While overshadowed by the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, the Kentucky Derby gets to hold everyone’s attention during the late afternoon on Saturday. The weather looks phenomenal for this edition of the “Run for the Roses” and the field is phenomenal as well. If not for the fight in Vegas, we’d be focusing on Churchill Downs as the possibility exists for one of the best Kentucky Derbys ever.
The beauty of the Derby is that it’s not like any other race. There are no races with this many horses, which means anything can happen. Everyone always talks about how a clean and safe trip is necessary because horses aren’t accustomed to the humongous crowd, battling this many horses after they’re released from the gate, or the track’s surface, which is a little different than anything else out there. That’s why betting the Derby is generally a complete crapshoot. You take your shots, usually against the favorite, and then you hope for the best. It’ll be a chaotic couple minutes, but hopefully you can enjoy it as much as I do.
Favorites have only won four of the last 11 Derbies, so usually you try to go against the top dog in the race when you’re choosing a winner. This year that falls to American Pharoah, who has been extremely dominant. Dortmund is second favorite and has looked like a machine in most of his races. Then there are two other horses racing, Materiality and Mubtaahij, who haven’t lost a race. Add in that every horse who won their last prep race leading up to the Derby won in style. It’s like an episode of Game of Thrones with all these horses thinking they deserve to be king.
Since the track will be dry, we should expect a few horses to get to the front and burn up the pace a little bit. A lot of that speed will be coming from the inside, so it’s possible Dortmund gets pushed a little harder than he wants. That’ll open things up for someone else and I’m trying to figure out who that someone else will be if not American Pharoah.
Rather than dive through the field horse by horse, here are a few horses I’m focusing on for Saturday:
2 – Carpe Diem – 8/1
The winner of the Blue Grass Stakes and the Tampa Derby has never finished worse than second in his five starts. He started slow the only time he didn’t win and the post position will allow him to start quickly again.
3 – Materiality – 12/1
He’s only raced three times in his career and never raced as a two-year-old. That’s historically not been a recipe for success at Churchill Downs. It’s a positive that he went head to head with Upstart down the stretch in the Florida Derby and pulled away with relative ease.
7 – El Kabeir – 30/1
Only once in his career has El Kabier not finished in the money. He disappointed in the Wood Memorial as he was well behind the leaders, but ownership blamed the jockey for keeping the horse too far off the leaders. Up steps famous Calvin Borel to the mount for this one and he knows Churchill Downs as good as anyone. He’ll make sure the horse is within striking distance.
8 – Dortmund – 3/1
Life has been too easy for Dortmund. Life at the Kentucky Derby is never easy. You generally need a perfect trip to win this 20-horse race because of the congestion at the starting gate and the amount of early speed in the race. He’s a darn good horse, however, and will be a deserving winner if he gets there. I’d rather play against him.
10 – Firing Line – 12/1
Without paying attention, you might not notice that Firing Line finished a head behind Dortmund in back-to-back races before heading off to fight against other horses in the Sunland Derby. He won that easily, so now he’ll get another shot to shake up against Dortmund here. At least he now remembers what victory tastes like.
12 – International Star – 20/1
The haters say International Star hasn’t had to do much in any of his victories. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good and it’s hard to get everything to fall your way in the Derby. His speed figures are less than most of the others, but then again he knows how to put himself in the position to win races.
13 – Itsaknockout – 30/1
Could you find a horse with a more appropriate name for Saturday’s race with the fight coming later that night? The Florida Derby was incredibly disappointing, but maybe we can throw it out and say he was too far back. The fast pace should favor a closer like him.
18 – American Pharoah – 5/2
Jockey Victor Espinoza didn’t even use the whip as Pharoah coasted to victory in the Arkansas Derby. Can a favorite for the second year in a row? It’ll take some magic from the outside post, but Espinoza seems totally ok with it.
19 – Upstart – 15/1
He won’t win the race, but there’s a good chance he finishes near the top. He’s had a knack for doing so and the outside position might actually help him not burn himself out early in the race.
1st – American Pharoah
2nd – Firing Line
3rd – El Kabeir
4th – Dortmund