John Pricci

HorseRaceInsider.com executive editor John Pricci has over three decades of experience as a thoroughbred racing public handicapper and was an award-winning journalist while at New York Newsday for 18 years.

John has covered 14 Kentucky Derbies and Preaknesses, all but three Breeders' Cups since its inception in 1984, and has seen all but two Belmont Stakes live since 1969.

Currently John is a contributing racing writer to MSNBC.com, an analyst on the Capital Off-Track Betting television network, and co-hosts numerous handicapping seminars. He resides in Saratoga Springs, New York.

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Wednesday, May 01, 2013


Profiles of Kentucky Derby 139 Entrants


The following are thumbnail sketches, without final selections, of the Derby 139 field provided to Equiform data service customers

.1-BLACK ONYX (50-1): Certainly not as fast as the leading contenders, he deserves respect as a three-surface winner. Began career with a Reversal, followed by a pair of New Pace Tops before exploding at Turfway (74½) going 9 furlongs. Kelly Breen an underrated big race conditioner but he would need to follow a sizable lifetime best with another one. Killed by the draw.

2-OXBOW (30-1): Victimized by tough trips and overaggressive handling, earned a mulligan for his no-show performance in the Arkansas Derby when Gary Stevens put him to sleep from the outset before finding trouble the length of the stretch. Stevens dismounted apologizing. As if to underscore the non-effort, Wayne Lukas came back with a strong 5 furlongs nine days after the race. Fast enough (75¼) and loves a good fight. Tough draw.

3-REVOLUTIONARY (10-1): A fast juvenile (76), his season got underway with a hungry-paced, horrendous trip score in the Withers, altering course several times before diving into the breach to win going away. In the Louisiana Derby, he was placed in the 5-path throughout the 9 furlongs, continued very wide entering the stretch, took the lead, was briefly headed, came back again to score and galloped out nicely after the finish. Loses Castellano to Normandy Invasion but picks up Calvin who is already saving ground. Laudably versatile.

4-GOLDEN SOUL (50-1): The good news is that he is developing nicely at 3, showing improvement on the Equiform scale from last season. While he is marching in the right direction, his 72½ and 72 in his two most recent starts are much too slow to contend in this spot. A nice horse, a good effort here could punch his ticket to Baltimore; not today.

5-NORMANDY INVASION (12-1): Textbook development of a fast, talented colt that earned his best figures going nine furlongs on two occasions, including his gut-check placing to Verrazano when pace-compromised in the Wood. His breakthrough 76 was only marginally better than the 75¼ earned in the Remsen at 2. He continues to train lights out and will be making his third start off a layup for Chad Brown, a worthy 31 percent scenario. Peaking and retains Castellano.

6-MYLUTE (15-1): Broke through for a life best 74--a reasonable jump from prior 73—after Tom Amoss removed blinkers when narrowly defeated by Revolutionary. Mylute finished three lengths ahead of Departing, who returned to win the Illinois Derby with authority. Working every seven days since the La. Derby, he is reunited with winning rider Rosie Napravnik and will be twice the price of Revolutionary, the horse that beat him by a neck.

7-GIANT FINISH (50-1): won his two-turn debut on Aqueduct’s winter track, was a good second in the Battaglia Memorial on Turfway Polytrack then chased the pace and finished a one-paced third in Black Onyx’s G3 Spiral Stakes. Here’s hoping he doesn’t cause any traffic jams when he begins backing up through the field. An underlay at early line odds.

8-GOLDENCENTS (5-1): One of many serious contenders. Has won at three different venues, earning figures in the 72-73 range with laudable consistency, until putting it all together in the Santa Anita Derby (76¼) after Doug O’Neill boosted his energy level by backing off in his training. O’Neill and jockey Kevin Krigger believe 10 furlongs will not be an issue but that remains to be seen. Peaking.

9-OVERANALYZE (15-1): Won a slowly run Arkansas Derby (72¼) after a disappointing run in the Gotham (72½), but the pair-up could result in very sharp improvement, especially in light of the 75¾ earned winning the Remsen, which makes him 2-for-2 going 9 furlongs. Handy enough to be a pace presence but can finish. Rafael Bejarano got along well with him in Hot Springs and retains the mount.

10-PALACE MALICE (20-1): Earned good figures at 2 (73¼) and 3 (74½), appeared on his way to victory in the Louisiana Derby when rider failed to stay aggressive approaching headstretch and was blocked the length of America’s longest stretch. Returned with a first rate Blue Grass placing (74¾) after being forced to move prematurely chasing a loose leader. Loses Garrett Gomez to Vyjack but picks up Mike Smith and adds blinkers.

