Ring Weekend Odds to Win the 2014 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/24/2014
I have held off on writing this article because I just didn't think that Ring Weekend would wind up in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. Derby fever is an intense illness will only one cure, though, so it appears more and more likely that he will take the spot in the starting gate that he has earned.
He's not one of the easiest horses in the field to get excited about, and he certainly isn't one of the easiest to handicap. But can Ring Weekend win the Kentucky Derby? The oddsmakers at Sportsbook.ag will be surprised if he does - they have set Ring Weekend's odds to win the Kentucky Derby at +7500, which puts him only ahead of Vinceremos among potential Derby starters. It also puts him well behind Bayern and Social Inclusion - two horses that don't even have a spot in the starting gate and don't seem likely to get one. Yes, the oddsmakers think likely non-starters are twice as likely to win the Derby than this horse.
When trying to determine whether they are being too pessimistic, here are five factors to consider:
Last race debacle: This horse certainly didn't take a traditional path to the Derby. Most contenders come through a major prep race, but this horse tried to get his last experience in the ungraded Calder Derby. It was an odd move, and it backfired badly. He was the overwhelming favorite at 3/10 against a nothing field, so it should have been little more than just a paid workout. There were no Derby qualifying points available from the race, but he already had enough to get into the field. He stumbled out of the start, though, and never looked comfortable. He sat off the pace, fought with his rider throughout, and had nothing left when making his charge down the stretch. He wound up beaten by 10 lengths. It really couldn't have gone worse. There is literally nothing positive you can say about this race and nothing you can take from it that makes you feel any better about the horse that
Prior experience: The horse has made seven career starts. He was clearly thought of as a turf horse early in his career. His first two starts were supposed to be on the grass, but they were moved to the dirt because of weather. Then he raced on the synthetic at Keeneland and the grass at Gulfstream. All four were in maiden races, and he failed to win any. They moved him to the dirt for his fifth maiden attempt, and he rewarded his connections by finally winning. Not a great start. The only reason he is in this race, and has the national attention he does, is because next time out he wired the Tampa Bay Derby to win by three lengths. It was a nice race, but given what came next - the ugly Calder Derby - it's hard to get excited. Vinceremos finished second, and he is the longest shot in the Derby. It's just hard to believe that this horse is good enough. He also is likely to be pushing the early pace, and he has yet to prove that he is good enough to do that and still have enough left down the stretch.
Trainer: While this horse is mostly a disaster, the fact that it is trained by Graham Motion means it deserves at least a little attention. Motion earned the immense respect I have for him by winning the 2011 Derby with Animal Kingdom, and he also did it with an odd prep path. The next year he was a big factor again with Went The Day Well. Motion's involvement isn't enough to make me want to bet a bundle on his horse, but I can't rule him out as easily as I would with most other trainers.
Jockey: It seemed like Alan Garcia was on a fast track to superstardom a few years back. He won on his first-ever Breeders' Cup mount in 2007, then he shocked the world by winning the Belmont in 2008 aboard major longshot Da' Tara. He had a strong year again in 2009, but he has struggled since then. He is still only 28, so his best years could be ahead of him. He's not an elite rider right now, though. It's also worth noting that he has been aboard for three of the last four starts for this horse - all but the win in the Tampa Bay Derby, which is the only somewhat impressive effort the horse has had.
Breeding: Like fellow Derby entrant Tapiture, Ring Weekend is a son of Tapit. Tapit is one of the hottest stallions in the country right now, but while he has produced a lot of very impressive horses he has yet to shine at longer distances. As a son of Pulpit, who is a son of A.P. Indy and a grandson of Seattle Slew, there is plenty of stamina for Tapit to draw from, but he's more of a speed creator than anything at this point - exceptional speed, but still speed. It's worth noting, though, that Tapit daughter Untapable is destined to be the overwhelming favorite in the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Derby. On the dam side, Ring Weekend is a grandson of Cryptoclearance. He was very good at the classic distance in his racing career, including multiple wins at the distance. He was also fourth, third and second in the three Triple Crown races as a three year old. He has passed on his stamina well, too. His son Victory Gallop won the Belmont in 1998. Volponi won the 2002 Breeders' Cup Classic. Several others have done well at longer distances as well. I'm not yet entirely convinced by Tapit as a Derby sire, but this horse should have decent stamina capabilities.
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