Friday, May 4, 2012

2012 Kentucky Derby Analysis

This year’s Kentucky Derby is shaping up to be a good race.  There’s some serious speed, stalkers and closers.  Here’s my breakdown horse by horse, by post position.  There’s also a 50% chance of thunder storms for both Friday and Saturday.  So it will be interesting to see what the conditions of the track look like. Who Do I like: Bodemeister, Union Rags, I’ll Have Another,  Well Went the Day and El Padrino.  My Long Shot: Rousing Sermon. 

1) Daddy Long Legs  ML odds: 30-1
Trainer: A. O'Brien
Jockey: C. O'Donoghue
European shipper, his second return to Churchill Downs.  Last fall didn’t perform well on the dirt finishing last in the Juvenile Breeders Cup.  I also expect, he’s going to be a hot mess.  He’s a nice horse, but he’s better suited to synthetic tracks and turf.  Expect to find him having difficulty handling the track.  He also dislikes having dirt in his face the 1-hole doesn’t help him either.   Tabor and co usually keep their best prepping for the major European turf races, while he’s a good horse he’s 2nd string.  I expect him to finish toward the back of the pack. 

2) Optimizer ML odds: 50-1
Trainer: D.W. Lukas
Jockey: J. Court
DW Lucas’s entry, made it in off the defection of the Larry Jones trainee Mark Valeski.  He doesn’t belong, below grade.  The only thing going for him is he’s out of English Channel, who’s been proven at distances beyond a mile &1/4.   I expect this horse will do better on turf and we’ll see him later this summer on the turf circuit.  He runs well in the pack, so he should be able to handle the crush to the first turn, but I don’t think he’s on the same par as the top tier horses in this race.  If he can get some wins in G2, and transition to turf, he can become a good horse.  One plus for optimizer is he’s got Jon Court in the saddle.  He’s probably the only jockey, other than Calvin Borel who knows his way Chruchill Down.  It would be a feel good story if Jon Court got a win, but it’s a super long shot.  

3) Take Charge Indy ML odds: 15-1
Trainer: P. Byrne
Jockey: C. Borel
This is a good horse.  He’s improving with every race.  He likes to sit off the pace stalking the leaders.  With Calvin in the irons, you know he’ll get a good ride.  I anticipate if he gets a good break, Calvin will move him straight over to the rail, and sit chilly waiting for the right time to move.  If TCI gets caught up, and has to execute several moves – he won’t get there.  He’s got one big move under him.  He does have one big thing going against him – the AP Indy Curse.  If he gets the perfect trip – he will hit the board, and possibly end up in the winner’s circle.  I like him as part of exotics plays.

4) Union Rags ML odds9-2
Trainer: M. Matz
 Jockey: J. Leparoux
Union Rags is a monster.  This horse is HUGE, he’s BIG like Zenyatta, but his running style is different, since he’s a stalker.   He’s extremely versatile horse, he goes when and where he’s asked.   Michael Matz knows horses he follows their lead and gets them ready for peak performance.  This Horse is ready to run a big race.  I expect he’ll be closer to the speedsters , given his post position.  The experience in the FL Derby was a good education for him.  He’ll settle well on the inside down on the rail and I expect Julien Leparoux to angle him out early around the back stretch, so he’ll have a clear going coming out the turn for home.  He’ll come running.  Ignore at your own risk.  His odd will continue to drop – so he won’t be a great price.  He’s a serious contender, he’s my 2nd pick.

5) Dullahan ML odds: 8-1
Trainer: D. Romans
Jockey: K. Desormeaux
Dullahan is a good horse, though better suited to turf and synthetic tracks; however,  Dale Romans knows how to prep horses who aren’t ideal dirt runners, or mile &1/4 horse, see Paddy O’Prado, and Shackelford.  If anyone can get this horse ready for the Ky Derby – Romans is your guy.  The distance isn’t a question for this horse.  It’s the track.  He hasn’t had success on dirt, and he hasn’t looked comfortable at all on the track while training this week.  If the track is off – he has real potential, I think he’ll handle a sealed muddy track better than a dry fast track.

6) Bodemeister ML odds 4-1
Trainer: B. Baffert
Jockey: M. Smith
Let’s get this out of the way.  It’s official I drank the Bodemeister Kool-aid.  For those of you know my handicapping history I’m not a Bob Baffert fan.  He’s my pick to win.  Here’s why. He’s the only horse since Barbaro to run a prep with every ¼ faster than the previous.  Even when Mike Smith asked him to go in the Arkansas Derby, his ears were pricked like he was out for a leisurely gallop; he has yet to find his top gear.   I don’t think his lack of racing at 2 will be a problem, given how much work Baffert had him doing as a 2yo in training.  While I don’t like the post position, with veteran jockey Mike Smith in the irons he’s in good hands.  I expect Mike’s going to get Bode out of the gate as smoothly as possible, given a 20 horse mêlée to the first turn.  He’ll be sent to the front, I think he can easily handle an opening ¼ of 22 and change running w/Trinninberg  & Hansen w/o a problem.  I really don’t think it will bother him at all.  He’ll look at Trinninberg & Hansen, kick into his high cruising gear, settle in and focus on moving forward.  He loves being out all alone, and relishes others chasing him – it’s a game to him.  If he gets on the lead, with his pedigree the distance won’t be a problem and I think when he turns for home, Mike Smith will ask him and he’ll find his top gear.   I also don’t think he’ll have any problems rating a bit back, while it may not be his preferred area he can do it.  He’s an easy going horse, that’s willing to do what his jockey asks him, so if the break doesn’t go well, Mike may just set him back off Trinninberg and Hansen, and let those two go at it, then make his move off the back stretch, and run them off their feet.  FWIW if the track is muddy – he’ll skip across it just like his daddy.

