get close to Secretariat’s course record of 1:59:40, which has stood since 1973. Another reason this year’s race is special is I cannot recall another Kentucky Derby where five horses entered were undefeated as three year olds. Dortmund, American Pharoah, Carpe Diem, International Star, and Materiality are a combined 13-0 in 2015. I’m sticking with Dortmund and will play him in a lot of exotic bets with some of the horses above.
~ Jay Cats ~ Follow me on Twitter @catager