American Pharoah: Memories of a Magical Belmont

By Noah Joseph

With another Triple Crown bid on the line this Saturday, the fourth this decade, it’s hard to not think of American Pharoah‘s Triple Crown success.

As he became the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 37 years, millions celebrated, not just at Belmont, but at tracks across the country. Canterbury Park was no exception. Let’s take a trip back, to that fabulous day in June 2015.

The weather was the clear, the track was fast, and the crowd was huge for they had all come to see the possible Triple Crown winner. Since Canterbury opened in 1985, there had been 11 Triple Crown attempts, and not a single winner, and fans were wishing for one. Many a plenty thought American Pharoah would do it as they walked through the track gates.

Anticipation grew as the card went along, as fans followed both Belmont Park and their local Shakopee oval. Just because there was big racing in New York didn’t meant that there wasn’t big racing in Minnesota that day as well.

No sir, Canterbury had come prepared.

Two stakes were held this day, with talent all across the board. The Minnesota H.B.P.A Distaff was the first stake held, which featured Awesome Flower, a previous Canterbury stakes winner with former Canterbury Downs top jockey Ronnie Allen Jr., but it was the local filly Stoupinator, ridden by Dean Butler, who took the prize, defeating the invader. Then came the Brooks Fields Stakes, which was won by the classy gelding AZ Ridge, ridden by Giovanni Franco. Then, it was back to Belmont for the test of champions. It was as if everything stood still, and the only thing that mattered was American Pharoah’s run for history.

As he began to pull away from the field at Belmont, the crowd knew what was coming. The wait was over. American Pharoah had won the Triple Crown. As fans at Canterbury celebrated, track executives and popular track personalities threw shirts into the crowd and confetti fell, for this was a momentous occasion.

So this Saturday, will Canterbury celebrate another Triple Crown? If there isn’t a Triple Crown winner fans that were at Canterbury will certainly remember American Pharoah’s run for glory. But if there is another winner, Canterbury will celebrate hard, because after all, celebrating a rare feat in sports is almost always justified

If Wishes Were Horses…

By Noah Joseph

It’s hard to believe that only two years ago, American Pharoah captured the heart of the racing world ending a 37 year drought to win the Triple Crown. It was a time of great joy for all involved, whether it was a person in the racing business or just a typical fan. However, Canterbury wanted to bring even more joy with an offer like none other.

Only a few days after American Pharoah won the Triple Crown, Canterbury came up with an idea to bring him to race here. The idea was to move the featured race of the meet, the Mystic Lake Derby, from the turf to the dirt, move it from Saturday to Sunday, and raise the purse from $200,000 to $2,000,000. An offer like that could have attracted any horse, but Canterbury wanted the Triple Crown winner.

Sadly, Team Pharoah turned down the offer about a month later, leaving Minnesota racing fans and Canterbury disappointed, but at the same time optimistic. It left them with the feeling that even though they didn’t get a superstar horse now, perhaps one day they would, and it will be worth the wait.

Noah Joseph is a longtime Canterbury Park and horse racing fan. He’s been attending races at Canterbury since 2000 when he was 3 years old and has enjoyed every minute of it. Noah provides a weekly piece on CanterburyLive.com.

 

American Pharoah’s Road plus news and notes

Coady Photography
Coady Photography

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken”

 

The Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on August 2 marked the highly anticipated return of American Pharoah.  The Triple Crown champion did not disappoint, as he disposed of his rivals in a canter, taking command on the far turn as Victor Espinoza kept his foot firmly on the brake.  The two length margin over Keen Ice could have easily been ten, but Espinoza knew that Haskell day was not the day for setting him down.  His Beyer speed figure of 109 under such restraint told the tale of a fit and classy thoroughbred, and Timeform announced on August 3 that American Pharoah had become their top-rated horse in the world.

Six days later, the Whitney Stakes was run at Saratoga for older horses.  Liam’s Map set a strong pace, disposed of Moreno and Noble Bird early, and just failed to last as Honor Code touched him on the wire.  The winning Beyer speed figure was 113, and the race immediately drew reaction and opinion from the peanut gallery.  How would American Pharoah have done vs older horses in the Whitney?

