Kentucky Derby · Triple Crown

Kentucky Derby 2015: Contenders & Pretenders

HRS Kentucky Derby


You saw last week my post-prep Top Ten list, but now it is time to go in-depth through all of the Derby probables and see who is a contender and who is a pretender, on our quest for the perfect Derby ticket.  Later this week, I will unveil my very own speed figures for every Kentucky Derby contender, and will be giving out speed figures from the last three races of every horse entered on the Kentucky Derby day card.  This weekend, I will have Kentucky Oaks analysis, and next week, Derby week, we will have full coverage, looking at the workouts, news, and anything else that happens.  Of course, after the Post Position draw, final analysis will be posted and the final Derby picks, as well as some nice tickets play.  Stay tuned not only to the site but also on Twitter for Derby news.

In alphabetical order, here they are.

  • American Pharoah (Contender)
    • Many people’s Derby pick and one of Baffert’s two runners, American Pharoah won the Arkansas Derby in exciting fashion.  His Arkansas Derby was just slightly faster than Dortmund’s Santa Anita Derby win (and Santa Anita usually draws some fast times).  He loves being up front and has a fighting spirit.  Even if Dortmund is up front, be sure to see American Pharoah dictate the pace, whether from a stalking or front running spot.  His late turn of foot is key however, and can use that, whether on a fast track or off track.
  • Bolo (Contender)
    • Bolo has run third to Dortmund in the last two races, but both times put up great finishing times.  His third place finish in the San Felipe was faster than that of Dortmund’s Robert B. Lewis and Santa Anita Derby wins, as well as American Pharoah’s Arkansas Derby win (all of which are done using furlong/second numbers).  Bolo has the ability to stay close to the pace or off the pace, which is very important in what should be a fast going Derby.  One big fear is that he is very unruly and young, so it will be important for Bejarano to keep him under wraps.  I will use him for his speed mainly as well as his adaptability.
  • Carpe Diem (Pretender)
    • This Pletcher runner has four firsts and a second already and was the winner of the Blue Grass; he ran a very fast race and performed well.  So how is he a pretender?  It is his youth.  He is uneven early, isn’t a strong runner down the stretch, and needs a tiring front runner to win.  While he will probably get the last one, the being good early is important in the Derby.  He needs maybe one or two more races before being able to approach the level of talent horses like American Pharoah and Dortmund have.
  • Danzig Moon (Contender)
    • This son of Malibu Moon has a nice running style.  Danzig Moon stays in the pack and just steadily stays where he is.  Then, late, he rushes up.  He does a lot of work late.  The increased distance should help him here.  He is a longshot chance, and was rather impressive in his Blue Grass runner up effort.
  • Dortmund (Contender)
    • Baffert’s other workhorse, Dortmund, is a speedster.  Posting an amazing speed in the San Felipe, and pretty good in the Robert B. Lewis and Santa Anita Derby, Dortmund is all fight.  Outlasting Firing Line in basically a match race in the Robert B. Lewis, he is a fighter.  However, that being said, he is a front runner, which does not fair well for him in the Derby.  The good thing is that he sets somewhat slow fractions early and just darts away late.  If he doesn’t get pressured too much, he could run away from the field.
  • El Kabeir (Contender)
    • The second of three horses for Zayat Stables, El Kabeir has been spending his preps in New York.  His best running was done early this year, in a runner-up effort in the Withers.  El Kabeir needs a fast pace to run in to, which he most likely will get and works well with a fast pace.  He gains ground very quickly down the stretch.  He is definitely a live longshot.
  • Far Right (Contender)
    • Took me a while to decide how much I like this horse in the Derby.  He passed tiring horses in the Arkansas Derby for his runner up finish and his Southwest was very slow and on a wet track (also much slower than American Pharoah’s Rebel win that was also on an off track).  However, his deep closer running style is what puts him here, and is a contender for the exotics.  Also, if an off track, he is a solid play.
  • Firing Line (Contender)
    • His Sunland Derby win was the fastest of all the preps (in furlongs/second).  Firing Line has dueled with Dortmund and was only behind Dortmund by 2 hundreths of a second in the Robert B. Lewis.  He works his way to a great position the first half of the race, and then just pulls forward.  He is much better than his line shows.  And, at an estimated 14/1 odds, he could make for a nice payout.
