Ride On Curlin Odds to Win the 2014 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/17/2014
If Ride On Curlin were to win the Kentucky Derby, it would be a fairytale story. Not one like Mine That Bird, but not that far off. We'll get into the details in a bit, but rest assured that there are some characters and some crazy circumstances involved. A win would also be proof that you don't need to be flashy or particularly spectacular on the prep road. You just need to do enough to get into the Derby.
This horse just has two wins in nine tries, and none have come in graded stakes. In his three stakes outings this year, though, he was consistently solid, with two thirds and a second. Good enough. But can Ride On Curlin win the Kentucky Derby? Ride On Curlin's odds to win the Kentucky Derby, according to the oddsmakers at Sportsbook.ag, sit at +3000. That's far from the longest odds on the board, but it has him far behind the elite contenders. When handicapping the chances of this horse, here are five factors to consider:
Experience: You certainly can't complain about a lack of racing experience here. The horse has run nine times, including four times this year. Three of those races have been at Churchill Downs, though none since last October. He made a major splash in his second race, a maiden special weight at Ellis Park, when he set the track record over 5.5 furlongs. He has yet to win a graded stakes in five tries, yet he has never finished worse than fourth, and he has been third or better four times. In his most recent race, the Arkansas Derby, he was a solid, albeit well-beaten, second behind the very surprising Danza, who won at 41/1. He was bumped hard early in that race and was forced wide around the final turn and very wide heading into the stretch. Despite the issues, he fought gamely to grab second. It was an impressively strong showing. He didn't establish himself as an elite contender, but he proved that he was for real.
Trainer: This is one of those crazy stories - the kind that would seem impossible if it weren't true. To say that Billy Gowan runs a small stable would be an understatement. The man known as "Bronco" has never had more than 48 starters in a year since taking out his license in 1994. By contrast, Steve Asmussen led the country last year with 1,525 starts. Gowan had 24 last year. Though he trains out of Churchill Downs when he's not at Oaklawn, this is obviously the first Derby starter for Gowan. In fact, his business has almost exclusively been claimers, so he is in some very unfamiliar territory here. Knowing Churchill so well will help, but Gowan can't be viewed as an asset. Of course, he looks like a serious veteran next to Chip Woolley, and all he did was win it all with Mine That Bird in his only Derby appearance.
Owner: Daniel Dougherty's story is every bit as unbelievable as Gowan's. Dougherty, who owned a chain of furniture stores in Louisville until recently, had dabbled in claimers until Gowan convinced him that they should head down the road and buy a colt at Keeneland. They saw this horse as he was about to enter the sales ring, had no time to vet him or even look him over closely, but they liked the breeding, so they took a shot. They paid $25,000 for the colt, and he has won nearly $415,000. Dougherty is in it for the adventure, though - he turned down an offer of more than $1 million after the horse set the track record at Ellis Park. Again, he doesn't bring the asset of experience to this team, but he'll be a very interesting role in the movie if the horse wins it all.
Jockey: There has been a serious case of musical saddles for this horse. Calvin Borel was aboard for the third-place finish in the Southwest, but he looked elsewhere for the Rebel. That opened up an opportunity for Kent Desormeaux, but he was tossed out of the saddle after just one race because Gowan thought he contested the pace too aggressively early on. Jon Court got the nod for the Arkansas Derby and did fine. Court has horrible luck getting to the Derby despite strong preps, though, and this year is no exception - he has already been replaced by Borel. Though I would have liked to have seen Court get the chance, you obviously can't argue with a guy who has won this race three times. Borel, though, has been lousy at best this year, and he will be badly overbet by the public because of his reputation.
Breeding: If you wanted to breed a modern horse for this race, you couldn't do much better than this. He has so much stamina in him that he'll just be getting warmed up in the stretch. His sire is, not surprisingly given his name, the great Curlin. That horse had plenty of proven stamina, and already sired Belmont winner Palace Malice in his first crop of three year olds. On the dam side, his dam is sired by the incomparable Storm Cat, one of the very best stamina sires of all time. This horse is bred for a distance, and that stamina could be his biggest asset here.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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