Derby Analysis

Former Canterbury Park Handicapper of the Year, Jerod Dinkin, provides his horse-by-horse analysis of the 135th Kentucky Derby.

#1 West Side Bernie-Elliott/Breen (30/1): Showed significant promise as a two year old winning the Grade III Kentucky Cup Juvenile in his second career start. A disappointing three year old campaign was exemplified by his sixth place effort in the Lane’s End. A solid second place effort in the Wood was a step in the right direction and his works at Churchill have been very good. His best hope to hit the board is a faster than expected early pace and a clean trip, which is historically difficult from this post……….

#2 Musket Man-Coa/Ryan (20/1): 5 of 6 lifetime, there is a lot to admire about this hard knocking colt that always fires. He sports back to back Grade III wins in the Tampa Bay and Illinois Derbies and has enough tactical speed to stay fairly close to the pace. However, speed figure disciples will not care for his relatively light numbers and his pedigree (out of sprinter, Yonaguska) will do him no favors stretching out to 1 ¼ miles. He is not much a threat to win, but could hit the bottom of the exotics board with another solid effort…………

#3 Mr. Hot Stuff-Velazquez/Harty (30/1): Son of the gutsy Tiznow, Mr. Hot Stuff is exactly the type of horse I typically avoid in the Derby. One career win and a deep closing running style are two big knocks against. Every year, there are a handful of horses such as Mr. Hot Stuff that draw high praise for their closing kick. Manny pundits like these sorts that close at 1 1/16 and 1 1/8 mile races thinking the extra furlong will do wonders. I’m of the opinion that these types need a perfect trip through most of the 20 horse field and ideal pace setup, which I don’t see happening here. Preferring those showing more early interest……….

#4 Advice-Douglas/Pletcher (30/1): This deep, deep closer can close like a freight train. However, his only start on a dirt track was positively terrible, and his speed figures put him a world behind the top tier three year olds. I would like him a lot more on a synthetic surface in a race with a number of speed horses drawn in. Not on my tickets……..

#5 Hold Me Back-Desormeaux/Mott (15/1): Hold Me Back is a slightly more accomplished version of Advice as he is also a deep closer with a poor lone start on a dirt track. His back to back races in the Lane’s End and Bluegrass were both solid closing efforts, but I’m skeptical about his chances on a dirt track coming from the back of the pack. Not on my tickets……….

#6 Freisan Fire-Saez/Jones (6/1): This son of A.P. Indy will enter the Derby off of a seven week layoff. This alone is reason for many to summarily dismiss this horse. Consider the context before making that judgment. Freisan Fire is trained by a horseman capable of pulling huge efforts off the shelf. He absolutely crushed the Louisiana Derby field (Papa Clem, subsequent winner of the Arkansas Derby was second, beaten more than seven lengths), and enters the Derby with plenty of bottom. His late pace figures are as strong as any other horse in the field despite his ability to rate just off the early pace. My top choice in a highly competitive field……….

#7 Papa Clem-Bejarano/Stute (20/1): This front running sort took down of the weakest renewals of the Arkansas Derby in memory by narrowly defeating a horse, Old Fashioned, that not only is best suited for 8 furlongs or less, but suffered a career ending injury in the stretch of that race. He is out of Smart Strike, sire of Curlin, and has a pretty strong past performance record with second place efforts in two Grade II’s along with his Arkansas Derby triumph. He will be forwardly placed in a race without a ton of speed, but the way he finished in Hot Springs leads me to believe a minor placing is his best hope………

#8 Mine That Bird-Borel/Wooley (50/1): Awfully generous morning line for this overmatched foe that would be double digits in a race against optional claiming foes at Churchill. I hope he doesn’t get in the way of horses with a legit shot at winning this….

#9 Join in the Dance Decarlo/Pletcher (50/1): Entered as a rabbit to set the table for Pletcher’s more accomplished star, Dunkirk, Join in the Dance only has one win to his credit-a 5 furlong win as a two year old at the Spa. He nearly sprung a huge upset at 35:1 in the Tampa Bay Derby as the field let him trot out front setting easy fractions. He will challenge Regal Ransom for the lead, but despite the lack of early speed in this field as a whole, this horse is too slow to make much noise……

#10 Regal Ransom-Garcia/Suroor (30/1): This son of Distorted Humor (Sire of 2003 Derby victor Funny Cide) should go right to the front in what is shaping up as a relatively paceless affair on paper. He won at first asking at Saratoga before disappointing in the Grade I Norfolk at Santa Anita over a synthetic surface in his second two year old start. He lost twice to stablemate Desert Party before turning the tables in the U.A.E. Derby by leading every pole. Working extremely well at Churchill (he’s always been a fast worker in the A.M.) and is the quality early speed in what should be a favorable pace scenario for this runner. Threat……….