7) Rousing Sermon ML odds 50-1
 Trainer: J. Hollendorfer
Jockey: J. Lezcano
I like this horse as a long shot for two reasons, he’s improving and he’s got Idaho connections!  Now he’s probably not going to get into the winners circle – but he’s a good bet for the exotics! He does well in tight spaces, so the mêlée to the first turn won’t faze him, it will actually help him settle into his own race.  He’ll be coming late, and he’ll be picking off the horses who are questionable at a 1&1/4. Worth an exotic play.

8) Creative Cause ML odds 12-1
Trainer: M. Harrington
Jockey: J. Rosario
Earlier in the week I had concerns about this horse.  He had a nice work over the main track at CD, but walked the shed rows for the next two days.  That concerned me – but his trainer sent him out on Thursday and indicated that’s how this horse preps for his races.  He was stiff in the gallop out on Thursday.  He’s a nice horse who can get the distance, but I have concerns.  He hasn’t been comfortable with the crowds on his Monday work or his gallop out on Thursday, washing out a bit.  Not sure how that’s going to play out w/the walk over from the sheds to the main track, the paddock, and the post parade considering how loud and close the crowd will be –I expect he’ll be a handful, which may hurt his chances.  The other thing that bothers me, is when a better horse looks him in the eye, he’ll battle for a bit, but then gives away.  I expect if he isn’t washed out, the melee to the first turn will engage him to the point where he won’t have much left in the tank for the win. Definite play in the exotics, not your winner.

9) Trinniberg ML odds: 50-1
Trainer: B. Parboo
Jockey: W. Martinez
Delusions of Gradure that about sums up this horse and his connections.  He has great potential for being one of the top sprinters in the world – but I seriously think if he hooks up w/ Bode or Hansen in a speed dual, we won’t see him ever again in grade 1 races.  He’s gonna run his heart out, and stop and watch all the other horses pass him and it will break his heart and spirit.  He’s a nice horse…too bad the connections aren’t considering what this race will do him.  

10) Daddy Nose Best ML odds 15-1
Trainer: S. Asmussen
Jockey: G. Gomez
This is the wiseguy horse of the Ky derby, I expect he’ll be bet down to 8-1 by post time. He’s continuing to improve and Steve Asmussen and Scott Blasi know how to get a horse ready for the big races – look at Curlin and Rachel Alexandria.  The big question with this horse is he ready to step up in class?  In his wins he never really pulls clear of other horses, he likes to be surrounded by them as he moves forward, which means he’ll be comfortable in this 20 horse field.  The question is, when other horses start backing up, will he be willing to move forward?  If he does, expect big things here.  Worth a play in the trifectas. 

11) Alpha ML odds: 15-1
Trainer: K. McLaughlin
Jockey: R. Maragh
Alpha is a really nice horse, probably Godolphin’s best chance in recent years for a Ky Derby win.  However, he needs the perfect trip, because this horse FINDS Trouble.  He can get the distance, and will definitely impact the exotics.  But to get into the winners circle, he needs a complete speeders and raters meltdown to have a shot at the roses as well as the perfect trip. 

12) Prospective ML odds: 50-1
Trainer: M. Casse
Jockey: L. Contreras
He’s a nice horse, but he’s not of the class of the top horses in this race.  He really should be running in the undercard 3yo races at Pimlico on Preakness day. He can get the distance, but there are so many better horses that he’s not going to make much of an impact. 

13) Went The Day Well ML odds: 20-1
Trainer: H.G. Motion
Jockey: J. Velazquez
He’s my sleeper.  I love his pedigree, he has only 1x throughout his entire line.  His running style reminds me of Curlin, he’s still inexperienced, but shows comfort and ability in and around tight company – so the melee won’t bother him at all.  He’ll actually sit back, and let the race unfold in front of him.  Johnny V – is a great jockey, and intuitively trusts his mounts.  As the come around the back stretch I expect this horse to move forward and pick off horses w/o any urging form Johnny. He’ll be running down the lane, the question is will he be able to pick off the front runners.  One thing’s for sure, here’s your Belmont horse, he’ll relish a 1 ½ . Worth a play in the trifectas and exactas ignore at the risk of a big payoff.  Big player here, his price will be bet down by armature horseplayers because the connections are the same as last year’s winner Animal Kingdome, his odds will be below 10-1 come post time.   For this race he adds blinkers – I expect that will focus him more to leverage his natural ability. 

