It is amazing how one detail can change the shape of a race. I had long since settled on Archarcharch as my selection to win the 2011 Kentucky Derby and then the post-position draw happened. If Archarcharch overcomes his poor post it will be an even greater accomplishment than Big Brown winning from the outside post in 2008.
Archarcharch gallops at Churchill Downs
Please credit: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos
At this point, it's too early to pick a Kentucky Derby winner with weather to be determined and the possible exclusion of Uncle Mo still a possibility. However, after my first full walkthrough of the form, I have noted my A, B, C and X selections.
(UPDATE: As expected, Uncle Mo is scratched.
A (5) - Consider for top position:
Dialed In, Master of Hounds, Animal Kingdom, Soldat, Nehro,
B (4) - Consider for exactor and triactor
ArchX3, Stay Thirsty, Mucho Macho Man, Midnight Interlude,
C (5)- Consider for bottom of triactor and superfecta
Brilliant Speed, Comma To The Top, Pants On Fire, Santiva, Watch Me Go
X (5) - Not on my ticket
Twice The Appeal, Decisive Moment, Derby Kitten, Twinspired, Shackleford,
For those that are interested, below is a walkthrough of strong points and weak points of each horse in the field and some video evidence to help those still studying to come to a decision on a 2011 Kentucky Derby winner.
1 Archarcharch Jon Court 10/1
Best Race: ArchCubed saved his best effort for last winning the G1 Arkansas Derby from post ten with a rousing stretch run. The colt had never raced from that far off the lead in five previous efforts and he put away a talented field in the process.
Why he can win: There are a few reasons not to give up on ArchX3.
A) Jockey Jon Court is familiar with Churchill Downs and that could be of huge benefit. The last horse to win from the one-hole was Ferdinand, who was guided to the wire by a then 54-year-old Bill Shoemaker. Court, at 50, might have a few tricks up his sleeve.
B) TripleArch has demonstrated the tactical speed and versatility to overcome the helter skelter Kentucky Derby.
C) His sire, Arch (no kidding), also sired last year's Breeders' Cup Classic winner Blame.
Why he can't win: See Lookin at Lucky's trip last year.
Notes: The horse has one run over the Churchill Downs track which was a commendable second in his debut. An April 29th bullet work at CD of 5F in 59 and change suggests the horse is in peak condition.
Archarcharch wins the Arkansas Derby
2 Brilliant Speed Joel Rosario 30/1
Best Race: He wouldn't be here without his win in the G1 BlueGrass in a slow 1:50 and 4. That race over the Keeneland poly was akin to a turf effort with a slow early pace and a quick rush to the finish. The final split went in 12:23 as Brilliant Speed nosed Twinspired to the wire.
Why he can win: Brilliant Speed's sire, Dynaformer, gave us Derby winner Barbaro and jockey Joel Rosario is hitting at a .24 clip.
Why he can't win: His only two dirt efforts were horrendous, albeit too short for him, but this is no time for a turf horse to be learning new tricks. Or, is it?
Notes: His only other win was a maiden score over Extensive at Tampa Bay Downs. Extensive won the Dayton Andrews Dodge Sophomore Turf Stakes at TAM in April
Brilliant Speed works on a wet Churchill Downs track
3 Twice the Appeal Calvin Borel 20/1
Best Race: He won the Sunland Derby at odds of 25-1 outfinishing a disappointing Astrology. This nine furlong race was run quick early and slow late.
Why he can win: Calvin Borel takes over from Christian Santiago Reyes.
Why he can't win: It's hard to like a horse that took seven starts, against not particularly steep competition, to break his maiden.
Twice The Appeal wins the Sunland Derby
4 Stay Thirsty Ramon Dominguez 20/1
Best Race: Stay Thirsty stumbled at the start of the G1 Hopeful at Saratoga last September but he recovered to put in a brave effort to be second to Boys At Toscanova. His effort to win the G3 Gotham, easily besting Toby's Corner, was impressive.
Why he can win: His sire, Bernardini, gets him the distance and his Gotham trip was as close to a Derby start as a seven-horse field could muster complete with gate trouble, brushing horses and a wild stretch run.
Why he can't win: His Florida Derby was a disaster.
Notes: Blinkers OFF - - can we toss that poor last start?
Stay Thirsty wins an awkward Gothmam
5 Decisive Moment Kerwin Clark 30/1
Best Race: Decisive Moment sustained a long drive to complete a second place finish in the G3 Spiral to Animal Kingdom.
Why he can win: A sloppy track might move this fellow up based off a recent bullet in the mud at CD on April 17 going 4F in 47 and 2.
Why he can't win: Animal Kingdom ran buy him with ease in the Vinery and the racing isn't getting any easier this Saturday.
