Kentucky Derby · Triple Crown · Uncategorized

Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders and Pretenders

HRS Kentucky Derby

With just under seven days remaining until the Kentucky Derby, time to separate the Contenders from the Pretenders.

  • California Chrome (Contender)
    • Obvious best horse in the field.  While heavily raced, has the best speed and has been very impressive last few times out.  His front running style is going to make it tough on him to win, especially if the pace is as fast as it should be.  Hopefully he will like the Churchill Downs surface as he won’t be having any workouts at CD, unless Art Sherman changes his mind.  He would need to beat out his pedigree to win the race but if leading on the far turn by more than a length, it could be a runaway for the Cal-bred.
  • Vicar’s In Trouble (Contender)
    • Been a fan of him since the Risen Star, ViT can come from off the pace or from the front to win.  He is used to the long stretch from having run at Fair Grounds, but distance may be a huge factor, seeing as his breeding is indicative of a mile.  If he races off the pace then he will have a greater chance than being a front runner.  If a front runner, don’t expect a win unless leading by a lot on the far turn, but could easily hit the board.
  • Dance With Fate (Pretender)
    • While he might not be the most accomplished horse in the field, or even the speediest, he is a closer, which is a plus.  But having all of his wins on artificial or turf do not bode well for him.  Even his trainer doesn’t think he will like the dirt.  With only two speed figures over 90, both on artificial, he is going to need to beat out his past performances to come close to a win.  But artificial loving closers have won before, like Animal Kingdom.  However, unless he can show me that he loves dirt, I’m throwing him out.
  • Wicked Strong (Contender)
    • A nice closer and winner of the Wood Memorial, Wicked Strong has what it takes to win.  Although he only has one speed figure above 90 (and it was a 103, in fact), he beat some good horses in his last race and is bred for the distance.  Being a closer really helps.  If he is able to run in the middle of the pack like last race, he could be in it in the end, especially with the long stretch to help him out.
  • Samraat (Contender)
    • Winner of the Gotham, Samraat has shown nothing but consistency. 4 straight 99 Bris speed figures, he has what it takes to stalk and lead late.  He is bred for the distance and more and had a winning performance in lost last time out.  With the longer stretch, he has a chance.
  • Danza (Pretender)
    • Having only raced twice this year, and twice last year (in July and August only), Danza is very lightly raced.  While he did win the Arkansas Derby, he hasn’t shown any reason that he will be able to step up to the Derby.  He is also bred for sprinting, that doesn’t really his case.
  • Hoppertunity (Contender)
    • What an opportunity for Baffert to grab the Derby! With a second to California Chrome last time out, and wins against Tapiture and Ride On Curlin, Hoppertunity is the second best horse in the field.  He has experience around the country, racing at Santa Anita, Fair Grounds, and Oaklawn Park.  Even with very little late speed last race, he was able to easily hold for second.  With Mike Smith, his odds are even better.  He is definitely bred for the distance and has such a great chance.  An interesting not about his pedigree is that he is the lone horse in the field whose dam sire line does not end with Darley Arabian, it ends with Godolphin Arabian, one of the other founders of thoroughbreds.  If it is an off track, his chances go up even more.
  • Intense Holiday (Contender)
    • One of my live longshots in the field, Intense Holiday likes running on a long stretch, as seen with his success at Fair Grounds.  He has a short loss and a big win over Vicar’s In Trouble and is bred for the distance.  His speed might be a problem but he should be up there in the end.  And he is a closer, which helps out a lot.
  • Wildcat Red (Contender)
    • My earlier number 1 horse, although he has moved a few spots back now, is one of the more consistent front runners in the field.  He is able to maintain about the same amount of speed throughout the whole race and has never placed any lower than 2nd in 7 career starts.  Two of his three seconds came in a photo after dueling down the stretch.  The other second was due to a disqualification from first.  The question is whether he can get the surface, seeing as he has never run outside of Gulfstream Park.  His first workout on Churchill Downs was very slow, 5 furlongs in 1:04.39.  I wouldn’t put that too much against him though.  He was very slow during the early part of the Florida Derby while on the lead and still finished only a neck behind Constitution.
  • We Miss Artie (Pretender)
    • While the Ramseys are the King and Queen of Kentucky, the Derby has alluded them thus far.  Even with Todd Pletcher as the trainer (although that doesn’t mean a lot in a Derby that has alluded him more times than not), they would need a lot to go right for the Ramseys to win.  We Miss Artie won last time out in the Spiral on artificial dirt against no real contenders.  When he did face against good company, he finished 8th in the Fountain of Youth.  With no late speed (something that is very important for a Derby win) this horse is a huge long shot.  Expect to see him at the back of the pack in the end.
  • Ride On Curlin (Pretender)
    • Son of Curlin, Ride On Curlin is trying to do what his sire could not, win the Derby.  while he has the breeding to make the distance and is very good late, he has no graded wins in 2014 and his last win was in an allowance race in January.  He has been improving well and has worked well at Churchill Downs, he would need a lot to win.  If a few things fall his way, then he could be in it late, but I wouldn’t expect much.  (If he gets the rail, he will move up to a contender, mainly because he has Calvin Borel with the mount)
