Dance With Fate Odds to Win the 2014 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/23/2014
After more than 30 years of being obsessed with the Kentucky Derby, there is little about the race that surprises me anymore. I have to admit, though, that I am truly shocked to be writing this preview.
I liked Dance With Fate heading into the Blue Grass Stakes, and his win was impressive, but I had absolutely no expectation that he would continue on to this race. He doesn't seem particularly suited to this race, he isn't trained by a guy who is committed to the race, and he had returned back to Santa Anita soon after the victory instead of staying where he was - just an hour from Churchill Downs.
The lure of the Derby is irresistible, though, and the horse had the third most qualifying points, so here he is. So, can Dance With Fate win the Kentucky Derby? Dance With Fate's odds to win the Kentucky Derby sit at +2800 at Sportsbook.ag, which has him sitting behind eight other horses at this point.
When trying to figure out what this horse is doing in the race, and if he has a good chance of winning it, here are five factors to consider:
The Blue Grass Stakes: The Blue Grass was stuffed full of desperate horses as it was the last real chance to grab the points needed to get into the Kentucky Derby. There wasn't a star horse in the field, but there were several that could win this race. Dance With Fate took advantage of the situation perfectly. He sat way off the early pace, minding his time while others set a decent early pace. Then as horses tired late he made his move, going from 10th to first by half a length. It was a prototype race for a horse who settles off the pace.
There are unfortunately three massive asterisks, though. First, the race is run on the synthetic surface at Keeneland, and very little of the form on that surface translates well to the dirt at Churchill Downs. Second, the race set up almost perfectly for a closer - fast early fractions, and a glacial closing pace.
There will be plenty of early speed in the Derby, but it's still a risk to assume that the race will set up so well for him again. He has never had a triple-digit Beyer speed rating, so he isn't an elite overall horse by a standard measure. Finally, the horse had been aimed at the Blue Grass for months. It was the target, and it was a good fit for the horse. The Derby is an afterthought, and not nearly as good of a fit.
Prior experience: The biggest issue that stands out is that the horse is a synthetic surface specialist. On synthetic or turf surfaces he has three wins and two seconds in six starts. He has run just twice on dirt - both at Santa Anita. He was a dismal eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and second in the Front Runner behind the now deceased Bond Holder. Dirt is clearly not his best surface, and Churchill's surface is unforgiving for non-dirt horses.
There are real concerns about this horse beyond the surface, but the dirt issues loom above them all.
Running style: People are going to be drawn to this horse to the extent that they are in large part because he is a closer - or at least a horse that has shown that he can win from well off the pace. There is a real shortage of horses in this race that have that characteristic and an excess of those that will want to be on or near the pace early on. The logic will be that with so much early pace the front-runners will burn themselves out and leave it for a closer to pick up the pieces.
There are a couple of issues with that, though. First, beating a mediocre field on a synthetic surface has not at all proven to us that this horse is particularly high quality, and a closer still needs to have major talent to win. Second, with so much up-front speed you can't be certain that things will completely fall apart or that there will be a path available from the back to the front when this horse needs it.
The horse can close strong, but it's hard to believe that that will be enough here.
Breeding: I know I am sounding negative about this horse, and that is not going to change here at all. He is sired by Two Step Salsa, a blue-collar sire who won four races on synthetic surfaces in California and two in Dubai on dirt. His dam was a very ordinary horse at b-level tracks. In a race filled with blue bloods, Dance With Fate is more blue collar.
For the most part he looks like a horse that runs into a limit at about a mile, according to his breeding. The one glimmer of hope is that his damsire, Saint Ballado, sired two Derby winners - Sunny's Halo and Sunday Silence. Probably not enough, but at least it is something.
Trainer: Peter Eurton is far from an elite trainer. He has been competing in California since the late 1980s, but he has never been what you could call a high-volume trainer. When the top trainers will win 300 or more races in a year, Eurton has never won more than 36, and he has only topped 20 wins in a year five times. He has had a few big horses, but nothing like a Derby horse.
He's not a particular asset for this horse in this particular race, though he has obviously managed the horse well. He has also been red-hot recently. Up until the middle of April he won eight straight starts at Santa Anita - a streak that seems to be unprecedented in the 75-year history of the track. He has been running pretty hot since the Del Mar meet last summer. However, can that heat travel across the country and to the biggest race there is?
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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