Saturday, May 1, 2010

Kentucky Derby 2010: I'm On A Mission, You Better Just Listen

The 2010 Kentucky Derby goes to post at 6:15Pm EST and the potential parimutuel payouts this evening provide good reason to spend hours finding a winner. But in a race where something can go wrong from the first steps out of the gate, it takes two to make a thing go right.

Mission Impazible and Dublin are my deadly duo this evening

Finding a winner in this event is no easy task. From a handicapping perspective, in any other circumstance, I would turn the page and look for a more readable race. However, the Kentucky Derby parimutuel pools will be full of innocent blood and one simply has to take a crack at making a potential killing.

This race is a recipe for disaster.

Take 20 young and developing horses, throw them into a starting gate at a track most haven't raced on, have them travel at least a furlong further than they are comfortable and for fun let's make it rain so we can sort out which horse likes to race on a sloppy track.

The morning-line favourite, Lookin At Lucky, is stuck on the rail where a winner hasn't launched since Ferdinand in 1986. The second choice, Sidney's Candy, is a front-runner starting from the furthest-most post - does he lose his race trying to get position before the first turn?

Here's one thing I've figured out about this whole post-position business. Yes, no one has won from post one since Ferdinand - but, posts one and five have produced the most successful Derby starts with twelve wins each.

Sidney's Candy can take comfort in the knowledge that Big Brown won from the 20 post in 2008 but Big Brown was only the second horse to ever manage that feat. Even worse, only three winners in the history of the Kentucky Derby have won the race starting from post 17 and beyond.

To over analyze a little further, I dug into the race notes for each of the starters to scope out who might cause gate trouble and here's what I found.

Posts 1 to 5:

Lookin At Lucky generally starts well while the horse to his immediate right, Ice Box (post 2), is a slow starter. Noble's Promise (post 3) has been bumped out of the gate three times but Super Saver (post 4) and Line of David (post 5) get away clean.

In theory, Garret Gomez should be able to leave the gate with purpose and find a spot.

Posts 6 to 10:

Stately Victor (post 6) is a slow starter and American Lion (post 7) tends to leave quickly with only one bobbled start. Dean's Kitten (post 8) has a history of being steadied and checked but doesn't seem to have gate issues. Make Music For Me (post 9) and Paddy O'Prado (post 10) also keep it clean.

This section of the starting gate appears quiet.

Posts 11 - 15:

The filly, Devil May Care (post 11), made me break out the highlighter. Form notes such as Broke Slow, Stumbled Break and Fractious Gate have me worried about her chances breaking from the middle of the gate in a rowdy atmosphere. Conveyance (post 12) is a smooth starter who will be looking for the immediate lead. Jackson Bend (post 13) tends to be slow early and has had a pair of rough starts at Calder, although he did recover to win both (July 11 and Oct 17). Mission Impazible (post 14) bobbled the start of the Kentucky Juvenile at Churchill and it cost him as he finished third. Discreetly Mine (post 15) hit the gate in the Belmont Futurity before finishing second to D'Funnybone and then bobbled the start of the Spectacular Bid on a sloppy track finishing fourth.

This is the first section of the gate that appears to have some issues.

Post 16 - 20:
Awesome Act (post 16) had a tough start in Newmarket in October missing the break and bumping badly. Last out, Awesome Act threw a shoe while stumbling at the start of the Wood Memorial and likely left his race in the gate. Dublin (post 17) has had three rough starts in eight trips. Two bobbles, one stumble. Backtalk (post 18) stumbled the start of a G3 sprint at Churchill in July but recovered to win. Homeboykris (post 19) is generally very fast early and has had no trouble leaving the gate. Sidney's Candy (post 20) has skewed two of six lifetime starts, though he recovered from a bobble last out to win the Santa Anita Derby in impressive fashion.

What does all this mean? Who knows. On paper, the trouble horses start from post 11 onward which bodes well for rail-ridden Lookin At Lucky. Will Sidney's Candy have to fight off a bumper car ride of bad breakers to find position in the first quarter of a taxing race?

Let's face it, these are horses. If Ice Box decided to blast out of the gate, turn left, bodycheck Lookin At Lucky and then hurdle the rail to go for a run in the infield I wouldn't be surprised - especially with 100,000+ spectators screaming their lungs out.

