Thursday, May 03, 2007
Can it get any wilder and wackier? This year’s 133rd edition of the Kentucky Derby is a vintage skull-buster. We’ve got major contenders off six and eight week layoffs, some more with just two three-year old prep races, and an unbeaten morning line favorite who didn’t race as a two-year old. I might need a two-gig cranial plug-in by 5:30 PM Saturday afternoon.
Barbaro’s unconventional road to the Derby last year and his subsequent victory have given trainers the impetus to challenge long-held precepts about how to prepare a horse for the Run for the Roses. Even so, what is unique about this year’s three-year old crop is that the first five finishers (along with Teuflesberg) from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile are running in the Derby. This is unprecedented, and leads me to believe that two-year old form will hold up better than usual on Derby Day.
Street Sense is a magnificent animal and trained by a master horseman who knows how to point for a big race. Street Sense demolished the BC Juvenile field with an explosive performance, and I expect to him to reach new heights in the Derby. His two workouts over the Churchill strip have been nothing short of sensational, and he looks primed to be the first horse since Sunny’s Halo in 1983 to win the Derby off just two preps and the first BC Juvenile champion to annex the Derby. He is definitely the one to beat.
Curlin is the big mystery horse this year. He’s hitting over .400 against minor league pitching. Is he the reincarnation Ted Williams or just another spring phenom who can’t hit a major league slider? He has very smooth action, tractable speed and a knack for distributing his energy effectively. The raw talent is certainly there, but he better be ready for Koufax and Gibson on Saturday.
Circular Quay won his first two races at Churchill Downs last summer in impressive fashion. Trainer Todd Pletcher gave him two months off and shipped him to Saratoga to win the Grade I Hopeful. That eight-week layoff is significant as that’s the same time interval from his Louisiana Derby win to the Kentucky Derby. Pletcher has attempted the conventional route to the Derby many times. Some are sure to question the lengthy layoff, but I think Pletcher knows his horse. Also, his sire Thunder Gulch won the Derby and his jockey, John Velazquez, chose to stick with him over the other Pletcher horses. With a strong affinity for the Churchill oval, Circular Quay will look to avenge his second place finish last November.
Hard Spun is an exciting runner from the last crop of the great Danzig. Out of a Turkoman mare, he is bred to run all day. From an Equiform numbers perspective, he has never taken a backward step in his career. The 57.3 blowout the other day is of some concern, but maybe not. Lots of good horses work quickly before a major engagement and go on to win. Remember the 32.3 move by Risen Star before the Belmont? He only won by 15 lengths. Hard Spun carries the hopes of the Delaware Valley ala Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex and Barbaro.
Scat Daddy is a real professional and is moving in the right direction. He figures to run the best race of his life on Saturday and should be used in all gimmicks.
Great Hunter had a very nice two-year old campaign and made a scintillating move on the turn in the Robert Lewis at Santa Anita. He got bounced around good in the Bluegrass, and the public will downgrade him off that effort. By the AP Indy sire Aptitude (who was second in the 2000 Derby), Great Hunter should relish the distance and will be good value.
Under the tutelage of Barclay Tagg, No Biz Like Showbiz has traveled a traditional road to the Derby, contesting the Remsen, Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial. His first race of his career at Belmont Park stamped him as something special, although he hasn’t yet lived up to his press clippings. He will need to step it up a notch to win on Saturday, but he just might do it.
Any Given Saturday – I didn’t like the regression in the Wood, but he might bounce back with a good one.
THE VALUE BETS –
Street Sense to WIN
Box Street Sense in Exactas with
LONGSHOT for Triples and Supers