Constitution Odds to Win the 2014 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/9/2014
Constitution, the biggest star in a Todd Pletcher barn that isn't as loaded this year as it has been in past years for the Kentucky Derby, is just the kind of horse that makes my head hurt. History is working against him, and we know very little about him. However, Constitution's odds to win the 2014 Kentucky Derby are set at +1500 at Sportsbook.ag, making him the fifth choice in what has turned into a wide-open field. So, can this horse wear roses on the first Saturday in May? Or does he just have too much to overcome?
Here are four factors for handicappers to consider when handicapping this horse:
History: Constitution made his racing debut on Jan. 1 of this year, and he has run just three times. In 1882, Apollo won the Kentucky Derby without having run as a two year old. All 131 winners since then, though, have raced at least once at two. Many horses without a two year old start have tried, including some exceptional ones, but none have prevailed. There are several reasons why this could be true - a lack of maturity brought on by racing experience, the depth of fitness a horse can only build in races, and so on.
The fact remains, though, that this is a very powerful trend. Sooner or later a horse is going to break the Curse of Apollo. More try every year. In order to back a horse that is going against so much history, though, you really need to be confident that he is a special horse. Constitution is good. Very good. I just don't know if he is exceptional enough to get it done.
Experience: The most frustrating part of handicapping this horse is that we really don't know what he is since he has had so little experience. His first race was a maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park. He didn't start well, rated for the first half of the race, took the lead in the stretch and held on - though he needed a good bit of urging down the stretch. Next up was an allowance - also at Gulfstream. The field was pretty solid, though we are only likely to see one other horse from that race - Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong - in the Derby. He took the lead out of the gate and wired the field. Then came the Florida Derby - once more at Gulfstream. In that one he again rated early, but he fought his rider aggressively over the restraint. He took the lead in the stretch and wound up on top in a vicious stretch duel.
So, through that all we know that the horse knows how to win. We don't really have a sense of what his natural running style is or where he will be looking to be in the Derby, though, because every race has been different. We also don't know how he will travel or fare on any track other than Gulfstream because that is the only place he has raced. When you are handicapping the Derby you are forced to make a lot of guesses and assumptions at the best of times, but there are even more than usual with a horse like this.
Trainer: In the big picture, having Todd Pletcher as a trainer is an asset for any high-level horse. He has trained 10 Eclipse Award-winning superstars, and he has won virtually every race worth winning and countless training titles. For some reason, though, despite focusing on the Derby more than any other trainer in the country, he just can't consistently crack the Derby code. He has now had 36 starters in the Kentucky Derby before this year. He has won just once - Super Saver in 2010. Last year he entered five horses, and he wound up third, 9th, 11th, 12th and 14th. He just does not get horses ready to have their best day on the biggest of days on a consistent basis. He is not a particular asset to this horse here. On the plus side, though Super Saver was owned by WinStar Farm just like Constitution is, so these connections are better in the Derby than any other for Pletcher.
Breeding: I could certainly be more enthusiastic about some breeding than I am about this. Tapit is a great sire, but he has not shown a real knack for passing on major stamina, so the distance is a big concern from him. Both Unbridled and A.P. Indy are grandsires of Tapit, so there is certainly stamina there, but he tends towards more mile-and-slightly-longer horses. At best, it's a question mark. The dam side is fine, but it doesn't ooze massive stamina, either. There is no reason to believe that the horse will be incapable of the distance, but it won't be as easy for him as for some others, either.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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