#11 Chocolate Candy-Smith/Hollendorfer (20/1): This son of Candy Ride is 4 for 9 lifetime having raced exclusively on synthetic surfaces. His last effort, a game second to Pioneerof The Nile, will appeal to those who have a favorable opinion of the California contingency. He is working well at Churchill and his connections are solid. Could add some appeal to the exotics for those believers……

#12 General Quarters-Leparoux/McCarthy (20/1): The feel good story of the Derby, this colt is easy to root for. In a field with large institutional owners and millionaires, this guy hails from a barn with one horse. As a three year old, he sports a Grade III win on dirt and a commanding performance in the Grade I Blue Grass at prestigious Keeneland. The Blue Grass is very rarely a key prep race these days, but you have to admire the guts and determination of this colt. He also owns what 14 other Derby starters do not–a triple digit beyer. I believe he rates a look underneath……

#13 I Want Revenge-Talamo/Mullins (3/1): The likely Derby favorite has some incredibly strong credentials: Solid two year old foundation, never off the board in eight career starts, battle tested (overcame trouble to win the Wood), and has run well on multiple surfaces/tracks. His freakish effort in the Gotham over the Aqueduct inner track was impressive, but he beat a weak field walking through slow early fractions. The inner dirt at Aqueduct is quirky and often produces horses that run high speed figures that don’t hold up in future races. He beat another soft field in the Wood after missing the break and having ample traffic issues in the stretch. That field was basically of “non-winners of two other than” allowance quality. He merits respect, but of the top contenders, he is one I will leave off the top of my tickets……….

#14 Atomic Rain-Bravo/Breen (50/1): 1 for 7 lifetime, this son of Smart Strike has been soundly beaten in each of his three forays in Graded Stakes races. He has a very big shot…..to finish ahead of Mine That Bird to sew up 19th place.

#15 Dunkirk-Prado/Pletcher (4/1): The well bred son of Unbridled Song is looking to win the Derby in his fourth career start. Slowed by foot issues as a two year old (sound familiar-Big Brown), he is making up for lost time in a hurry. He won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park at 1 1/8 miles from an outside post (Big Brown won the FLA Derby from an equally challenging post), which happens as often as a 70 degree day in Minneapolis in March. He looked like the winner in the FLA Derby after unleashing a very nice move around the far turn before Quality Road looked him in the eye and kicked on. He closed quite a bit a ground on a typical big day track at Gulfstream; fast and speed favoring. There is no doubt that this colt is immensely talented, perhaps possessing the most natural ability of any Derby runner. Contention runs deep……..

#16 Pioneerof The Nile-Gomez/Baffert (4/1): The Bob Baffert trained son of Empire Maker has done absolutely nothing wrong as a three year old capturing a Grade I and two Grade II’s over synthetic surfaces in Southern California. His preferred style is to sit off the pace, but showed an element of versatility in his Santa Anita Derby win by taking the lead early in the race over a vastly overmatched field. Detractors list his slow speed figures and lack of experience on natural dirt as two huge knocks against. Believers feel he’ll actually move up on a dirt surface and that speed figures on synthetics are less important (I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly). Baffert always works his horses fast in the morning, so workouts might not help for those seeking clarity. He’s a solid horse that is a major competitor, but I’m taking a stand against……

#17 Summer Bird-Rosier/Ice (50/1): Yet another entrant in this field that deserves to be 100/1. The deep closer snuck into the field by finishing third in his third lifetime start in one of the weakest Arkansas Derby fields in recent memory. To make matters worse, the horse just broke his maiden on March 19th and is unraced as a two year old. Dunkirk could very well be freakishly talented, and it will still be a tall order for him to win this race without two year old foundation. Summer Bird is no Dunkirk…..

#18 Nowhere to Hide-Bridgmohan/Zito (50/1): He’s definitely the strongest candidate of the 50/1 morning line horses (to not finish) last by virtue of his three consecutive fourth place finishes in Graded Stakes affairs. He’s been soundly beaten by Musket Man and Freisan Fire and has lost to the likes of Take the Points and Nowhere to Hide. Not anywhere near my tickets………

#19 Desert Party-Dominguez/Suroor (15/1): This son of Street Cry (sire of 2007 Derby champ Street Sense) hails from the much ballyhooed Godolphin stable of international superstars. Historically, the Godolphin team has failed to make noise in the Derby by training and running their young horses in Dubai and shipping across the pond to Louisville. This year, both Godolphin charges have two year old experience in the states. Desert Party won the Grade II Sanford at Saratoga before embarking on a three race 2009 prep schedule. He crushed the Group III U.A.E. Guineas by daylight before his stablemate Regal Ransom got the better of him on a highly speed favoring Nad al Sheba surface in the U.A.E. Derby. He has a great cruising gear and can finish with a solid closing kick. I expect him to have a stalking trip in the Derby, in the second flight of horses behind the speed, and make his run turning for home. Legit threat with his best stuff……

#20 Flying Private-Albarado/Lukas (50/1): Legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas for some inexplicable reason puts this one in the gate. Perhaps he has a side bet with Zito to see which former multiple Derby winning trainer can enter the most hopelessly overmatched horse (My bets are on this runner)……..

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