2013 Kentucky Derby Handicapping: Early Look
by Trevor Whenham - 4/23/2013
We’re less than two weeks from the Kentucky Derby. There will likely be a full field of 20 horses in the starting gate when the first Saturday in May rolls around. It’s uncertain exactly what the field will look like because the new points qualifying system means there is still some uncertainty at the bottom of the field. For the most part, though, we know what it will look like.
We’ll get into intense analysis later on, but for this Kentucky Derby handicapping early look let’s focus on five storylines that are going to certainly be worth watching when you work towards making your pick:
Pletcher is loaded — again
Here’s a familiar story — Todd Pletcher has all sorts of horses in the field. As it looks now the trainer will have five starters. Verrazano and Revolutionary will be among the favorites, with the former likely to have the lowest odds. Overanalyze won the Arkansas Derby. Palace Malice is finding his game. Charming Kitten hasn’t seen dirt and seems unlikely, but he has a huge closing kick that could make things interesting. It’s an impressive group, but as we have learned in the past quantity doesn’t always lead to success for Pletcher.
He failed to win the race 24 times before getting his only win in 2010 with Super Saver. That win came with Calvin Borel on board, and the two are teaming up again with Revolutionary — owned, as Super Saver was, by Winstar Farm. Is it time for yet more Borel Derby magic?
Blast from the past
D. Wayne Lukas and Gary Stevens have made history in the Derby in the past. In 1998 the trainer and jockey paired to win with the spectacular filly Winning Colors. Seven years later they won with the wildly-impressive Thunder Gulch. Those successes are far in the past.
Stevens retired too young with bad knees, and Lukas has failed to stay at the top of the game consistently as he gets older. History has a chance to repeat itself this year, though.
Stevens is in the midst of an impressive comeback started this spring just before he turned 50. Lukas has found a second wind and is doing better recently than he has over much of the last decade. Now the two are pairing up with Oxbow. The horse has been consistently disappointing, but he has excuses and has talent to burn. Can history repeat itself?
Looking to make history
There has never been a woman who has won the Derby as a jockey. Rosie Napravnik could change that this year. She became the first female Kentucky Oaks winner last year and has the ride on Mylute here in the Derby — her second Run for the Roses. She has only ridden the horse once in his previous nine starts, but that was a win on Dec. 26. Besides Napravnik, only five other women have started in the race.
Will Pitino’s golden touch continue?
Rick Pitino has had a pretty good month. He won the NCAA Tournament with Louisville. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. His son was named head coach at Minnesota. And he won the Santa Anita Derby with Goldencents.
It remains to be seen if the top horse from the West Coast, who is trained by last year’s Derby winner Doug O’Neill, can measure up here. Having Pitino on his side as part owner certainly can’t hurt, though. His involvement, which has been reasonably high profile and will likely only be more so as the race nears, could have an effect on public bettors. Value could be hard to find on this colt.
Breeding is always a big factor in handicapping this race. If a horse doesn’t have the breeding to handle the distance, he could be in some really trouble. This year’s group of entrants provide plenty of sire storylines. Among the more interesting:
--The Breeders’ Cup Classic is well represented. 1998 winner Awesome Again is the sire of Oxbow, and 2007 winner Curlin sired Palace Malice. Lawyer Ron was 2007’s older horse of the year despite a disappointing Classic. He died of complications from colic in 2009 after siring just two crops, so Itsmyluckyday is his last chance at glory.
--Into Mischief is well represented, with both Goldencents and Vyjack carrying his genes. He had some success on the track but has unremarkable bloodlines, so he’s as close to a blue-collar success story as you can see at this level of racing.
--Midnight Lute was a formidable champion who has two Breeders’ Cup Championships under his belt. Both came in the Sprint, though, so it remains to be seen if Mylute and potentially Governor Charlie can shine here in what is certainly not a sprint.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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