Kentucky Derby 2011 Predictions: The 137th Running Is Anyone’s Race
Never do you see a 19-horse field (normally 20, but we lost Uncle Mo to the sandman) in any other race, so normal betting practice does not apply. If a horse gets bumped around coming out of the starting gate, the chances of him getting back near the front are compounded negatively by the size of the field. When front-running horses are favored in the race, rival trainers may enter their inferior speed horses just to quicken the pace and throw that front-running favorite of his in the game. Weather will also play a very important factor. Thunderstorms are forecasted at 60% for late Saturday afternoon, which will de-value any late-running horses. A wet track favors horses out front because horses in the back will have mud kicked in their face the whole time and won't be able to produce enough closing speed on the wet track.
With all that said, it’s time to throw out the closing horses, the inferior talent (which includes some front-runners who will fade), and those screwed by post position. You have to narrow the field down at some point because we are dealing with 19 horses. That list includes: Twice The Appeal, Stay Thirsty, Decisive Moment, Come To The Top, Derby Kitten, Twinspired, Master of Hounds (nice horse, but not coming off grass and without races in America), Santiva (alarming last race and speed numbers aren’t that good), Animal Kingdom, Soldat, Nehro (has the talent, but in a gate closer to Cincinnati), and Watch Me Go.
That leaves us with seven horses to choose from.
Archarcharch: Everyone would have loved this horse if he hadn’t gotten the dreaded rail. Last year Lookin at Lucky was the morning favorite, but he got bumped into the rail at the start and was never able to recover. If Archarcharch can somehow escape that from happening (a reasonably big IF) and survive a jockey who has never raced in the Derby before, he’s been training so well all week that he should hit the board.
Brilliant Speed: He’s been training exceptionally well this week on the sloppy track as rain has pounded down on Churchill Downs. (Maybe his mother was a mudder? What did I just say?) Last year’s third- and fourth-place finishers came from the Blue Grass Stakes, so the myth of that polyturf prep race being hazardous can be thrown out. He usually stays farther back, but his post position should help keep him to the front and he’s finished in the top three in his last six races. He’s worth a win bet given his long odds.
Pants On Fire: Here we have an experienced horse who will be at the front of the race. He was supposed to be a rabbit who died in the Louisiana Derby and then he decided to not stop and won the race instead. He too ran well in the slop this week.
Dialed In: He’s the favorite because someone has to be. Most of the better horses have fallen by the wayside at this point, so Dialed In takes center stage after his win in the Florida Derby. He’s won three of his four starts with the other being a second-place finish, but his lack of experience and knowledge of the Churchill Downs track will be what people use to poke holes in his case. His price will likely be too high for any value and there’s too much that can go on in this race for me to bet him to win. He’s also known to close and I’ve already stated my case against closers if it rains.
Mucho Macho Man: I probably would’ve picked 3M to win if the weather was looking better. Unfortunately he hasn’t performed well in wet circ*mstances and supporters are worried that will shine through again. He’s got an excuse for his poor last effort (shoe issues) and has the backing numbers to put up a good number if the weather holds out.
Shackelford: Having lost by a nose to Dialed In last time out, this frontrunner will have to hold others off in order to win and I’m not sure that’s going to happen. He has been training well this week, however, so he’s someone to be considered for the board.
Midnight Interlude: The winner from the Santa Anita Derby showed he can come off the pace to win after winning the race before by being in front the whole time. The biggest issue is that he might’ve peaked after last race’s big number. No horse that did not race as a 2-year-old has won the Derby since 1882, so…
After going through all that, someone has to win…
1 – Archarcharch
2 – Dialed In
3 – Brilliant Speed
4 – Shackelford