Here are the Timeform pace figures for the respective races of American Pharoah and Liam’s Map:

 

American Pharoah  153   153   143   134   127

Liam’s Map         157   153   139   131   126

 

The Timeform pace figures suggest that American Pharoah would have stalked Liam’s Map early and run past him by the 6 furlong mark.  Admittedly, this is a simplistic comparison because the figures were computed over two different surfaces with different biases, and you can’t just drop horses into fields and not expect the dynamic of the race to change, especially when the horse you are adding has the quality of American Pharoah.  What the pace figures suggest to me is that the Whitney was not out of American Pharoah’s reach, despite the winner running a figure that American Pharoah has not yet attained.

Some were suggesting that American Pharoah had already proven to be dominant over his peers and he should have gone in the Whitney in the first place because, well, history demands it!  Look, I get it.  We all want to see American Pharoah attempt to conquer that next frontier that is older horses.  But the ultimate prize is the Breeders’ Cup Classic, not the Whitney.  American Pharoah is in a unique position from all other Triple Crown winners in that he is the first to have the opportunity to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  The race didn’t exist prior to 1984.

The Grand Slam of horse racing:  Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Breeders’ Cup Classic.  That is the prize, the destination at the end of the road, and getting him there to deliver a peak performance is the goal.

So enjoy American Pharoah’s chosen road, and don’t dwell on the ones not taken.  This will be a road not often travelled in history.  If he successfully navigates the remaining road and is in the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, hopefully then we will see a performance that so many of us believe he is capable of delivering, putting the exclamation mark on his historic season.

The Oracle

 

NEWS and NOTES

compiled by press box staff

 

The rules regarding the Pick Three and Four wagers have changed for situations when wagering has closed and a race in the Pick sequence is moved from one surface to another. We saw the rule in action Sunday when rain caused races scheduled for turf to be moved to dirt after a Pick Four and Pick Three sequence had already begun.  In the races that were surface-changed, the leg became an ALL for wagering purposes so regardless of the winning horse in the race, every ticket would have a winner for that race. This of course only happens if the surface change occurs AFTER wagering has closed for a given Pick wager.  Prior to this rule change, the post time favorite would have been substituted. Here is the rule:

 

Subp. 12.Change of surface after Pick (n) sequence begins.

If the condition of the course warrants a change of racing surface in any of the legs of the Pick (n) races, and the change was not known to the public before the close of wagering for the Pick (n) pool, the stewards shall declare the changed legs an “All-Win” for Pick (n) wagering purposes only.

 

Leading Quarter Horse Trainer?

There is a tie atop the Quarter Horse trainer standings. Jason Olmstead and Stacy Charette-Hill have 17 wins each. Bob Johnson is in third with 12 wins. For all practical purposes the Quarter Horse portion of this race meet has come to an end. Thursday and Friday offers one Q race each but neither of the top trainers has entered. That leaves three stakes races on the schedule and only Olmstead has a horse nominated. SR UR Fired is nominated for the Minnesota Futurity but the maiden seems a bit overmatched. There is a chance a Q race might pop up on the overnight out of necessity but with Olmstead and Charette-Hill sending their horses to the Prairie Meadows Quarter Horse meet that begins this weekend, them settling this in that manner seems unlikely. It was suggested this morning that a match race be held during trainer hours between Charette-Hill and Olmstead with the winner receiving the trophy and the much coveted parking space adjacent to the grandstand.

Prairie Meadows Thoroughbreds and Jockeys Arrive

With Prairie Meadows thoroughbred meet in the books, several trainers have shipped north to close out this meet and others that were splitting stables have sent more along. Jon Arnett, a force in Iowa, has horses entered already for Friday with more to come over the weekend. Also here are Amanda Dymond, David Anderson, David McShane, Tim Martin and Ray Tracy Jr.

Human counterparts are also on the ground. Shakopee native Alex Canchari was spotted on a Mac Robertson horse and is named to ride several Saturday. David Mello, a top jock in Iowa, will finish out the meet here, working with agent extraordinaire Richard Grunder. The multi-talented Grunder will co-host the Today At The Races show and call the races Saturday as Paul Allen radio-voices the Minnesota Vikings preseason game that evening.

Hold for More

Racing analyst Angela Hermann did us a favor and skipped the obligatory question during the Minnesota Derby post-race interview. She did not ask trainer Francisco Bravo where winner Hold for More would next race. Minnesota Festival of Champions is logical but does he sprint or route on Sept. 6? Generally, when asked this following a win, a trainer will fall back on the clichéd answers about waiting to see how the horse comes back, talking with the owner first, or, one of the best, waiting for the horse to tell him .