When it comes to the starting gate issue, I think Sidney's Candy sure picked a tough spot to make his dirt debut.

* * *

On with the review

1. Lookin At Lucky 3-1 - The only multiple G1 winner in the field. Two starts each from posts 1 and 2 - four wins. Garret Gomez is a pro and Bob Baffert knows how to get a horse ready for the Derby. Lookin At Lucky posted his best Beyer figure in his only race on dirt - a 98 in the Rebel. He nearly went down on the final turn in the SA Derby and was strong enough to stay on course and make a late run. Respect.

2. Ice Box, 10-1 - Off slow and five wide in the Fountain of Youth as Eskendereya romped, but Ice Box was not far off of second place finisher Jackson Bend. The potential pace meltdown suggests a closer can win. His dam, Spice Island, showed stamina with two quality twelve furlong wins in the Long Island Handicap and the Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes.

3. Noble's Promise, 12-1 - He has finished behind Lookin At Lucky three times. I'm not sure added distance is in his favour.

4. Super Saver, 15-1 - Every handicapper with a spare dollar will keep jockey Calvin Borel in their Derby exotics. That includes me. Super Saver romped in the slop at Belmont. He has a G2 win at Churchill. And if you care about this stuff, it's his third start of the cycle with increasing Beyer numbers. He moves way up off that Arkansas Derby effort that's sure to have put some air in his lungs. Can he get the distance? Can any of these kids?

Super Saver can't catch Line of David in the Arkansas Derby

5. Line of David, 30-1 - A beautiful rate ride by Court last out to hold off Super Saver in the Arkansas Derby - and he galloped out in front. But I just don't see this horse dealing with the early speed of Conveyance and he's never had to rate.

6. Stately Victor 30-1 - Zoom! What a stretch romp in the Bluegrass. From the desk of a good friend - and better handicapper than myself - , "On closer inspection, Stately V has never tried the dirt without blinkers before and he is the ONLY horse to close in less than 12 flat for the last 1/8th going two turns albeit on a synthetic surface. That's from the same friend who assured me I could confidently key Blind Luck and also provided me with Doubles Partner on the Oaks card. But those dirt starts are so poor...assuming there's any dirt left on the track after the deluge.

7. American Lion, 30-1 - If you like Sidney's Candy, you should probably like American Lion as he was only four lengths back of that one in the San Felipe. American Lion blew the start of the Robert Lewis but showed great stamina last out in the Illinois Derby first time on the dirt. I'm thinking pace casualty.

American Lion dusts the Illinois Derby field

8. Dean's Kitten, 50-1 - If you're going to spend money on a kitten this Derby day, I highly recommend you take your hard earned dollars over to, the online gift shop owned by my girlfriend Amy. There you will find all manner of cool accessories, gift cards, stationery and other delightful giftware. In addition, if you make a purchase in SmittenKitten's Vintage section part of the proceeds go to help animal charities. Awww...bring a kitten some joy this Derby season at Smitten Kitten.

(And now back to regularly scheduled handicapping.) Dean's Kitten has the most racing experience (11 races) of any horse in this field and back-to-back trips of a mile and an eighth as foundation. Call me catty, but his Lane's End win was slow and his lone dirt start was a travesty.

9. Make Music For Me, 50-1 - When he finally got away from Lookin At Lucky and Noble's Promise he broke his maiden. Both of those old foes are here. First time racing on the dirt/slop/mud. He's just as good a pick as Noble's Promise if you want a horse with upside, and likely better odds.

10. Paddy O'Prado,20-1 - El Prado gives you winners on all surfaces. I like the bullet work on the slop at Churchill last week. I like Kent Desormeaux. I'd also like a lot more than 20-1 and I don't think that's happening thanks to the bullet in the slop.

11. Devil May Care, 10-1 - The Kentucky Derby is no place for a filly. (Easy...I'm just kidding.) A 100 Beyer figure winning the Bonnie Miss is a good reason to consider this lovely filly and the reason for the low odds. Is she a late developing freak? Fractious in the gate, awkward stretch run last out was very green. The lady adds blinkers for this event to even out her course. Good that she has a win in the slop but I'm looking elsewhere.