  • Frosted (Pretender)
    • After not getting it done in Florida, Frosted got a complete makeover and was able to come away with the Wood Memorial.  Besides the Wood Memorial curse, Frosted had a slow Wood Memorial win, and seems to perform best in a slow pace.  Also, whenever he is in front, he doesn’t take a liking to the open track, not pulling forward or striding on.  A horse that just doesn’t feel comfortable being out front isn’t one to pick as a winner.
  • International Star (Pretender)
    • Son of Fusaichi Pegasus, one of my favorite sires, this Louisiana Derby winner has been dominating in the Bayou, sweeping the trio of Louisiana preps.  But, how impressively?  His wins were slow and against a kinda weak field.  While he does have an impressive turn of foot and can win from the rail or the center of the track, he just hasn’t shown the class to beat this field.
  • Itsaknockout (Pretender)
    • “Slow and steady wins the race.”  Well whoever wrote that must not have known the Kentucky Derby.  Itsaknockout is one slow horse, having run a very slow time in the Fountain of Youth, and even slower in the Florida Derby (in fact, he has the slowest furlong/second speed out of all the 2015 runs of the contenders).  Yikes.  A week ago, I liked him.  I even put him at 5 in my top ten.  And I think he is a very fighting horse.  But I don’t like him in this field.
  • Madefromlucky (Pretender)
    • Another Pletcher runner, Madefromlucky is a stalker, and a poor one at that.  As he stalks the pace, he slowly falls back, losing ground as he goes.  His speed down the stretch isn’t all that strong, and he has yet to win outside of allowance company.
  • Materiality (Pretender)
    • The fourth Pletcher runner, Materiality, had an impressive win in the Islamorada, but his step up to the Florida Derby ended up in running a very slow race, one of the slowest major preps.  He has been pretty lucky late and hasn’t shown too much class.  Also, only three lifetime starts (albeit all wins) isn’t the best thing to have going into the Derby.
  • Mr. Z (Pretender)
    • Zayat Stables has two really nice horses going into the Derby, but this one isn’t one of them.  Mr. Z is slow, runs poorly down the stretch, and seems to always be pretty far back.  Not to mention that he hasn’t won since his first race.  Not doing anything to help his cause.
  • Mubtaahij (Contender)
    • Mike de Kock is locked and loaded with his first Derby starter, UAE Derby winner Mubtaahij.  This son of Dubawi runs slightly off the front runners and just patiently waits.  He has been so impressive in his starts on dirt, and has been improving.  He was able to run away with the UAE Derby after being caught behind two horses in only 100m.  Impressive.  His other races at Meydan were eye opening as well.  He wants to go this distance, and may very well relish going longer.  Dubawi sired a two Dubai World Cup winners, as well as many other horses who have won not only at 2000m or more, but also a few that have wins in the US.  Watch out for Mubtaahij.  And just to repeat a bold prediction I said on Twitter: if Mubtaahij wins the Kentucky Derby (not saying he will or that he is my top choice), he will win the Triple Crown.
  • Ocho Ocho Ocho (Pretender)
    • The Delta Downs Jackpot winner, Ocho Ocho Ocho, has been searching for form this year.  A small horse that works better from the back, is a tad below the class of this field.  He would need to put on a show to win.
  • Stanford (Pretender)
    • Runner up to both Materiality and International Star, Stanford hasn’t been able to reach the line first since moving out of allowance company.  He doesn’t have too much of a kick and is a slow front runner.  He may be better running on turf.  No play here.
  • Tencendur (Pretender)
    • Runner-up in the Wood Memorial, he was able to come out of the turn strong, but not strong enough to win.  While a great horse and one that could play a big role in the pace of the Derby, the distance seems to be too far for him.
  • Upstart (Contender)
    • The Holy Bull winner, Upstart, has been pretty impressive throughout his career.  He ran fast in the Holy Bull and has shown skill in each of his subsequent starts.  The slower pace hurt his other Florida performances.  It seems as if he wants a medium pace, not fast but not slow.  His class pushes him as a contender, but not super confident on him just yet.
  • War Story (Pretender)
    • War Story is another horse to come out of Louisiana.  Slow and patient, he just makes small moves throughout before coming to the far turn.  He has a strong stretch run, but his will to win just isn’t there.  He also hasn’t won outside of allowance company.

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