 

Diamond Joe

Saturday’s John Bullit Stakes winner Diamond Joe is now a top five all-time Nebraska bred thoroughbred money earner. The 6-year-old has earned $409,137 for trainer Chuck Turco and owners Joe Koziol and Joe Miller. The Grand Island Independent published a story on Diamond Joe this week. Read it here.

 

American Pharoah’s Road plus news and notes

Coady Photography
Coady Photography

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken”

 

The Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on August 2 marked the highly anticipated return of American Pharoah.  The Triple Crown champion did not disappoint, as he disposed of his rivals in a canter, taking command on the far turn as Victor Espinoza kept his foot firmly on the brake.  The two length margin over Keen Ice could have easily been ten, but Espinoza knew that Haskell day was not the day for setting him down.  His Beyer speed figure of 109 under such restraint told the tale of a fit and classy thoroughbred, and Timeform announced on August 3 that American Pharoah had become their top-rated horse in the world.

Six days later, the Whitney Stakes was run at Saratoga for older horses.  Liam’s Map set a strong pace, disposed of Moreno and Noble Bird early, and just failed to last as Honor Code touched him on the wire.  The winning Beyer speed figure was 113, and the race immediately drew reaction and opinion from the peanut gallery.  How would American Pharoah have done vs older horses in the Whitney?

Here are the Timeform pace figures for the respective races of American Pharoah and Liam’s Map:

 

American Pharoah  153   153   143   134   127

Liam’s Map         157   153   139   131   126

 

The Timeform pace figures suggest that American Pharoah would have stalked Liam’s Map early and run past him by the 6 furlong mark.  Admittedly, this is a simplistic comparison because the figures were computed over two different surfaces with different biases, and you can’t just drop horses into fields and not expect the dynamic of the race to change, especially when the horse you are adding has the quality of American Pharoah.  What the pace figures suggest to me is that the Whitney was not out of American Pharoah’s reach, despite the winner running a figure that American Pharoah has not yet attained.

Some were suggesting that American Pharoah had already proven to be dominant over his peers and he should have gone in the Whitney in the first place because, well, history demands it!  Look, I get it.  We all want to see American Pharoah attempt to conquer that next frontier that is older horses.  But the ultimate prize is the Breeders’ Cup Classic, not the Whitney.  American Pharoah is in a unique position from all other Triple Crown winners in that he is the first to have the opportunity to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  The race didn’t exist prior to 1984.

The Grand Slam of horse racing:  Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Breeders’ Cup Classic.  That is the prize, the destination at the end of the road, and getting him there to deliver a peak performance is the goal.

So enjoy American Pharoah’s chosen road, and don’t dwell on the ones not taken.  This will be a road not often travelled in history.  If he successfully navigates the remaining road and is in the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, hopefully then we will see a performance that so many of us believe he is capable of delivering, putting the exclamation mark on his historic season.

The Oracle

 

NEWS and NOTES

compiled by press box staff

 

The rules regarding the Pick Three and Four wagers have changed for situations when wagering has closed and a race in the Pick sequence is moved from one surface to another. We saw the rule in action Sunday when rain caused races scheduled for turf to be moved to dirt after a Pick Four and Pick Three sequence had already begun.  In the races that were surface-changed, the leg became an ALL for wagering purposes so regardless of the winning horse in the race, every ticket would have a winner for that race. This of course only happens if the surface change occurs AFTER wagering has closed for a given Pick wager.  Prior to this rule change, the post time favorite would have been substituted. Here is the rule:

 

Subp. 12.Change of surface after Pick (n) sequence begins.

If the condition of the course warrants a change of racing surface in any of the legs of the Pick (n) races, and the change was not known to the public before the close of wagering for the Pick (n) pool, the stewards shall declare the changed legs an “All-Win” for Pick (n) wagering purposes only.

 

Leading Quarter Horse Trainer?

There is a tie atop the Quarter Horse trainer standings. Jason Olmstead and Stacy Charette-Hill have 17 wins each. Bob Johnson is in third with 12 wins. For all practical purposes the Quarter Horse portion of this race meet has come to an end. Thursday and Friday offers one Q race each but neither of the top trainers has entered. That leaves three stakes races on the schedule and only Olmstead has a horse nominated. SR UR Fired is nominated for the Minnesota Futurity but the maiden seems a bit overmatched. There is a chance a Q race might pop up on the overnight out of necessity but with Olmstead and Charette-Hill sending their horses to the Prairie Meadows Quarter Horse meet that begins this weekend, them settling this in that manner seems unlikely. It was suggested this morning that a match race be held during trainer hours between Charette-Hill and Olmstead with the winner receiving the trophy and the much coveted parking space adjacent to the grandstand.

