Kentucky Derby · Triple Crown

Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders Review

HRS Kentucky Derby

With only a few days left until the Run for the Roses, let me run down my contenders list one last time.  These are my top 10 and what they need to do to win.

  1. Hoppertunity (11, 6-1) — SCRATCHED
    1. He is a good come from behind horse.  Hoppertunity has raced around the country, with experience from tracks like Santa Anita, Fair Grounds, and Oaklawn Park.  He held a strong second after California Chrome last time out even being held back late.  After his workouts this week, he is showing to love the Churchill Downs dirt.  If it is an off track, Hoppertunity will definitely move to the top of anyone’s board after his speedy performance on his off track workout, as well as his win in the Rebel, which was on an off track.  He should easily get the distance, with Any Given Sunday as his sire.  The only thing that hurts is his stalking style.  Hopefully he can stay a little ways back early to save some stamina for the long stretch run.
  2. Medal Count (14, 20-1)
    1. He is a great closer and has ran amazing his last two times out.  From Dynaformer, Medal Count has shown to be able to contend, but he is an artificial favoring horse.  If he is able to perform on the dirt, he should be a powerful closer late.  In recent years, the Keeneland track has led to good performances in the Derby.  Even though he was second to Dance With Fate in the Blue Grass last time out, the Blue Grass was a race that completely fell apart for most of the other starters, making his second mean a lot more.  If he performs as well as he has on the artificial track onto the dirt, expect him to be closing late and possibly hitting the board.
  3. Commanding Curve (17, 50-1)
    1. A late addition into the field, Commanding Curve has been working at Churchill Downs longer than anyone else.  After a closing third last time out in the Louisiana Derby from last place in the field early on.  His deep closing style works well in the Derby, as seen last year with Orb.  While he has yet to win as a three-year old, he is one of the few horses in the field with a win at Churchill Downs, albeit in a maiden.  An interesting note about his pedigree, his grandsire is A.P. Indy, the same grandsire as Orb and Princess of Sylmar, winners of last years Derby and Oaks, respectfully.  Too bad he drew 17, a post that has never had a winner.  A live longshot, if his odds can remain close to what they are now, could be a big payout if he hits.
  4. California Chrome (5, 5-2)
    1. Definitely the most accomplished horse in the field, the Santa Anita Derby winner has raced 10 times over his career.  He has raced against the best California has to offer, but has yet to experience a race outside of his home state.  He is off of four straight wins with Victor Espinoza.  His post draw of 5, although not bad, forces him to break well.  Surrounded by speed, if he is beaten out, he may have to fight from back in the pack, something he has yet to do.
  5. Vicar’s In Trouble (1, 30-1)
    1. Drawing the rail dropped this horse three positions in my rankings, but kept him in the top five for how he runs.  With a lot of early speed, he can easily get out of the gate early and beat the outside runners, setting the pace for much of the race.  However, if he doesn’t break fast, he can play from back in the pack, something he tried to do in the Risen Star, coming up short to Intense Holiday in the mile and a sixteenth race.  Now, racing with 300 more meters to run with, he could close from back in the pack.  The break will be a deciding factor whether or not this Louisiana runner gets a chance late.  His front running speed, while helpful at the beginning, could cost him late, with a lot of speed to his outside.  Maybe the post could help him, forcing him back so he can conserve some stamina for the latter half of the race.  He drew the post once in his career, his first race, where he was forced to the back of the pack but finished a close third.  Could be interesting to see how he runs on Saturday.
  6. Candy Boy (18, 20-1)
    1. The stalking third place finisher of the Santa Anita Derby, Candy Boy draws near the outside, but coming from the auxiliary gate could help, seeing as the last three winners all came from out there.  Candy Boy was runs great late, even last outing, where he was closing in on Hoppertunity.  He has been impressive in workouts and has a great stalking win in the Robert B. Lewis earlier in the year.  He has proven he can get up front from either a stalking position (like his last two races) or from a closing position (like in his second place finish in the CashCall Futurity).  Candy Boy is bred for turf however, sired by the Argentinian Candy Ride.  But, if has shown he likes dirt, hopefully he will like the Churchill Downs dirt on Saturday.  The extra furlong will help him, as his last few races, he was closing in, just running out of running room.
  7. Wildcat Red (10, 15-1)
    1. Fountain of Youth winner and second place finisher in the Florida Derby, he is the leading Florida runner in this race.  After losing to Constitution late last race after a duel with him and General A Rod, he has shown that he has the stamina to get the distance, and keep speed throughout the race.  He is strong down the stretch and fights late.  Coming from a middle post will help him a lot.  The only problem is that he is a front runner, a style that hasn’t done well in the Run for the Roses.
  8. Intense Holiday (16, 12-1)
    1. The Risen Star winner, Intense Holiday is a middle of the pack mover who likes the outside.  Moving from the auxiliary gate, Intense Holiday will stay wide on most of the turns, but should be expected to say up.  He will lead the mid pack runners and will run well down the stretch.  He loves the long stretch at Fair Grounds and should do well with the long stretch at Churchill Downs.
  9. Wicked Strong (20, 8-1)
    1. From the outside, Wicked Strong will need to work hard to close.  Trainer Jimmy Jerkens was not too happy about getting the outside but with Wicked Strong’s closing ability, he should be fine early.  He won’t be as strong of a runner as other horses in the field, and his Wood Memorial could easily have been a fluke, but since he is a good closer, it is hard to drop him back too far.  If the pace is as fast as it should, he will pass a bunch of tiring horses and possibly end up near the lead.
  10. Samraat (6, 15-1)
    1. Having never finished out of the money, Samraat is a consistent performer.  He ran a great race last time out,  losing late to Wicked Strong.  He should be stalking the pace early.  Not a huge fan of him being so far inside, would rather him be sitting on the outside, but with such a large field, it shouldn’t stop him from moving late.  Although he hasn’t been able to show a lot of push down the stretch, he still finds a way to finish strong.  Stamina shouldn’t be a problem seeing as he comes from a Giant’s Causeway son.  My worries come from him being a New York runner, where success is hard to find in the Derby for them.  If he can take a liking to the track, then maybe he will have a chance.

Tomorrow I will be talking about my Kentucky Oaks pick.  Then on Saturday, I will release who my final Kentucky Derby pick is, along with some good bets to make in the exotics.


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