By Dennis Miller

What kills me about the talking heads that posturize about the big stakes races is they say things I don’t they don’t believe, but rather things that if they come true, makes them look like geniuses. When their “predictions” don’t happen, then it is always something like “well, anyone could have picked that.”

Not true – you didn’t!

One thing I have always prided myself on was being honest, both in life and writing about handicapping. The latest example came Friday in the Kentucky Oaks. I posted my analysis on Thursday night and had my top choice as Land Over Sea, but said I expected a huge performance from Cathryn Sophia and that Lewis Bay could be tasty in your exotics. Anyone who regularly reads my picks or comes to the seminars knows what that means – box them in the exacta and trifecta.

I also talked about how Rachel’s Valentina was going to be the favorite but she was coming off two straight losses and I didn’t like that.

Meanwhile I spent all day Friday listening to these experts on TVG drool over Rachel’s Valentina and talk about how Land Over Sea would not run well because she ran too good in her last start (huh?) and maybe Cathryn Sophia was exposed in her last race where she was third.

So what happened?

Cathryn Sophia ran an incredible race and blew doors on the field. Land Over Sea closed from the parking lot and got up for second, barely getting by Lewis Bay who was third.

Here are the rewards: $2 exacta – $74.60; $2 trifecta – $440.40. Rachel’s Valentina – 6th place.

My point, made in a rather lengthy way, don’t believe everything you hear if you are watching TV. They say stuff they might not even believe, taking flyers on some improbable finishes to try and make their name.

They way over-analyze races.

I understand that people want to make money, but wouldn’t you rather get honesty from a handicapper?

Alright, enough ranting! Here is my breakdown of the Kentucky Derby!

 

CONTENDERS

These are the horses I believe the winner will come from and four of them will make up all my tickets.

Nyquist has been my horse since before the Breeders’ Cup and I am not about to jump the ship now. All he has done is go out and win all seven starts and they have not been all dream trips. He found all kind of trouble early in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, yet maintained his composure and rallied from well back for the win. He then went across the country to take on unbeaten Mohaymen in the Florida Derby. Many didn’t give him a chance, yet at the end, it was Nyquist that remained unbeaten as Mohaymen was a well-beaten fourth. Nyquist will sit in the 3-5 spot throughout the race, move on the far turn, then bring it home giving trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez their second Derby win in four years (I’ll Have Another).

To me the Derby is a race where the jockeys play a huge roll, which means any horse with Gary Stevens riding has to be considered. Mor Spirit fits that bill as he draws the services of Stevens for trainer Bob Baffert. A must on your ticket as he has finished first or second in all seven of her starts. He has a stalking style – not too far back – and makes a move in the lane. Count on Stevens to keep him in a good spot around the track and be ready to battle in the final 100 yards.

Brody’s Cause is another horse I have been following since his strong third-place finish in the Juvenile last year behind Nyquist and Swipe. The Dale Romans trained runner has had only one bad race in his last four starts, when he bumped hard at the start of the Tampa Bay Derby and never recovered, finishing seventh. He faced a pretty good field in the Blue Grass to run his usual race, coming from well back to close with a strong run down the lane to get the win.

Exaggerator has been knocking heads with three others in this field – Nyquist, Mor Spirit and Danzing Candy – and hit the board in all three starts this year, including a win in the Santa Anita Derby. The brother combination of Keith (trainer) and Kent (jockey) Desormeaux is coming off an eye-opening six-length win in the slop in the Santa Anita Derby. But Exaggerator is much more than a muddy-track runner as he has won twice on fast tracks as well. One thing you can count with him – Desormeaux will have the horse in a good spot when they turn for home. The questions are, can he beat Nyquist (he hasn’t) and can he outrun the other closers (it remains to be seen).

Gun Runner has given me more fits than any other horse in the Derby. A winner of four of five career starts, including the Louisiana Derby in his last start, the horse has nearly done all that has been asked of him. The big question is, who has he beaten. There are supporters for Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready, but those horses, at least to me, are a far cry from Nyquist, Mor Spirit and even Mohaymen.  That being the said, the ease of how Gun Runner drew off in his last start, going the further he has run does give pause for cause. I have to respect his last two and will carry it up to post time on Saturday.

My ticket will realistically feature a win bet on Nyquist and then a four-horse exacta and trifecta box with Nyquist, Mor Spirit, Exaggerator and Brody’s Cause!