Prairie Meadows Thoroughbreds and Jockeys Arrive

With Prairie Meadows thoroughbred meet in the books, several trainers have shipped north to close out this meet and others that were splitting stables have sent more along. Jon Arnett, a force in Iowa, has horses entered already for Friday with more to come over the weekend. Also here are Amanda Dymond, David Anderson, David McShane, Tim Martin and Ray Tracy Jr.

Human counterparts are also on the ground. Shakopee native Alex Canchari was spotted on a Mac Robertson horse and is named to ride several Saturday. David Mello, a top jock in Iowa, will finish out the meet here, working with agent extraordinaire Richard Grunder. The multi-talented Grunder will co-host the Today At The Races show and call the races Saturday as Paul Allen radio-voices the Minnesota Vikings preseason game that evening.

Hold for More

Racing analyst Angela Hermann did us a favor and skipped the obligatory question during the Minnesota Derby post-race interview. She did not ask trainer Francisco Bravo where winner Hold for More would next race. Minnesota Festival of Champions is logical but does he sprint or route on Sept. 6? Generally, when asked this following a win, a trainer will fall back on the clichéd answers about waiting to see how the horse comes back, talking with the owner first, or, one of the best, waiting for the horse to tell him .

 

Diamond Joe

Saturday’s John Bullit Stakes winner Diamond Joe is now a top five all-time Nebraska bred thoroughbred money earner. The 6-year-old has earned $409,137 for trainer Chuck Turco and owners Joe Koziol and Joe Miller. The Grand Island Independent published a story on Diamond Joe this week. Read it here.

 

The Thrill of Victory

Zayat TC

“To see this horse finally do something–for a while I was starting to think maybe it’s never going to happen.  It’s changed, it’s too tough–maybe it’s the breed.  It’s not the breed.  You just have to wait for these superior horses to come around.  They don’t come around that often.” – Bob Baffert, trainer of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

 

When Affirmed hit the wire in the 1978 Belmont Stakes, my then twelve-year-old eyes had already seen three Triple Crown winners.  Much like the Minnesota Vikings going to the Super Bowl, this was obviously something that happened all the time.  I don’t remember anything about those races other than wondering why people didn’t simply bet on the favorite, because the favorite always won.

The innocent mind of a child…

This year’s Triple Crown season was eerily similar to the “good old days” of the dominant 70’s.  From February through April in the Road to Kentucky contest, favorites were winning the Kentucky Derby prep races nearly every week.  American Pharoah, Carpe Diem, Dortmund, Firing Line, Frosted, Materiality and Upstart had the horse racing community excited that this year’s crop was strong, and legitimate Kentucky Derby contenders were arriving at Churchill Downs from every region of the country.

American Pharoah’s victory in the Kentucky Derby was decisive but not dominant.  There was still reasonable doubt, with legitimate excuses attached to other runners’ misfortunes.  Dortmund had set a pressured pace along a dead rail, Firing Line had failed to switch leads in the stretch, Frosted was moving fastest late while running wide, and Materiality had sliced through traffic along the inside after missing the break.  Any of these contenders could, in theory, turn the tables on American Pharoah under the right circumstance.

Questions.  Doubt.  Skepticism.

Dortmund and Firing Line returned to take on American Pharoah in the Preakness Stakes, while Frosted and Materiality waited in New York.  The skies opened before the race, and American Pharoah splashed to a Preakness victory in front-running fashion, leaving Dortmund, Firing Line and the rest far behind.

This time it was dominant.

The crush of failed Triple Crown attempts lingered as the Belmont Stakes drew near.  No longer was it a question of who the best horse was, but contrarians still laid out persuasive cases for Frosted or Materiality, citing history and the Triple Crown barrier as being too elusive for this generation of thoroughbred.

American Pharoah would have none of it.

He ran himself right into history, widening his advantage at every call.  When Frosted moved to him at the top of the stretch, American Pharoah simply stepped away.  The challenge of the final two furlongs was a mirage.  The track, the distance, the competition, the Triple Crown grind, all were rendered meaningless by the efficient and powerful stride of an elite thoroughbred.

