Here we are, one week away from that first Saturday in May and the 2012 Derby field is still wide open. This year just has a different feel to it than in the past. For one thing, it doesn't seem as many of the Triple Crown Nominee's have dropped off the Derby Trail due to injury, especially compared to last year. Another thing, this year's Derby brings a record nine horses back to the gates that ran in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Classic on the Churchill dirt this past fall. That is just unheard of in the history of the Derby. Normally, on the week of the Derby the handicappers are just hoping that their top 3-4 horses don't get screwed on the draw come Wednesday afternoon. This year, not so much, as I and many others can give you more than a handful of horses that have just as good a shot as any to put on the bed of roses. With a field this deep in talent and/or uncertainty, however you look at it, the Derby should not disappoint this year as it will produce some nice odds at the window. If you are lucky enough to cash in on one of the exotics you might find yourself filling out one of those wonderful W2's.
Mystified Ticket's Derby Hi-5
1) Union Rags 9-2
- The early Derby favorite when the two-year-olds first took to the track last year. Had a wide trip and drifted out down the stretch in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile here last fall. He still managed to finish second, just running out of track to catch the winner and eventual two-year-old champion, Hansen. Has taken a step back according to some after his third place finish in the Florida Derby. Boxed in and stuck in traffic for most of the race, he still managed to finish third while coming on strong at the end. The Derby is a race of confusion and anyone will tell you that you have to have some luck on your side and be able to overcome adversity, because odds are that you will not get the perfect trip. Union Rags has had things thrown at him that will give this horse the experience on Derby Day to be the one posing in the winners circle.
2) Creative Cause 12-1
- Been one of if not the top horse out on the West Coast on this Derby Trail. Has a resume that sports a G1 win, a triple digit speed rating in the San Felipe with a win over Bodemeister and has finished in the money in all eight of his lifetime starts. While his running style has been erratic at times coming down the stretch, this grey colt definitely has shown he has the talent to come out on top of this deep field of three-year-olds. Is this kid going to step out and be the leader of its class or is he just going to be content hanging with the cool crowd and filling out some exotics? I have been on Creative Cause ever since watching him close in the 7 furlong Del Mar Futurity(G1) back in September when I was in Vegas. He finished third through disqualification that day but I knew this horse was going to be one of my early Derby favorites and I'm tempted to move him into the top spot the week of the Derby.
3) Bodemeister 4-1
- All eyes are on the potential M/L favorite for the Derby. Can he erase 130 years from horse racing history and be the first Derby winner since Apollo to not have a race under him as a two-year-old? Posted triple speed ratings in his last three starts. Being compared to Curlin (who finished third in the 2010 KY Derby) after his blazing win in the Arkansas Derby. I just can't pick against 130 years of history but records are made to be broken, so we will just have to wait and see. That being said, Bodemeister will certainly be in some of my exotics.
4) Gemologist 6-1
- Undefeated in five career starts. Improved speed figure in each of his five races. Held off Alpha down the stretch, pulling away toward the end to take the Wood Memorial. What's not to like about this horse? That is how deep of a field we are looking at this year, with an undefeated horse heading into the Derby, fourth on my list and will probably be third or fourth betting favorite come Derby day.
5) Dullahan 8-1
- Closer who comes off a big win over Hansen in the Blue Grass over the poly. Only speed figure in the 90's(98) coming from last race. Did finish 4th to Hansen, Union Rags and Creative Cause in the BC Juvenile over the dirt here at Churchill. There are some minor concerns with this horse but he has been improving with each race and could be peaking at the right time.
Don't Count Out...
El Padrino 20-1
- The horse no one is talking about. After his fourth place finish in the Florida Derby, many have written him off. Throw out the FL Derby and his resume looks like that of a legit Derby contender. Posted a triple speed figure at Gulfstream Park in an allowance race over a wet track and over the FL Derby winner, Take Charge Indy. Followed up that performance with a win in the G2 Risen Star. If it rains next Saturday in Louisville, watch out, as he is 2 for 2 over wet tracks in his career. Wet or dry, don't overlook El Padrino. For some reason I really like this horse and he could move into my top five as the week goes along.
- I can't believe how far this horse has fallen after his defeat in the Blue Grass. It was disappointing to see him go straight to the lead and try to take his first race at the 1 1/8 distance wire to wire. If he tries that in the Derby, he is sure to fail. Would like to see him come from off the pace like he did in the Gotham and save something for the stretch. Looking like this horse just doesn't have the 10 furlong distance in him. Hansen, the winner of the BC Juvenile Classic and two-year-old champion you just don't write off, it's the Derby and anything can happen.
Rousing Sermon 50-1
- Closed out his two-year-old campaign with two second place finishes behind Liaison, at Hollywood Park in the Real Quiet and Cash Ball Futurity. Neither horse showed that same promise as three-year-old's as both horses rode their graded stakes earnings from the CB Futurity into the Derby. Rousing Sermon did manage to finish third in the Louisiana Derby which probably is why he gets a gate this coming Saturday. A closer who has posted not so good speed ratings has an outside shot as he did show some of that promise in his last race. He snuck into the derby and could sneak into some exotics if the race plays out in his favor.
I'll Have Another 12-1
- Winner of the Robert B. Lewis and Santa Anita Derby has vaulted up to the top of many lists. Proven he belongs as he beat Creative Cause by a nose last race out. Wouldn't be shocked if I'll Have Another comes in the money, but there are just that many others I like ahead of him.
Take Charge Indy 15-1
- Winner of the Florida Derby and I have him barely coming in my top 10. Has been game in all six of his lifetime starts. I just have a hard time seeing him get the distance if he takes off like he has in each of his two races as a three-year-old.