14) Hansen ML odds: 10-1
Trainer: M. Maker
Jockey: R. Dominguez
Last year’s Juvenile champion.  He’s the fastest speed of the race, but no awareness of what’s going on around him with other horses.  My biggest question is can he get the distance?  Its possible if the pace is soft, but I’m not sure he’s going to get a soft pace.  I think he hooks up w/Trinninberg and Bode, and blows his wad in the first ¾ of a mile.   He’s never truly been pressed on the front end, and likes to be on the lead.  If he’s not first going into the turn he’s going to burn himself out to get there, and with Bodemister having such a high cruising speed, he’ll get burnt before turning for home. One of the reasons I think he’s going to burn himself out, is he’s wound like a top.  He was extremely rank on his Thursday gallop – once he gets in the gate he’s going to take the bit, and not look back then he’ll hit the wall. Personally I think Hansen would excel in races of a mile or less, that’s his sweet spot.   Play in the exotics if you think he can go fast and get the distance.  

15) Gemologist ML odds: 6-1
Trainer: T. Pletcher
Jockey: J. Castellano
Pletcher’s solid performer, he always shows up, but all his preps have been against lower quality horses, Alpha being the exception in the Wood.  My other problem with this horse is once he gets the lead, he gets lazy, backs up to engage another horse – much like Street Sense did in the Preakness, when he lost to Curlin.  This horse needs a Target to move toward. He rates well, and if the speed completely dissolves, he’s got a chance.  But Castellano, needs to time his run at the wire to ensure he’s got something to target at.  His other problem is he likes to engage every horse he passes, as if he’s saying “Here I am, and I’m gonna pass you” but he wastes energy doing that, and that could be ciritical in a 20 horse field, especially if he’s at the back of the pack, instead of the middle.  Worth a play in the exotics, with the right trip he could be in the winners circle.

16) El Padrino ML odds: 20-1
Trainer: T. Pletcher
Jockey: R. Bejarano
This horse was Pletcher’s derby horse going into the beginning of the season, but he just hasn’t risen to expectation on the track.I actually think he's better than Gemologist, Pletcher's other horse.  He has gained valuable lessons from those races even if he didn’t perform as expected.  In my opinion this horse is sitting on a big race, he does well in traffic, rates well, can come from behind, he’s an all around versatile horse.  I expect he’ll be stalking the speedballs, hoping he can pick up the pieces as he turns for home.  Distance isn’t a problem; he could easily be in the winner’s circle come Saturday at 7pm.  He’s my other sleeper along w/Well Went The Day.   Ignore this horse at your own peril, he’s gonna impact this race one way or another.

17) Done Talking ML odds: 50-1
Trainer: H. Smith
Jockey: S. Russell
He’s a nice horse, if he’s running Grade 2.  He really doesn’t belong here.  The positive he has for him, is he always shows up and gives 100%.  He’s not afraid to engage other horses, the question is can he step up to a higher class of competition.   Distance isn’t an issue, class is, if he gets a good trip he’ll hit the boards in the exotics. 

18) Sabercat ML odds: 30-1
Trainer: S. Asmussen
Jockey: C. Nakatani
This is a nice horse, however IMO he’s out of his class.  While he looked competitive late in his 2yo year but he hasn’t continued to grow to his expectations.  Distance isn’t a problem.  He’s got great conditioning, so if he gets the trip, and runs the race of his life, he’s a good long shot.  I personally don’t think he’s worth a play.

19) I'll Have Another ML odds: 12-1
Trainer: D. O'Neill
Jockey: M. Gutierrez
I like this horse.  He’s got an amazing amount of confidence when he runs.  He acts like he owns the track, and he doesn’t mind running down horses, going eye to eye in a stretch duel because he knows he’s going to win.  You’ve got to like a horse that has confidence like that.  Trained by Doug O’Neill, you know this horse has the conditioning, and race experience to get the distance and handle the derby, though some will question his experience. O’Neill knows how to get the most out of a horse, and have them peak at the right time – he did train the Lava Man.   He’ll be in the 2nd pack of horses, and will easily pick off those that are backing up as they turn for home, the question is does he have the speed to run down the top flight?  He’s’ definitely worth a play in the trifectas and exactas, if the front runners fall to pieces, he’ll be running for home hoping to pick up the pieces and the roses.  If you have a sentimental favorite – this should be your horse, because Lava Man will be his stable pony taking him to the gate.

20) Liaison ML odds: 50-1
Trainer: B. Baffert
Jockey: M. Garcia
Liasion hasn’t lived up to his hype. He’ll do well in the melee, but I don’t think he’ll be able to break free from the pack and impact this race at all.  He’s a lower class horse that would excel at a lower level, if given the time to develop – and Baffert isn’t known for allowing a horse to develop at his own pace, Bodemeister being the one exception. 

My Adonis (AE) ML odds 50-1
Trainer: K. Breen
Jockey: E. Trujillo
Gets in if someone scratches Friday morning… don’t expect it to happen… he can get the distance, but really belongs in the grade 2 and 3 level.