The following is a thumb-nail sketch of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby 137 field in post position order with early line odds. Lifetime best route figure on the Equiform scale, site, date of performance, track condition and running surface if other than dirt in parentheses:
1 Archarcharch 10-1 (76-¼, OP, Apr 16, 2011) With one exception, a pace duel on a wet track, he’s never run a bad race and has improved incrementally from race to race. While kid gloves may be order of the training day, not this guy. He even had a speedy blowout four days after working a solid five furlongs. Has tactical speed to go with his high turn of foot but got killed by the draw. Solid contender should probably drop back early to avoid the Lookin At Lucky squeeze.
2 Brilliant Speed 30-1 (74-½, KEE, Apr 16, 2011, Polytrack) It takes a very good horse to come from where he did to win the Bluegrass, Polytrack-profile or not. He’s bred to run as long as they write races and had a meaningfully sharp recent work at Churchill Downs. The good news is that he had experience on the dirt going short early in his career; the bad is that he was beaten a combined 40-¼ lengths.
3 Twice The Appeal 30-1 (72-½, SUN, Mar 27, 2011) A gamer, given his 10-race career, and the Sunland Derby did produce Mine That Bird. But this year’s edition was run slowly. If the track comes up sloppy, he does have an open-lengths score in that going, owing to a pedigree that screams slop on both sides. The problem is that win came in a maiden-claiming sprint. Not here.
4 Stay Thirsty 20-1 (73-¾, AQU, Mar 5, 2011) Given his G3 Gotham win in his 3- year-old debut and the potential he showed for distance racing at 2, his recent form was so dismal Todd Pletcher experimented with blinkers. That only made things worse. The hood will be removed and he recently worked well in company with his celebrated stablemate. He‘ll run better, just not good enough.
5 Decisive Moment 30-1 (73-½, DeD, Jan 14, 2011) Gets more credit for his G3 Spiral Stakes placing to Animal House than he does winning the listed Jean Lafitte and rightfully so. Light on distance pedigree with low profile connections, he will be a huge price even though he’s been one of the training stars of Derby 137. He’ll gun to the front, but eventually will be crushed by the pace.
7 Pants On Fire 20-1 (73-¾, FG, Mar 26, 2011) It’s been clear since the outset that trainer Kelly Breen knew this Jump Start colt wanted distance and improved since stretching out. Came out of the Risen Star sick then won the La. Derby despite having one five-furlong work in between. Fast workout regimen since indicates good money prospects at fair early line odds. Post neutral but needs an alert start.
8 Dialed In 4-1 (73-¾, GP, Jan 30, 2011) Training in seclusion and he had better get a lot from his gallops, having one published work since the Florida Derby. Will be helped by anticipated strong pace. Has extreme turn of foot, powerful finishing ability, and surface familiarity. Slow on the Equiform figure scale but has paired up coming into this. Will run his race but will it be enough? Well drawn, he is a logical favorite but looms an underlay.
9 Derby Kitten 30-1 (74, KEE, Apr 23, 2011, Polytrack) Another local hero who ran his way into the field thanks to notable defections and his victory in the G3 Lexington two weeks ago. But like so many in this group, he lacks dirt bona fides. In his only dirt start he was beaten off by To Honor And Serve going long at Belmont Park. Too big a leap here but owner Ramsey will have fun anyway.
10 Twinspired 30-1 (74-½, KEE, Apr 16, 2011, Polytrack) Ran too good in the Blue Grass to lose, doing all the hard work only to be outfinished by a horse coming from the clouds--this after finishing a good third to Animal Kingdom at Turfway. But his lone dirt performance was sub-par and it’s unreasonable to expect the kind of improvement he’ll need to contend here.
11 Master of Hounds 30-1 *(71-½ turf, CD, Nov 6, 2011) Recently arrived from Great Britain for legendary connections and anyone who saw his narrow defeat in the UAE Derby had to walk away impressed. Remarkable route pedigree on the dam’s side and 2011 was a good year to ship over to win America’s race. Parimutuelly speaking, however, his first victory will be on me.
12 Santiva 30-1 (73-½, FG, Feb 19, 2011) Never got a chance to show what he could do in the Blue Grass when trapped on the fence a very long way. He definitely should improve here; the Risen Star placing in his 3-year-old debut speaks to that. The problem is that he might not be advanced enough to win this. Well drawn. Usable in exotics at early line odds.
13 Mucho Macho Man 12-1 (75-½, AQU, Nov 27, 2010) To dismiss this early developing late foal as little more than a touching human interest would be to sell the colt short. He’s fast enough, tough enough, tactical enough and is fresh enough with a good series of stamina works to get the job done. At some point in the race, he’ll announce his presence--maybe even at the wire. A puncher’s chance to win it all.
14 Shackleford 12-1 (73-¼, GP, Apr 3, 2011) If he hadn’t run so badly with a wide trip in the Fountain of Youth, his performance in the Florida Derby wouldn’t have been considered so shocking. He’s coming into his own at just the right moment and he’s been training very well on the track over which he broke his maiden. Speedy style is the knock on viable buzz prospect.
15 Midnight Interlude 10-1 (75-½, SA, Apr 9, 2011) Has accomplished a lot in a very short time which is the good news and the bad news. Lacks the all important 2-year-old foundation and struggled to get his motor running in moderately paced SA Derby. Field size and rodeo atmosphere not likely to help and victory would be a tall order. Well drawn to sit off Shackleford’s flank; that‘s the probable plan, anyway.
16 Animal Kingdom 30-1 (74, TP, Mar 26, 2011, Polytrack) Was an impressive winner via a big finish in the G3 Spiral, he’s 2-for-2 at 9 furlongs with a bottom-side pedigree indicating the farther he runs, the better he’ll like it. Earned his way into the gate with a good work on the Churchill surface but has yet to run on it in the afternoon. Very nice horse but not my Derby kind.
17 Soldat 12-1 (76-¾, GP, Jan 21, 2011) If Uncle Mo fans are willing to give him a mulligan, why not this colt? He’s earned two of the fastest figures going long this year and has shown class and consistency, the Florida Derby notwithstanding. For best effort he would prefer running outside in the clear and given free rein. Rating tactics following tardy Gulfstream start were disastrous. Helped by post draw.
18 Uncle Mo 9-2 (78-¾, CD, Nov 6, 2010) Deserves his Wood mulligan. If he were a normal contender, most would have thought the effort was OK but much more was expected. The concern is, pedigree and questionable 3-year-old development notwithstanding, that he was still being treated this week for his gastrointestinal issues. Significantly fastest on performance figures, his Juvenile score on Saturday’s surface was otherworldly. Can rebound in a big way if he gets a green light.
19 Nehro 6-1 (75-¾, OP, Apr 16, 2011) His last two late runs resembled a whirlwind. He has the right connections and developed rapidly to become an overnight sensation and serious Derby contender. The question is whether the recent rapid development is too much too soon, and whether three races in 42 days at this level will extract a toll; it usually does. Looms an underlay.
20 Watch Me Go 50-1 (70-¾, TAM, Mar 12, 2011) Third to Brethren before taking G2 Tampa Derby at an inflated 43-1. Like many horses, he disappointed at Hawthorne when he shipped in seeking to add the Illinois Derby to his resume. Reportedly has struggled on the Churchill surface and the post draw sealed his fate.
*European figures not included