2011 Kentucky Derby Contenders
by Trevor Whenham - 5/5/2011
This upcoming Kentucky Derby seems to be unlike any we have seen in recent years — and not in a good way. The Kentucky Derby field is as muddied and unclear as it has ever been. Top contenders have been disappointing, and longshots have won the biggest races. Frankly, it doesn’t seem like any horses this year are particularly good. Still, on the first day of May there will be some horse wearing roses, and some bettors that are very happy — especially because the payoffs stand a good chance of being very high because of the uncertainty.
It’s pretty much impossible to feel any confidence about how the Kentucky Derby is going to turn out, but we can’t let that stop us. Here is a look at the top eight Kentucky Derby contenders, along with their morning line Kentucky Derby odds, now that the major prep races have all been run:
1. Dialed In (4-1) — It’s hard not to put him at the top of this list even if I don’t really buy into him. He’s the only major contender that did what he was supposed to do in his last prep race by winning the Florida Derby. He broke his maiden at Churchill Downs, so we know he likes the track. He’s lightly raced, though, and was disappointing in an allowance race before the Florida Derby, so there are questions about his consistency, his foundation, and his ability to handle the distance. He’s the Derby favorite at this point, but he’s the definition of a lukewarm favorite.
2. Uncle Mo (5-1) — This ranking is too high, but there is no one else I feel confident enough in to put higher. Uncle Mo was the two year old champion last year, and he looked incredibly dominant up until his final prep race at Aqueduct in the Wood Memorial. He would have been the heavy Derby favorite but that race was a total disaster — he hit a wall badly at the top of the stretch and could only hold on to third. A gastrointestinal infection is being blamed for that race, but there are still serious issues about Uncle Mo’s ability to get the Derby distance — not to mention his health and fitness.
3. Nehro (6-1) — He hasn’t won a major prep, but he has had two impressive showings. He was a fast closing second in the Louisiana Derby, and finished a strong second again in Arkansas Derby. In both races he was closing hard at the end, so he has had lots left in the tank, and seems to be capable of getting the extra distance in Kentucky.
4. Archarcharch (10-1) — The winner of the Arkansas Derby would make a great story if he won -- jockey Jon Court is a highly respected 50-year-old jockey that has never managed to make a Derby start. He’s tough and determined while still being relaxed. That’s a big asset for the Derby, but he needs to prove that he can pull off another miracle because right now his Arkansas Derby win seems more than a bit like a fluke.
5. Mucho Macho Man (12-1) — The biggest thing this horse going for him is that he’s coming off a long layoff. Normally I don’t like that in the Derby, but this horse is intriguing in the sense at least he hasn’t been disappointing when so many other horses have been. He’s training very well, and he’s maturing nicely into his young body, so he’s one to watch.
6. Shackleford (20-1) — This is a sign of just how ridiculous this field is. If Dialed In is favored in the Derby then Shackleford needs to be considered. After all, he fought very hard against Dialed In and almost beat him in the Florida Derby. The problem, though, is that Shackleford was 68/1 in that race. That price seems to have been too high, but it’s still a clear sign that this wasn’t a very highly regarded horse up to that point. The fact that he is this high now is almost depressing.
7. Midnight Interlude (12-1) — This surprise Santa Anita Derby winner is now likely Bob Baffert’s best shot. The biggest of California prep races was his stakes debut, so experience is obviously an issue. He ran a very mature race in that field, and now that Santa Anita has switched back to a dirt surface the Santa Anita Derby winner has to be considered more seriously than they have the last few years.
8. Master of Hounds (20-1) — We haven’t had a European invader run in the Derby since 2002, but it seems like we are going to here. He’s familiar with Churchill Downs since he ran in the Breeders’ Cup last year, though that was on grass. His ability to handle dirt for the first time is a serious and obvious question, but his sire Kingmambo was also the sire of Lemon Drop Kid, the winner of the 1999 Belmont, so it’s quite possible that Master of Hounds will like the dirt just fine.
Doc’s Sports expert Kentucky Derby handicappers will have a full card of Kentucky Derby picks for the Run for the Roses on May 7. Doc’s has been putting in extra work this year on the race and we expect a big payday on Saturday. Get all Doc’s Kentucky Derby predictions for just $20! Click Here to purchase.
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