The official chart call from BRISnet:

AMERICAN PHAROAH broke on top after coming away in good order, quickly shook free, was glided over to the rail before reaching the beginning of the clubhouse turn, rated kindly setting the splits on a loosely-contested lead, began to edge away from the closest pursuers approaching the quarter pole, settled into the upper stretch and was given his cue, responded and drew well clear to cap off the first Triple Crown in thirty seven years.

Greatness turns the complex into the simple.  Enjoy the moment.

The Oracle

 

 

 

 

 

The Thrill of Victory

Zayat TC

“To see this horse finally do something–for a while I was starting to think maybe it’s never going to happen.  It’s changed, it’s too tough–maybe it’s the breed.  It’s not the breed.  You just have to wait for these superior horses to come around.  They don’t come around that often.” – Bob Baffert, trainer of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

 

When Affirmed hit the wire in the 1978 Belmont Stakes, my then twelve-year-old eyes had already seen three Triple Crown winners.  Much like the Minnesota Vikings going to the Super Bowl, this was obviously something that happened all the time.  I don’t remember anything about those races other than wondering why people didn’t simply bet on the favorite, because the favorite always won.

The innocent mind of a child…

This year’s Triple Crown season was eerily similar to the “good old days” of the dominant 70’s.  From February through April in the Road to Kentucky contest, favorites were winning the Kentucky Derby prep races nearly every week.  American Pharoah, Carpe Diem, Dortmund, Firing Line, Frosted, Materiality and Upstart had the horse racing community excited that this year’s crop was strong, and legitimate Kentucky Derby contenders were arriving at Churchill Downs from every region of the country.

American Pharoah’s victory in the Kentucky Derby was decisive but not dominant.  There was still reasonable doubt, with legitimate excuses attached to other runners’ misfortunes.  Dortmund had set a pressured pace along a dead rail, Firing Line had failed to switch leads in the stretch, Frosted was moving fastest late while running wide, and Materiality had sliced through traffic along the inside after missing the break.  Any of these contenders could, in theory, turn the tables on American Pharoah under the right circumstance.

Questions.  Doubt.  Skepticism.

Dortmund and Firing Line returned to take on American Pharoah in the Preakness Stakes, while Frosted and Materiality waited in New York.  The skies opened before the race, and American Pharoah splashed to a Preakness victory in front-running fashion, leaving Dortmund, Firing Line and the rest far behind.

This time it was dominant.

The crush of failed Triple Crown attempts lingered as the Belmont Stakes drew near.  No longer was it a question of who the best horse was, but contrarians still laid out persuasive cases for Frosted or Materiality, citing history and the Triple Crown barrier as being too elusive for this generation of thoroughbred.

American Pharoah would have none of it.

He ran himself right into history, widening his advantage at every call.  When Frosted moved to him at the top of the stretch, American Pharoah simply stepped away.  The challenge of the final two furlongs was a mirage.  The track, the distance, the competition, the Triple Crown grind, all were rendered meaningless by the efficient and powerful stride of an elite thoroughbred.

The official chart call from BRISnet:

AMERICAN PHAROAH broke on top after coming away in good order, quickly shook free, was glided over to the rail before reaching the beginning of the clubhouse turn, rated kindly setting the splits on a loosely-contested lead, began to edge away from the closest pursuers approaching the quarter pole, settled into the upper stretch and was given his cue, responded and drew well clear to cap off the first Triple Crown in thirty seven years.

Greatness turns the complex into the simple.  Enjoy the moment.

The Oracle

 

 

 

 

 

Can Baffert Be Beat in Kentucky Derby 2015?

American Pharoah by Coady Photography

By @MizPostParade

On Saturday, the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby will take place, and this handicapper agrees with the masses.  There are two horses that have legitimate shots to win the Kentucky Derby and there are reasons to jump on the bandwagon for both of them.  One thing is clear:  It’s good to be Bob Baffert on this first Saturday in May 2015.  He trains the two favorites, Dortmund and American Pharoah.

Last year at this time, there was a clear favorite for the Kentucky Derby: a big chestnut named California Chrome.  There was little discussion as to which horse would win the Kentucky Derby, but that left most handicappers searching for a horse to beat California Chrome.  This year, the debate seems to be not on how to beat the favorite, but which favorite will win — Dortmund or American Pharoah.

