Commanding Curve Odds to Win the 2014 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/28/2014
It's took a while, but Commanding Curve has finally secured a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. He spent weeks sitting just outside of the Top 20 spot in the points standings required to enter the starting gate. With the defection of Ring Weekend on the Sunday before the race due to illness, though, Commanding Curve finally has the spot his connections have coveted.
It's a bittersweet moment for the ownership group - they also own Ring Weekend, so their gain was also their loss. So, now that he has his shot, can Commanding Curve win the Kentucky Derby? Oddsmakers are not optimistic. Sportsbook.ag has set Commanding Curve's odds to win the Kentucky Derby at +4000. That puts him in the bottom quarter of the field and behind Social Inclusion - a horse that still sits two spots out of the official field in the points standings.
When trying to determine if there is any value in the horse at this price, here are four factors to consider:
Louisiana Derby: Last time out Commanding Curve was third in the Louisiana Derby on March 29 behind fellow Derby entrants Vicar's In Trouble and Intense Holiday. The effort was fine, but not one I am in love with. He saved ground and just passed time at the back of the pack for the first six furlongs. From there he made a fairly aggressive move, but he got caught wide on the turn and didn't have enough to threaten the top two. There is a potential excuse, though. The horse was bumped hard coming out of the gate, and it's tough to tell how much it bothered him. It was also a tough race for a deep closer to win. Vicar's In Trouble wired the field, but he was allowed to run at a fairly conservative pace throughout. Closers rely on fading leaders, and that just wasn't the case here. If he can't get a much faster opening pace in the Kentucky Derby then he will have similar issues. Lucky for him, there is plenty of speed in this race, and fast early fractions are a very common occurrence.
Prior experience: Commanding Curve has made six career starts, and when you look back a few things stand out. First, it took him four tries to break his maiden, so he wasn't a natural out of the gate. The last three of those four attempts took place at Churchill Downs, though, so he knows the track well, has won there, and was in the money all three times. That win also coincides with a shift in style. Up until then he had tried to stick near the pace early on. In that race and the next two, though, He learned to run far off the pace and become a closer. It hasn't yet been a particularly effective approach in stakes action - aside from the third in the Louisiana he was just sixth in the Risen Star - but it is a better approach for an average horse than getting stuck in the crowd up front in the Derby would be.
Trainer: Dallas Stewart is surely experiencing a major sense of deja vu. He'll have to hope things turn out the same way again this year as they did last year. Back then he was sitting on the bubble up until the final weekend before the Derby with Golden Soul. Bob Baffert scratched, though, and Stewart was in the field - albeit as a 34/1 longshot. The horse made the most of the opportunity, finishing second behind Orb and inflating what would otherwise have been a scrawny exacta with the favorite winning. Golden Soul was Stewart's only great Derby result of his career, but he has won the Kentucky Oaks, and before going out on his own he was a long-time D. Wayne Lukas assistant, so he certainly knows what it takes to win a Triple Crown race.
Breeding: There are a few things to like in this pedigree, but it isn't among the very best in this race. Commanding Curve was sired by Master Command. That horse was a son of A.P. Indy, so there should be plenty of stamina there. He never ran beyond nine furlongs himself, but he won easily at that distance and would very likely have been fine if asked to go further. He was a very late bloomer, though, and didn't really come into his own until he was four. Commanding Curve doesn't seem to be at his best yet, either, so perhaps he takes after his dad. Unfortunately, Master Command died young, so we don't have a large progeny to learn from. On the dam side, Commanding Curve is a grandson of Lion Hearted, a regional Maryland stallion who has never really established himself nationally. He's a son of Storm Cat out of a full sister to Belmont winner Easy Goer, though, so there is no shortage of elite talent. Commanding Curve's dam, conveniently called Mother, was an underwhelming sprinter in her racing days.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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