Tapiture Odds to Win the 2014 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/18/2014
There are few horses in the potential Kentucky Derby field tougher to judge than Tapiture. His last race was a disaster. His jockey situation isn't ideal. His trainer is at the center of a major storm of controversy - one that is only going to intensify as the race nears. So, is the horse good enough to overcome all that? Can Tapiture win the Kentucky Derby? Oddsmakers at Sportsbook.ag give him a reasonable chance of success. Tapiture's odds to win the Kentucky Derby are set at +2000, which puts him tied for the eighth choice in the likely 20-horse field.
As you try to handicap this horse and determine his chances of success, here are six factors to consider:
Arkansas Derby: This race went close to as poorly as it could have for Tapiture. He was the highly-regarded second choice in the field behind only previously-unbeaten Bayern. He got out of the gate fine, but he was positioned four wide early on by jockey Joel Rosario and kept there through much of the race. That bizarrely-chosen trip took too much out of him, and he had nothing left for the stretch drive. He didn't fire when it mattered and sputtered home to a fourth-place finish. It was just a bad race. There was no shortage of those in the Arkansas Derby this year, though. A lot of horses had high hopes and a big need for points, and several didn't fire. There must have been something in the air that day. After a performance that thoroughly underwhelming, though, handicappers are left with a serious puzzle. Was the horse just bothered by the day or the ride he was given, or is he just not as good as he appeared previously?
Prior experience: Tapiture had a solid spring before the Arkansas debacle. He won the Southwest, and he was second in the Rebel after claiming foul against winner Hoppertunity for interference in the stretch. He showed he had some class. What really stands out when you look at his past performances, which include four races at two, is a win in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at the end of November. That race was run over a mile and a sixteenth at Churchill Downs, and Tapiture was a dominating winner. It showed that he obviously liked the track, and experience at a high level on the surface before the Derby is a big mark in favor of a horse.
Trainer: Steve Asmussen has not had a good spring. His now-former assistant trainer Scott Blasi was caught in a sting by PETA for mistreatment of horses. Asmussen lost several top clients as a result, and his nomination to the racing Hall of Fame was rescinded. Tapiture was kept with him because his connections didn't want to disrupt Derby preparations. Asmussen was already something of a controversial figure because of his high-volume stable, but this has amplified it exponentially. As the Derby nears, the media will be all over the story, and Asmussen will struggle to avoid it all. On top of that, Jockey Club chair Ogden Phipps has called for Asmussen not to compete in the race because of the controversy. Asmussen claims to have done nothing illegal, and he welcomes transparency into his operations going forward, but he's not going anywhere. It could be a massive distraction for horse and trainer leading up to the race.
Jockey: Asmussen decided to go with a higher-profile jockey last time out and gave Joel Rosario the mount. It was disastrous. The usually-dependable Rosario had a particularly bad day, and his ride had to be blamed for some of the woes. Asmussen clearly agreed, because he was taken off the mount soon after. Ricardo Santana Jr. had had the mount before that, with two wins, a second and two thirds, including a win and two thirds at Churchill Downs. Santana is riding very well this year, with wins in 20 percent of his races. He absolutely deserves this opportunity, and he is a good fit with the horse. Rosario won't be missed at all.
Breeding: Tapiture's breeding is hard to interpret in terms of stamina. He is a son of Tapit, who was raced by Winchell Thoroughbreds just like Tapiture is. Tapit won the Wood Memorial in 2004, but he had a lousy day in the Derby. Tapiture is a full brother to two other horses: Remit and Retap. Both showed promise but also ran into distance walls. That being said, Tapit is having a very good year, with potential Derby second choice Constitution and Derby entrant Ring Weekend among his current crop as well. When a sire is represented in the Derby by three horses he is doing something right. He also sired Normandy Invasion, the colt who finished fourth in the Derby last year. All in all, though, Tapit has had somewhat more success with slightly shorter distances, so I am a little uneasy - about all three of his horses, for that matter. Tapiture's damsire is Olympio. He won the Arkansas Derby in 1991 but hasn't really distinguished himself as a sire. Add it all up and there aren't massive reasons for alarm, but I certainly feel better about other breeding in the race than this one.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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