6 Comma to the Top Patrick Valenzuela 30/1
Best Race: The CashCall Futurity was an impressive G1 win but I have to admire CTTT's brave Santa Anita Derby effort (only his second dirt start)where the Bwana Charlie gelding gave up the lead in the final jump to Midnight Interlude.
Why he can win: Jockey switch to Pat Valenzuela could see a crafty steal from the win-happy journeyman.
Why he can't win: The Indian Charlie's don't go ten furlongs rule.
Notes: Thirteen lifetime starts makes him the most experienced horse in the field. His six wins is also the top number of this bunch.
Comma to the Top wins the Cashcall Futurity
7 Pants on Fire Anna Napravnik 20/1
Best Race: Rosie Napravnik engineered a cunning ride in the G2 Louisiana Derby racing off the hip of the pacesetter and getting first jump on favoured Mucho Macho Man. Although Mucho Macho Man threw a shoe leaving the gate and has an excuse, he was right there with Pants On Fire deep in the stretch and full credit to Pants On Fire for putting him away. Nehro charged down the rail to finish second and if you watch the gallop out, it appears that Pants On Fire digs in to keep pace well beyond the turn.
Why he can win: Distance does not appear to be an issue and trainer Kelly Breen has an excellent record of horses on a 31-60 day layoff, so you know the horse will be well prepared.
Why he can't win: He races best on or near the top and this race could see some swift early fractions.
Pants on Fire wins the Louisiana Derby
8 Dialed In John Velazquez 4/1
Best Race: Dialed In closed from well out of it, with giant strides, to nail a tiring Shackleford at the wire. Not only was this race visually appealing, but if Dialed In closes with similar speed on Derby Day then look out.
Why he can win: Jockey Julien Leparoux loves Churchill Downs and has a horse with the turn of foot to pass rivals. He's lightly raced but has defeated the likes of Mucho Macho Man and Soldat with two graded wins to his credit.
Why he can't win: A record of sluggish starts could see him behind a wall early with too many tiring horses to pass down the lane.
Notes: Dialed In has been reported to be in spectacular shape.
Dialed In wins the Florida Derby
9 Derby Kitten Castellano 30/1
Best Race: Derby Kitten started slow in the G3 Lexington, nearly six lengths off the leaders at the half, before angling out and running away from the field to win going away in a mile and a sixteenth event.
Why he can win: He closed quickly to win the Lexington and should enjoy a sloppy track if the weather plays to his favour.
Why he can't win: He's never gone further than a mile and a sixteenth and his only dirt start was a bomb at Belmont.
Notes: Castellano takes over for Leparoux
10 Twinspired Mike Smith 30/1
Best Race: Twinspired surprised many by getting to the lead at the top of the stretch and racing his heart out only to be denied at the wire by a fast-closing Brilliant Speed.
Why he can win: Back to back efforts at nine furlongs show a steady improvement and a stubborn refusal to quit.
Why he can't win: Slow running times and a lack of dirt form.
11 Master of Hounds Garrett Gomez 30/1
Best Race: Losing by a nose to Kwalah in the G2 UAE Derby was a good effort and the pair galloped out together strongly earning a 115 TimeForm rating. By comparison, some say you can take a Beyer figure and add 12-14 to equal a TimeForm number. By that logic, Master of Hounds achieved a converted 101 Beyer figure in the UAE Derby which would be the best recent figure in this field by some margin.
Why he can win: A jockey change to Garrett Gomez for this Derby start gives the Kingmambo fellow a crafty vet to plot the course. There is no shortage of stamina in the pedigree, out of a Sadler's Wells mare Silk And Scarlet.
Why he can't win: He travelled a long way from Ireland to get here and has no dirt form to speak of.
Notes: The Courier Journal report, Master of Hounds gets first taste of Churchill track sounds promising.
Master of Hounds loses a photo to Kwalah in the UAE Derby
12 Santiva Shaun Bridgmohan 30/1
Best Race: Santiva won the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs last November with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard with a front-running effort covering a mile and a sixteenth in 1:45 and 1. The Giant's Causeway colt raced way wide in the Risen Star and was a disappointing ninth in the BlueGrass. He returns to the scene of his only win with much to prove.
Why he can win: He gutted out a win on the engine surviving the long Churchill Downs stretch run and re-unites with the winning jockey.
Why he can't win: He always seems to get in trouble and in this race trouble finds you.
13 Mucho Macho Man Rajiv Maragh 12/1
Best Race: Racing near the front on relatively slow fractions, Mucho Macho Man commanded the G2 Risen Star field and drew away comfortably in the stretch to defeat Santiva. It's worth watching the video below to see MMM find another gear in deep stretch.
