Kentucky Derby 141: Bob Baffert vs. Everyone Else
By Matt Dinerman (*Note from Kevin: I wanted to hire a real horse racing expert for today’s race, so I brought in Matt to cover the Kentucky Derby for us)
Affirmed. Citation. Seattle Slew. Secretariat. Sunday Silence. War Admiral. This is just a small sample of the list of champions that have won The Kentucky Derby (G1), America’s most prestigious thoroughbred horse race. This Saturday, the 141st edition of the Kentucky Derby is set to take place, with projected sunny skies, beautiful people, and world-class equine athletes taking center stage. Hall of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert has the two big favorites in this race. Will one of his superstars take home the big money and prestige, or will one of the 18 other runners play as the spoiler? Let’s take a look at this year’s stacked field and attempt to answer this question:
#1 Ocho Ocho Ocho draws the worst post position possible and appears like a horse that does not want to run a mile and a quarter. He is an immediate toss.
#2 Carpe Diem has had perfect trips in all of his major wins. This time around, he will have to deal with some adversity considering he did not draw well and will be getting a lot of dirt in his face. He is a very nice horse, but I will toss him in this race.
#3 Materiality, a stablemate of Carpe Diem, is the least experienced runner in the field. He has only run three times but each effort resulted in a trip to the winner’s circle. Although this Afleet Alex colt is another one that looks like a good prospect for the future, he does not have enough seasoning for my liking and will be up against it, especially when you consider the last horse who won the Kentucky Derby that did not run as a two year old was Apollo….and this colt did not run last year. Another toss.
#4 Tencendur had run poorly in two prior stakes races before improving significantly in the Wood Memorial (G1), where he tracked a slow pace and had enough in the tank to take the lead at the top of the stretch. However, he could not hold off #15 Frosting, who ran by him pretty easily. #4 Tenecedur could be getting good at the right time, but his performances before the Wood Memorial (G1) were far from stellar. That concerns me. He will need to improve.
#5 Danzig Moon is another one that could be getting good at the right time. He has finished behind #2 Carpe Diem in his last two starts but ran very well in his most recent effort, The Toyota Bluegrass (G1), where he was gaining ground on #2 Carpe Diem at the wire and finished up a strong second. With a fast pace to run into, he may be running on late.
#6 Mubtaahij dominated his competition in the UAE Derby (G2) at Meydan Race Course in Dubai. He is the only horse in this race that has run farther than a mile and an eighth and has a closing style that will benefit from the projected fast pace. Trainer Mike De Kock, one of the best conditioner’s in the world, has enough confidence to fly this guy over here to run, so that is a positive sign. A legit contender that could run big at a decent price. It’s worth noting, however, that he will not be running on Lasix like the rest of the field.
#7 El Kabeir is a grey son of Scat Daddy that has run well in New York and faces much better competition in this spot. I don’t envision this one being a true mile and a quarter horse. Will look elsewhere.
#8 Dortmund is the first Bob Baffert trained runner in this field. He has never been beat in six lifetime starts and does no wrong when he runs. He is fast, has good tactical speed, and has the will to win. In his second start, he dominated a group of allowance horses over this track, so we know he likes the Churchill Downs dirt. His sire, Big Brown, won the Derby in ’08, so he will like the added furlong as well. He has as much of a chance to win as anybody and is a MUST USE on tickets.
#9 Bolo has never actually won a race on dirt. He has an immense amount of talent, but he has done his best work over the turf and I believe he will be best over that surface.
#10 Firing Line has been beaten by #8 Dortmund twice, only be a head, so he has lost to one of the best horses in this field by very narrow margins. He went quickly early in his last start, The Sunland Park Derby (G3), and kept on going to win by 14 lengths. Even though the competition he faced that day was very weak, it was an impressive performance. This one merits respect. If he can get the distance, he will be right there at the wire. However, I have a feeling he may not be at his very best going a mile and a quarter and you need to be at your best to run well in this race.
