As Keeneland closes their gates to the Spring Meet, a track just an hour up the road prepares to open theirs up. It is always a down weekend in Lexington come the the end of April but fans can take solace that the Kentucky Derby is only week away. It sometimes seems like Derby Day will never come but it aways does just as October will be here before you know it for Keeneland's Fall Meet.
Well, the Derby preps are all but wrapped up, many of the horses are already on Churchill Downs' grounds and that first Saturday in May has almost arrived which means it is time to focus in on which of these three-year-olds are the legitimate contenders in this years 139th running of the Kentucky Derby.
Mystified Ticket's Derby Hi-5
-Watching him come from near last at the top of the stretch to win the Withers got me on board. Followed up that performance with another come from behind win in the Louisiana Derby (G1) and posted a 105 BRIS Speed rating in the process. Has the pedigree to go the distance and definitely has shown he has the talent despite his goofy nature in the races. Tends to break slowly from the gate and seems to always find traffic but has emerged at the end despite these question marks. With Calvin Borel aboard trying to nab his fourth Derby in seven years, look for him to guide this immature but promising colt to stardom next Saturday.
2) Normandy Invasion
-Just missed by a nose in the Remsen (G2), 1 3/4 lengths in the Risen Star (G2) and 3/4 lengths in the Wood Memorial (G1). Comes closing fast as he just missed catching the undefeated Verrazano in the Wood last time out. Might be due as he is still looking for his first stakes win. While history is against him since you have to go all the way back to November 2 to find his first and only win don't write him off your tix because he will be there in the end.
-Enters the Derby on a four-race win streak which includes wins over Revolutionary in his maiden win to close out his two-year-old campaign, the talented Violence (recently injured) in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Itsmyluckyday (posted the top speed rating of any three-year-old so far) in the Florida Derby (G1). Is trained by the popular Shug McGaughey and has the red-hot jockey Joel Rosario aboard. Both are looking for their first Derby win and this colt is one that could take them to the winners circle under the twinspires.
-Undefeated in four career starts will be the morning-line favorite. Took an optional claimer by 16 1/4 lengths in his second start, won both the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Wood Memorial (G1) along the way. But just like Bodemeister last year, he faces the curse of Apollo (1982) and looks to erase the 130 plus years of history as he tries to become only the second horse to win the Derby without a start as a two-year-old. Don't let history deter you from this guy as we saw last year that I'll Have Another made headlines by becoming the first Derby winner to break from the 19TH post. Figures to be in the mix and could easily be better than the rest but the classic distance might just be out of his reach and I see him getting beat at the wire.
-Longshot that many have already written off after that abysmal performance in the Arkansas Derby (G1) even though he broke last and got dirt thrown in his face. Mark through that race and you have a Lukas horse who has been game in his starts against graded company as a three-year-old. Despite extremely wide trips in the Risen Star (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1) he only got caught at the wire by a half-length and a head respectively. His only decent post draw came in the LeCome (G3) where he put away the field by an astounding 11 1/2 lengths. Has an ace up his sleeve in that he is only one of two in the Derby field that has a win over the Churchill Downs track. All eyes will be on this horse on Wednesday come the post draw. If he gets a decent post position include him in your exotics because he is bred to run all day, will be up on the lead, if not the lead and will be there in the end with a good price on his head.
Don't Count Out...
-Will certainly be one of the favorites after his win in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Enters the Derby with the highest last race BRIS Speed rating and is one that will contend if he can control his speed. Questions surround this colt about who he has beaten and will he be able to go the 1 1/4-mile distance.
-Winner of the Arkansas Derby (G1) that is flying under the radar entering the Derby. Posted a 104 BRIS Speed rating as winner of the Remsen (G1) back in November. Did not run as a three-year-old until March where he finished fifth in the Gotham (G3). With only two starts in 2013 he could be peaking at right time but needs to return to his Remsen form to have a shot because he posted speed figures that are well below par in his last two races.
-Had to add this son of Curlin who looks more and more intriguing and will jump in final rankings if he draws well on Wednesday. Has hit the board in five of six starts and you can throw out his Louisiana Derby due to the pitiful trip he had to endure. Gets blinkers for the first time and might just be a sleeper in the race.
-Posted the top speed figure (111) of any of the three-year-olds this year but he got run down in the stretch of the Florida Derby (G1) by Orb. Like many of the others entered in the Derby, there are questions if he will be able to get the distance.
-Winner of the Bluegrass Stakes (G1) likes to come from the back of the pack. His preference is the Polytrack as he finished sixth in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in his only start over the Churchill track but Dullahan (winner of last year's BG) hit the the board in the Derby last year. His speed figures are also well below par entering the Derby and his slow break from the gate could be his undoing in a field this large.
-Lightly-raced son of Midnight Lute exits off an impressive five-length victory in the Sunland Derby (G3). Like Verrazano, will have to overcome history and the curse of Apollo since he did not run as a two-year-old. Currently the lone Baffert horse entered in the Derby will certainly be a wildcard. Did not have any competition in the Sunland but if he continues to improve in his fourth start who knows what will happen. Dealing with a foot issue so will be interesting to see how he works out leading up to the race.
*Not likely to run. Looks like Baffert might be without a Derby horse this year