11-LINES OF BATTLE (30-1): Dubai shipper is coming up to the Derby better than many of his predecessors, given his UAE Derby score on Tapeta going 1 3/16 miles, benefitting from a comfortable stalking trip. Has yet to run on dirt but is 2-for-2 on All-Weather surfaces. Still waiting for that first desert-to-Derby winner.

12-ITSMYLUCKYDAY (15-1): Ran a two-turn division’s best while winning the Gulfstream Derby (76½) and Holy Bull (77¾) before a 62-day gap leading up to the Florida Derby (72¾), for which trainer Eddie Plesa had him “95 percent fit.” That assessment rang true when he offered no resistance as Orb ranged up to challenge. “He’ll have no excuses Saturday,” Plesa said. To date, female family has proven distance challenged.

13-FALLING SKY (50-1): is the likely Derby 139 pacesetter and therein lies the problem. Was able to hang on using that tack in the G3 Sam F. Davis but benefitted from a rival’s tough trip. Has been unable to match strides with the division’s best and, given a lifetime best 73 ½, would need to do a lot of developing to earn even a minor share.

14-VERRAZANO (4-1): Many observers think they have seen it all before when assessing this colt’s perfect record and they don’t like what they see. What Equiform readers see is a big-figure score going 6½ furlongs (75), followed by a tight-line 76½ going a mile off a negative-spread debut, a 76¼ Reversal making his two-turn debut over a Tampa surface he might not have liked, then getting back to his 76½ top going 9 furlongs with a 13½ point spread, the result of a slow pace at windy Aqueduct April 6. Todd Pletcher says that hasn’t seen the bottom of him yet. Given his Wood figure, that assessment rings true.

15-CHARMING KITTEN (20-1): There are easier spots to make a first lifetime start on dirt. His last effort, a strong late-running third in the Blue Grass, was a lifetime best. Pletcher said that he’s always trained well on dirt and his workout over the track is the best indication of whether he can handle something like this. Double-top 74½ not a huge concern, but the ground is.

16-ORB (7-2): Has made monumental strides in his transition from 2 to 3, winning all three Derby preps, which coincides with his introduction to two turn racing at added distances (two at 9 furlongs) and the addition of Lasix. Owns an excellent turn of foot, loses Velazquez to Verrazano but reunites with Joel Rosario, 2-for-2 on the Shug runner. Never has taken a backward step on the Equiform scale going long, marching straight forward and continuing to train well. But has yet to run a competitive top figure and looms likely favorite, making him an underlay.

17-WILL TAKE CHARGE (20-1): Won the Rebel Stakes with a long, strong, sustained run, jumping to a huge career best figure (75¼) that must have given Lukas pause and made him decide to train him for a roses run rather than race him back in the Arkansas Derby. Barbaro, the division’s best that year, won this race off a six-week freshening. Can this colt repeat duplicate that after spending seven weeks on the sidelines? Seeing is believing.

18-FRAC DADDY (50-1): Finally came to life in his third start at 3, a willing but non-threatening second to Overanalyze in slowly run Arkansas Derby, beaten nearly five lengths. Despite that improved effort, he has shown no development on the Equiform scale this year, although it’s worth noting his 74½ going two turns at Churchill as a juvenile, and he’s been galloping strongly and is actually helped by the wide draw.

19-JAVA’S WAR (15-1): Finished strongly to earn career best 75½ when second in Verrazano’s Tampa Bay Derby with a huge pace-to-final spread of 15½. No fluke, he came from last to win the Blue Grass with more authority than margin indicates, again demonstrating big kick (spread of 14¾). Essentially pairing up, colt is theoretically explosive returning to dirt. There’s less pressure this year on Leparoux, presently riding in top form.

20-VYJACK (15-1): Formerly undefeated and very consistent with fast figures of 75, 74¼ and 74¾ from his second to fourth start, he actually moved forward to a 76 going 9 furlongs for the first time after making sustained run at Verrazano. All this after acting skittishly in the paddock and bleeding a ‘2’ on a scale of ‘5’, the result of mucous in his passageway. Loses Rosario but picks up Garrett Gomez, whose strength is a good match for this gelding’s style. Hurt by the draw.

AE-FEAR THE KITTEN: Has already finished behind Java’s War, Palace Malice, Charming Kitten, Black Onyx, Giant Finish, Oxbow, Golden Soul and Frac Daddy; none of which would be better than sixth choice in Derby 139.


For information on purchasing analysis of 13-race Churchill Downs program, proceed to http://www.equiform.com

Written by John Pricci

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