COULD SURPRISE

These are the horses that are without a doubt on many peoples lists of contenders. For me, they fall just a step back from the top five, but I certainly would not be shocked to see any of these win the Derby.

Destin is a solid runner, but winning at Tampa Bay Downs doesn’t do much for me. Now before anyone screams about Brody’s Cause getting beat there, think about. It was his first start off a layoff and he wasn’t training there. I drank the Kool-aid and thought he would cruise that day, but he got his head handed to him on a questionable track, regrouped and came out swinging in his second start off the break.

Whitmore has only won a maiden race and an optional claimer, but he has been consistent and run some nice races at Oaklawn. I do not believe this is Oaklawn’s year, but he does pick up Victor Espinoza and well, enough said.

Creator was awesome in winning the Arkansas Derby, but I do have issues that it took him six starts before he won a race. I certainly understand that some horses hit their strides as they get older and that is why he is in this category, but once again am not feeling the Oaklawn love this year.

Mo Tom is my enigma horse of the year. It does appear there is some talent there, but look at his last three starts. Hit the gate and bumped early three back and in the last two he checked badly in the lane. Remember in the Louisiana Derby he hit the rail bad. The owner of the horse is New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson who is a bit looney, so maybe the horse is taking after his owner.

My Man Sam is turning into one of the wise guy horses so I felt the need to have him here. That was a real solid run in the Blue Grass where he seemed to follow Brody’s Cause to the front before finishing second.

Mohaymen is the horse that can ruin my tickets and it would not be a shocker in any capacity. I preached about Cathryn Sophia having one bad race and it needed to be thrown out in regards to the Oaks. But here’s the difference – Nyquist handed Mohaymen his head and did so without going all out. In fact, Nyquist looked bored in the lane of the Florida Derby. So can Mohaymen win? Yep. Will he? I just don’t think so.

LONGSHOTS

Some may like these horses, some may not. Count me among the ones who don’t.

Danzing Candy is a horse I just don’t think has a shot. He went wire to wire in the San Felipe, taking down both Mor Spirit and Exaggerator, but then came back and was fourth in the slop in the Santa Anita Derby. There are just too many good horses with stalking or closing style for anyone to steal this on the front end. Mike Smith is a world-class rider and the right person for this mount, but honestly, I see a finish is the middle of the pack.

Outwork, another speedster, took the Wood with an impressive performance, but then again, it was not the toughest field. I don’t think he needs the lead, but he is going to want to be near it. He has won three of his four starts and I suppose could surprise, but I just don’t see it.

Shagaf is a horse I was a fan of early and in fact still have him on my Fantasy team, but that performance in the Wood was dreadful. But he is one of those horses that could sit in the top five and have first run on the pace setters. Might be better as a miler.

Suddenbreakingews made his name with his dramatic closing run in the Southwest, but then came back with two average runs because they were at Oaklawn. There are just too many deep closers in this field to look at him, but this one of those horses that can kill your ticket because he is running hard late and could steal a spot in the top four.

STAY OUT OF THE WAY

These are the horses you wish weren’t in the race as the most likely way they will get noticed is if they get in the way of one of the contenders early in the race, altering the way the race unfolds.

The other problem with these horses is, every so often their jockey rides them hard all the way and they can sneak into the trifecta or super-fecta ticket as they pass tiring horses in that long stretch run when other jockeys are starting to ease up their horse when the realize winning is not possible.

Trojan Nation highlights this group. A maiden with one start in a stakes race – he ran second in the Wood Memorial at 81-1 and thus earned enough points to get the race which horses like Cherry Wine are on the outside looking in.

Oscar Nominated won the Spiral to get a spot in the field and now will find it is tough running with the big boys. Will try to sit in the middle of the pack, so he will have a great seat to watch the closers blow past him!

Majesto broke his maiden in his fifth start, then ran way over his head at 21-1 to finish second in the Florida Derby to earn his way in. Did beat Mohaymen easily in Florida and that’s not meant to be a compliment – to either horse.

Lani is a horse that may have a major impact on the race before it even starts! He is a basket case in the gate and I am sure the connections of Oscar Nominated and Destin are thrilled to be on either side. Well it might give Oscar Nominated an excuse.

Tom’s Ready is a horse I originally had in the longshots, but then took a long look and said, why?  There is not a race of his I really like and he did not give a sign of being able to push Gun Runner in either of the last two in Louisiana.

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