General a Rod Odds to Win the 2014 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/17/2014
The first thing that needs to be said about General a Rod is that his name has nothing to do with a certain steroid-addict who has wasted a lot of the Yankees' money. He's actually named for Armando Rodriguez, his Venezuelan owner. The horse has actually spent the spring in a war for the hearts of racing-mad Venezuela - both he and fellow Derby entrant Wildcat Red have Venezuelan owners, and they have dueled throughout the spring.
So, can this horse become a hero back home? Can General a Rod win the Kentucky Derby? It doesn't seem likely - General a Rod's odds to win the Kentucky derby are set at just +5500 at Sportsbook.ag.
When trying to figure out if there is an opportunity to cash in on a big upset at a fat price, here are five factors to consider:
The Florida Derby: In his final prep race General a Rod didn't hit a home run, but he didn't particularly embarrass himself, either. He settled off the pace set by rival Wildcat Red and hung with him until the stretch. He seemed to be caught off guard by the aggressive move that eventual winner Constitution made, covered more ground than he needed to, and wound up fading down the stretch to finish third. He was the fourth betting choice, and he beat the favorite, so he did what was expected - though not a whole lot more.
Prior experience: Locking into a battle with Wildcat Red was far from an unfamiliar scenario for this horse - it had happened in the two previous races as well. In the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year's Day General a Rod held the lead before giving it up to Wildcat Red at the top of the stretch. He looked like he was in trouble, but he fought back to win by a head. Their next matchup was the Fountain of Youth - the key prep for the Florida Derby. In that race Wildcat Red established a narrow lead of just a head within the first half mile and never gave it up through an epic duel. It was an impressive rivalry. It's also good for a horse to deal with adversity like that in his prep races. It is a concern, though, that the horse likes to be near the lead and is willing to fight to be there. There is going to be a whole lot of early speed in this Derby, so a horse that is at great risk of being caught up in that speed could find themselves in a less-than-ideal situation as they enter the stretch and the reality of the long race. One thing this horse does have going for him, though, is that he has experience on the track at Churchill Downs. He was second in a solid allowance field back in November at a mile. That experience will help him the next time he sees the track.
Equipment: General a Rod's trainer has been tinkering with his equipment throughout the spring. He has raced with blinkers of different shapes and sizes. That kind of development is a risky and potentially scary thing - but there is the potential for real upside. The fact that they have changed the equipment so much means that they haven't yet found what really works - and that there is a clear problem that they have identified. There is always the hope, though, that they can get it right next time out and for that to lead the horse to run better than ever.
Trainer: This is the first horse Mike Maker has trained for this owner. Talk about starting a relationship out on the right foot. The biggest asset he has going for him is his familiarity with Churchill Downs. He knows the track very well, and he holds the record for most wins in the fall meet. He hasn't had a lot of Triple Crown experience and has had some really bad luck. In 2010 he finished eighth with Stately Victor and 14th with Dean's Kitten. Two years later he was a very disappointing ninth with juvenile champion Hansen. The worst situation arose in 2006, though. Maker was due to make his Derby debut with With a City, but the horse mysteriously died in the week leading up to the race.
Breeding: There are some things to doubt about this horse, but his breeding for this task is not one of them. His sire, Roman Ruler, won the Haskell - one of the biggest tests for three year olds -- in the summer. Roman Ruler is a son of Fusaichi Pegasus, a Derby winner. His dam sire is Dynaformer, a very good source of stamina - and the father of the great Derby winner Barbaro. With Derby winners close by on both sides of the pedigree, you don't need to be concerned about his ability to get the distance.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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