2014 Kentucky Derby Picks and Futures Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 4/2/2014
It's hard to believe, but with the dawning of April we are just a month away from post time for the Kentucky Derby. Often at this time of year we see a fairly clear picture emerging of which horses might be the top contenders. This year all we see is a total mess. After the Florida and Louisiana Derbies last weekend the field is as wide open as it can be at this time of year. Top contenders have faltered when given their opportunity, and lesser horses have excelled, but we don't know if they can keep doing it.
So, what are we left with? Here are some Kentucky Derby picks and futures odds to get us into the Triple Crown spirit ( all futures odds are from Bovada):
Cairo Prince (+400): I am shocked that this horse is still favored in these odds. He is in real risk of not even making the field. You now need to earn enough points to make the Derby field, and after a disastrous fourth-place finish at the Florida Derby last weekend amidst massive expectations he will likely find himself on the outside looking in. To further complicate things, he was coming off a nine-week rest for the Florida Derby, so it is very hard to evaluate how much his struggles were due to real problems and how much were rust. I love his breeding - he should be able to run forever -- but this is far from a good bet at this price.
California Chrome (+600): Art Sherman is about as old school as it comes in the training game these days, but he has a gem on his hands this year. We have to wait for next weekend's Santa Anita Derby to know for sure, but at this point it seems clear that this is the best horse the West Coast has to offer this year. He's very fast - he posted an incredible 107 Beyer in the San Felipe - and he has some experience under his belt. He doesn't need to win the Santa Anita Derby to be a serious Kentucky Derby threat, but a strong performance is very important. I'll reserve final judgment until after that race, but it's hard not to like what we have seen so far.
Samraat (+900): He's unbeaten in five outings, so he deserves respect. He'll put that unbeaten mark on the line in the Wood Memorial this weekend. There are a couple of causes for concern. First, he has been doing a lot of one-mile works instead of a more standard five furlongs. On the surface, extra distance shouldn't be a bad thing in a race this long. It's just a question of whether this is a good spot to be doing something different. More significantly, this is a horse that seems to need the lead. That's a concern in the Derby - especially in a field like this one that looks like it will have no shortage of early speed. I'm cautiously skeptical.
Vicar's in Trouble (+1000): This horse won the Louisiana Derby last weekend, so we have seen him at his best. It was a strong effort - though his closing fractions were far from swift. Given these odds and the general attitude towards the horse in the media, it seems like his big prep win wasn't enough to launch him into the upper tier of contenders - at least not until we see what the other races give us. The Louisiana Derby has a long history of giving me winners that I am more than a little intrigued by, but it hasn't produced a Derby winner since Grindstone in 1996, so it is right to be more than a little skeptical.
Constitution (+1200): Experience is a concern here (he didn't run at two, and no horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Derby without at least one juvenile start), but this horse vaulted to the top of the eternally deep Todd Pletcher stable with his gutsy win in the Florida Derby. He got locked into a stretch duel, and he overcame a much more experienced horse. I like that, and he is improving rapidly, but there is a whole lot of history working against him. At +2000 I would be much more interested.
Candy Boy (+1800): This is a horse facing California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby this weekend, so we are probably better off waiting until after that race before making a decision on him. The connections of John Sadler training and Gary Stevens riding is more than a little attractive, though, and I like the breeding reasonably well. He has been working well, and my hopes are very high for this one.
Hoppertunity (+2000): Like Candy Boy, we'll know much more about this Bob Baffert trainee after the Santa Anita Derby. Mike Smith is on board, so he is in good hands. Like Constitution, he has the Curse of Apollo working against him, but he has already raced four times this year, so that's potentially not a massive concern. I really think this horse needs a massive effort in the Santa Anita Derby to prove that he is legitimate, though. At this price I haven't seen enough yet to be convinced.
Toast of New York (+3000): This horse won the UAE Derby on the Dubai World Cup undercard last weekend, and he did it in reasonably impressive fashion. His connections are hesitant to commit to giving North American racing a try, though, even though that win has earned him a shot in the field if he wants it. That win was very impressive, but it comes with a massive asterisk - it happened on a synthetic surface. Year after year we have seen horses that prepped on synthetics struggle on the dirt at Churchill.
Ring Weekend (+3500): You need to have a longshot in your stable at this time of year, and this is definitely mine. Trainer Graham Motion won the Derby in 2011 with Animal Kingdom, so he knows what he is doing. He was very impressive in his last win, albeit it was in a Tampa Bay Derby that didn't draw an elite field. Now he is making his final prep in this weekend's Calder Derby. That's an odd path - especially since it is run on turf. He's working very well, though, he has stamina to burn, and Motion knows how to give horses what they need. At this price he's worth a shot.
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