"It's like deja-vu, all over again." - Yogi Berra
Here we are approaching the first Saturday of May yet again. The band will play "My Old Kentucky Home" while folks sip mint juleps, and bet a ton of money all in the hopes of seeing the who will win the first leg of the elusive Triple Crown.
As I say every year at this time, the last Kentucky Derby winner that I picked was Smarty Jones in 2004. Last year, I let my stubbornness and ideals get in the way of a big Derby payday as I opted against playing my annual $1 superfecta box that would have returned over $7k (granted my college roommate Mike did make quite a score with a $1,700 trifecta and Commanding Curve).
So what makes this year different?
I've been generally absent from blogging as well as actually following the Derby trail - which is something I tell myself that I am going to do every year, but it never comes to fruition as evidenced by my abysmal performance in the Public Handicapper "PH Prep" contest and absence from the Monmouth SSC Qualifiers for the first time in 5 years. Some years the schedule just doesn't work out. If anything, I have probably done less handicapping so far this year than I have in other years - even on my bread and butter tracks but just enough to keep the rust off...
So here it goes - my analysis for the 2015 Kentucky Derby... let's hope for some deja-vu however, hitting the superfecta with some value horses would be nice... all over again!
Saturday 5/2 - Churchill Downs Race 11 - 1-1/4mi - Kentucky Derby G1
15 Frosted (15-1) - He certainly has the pedigree for the distance and after having some minor surgery for breathing problems, he came back and commandingly took the Wood over several of this field. I am willing to give him a pass on the Holy Bull (troubled trip) and the stretch drive of the Fountain of Youth (breathing issues). Normally I would be wary of a horse with breathing issues, but with the usual torrid pace that is expected here, I expect to see Rosario get him in a good spot early, avoid the tangled start we can all expect to see here from the frontrunners, and set him down for a big late run.
2 Carpe Diem (8-1) - Pedigree suggests he has the distance, but would be better suited for turf. Showed improvement pressing the pace in both the Tampa Derby and the Blue Grass with the lone blemish on his record being a loss to Texas Red in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile last fall at 2 years old. Connections don't get much better than Pletcher/Velazquez who are firing at a 41% clip of late. I expect to see him hanging off the lead and also making a big late move.
18 American Pharoah (5-2) - Other than my spell check constantly trying to correct his name, he has passed every test so far. Pedigree is a little lacking on distance, suggesting he would be a good miler, so he has already outrun expectations (just like California Chrome last year). He likes the lead and showed he can hang back and stalk in the Arkansas Derby, but I think the distance is too much here and Baffert goes home empty handed again.
8 Dortmund (3-1) - Has yet to fail as has steadily shown improvement. Pedigree suggests 9 furlongs would be optimal. He coasted home with a slower stretch run in the Santa Anita Derby, but showed solid late running in both the San Felipe as well as the Robert B Lewis where he fought back gamely against Firing Line in a rematch of the tightly contested Los Alamitos Futurity. While I expect him to want the lead, he'll settle for being near it and will have a steady run down the stretch, yet I don't expect him to be making up much ground late.
Pace: I expect the first half mile to be in about 46, with 11 Stanford, 17 Mr. Z, and 8 Dortmund to be the closest to the front. 18 American Pharoah will be close up with that group. 3 Materiality will try to hang, but will be lacking by the turn. The closers kick in late, led by 15 Frosted and 2 Carpe Diem. 6 Mubtaahij is a mystery in this race, but the pace is likely too fast for him to be much of a factor late. 9 Bolo may bounce and be a factor late in exotics.
I'll throw my customary $1 Superfecta box in on 2, 8, 15, 18 and maybe a $.50 Trifecta Box on the same while enjoying a refreshing beverage from my couch!
BONUS COVERAGE: A few thoughts on Friday's Kentucky Oaks...
7 Lovely Maria (5-1) - This one has been on my radar for a while and I think she moves forward here. Toss the Trapeze effort in the mud and the Rachel Alexandra where Clark lost the whip late and she has shown good tactical speed with a nice pressing/stalking effort in the Ashland.
13 Birdatthewire (6-1) - Three straight troubled trips for her resulting in two wins at two turns and second by a neck in a one turn miler with figures that are deceptively good. Tough call making this one my second choice. Pedigree suggests that she is a miler, but I think with a contested pace here she makes a solid late run.
12 Stellar Wind (7-2) - She has the pedigree to go longer and is off of two solid efforts at Santa Anita. She should take a big step forward again here but I think her late pace isn't as strong as others.
8 I'm a Chatterbox (4-1) - Went wire to wire in her 3 year old debut and the showed a solid closing effort in the Rachel Alexandra, and then from just off the pace int he Fair Ground Oaks. She has good tactical speed and will be a factor late, but I think she is truly just a miler and has not had much adversity to contend with in her last three wins. Minor share only.
Pace - Hot early pace by 5 Condo Commando will set the tone for the late runners here, she won't get clear and will get spent early trying to maintain the fastest pace she will have ever tried to set around two turns. A lot of horses here with tactical speed and late runs. Will be an exciting finish. 3 Include Betty will be moving from W-A-Y back and could hit for a minor share. 2 Shook Up (30-1) was wide in her last two - a better trip gets her on the board as well.
Thinking maybe a superfecta or trifecta box here for fun as well.
Oaks/Derby Double: 7,13 with 2,15
With the shuttering of my favorite turf meet at Atlantic City Race Course, I turn my attention to Monmouth Park opening on May 9th. Only 5.4 miles door to door from the office, or as my co-worker Anthony noted, even less from his job site. I think some lazy Friday afternoons with a good cigar and a few beers are in order this summer!
Good luck all!