  • Chitu (Contender)
    • Originally I wanted to throw this horse out, but after looking back, saw a little promise.  He is much better at a fast pace (like what will be in the Derby) and has great speed late.  If he is able to settle right off the pace instead of being right up there, he may be in it late.  If not, he could be the horse that tires California Chrome out before the stretch.
  • Tapiture (Pretender)
    • With Tapit as his sire, probably won’t get the distance, more bred for a mile and an eighth.  Been consistent with speed but hasn’t really proven to win.  If he is able to get the distance (which I doubt) then the extra room will be able to help as he has been closing late in his past few races.  Will need a lot to happen in order to win.
  • Ring Weekend (Pretender)
  • General A Rod (Pretender)
    • While he has been right next to Wildcat Red for the last three races, he is definitely the second best of the duo.  He has had the possibility of winning either of his past two races but just didn’t have the ability in the duel.  If something happens to let him be upfront cleanly late, then his speed will really help, otherwise, toss.
  • Medal Count (Contender)
    • Bred to get the distance and been very sharp in last two starts, has the closing ability to win.  This deep closer stays way back and has a lot of speed to get up to the front.  Has proven to be a great closer from either the outside or the rail.  The major concern is how he will handle the dirt, having only had success on artificial and turf surfaces.  But has worked well of the track so maybe Churchill Downs might be his place for dirt success.  Definitely a live longshot.
  • Candy Boy (Contender)
    • A clear third to California Chrome and Hoppertunity in the Santa Anita Derby, Candy Boy is a runs well down the stretch, and the extra room could eaily help.  Although bred for turf, he has shown the ability to run on dirt and lost to two great horses last time out.  With a lot of late speed, he has shown to be able to work well as a stalker or a closer.  Has been an all star in the workouts at Churchill Downs and is definitely a live longshot.
  • Uncle Sigh (Pretender)
    • A need the lead type horse, Uncle Sigh doesn’t have the racing style to win this race, especially with the expected fast pace.  Having no graded stakes wins this year, losing to Samraat three times already, Uncle Sigh doesn’t have what it takes to win.  Toss.
  • Vinceremos (Pretender)
    • In my opinion, the weakest of the current 20 horse field, Vinceremos was a flop last time out, albeit on artificial dirt.  His two wins have been against no one and he lost a good three lengths to Ring Weekend his last start on dirt, over a track and distance he won over the race before with even less speed.  He would need all the other horses to get lost on the way to the racetrack in order to have a chance at winning.  Definitely toss.
  • Harry’s Holiday (Pretender)
    • After a fluke loss on artificial dirt (his favorite and best surface) last time out, Harry’s Holiday was faster than the winner early in both of his last two starts.  However, he hasn’t stepped up to win and has absolutely no late speed.  Probably better as a sprinter, the distance will probably be too much for this horse.
  • Commanding Curve (Contender)
    • Having gotten into the field with Ring Weekend’s defection, Commanding Curve is a great closer and a nice addition to the field.  The more I look at this horse, the more I like him.  A close third in the Louisiana Derby and closing from way back in the race, he has great deep closing ability.  He had great speed last time out and is proven over Churchill Downs, having won at a mile and a sixteenth and finished in the money the other two times.  And he is the lone horse in the field with A.P. Indy as his grandsire, the same as the grandsire of Orb and Princess of Sylmar, last year’s Derby and Oaks winners, respectfully.  Definitely a live longshot and will be a play on a lot of my exotic tickets.
  • Pablo Del Monte (Pretender)
    • Michael Tabor, John Magnier, and Derrick Smith really hope that this is another Derby win for them, but I doubt it.  A turf pedigree, although with Giant’s Causeway should get the distance, Pablo Del Monte hasn’t had a win since an allowance race at Keeneland last October, on an artificial surface.  His last race, the Blue Grass, was just a horrible race as many of the major contenders dropped out of the race early and he couldn’t even win, losing to closing Dance With Fate and Medal Count after leading for most of the race.  Toss.
  • Bayern (Pretender)
  • Social Inclusion (Pretender)
    • If he gets into the race, this lightly raced horse will. need a lot of help to win.  Losing last time out to Wicked Strong and Samraat, Social Inclusion was shipped to Aqueduct to try and get into the Derby, but so far hasn’t.  With a few defections he could, but even then, I doubt he will have a chance of winning.  Unraced at 2, and with no graded stakes wins, Derby probably won’t be the sight of his first.  Maybe in the future though, so keep him on your radar.
  • Big Bazinga (Pretender)
    • Is this horse even working out at Churchill Downs?  If this horse gets into the field and wins, Donerail’s 1913 91-1 win record might be broken.  And that is if anyone even bet on him.  Maybe the stars will align and this horse that is somehow sitting 23rd in the standings will get in.  And if he wins and you bet on him… well have fun on all the vacations you’ll be taking.  I say toss.

I’ll be back on Wednesday ranking all of the Derby entries and releasing my Derby stat sheets.  On Thursday, I’ll be talking about the contenders one last time.  On Friday, I’ll be handicapping the Kentucky Oaks.  And on Saturday morning, I’ll be releasing my Kentucky Derby pick along with some great value bets.  Good Luck, and Happy Handicapping!


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