The slightly more favored of the two is the California speedster, American Pharoah.  This son of Pioneerof the Nile was sidelined early on the road to Kentucky, but has emerged with lightning quick speed for Zayat Stables and Baffert.  American Pharoah has speed to spare.  He puts in bullet works nearly every training session.  He beats his competition showing no mercy.  His impressive win in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn led veteran tack announcer Frank Mirahmadi to exclaim during his race call, “that is one special horse.”

The other favorite on Saturday will be the big, chestnut colt from California, Dortmund, who has proved himself as a frontrunner for the Derby in all of his prep races.  He is undefeated in six starts.  Dortmund is the son of one of my favorite horses, Big Brown.  Dortmund has a Cali Chrome style of running.  He is big, and strong, and if you find yourself in front, be prepared to feel the thunder because Dortmund will be coming for you.  He uses his strength to carve up the track with each powerful stride.  His huge size is his advantage and his detriment.  Dortmund has trouble on the turns and in a group of 20 he might be annoyed with the all the traffic.  With a horse this big in a field this size, his jockey, Martin Garcia, certainly won’t be looking for a seam. He’ll be looking for a way out. Fortunately for Garcia, Dortmund has a way of picking up momentum on the last turn.

The Kentucky Derby is obviously no ordinary race.  It is the best of the best.  This race has the best field of 3-year old colts this country has to offer (and one from the UAE Derby), the best jockeys, the best trainers, and the mile and 1/4 is not an issue for any of these runners.  For me, it becomes a matter of congestion.  The Derby field is 20 entries.  All these colts have run this distance before, but never in a field this large.  American Pharoah is used to being close to the front and if he gets there, I don’t believe anyone will catch him, not even the thundering Dortmund.  He’s fast, very fast.  But, he needs daylight.  His jockey is Victor Espinoza, California Chrome’s jockey.  Victor is an experienced Derby jockey and knows this horse well.  If American Pharoah shakes loose, he’s gone.  American Pharoah has won four of his last five races, all Grade 1 (with the exception of the Rebel) and all with Victor Espinoza to guide him.  He has won all his graded stakes races by more than three lengths.  His debut was the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity where he beat Calculator by over 4 lengths; he beat Calculator in the Frontrunner by more than 3; he came to Oaklawn for the Rebel and beat Madefromlucky by 6, and then stuck around in Arkansas to win the Arkansas Derby over Far Right by 8 lengths.

Beyond the two favorites, there will be two horses coming quickly down the stretch, International Star and Carpe Diem.  International Star has been unflappable in his Derby campaign.  Maneuvering the size of the Derby field will not be a problem for his jockey, Miguel Mena, since International Star has raced mostly in Florida, where they boast large fields in nearly every race.  Mena is a talented jockey with a bright future and is familiar with International Star’s running style.  Since Mena got in the saddle for Mike Maker and Ken and Sarah Ramsey, International Star won the Louisiana Derby, the Risen Star and the LeComte.  International Star is a rare non-Kitten for Ken and Sarah Ramsey.  He is sired by Fusaichi Pegasus.  His successful campaign has landed him at the top of the Derby points list.

El Kabier has been somewhat inconsistent and has never been around horses like Dortmund and American Pharoah.  And the jockey switch from C C Lopez to Calvin Borel is the biggest reason for me to back off this horse.

Frosted had a lot of trouble with Upstart in previous races, but Joel Rosario gets in the saddle and he wins the Wood Memorial.  Frosted has been on a grueling Derby campaign, but has gained much-needed experience along the way.  This ghostly gray son of Tapit has been moving through the Derby preps like an apparition finishing behind the leaders in Holy Bull and the Remsen.  Rosario may take the competition by surprise when all the attention is on the freakish speed horse American Pharoah and the freight train Dortmund.

Todd Pletcher trainee Carpe Diem is a horse that I won’t overlook.  He is a contender. In 2015, he won the Bluegrass Stakes and the Tampa Bay Derby to stamp his spot in the gate at Churchill Downs on Saturday.  Carpe Diem has five starts and four wins.  His only loss was a second place finish to Texas Red in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.  John Velazquez has been aboard for all five starts and will get in the irons again on Saturday for WinStar Farms and Pletcher.

Looking deeper down the list of the Top 20.

Keen Ice will have a lot of work to do if he wants the roses on Saturday. Keen Ice has only hit the board in 3 of his 7 starts.  He barely got into the Derby by collecting his points on a third place finish in the Risen Star.  And speaking of stars, all Keen Ice has ever done is follow International Star around at Fair Grounds.  Keen Ice has raced with International Star, Stanford, War Story, Upstart, Frosted, Mr. Z and Carpe Diem and has never passed any of them.