Devil May Care puts up a 100 Beyer in the Bonnie Miss

12. Conveyance, 12-1 - Following the familiar path of losing the Sunland Derby before winning on the First Saturday in May. The Baffert speedster is a legit threat to wire the field if the race doesn't combust at the half. ESPN's Jeremy Plonk says this is your Derby winner. I think they'll catch him.

13. Jackson Bend, 15-1 - Can the little guy get a mile and a quarter? He'll be happy not to deal with Esky this time around but has worked hard this year already in three graded starts. Is he peaking or over the top? Nice recent bullet work.

14. Mission Impazible, 20-1 - He could not catch up to Conveyance and Dublin at a mile in the G3 Southwest. A mile and an eighth and new jock Rajeeeeeeeev Maragh provided better results in the Louisiana Derby. A mid-pack closer is a type worth keeping in the mix. It can't all be wire-to-wire or last-to-first. Calvin L. Carter says this is your Derby winner, based partly on this statement, "Mission Impazible is a descendent of the Fappiano sire which has produced nine winners of Triple Crown races since 1990..."

15. Discreetly Mine 30-1 - I think a mile and a sixteenth is perfect for this horse.

16. Awesome Act, 10-1 - Well-bred son of Awesome Again. The distance should not be a problem, but I prefer Ice Box and Mission Impazible as closers. Posted a 98 Beyer first out in 2010 in the Gotham. Blew the start of the Wood, lost a shoe in the process, did Leparoux leave a little extra in the tank rather than chase down an already away Eskendereya? I'd pay 12 -1 or better to find out.

17. Dublin, 12-1 - Trainer D. Wayne Lukas knows his way around the Derby. This expensive ($525K) son of Afleet Alex was two necks from winning the Arkansas Derby at a mile and an eighth. He trounced 85ina50 at Saratoga in a sprint last year so we know he has the speed to deal with trouble...which he seems to keep finding with those three bad starts and then a questionable ride in the Rebel by Nakatani that put Thompson back on the horse. Can't count him out.

18. Backtalk, 50-1 - Will there be a Smarty Party on Saturday? The son of Smarty Jones backed into the Derby late in the game and has yet to register a 90+ Beyer. This multiple graded stakes winner (both sprints) is a nice horse but I'm looking elsewhere.

19. Homeboykris 50-1 - Scored a beautiful win in the G1 Champagne at Belmont in October. Since then he has struggled in three starts. Finished second to Radiohead in an Allowance tilt last out. Part owner Joe Torre likes to win. I would be very surprised to see him cross the wire first.

20. Sidney's Candy, 5-1 - The negatives? Never tried the dirt. Sometimes starts poorly. Starts from post 20. He's not getting the lead this time. The positives? The only horse in the field to run away from Lookin At Lucky. Granted, that race was a disaster trip for L@L. He is 3 for 3 in 2010 with graded wins in the San Vicente, San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby moving up in distance, without issue, in each start. The Beyer numbers climb each start as well. Candy Ride is such a hot stallion right now - how crazy would it be to see his kids winning classic distances and at sprints? (I'm thinking El Brujo, Capt. Candyman Can and Evita Argentina)

Sidney's Candy wins the Santa Anita Derby. Lookin At Lucky steadied hard on final turn.

Enough. It's time to make a pick.

1. Mine That Bird.
What? wrong year? Fine...

1. Mission Impazible - Improving sort who can kick on through the stretch.
2. Dublin - His Southwest was deceptively good. Check out the lengths he made up. Post 17, ouch.
3. Ice Box - Another closer.
4. Lookin At Lucky - He'll work hard early and might not have enough late.

Conveyance, Dublin and Mission Impazible go a mile in the Southwest

It is difficult to feel confident about picking this race so I'll be playing combinations of the above four horses. In addition, I am forced to make use of Stately Victor because my friend is far too good a handicapper, Calvin Borel because of the bo-rail and Sidney's Candy because he's the best horse on paper if this was a ten horse race at a mile and an eighth.

I wish you all the best of luck in your wagers. Please add me on Twitter for updates throughout the afternoon - and hopefully some Woodbine winners to boot!

Oh, and a big thank you to the many readers who clicked over to TripleDeadHeat from HorseRacingNation.Com this week.

1 comment:

Calvin Carter said...


Great analysis. Good luck with your Derby day wagers!