Samraat Odds to Win the 2014 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/9/2014
It was Wicked Strong who got the attention coming out of the Wood Memorial with his impressive victory in what was a surprisingly tough race. Samraat was almost as impressive in finishing second, though. He will not go into the Kentucky Derby as an undefeated horse as he suffered his first loss in six career starts in that race. For those that like the horse, though, that could be a good thing because it means the price will be far more attractive in the Derby than it would be if he had won. Samraat's odds to win the 2014 Kentucky Derby are set at +2000 at Sportsbook.ag in early futures pools.
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So, is there any value in that price? Here are four factors that handicappers will have to consider when looking at this horse leading up to the biggest of races:
The Wood effort: As much as anything, Samraat was a victim of circumstance in the Wood Memorial. He settled just off the early pace set by Social Inclusion, and that pace was fairly swift. Social Inclusion looked to push that pace through the final turn, though, and opened up a lead. That horse is classy and fast, so Samraat couldn't afford to let him get away on the lead. That forced him to launch a sustained charge down the stretch that was far more draining than would be ideal - especially since he was near the rail where the track hadn't been fast that day. Meanwhile, Wicked Strong was alone in the middle of the track where the speed was best, had he been able to save his move for much later, and didn't have to deal with traffic. I'm not taking anything at all away from the very impressive winning effort from Wicked Strong. I'm just saying that Samrat deserves a lot of credit for what he did - especially because he was able to keep fighting and nip Social Inclusion at the wire for second. It was a classy and very honest effort.
The prior career: The biggest issue I have with this horse is the lack of variety in his racing career. He has raced six times, and five of those starts have been at Aqueduct. The sixth was his debut, and that was just down the road at Belmont. He has run in four stakes races, so the caliber of opposition is solid. The lack of variety is a concern - especially because Aqueduct hasn't done as well as some other major tracks at producing Derby winners in recent years.
The horse will face a much different environment at Churchill Downs, and we can't be sure how he will handle it because for most of his racing career Aqueduct has been all that he has known. Is he a good dirt horse, or a horse that is suited to the Aqueduct surface? Will he be resilient when he travels, or will he long for comfortable surroundings? Despite all of the wins, and a logical progression in challenges and distances, I can't help but be a little uneasy about how things set up going forward.
That all being said, this guy oozes class and heart, has he not had an off day, has overcome plenty of adversity, and loves to run and win. There is a lot to like.
Trainer: Richard Violette Jr. is one of those guys you would call a journeyman, but you absolutely wouldn't mean anything insulting by it. He has been training his own stable for 30 years and has had consistently solid results with very few breakthroughs to the highest level. His Triple Crown experience is limited, with a third in the 1995 Belmont with Citadeed being the high point. He is more than capable of having a horse ready, and he is far from a liability, but his lack of big-race experience and success means that he won't be the asset to his horse that other trainers will be. At best he's a wash from a handicapping perspective.
Breeding: There is a lot to like about this horse. Unfortunately, the breeding counteracts most of that, and it really makes it a challenge to like the horse on top of your key bets. He's a son of Noble Causeway, and his damsire is Indian Charlie. Both are very nice horses with a good deal of breeding success. Unfortunately, both excel at producing milers, and milers are far from the ideal makeup for the grueling challenge of the Derby.
As game as Samraat was at the end of the Wood, he looked just exhausted when he was led back and untacked. He likes to be near the pace, and the early pace in the Derby has a chance to be very brisk. A fast pace plus breeding that doesn't provide stamina are big knocks against an otherwise intriguing horse.
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