Bolo is another California shipper.  Bolo was doing great until Dortmund hit the California dirt and then, well, Bolo could only settle for third in his last two races.  Ocho Ocho Ocho (another California shipper) had a faltering campaign, and then it got even worse when along came Dortmund, and Ocho x3’s Derby trail got dusty.

Mr. Z is the third Zayat Stables’ horse in the Top 20.  He got his Derby points by finishing third in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn, but American Pharoah beat the field by 8 lengths that day.  Mr. Z has had 9 different jockeys in 12 starts.  Maybe it’s not the jockey.

Tencendur and Stanford got their Derby points by finishing second in Derby prep races.  Tencendur finished second to Frosted in the Wood Memorial and Stanford finished second to International Star in the Louisiana Derby.  I really don’t have much to say about either one of these horses.

Poor War Story and Tom Amoss.  War Story has only raced at Fair Grounds and just cannot get past International Star.  I don’t see that he can get past him in this field of 20 either.

Danzig Moon, on the other hand, can’t get past Carpe Diem, and got his points by finishing second to Carpe Diem in the Bluegrass Stakes.  If he can’t get past Carpe Diem, he certainly can’t get passed American Pharoah.

Firing Line is my sneaky longshot play.  Firing Line is coming off a win in the Sunland Derby (yes, yes, I know), but Firing Line has finished second to Dortmund … twice, and both of those losses were by a minimal margin, and both at a mile and 1/16th.  Firing Line is yet another California shipper coming out of races at Del Mar, Santa Anita and Los Alamitos.  I see Firing Line having two major problems (1) shipping to Kentucky and (2) Dortmund.  Basically, the other California horses are just better, but at least Firing Line has been in races with Dortmund and finished second.

Itsaknockout is another Pletcher horse, he won the Fountain of Youth, and those are the only points this horse received towards the Derby.  He achieved those points because he and Upstart got too close right at the wire, and Upstart was disqualified in the Fountain of Youth. Itsaknockout came back in the Florida Derby, but he couldn’t best Upstart this time.

Far Right was doing just fine at Oaklawn until the traveling freak show American Pharoah rolled into town and cleared the field by 8 lengths in the Arkansas Derby.  Far Right is a good horse, no complaints.  But he has the same problem that Firing Line does, except his problem is named American Pharoah. But similar to Firing Line, at least Far Right has been on the same dirt with one of the favorites.

Upstart is kind of a wild card.  I’m not exactly sure what’s going on with this colt. Once Texas Red was sidelined, Upstart seemed to prevail, winning the Holy Bull, and being disqualified in the Fountain of Youth (even though he won) and finished second to Materiality in the Florida Derby. I think he had a bad day in the Florida Derby and won’t hold that against him, but there’s just nothing here that says he can win the 141th Kentucky Derby.

Materiality has a better chance of hitting the board at a price (another Pletcher trainee).  Materiality got his Derby points by besting Upstart in the Florida Derby.  Materiality is also unbeaten, but unfortunately only has three starts in his young career.

The dark horse is the UAE Derby winner, Mubtaahij. He has only raced at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai.  His past performances are hard to decipher but he appears to be a stalker and a good closer … using words like “moved to the lead,” “gained to lead comfortably,” and “ran on well” are all good words to describe a horse’s performance!  But the green grass of Kentucky is a long way from the dirt in Dubai.

Basically, this race will come down to thunder (Dortmund) and lightning (American Pharoah).  Money will be made with the exotic wagers as these two will be bet too low to make a profit.  Go deep in your bets and play several exactas using Dortmund and American Pharoah on top.  I will be playing a West Coast Tri to start:  American Pharoah, Firing Line, Dortmund.  After that, a multiple of combinations using Dortmund and American Pharoah with Firing Line, International Star, Carpe Diem, and Upstart.

By the numbers:

Trainer Todd Pletcher has 4 horses in the Derby: Carpe Diem, Itsaknockout, Materiality, and Stanford.

Trainer Bob Baffert has 2:  Dortmund and American Pharoah.

Zayat Stables has 3: American Pharoah, El Kabeir and Mr. Z.

Number of West Coast invaders:  5

 

Advance wagering at Canterbury Park on the entire Derby and Oaks programs begins Thursday afternoon.