#11 Stanford scratched and will be pointing for the Peter Pan Stakes (G2) at Belmont.
#12 International Star dominated the three-year-old prep races at the Fair Grounds. Who he beat there is a major question mark, considering all the runners he defeated are longshots in this spot. His sire, Fusaichi Pegasus, won this race in 2000, so the added ground should not be an issue. The question is simply whether he is good enough to beat the best of the crop this year. I’m not so sure about that. Exotics play if anything.
#13 Itsaknockout lost by 21 lengths in the Florida Derby (G1). That is not something I want to see from a horse coming into this race. Next.
#14 Keen Ice is a deep closer that should benefit from the projected fast pace. However, in 4 of 5 starts since breaking his maiden, he has lost by 6 lengths or more. In other words, he hasn’t come close to being really competitive in the majority of his races against winners. That is a problem.
#15 Frosted displaced his palate when finishing fourth in the Fountain Of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream and had throat surgery to repair that problem after the poor effort. He rebounded in the Wood Memorial (G1) and ran them off their feet, closing into slow fractions and gobbling up ground to eventually open up and win under a strong, confident hand ride. It seems the throat surgery really did him well. He will get a fast pace to run into here and may be the best shot to win for the East Coast. Contender.
#16 War Story had three chances to beat #12 International Star in Louisiana and could not do it, although it is worth mentioning he lost ground in his races there. Still, he would need to greatly improve make an impact in this race.
#17 Mr. Z is a consistent horse that has hit the board in the majority of his starts. However, he has lost 11 straight races. The only race he won was against maidens. He is outclassed.
#18 American Pharoah, the second Baffert trainee, has not been tested since losing his debut, which can be forgiven. He showed versatility in his last start when sitting off another horse. He is definitely “the real deal.” Bob Baffert must feel pretty good going into this race. Victor Espinoza has the mount; he also has the favorite in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Stellar Wind.
#19 Upstart draws poorly and faces the best of his crop. Could write a novel about this horse, as his story has been an interesting one, but have a feeling he’s a notch below the best and will need to run the race of his life to be around at the wire.
#20 Far Right, like the other closers, will benefit from the projected fast pace. He finished second behind #18 American Pharoah in The Arkansas Derby (G1) last time out, but he was beaten handily that day. One that could be used in exotics at a good price, but his chances of winning are extremely slim.
#21 Frammento draws into this race with the scratch of #11 Stanford. He has not been very competitive against stakes competition. He is in over his head here.
#22 Tale Of Verve broke his maiden at Keenland going a mile and three-sixteenths, so if he happens to draw in with a late scratch, he will be the only other than #6 Mubtaahij that has run farther than a mile and an eighth. Still…he takes a major bump up in class and would also have to break from the far outside post position. He’ll definitely has his hands full.
• #18 American Pharoah is America’s next racing superstar. I believe he can run effectively at this mile and a quarter distance and will be very tough to beat.
• #8 Dortmund is a must use on all tickets. There is no reason why he won’t run well again.
• #6 Mubtaahij is a live longshot that may be able to do some serious damage. He will be rolling late.
#5 Danzig Moon, #10 Firing Line, #12 International Star, and #20 Far Right are horses that I would use in exotics, but not in any sort of win wager (All Stakes Pick 4, Oaks-Woodford Reserve-Derby wager, etc.)
• #2 Carpe Diem, #3 Materiality, are two horses that won their last start that I will be tossing.
Kentucky Derby Wagers
I will not be playing exotic bets in this race. A simple, straight ol’ fashion win bet on #18 American Pharoah, who is the real deal.
Win: #18 American Pharoah
My bankroll that I could use for exotics in this race will be used to wager on The Oaks-Woodford Reserve-Derby and Oaks-Derby Double wagers along with an All Stakes Pick 4.
Here are the horses I will be using in the last leg (this race) of these wagers: #6 Mubtaahij, #8 Dortmund, #15 Frosted, #18 American Pharoah