Why he can win: He has excuses for poor results: lost a shoe in the Louisiana Derby; bumped hard in the chute of the G3 Holy Bull; and clipped from behind in the G2 Remsen. Is he trouble prone or battle tested?
Why he can't win: He races at his best near the lead and he's not the only one looking for that trip.
Mucho Macho Man wins the Risen Star
14 Shackleford Jesus Castanon 12/1
Best Race: The G1 Florida Derby was Shackleford's third consecutive effort at nine furlongs and he responded with a spirited front-running trip before getting nailed at the wire by Dialed In.
Why he can win: The horse is dead fit and apparently loving Churchill Downs.
Why he can't win: If he was tiring on the lead at nine furlongs, why would he be better on a contested lead at ten furlongs?
Notes: April 30th bullet work of 5F in 58 and 4.
15 Midnight Interlude Victor Espinoza 10/1
Best Race: They say that the step up after breaking your maiden is the most difficult. Midnight Interlude took a shot at the G1 Santa Anita Derby after his maiden breaker and passed the test with flying colours surging past Comma To The Top to win by a head.
Why he can win: Trainer Bob Baffert knows his way around the Kentucky Derby and his trainee boasts the longest current winning streak in the field.
Why he can't win: Midnight Interlude will be trying to become the first Kentucky Derby winner since 1882 not to have raced as a 2-year-old.
Midnight Interlude wins the 2011 Santa Anita Derby
16 Animal Kingdom John Velazquez 30/1
Best Race: This Leroidesanimaux colt came from last to first to win the G3 Spiral over Decisive Moment and Twinspired. They completed nine furlongs in 1:52 and one. Jockey Alan Garcia retains his mount on Soldat so Robby Albarado re-unites with a horse he guided to a nine furlong victory at KEE in 1:49 flat last October - - a faster effort than Brilliant Speed's Lexington win in 1:50 and four.
Why he can win: He is lightly raced but two of his last three starts saw him draw clear of the field for comfortable wins at nine furlongs. As well, there was much buzz earlier this Derby prep season about horses competing in small fields - - Animal Kingdom has faced fields of 10, 12, 11 and 11 in his four starts.
Why he can't win: The lack of dirt form.
Notes: The Blood-Horse report on Team Valor's 'buy back' of Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom wins the Vinery
17 Soldat Alan Garcia 12/1
Best Race: Soldat pulled away from Gourmet Dinner and To Honor and Serve to win the G2 Fountain of Youth going a mile and an eighth in 1:50 and 1. The War Front colt had a difficult trip in the G1 Florida Derby when trapped on the rail finishing a weary fifth.
Why he can win: Soldat has four wins and three seconds in eight lifetime starts and his winning time in the Fountain of Youth was better than Dialed In's Florida Derby.
Why he can't win: The Derby is going to be a battle so he will need to prove he won't fold under pressure this time.
Notes: His 103 Beyer rated win in the slop was against a WEAK FIELD.
Soldat wins the Fountain of Youth
18 Uncle Mo J R Velazquez 9/2 SCRATCHED
Best Race: The Wood Mem...Uncle Mo was devastating in winning the BC Juvenile over Boys At Toscanova. He earned a 108 Beyer for his lone Churchill Downs effort By the time you read this, the horse may already be scratched from the Derby after dealing with GI Tract issues for much of the past month.
Why he can win: He has a win over the course.
Why he can't win: He's been sick. He hasn't won going further than a mile and a sixteenth.
Uncle Mo wins the BC Juvenile
19 Nehro Corey Nakatani 6/1
Best Race: Nehro could top Midnight Interlude's unlikely G1 win off the maiden if he can somehow make the Kentucky Derby his second lifetime victory. The son of Mineshaft closed well to be second to Pants On Fire in the G2 Louisiana Derby and followed that up with another impressive rally to be second to Arch in the Arkansas Derby. The latter effort is his best to date and a repeat of that race could see this fellow figure prominently at the wire.
Why he can win: His strong gallop outs suggest that ten furlongs and further are within his range. (If Todd Pletcher broke his Derby duck last year why not Steve Asmussen this year?)
Why he can't win: This is a tough post position for a horse to claim his second lifetime victory.
20 Watch Me Go Rafael Bejarano 50/1
Best Race: The G2 Tampa Bay Derby saw Watch Me Go shock the field at odds of 43-1. The son of West Acre went to post as favourite in his next start, the G2 Illinois Derby, where he finished sixth beaten seventeen lengths by Joe Vann.
Why he can win: Mine That Bird shocked the field once upon a time...and he adds top jock Rafael Bejerano.
Why he can't win: He has not beaten the level of competition that others here have faced.
Watch Me Go wins the Tampa Bay Derby
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