Wildcat Red Odds to Win the 2014 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/17/2014
Wildcat Red didn't win the Florida Derby, but in finishing second to Constitution he put forth a truly heroic effort that earned him nothing but respect. He led the race through the early fractions before being locked onto by the eventual winner at the top of the stretch. It was a back-and-forth stretch duel that never saw Wildcat Red fade even though he was likely the more tired horse. That takes heart. But is heart enough? Can Wildcat Red win the Kentucky Derby? Oddsmakers and early futures bettors don't seem to think so - he is a +5500 longshot to win the biggest of races at Sportsbook.ag.
When trying to figure out if there is any value in that hefty price, here are five factors to consider:
Consistency: You have to like a horse that doesn't have a bad day, and that is certainly the case here. In seven career starts the horse has four wins and three second-place finishes. Two of those four wins were in the first two graded stakes the horse ran in - the Hutcheson and the Fountain of Youth. He has faced solid competition throughout, and he has done his job professionally. That's not to say that he will be top two in the Derby, obviously, but when there is so much to throw a horse off their game on that day, we can at least be somewhat confident that we'll get what we expect from him.
Homesick?: It would be much easier to like this horse in the Kentucky Derby if that race took place in Florida. This horse has raced seven times, and all seven starts have been at Gulfstream Park. In between starts he has lived there as well. That means that all that this horse has known for the formative part of his career is Gulfstream. Travel will be new to him. So will the climate in Louisville, the track, the stables, and everything else. I feel much more confident about horses that have seen some of the world before the Derby - even if they haven't run at Churchill previously. I'd feel better if the connections had moved this horse to Kentucky quickly, but he's staying at Gulfstream until at least April 22, and he will have just one work in Kentucky. This is a definite cause for alarm.
Trainer: If one cause for concern wasn't enough then here's another. Jose Garoffalo's story is a good one. He started training in his native Venezuela before moving to Florida in 1999. This is just the second horse his fellow Venezuelan owners have owned, and he picked this one out himself as a yearling. He bought him for $30,000, and he has made almost $700,000. Great story. The problem, though, is Garoffalo has never played on this level. He has had a few minor stars but nothing of this caliber in his stable, and he has very rarely left Florida. The experience in Kentucky could be as new and overwhelming for him as for his horse.
Running style: Another concern to add to the pile - it becomes clearer and clearer why he is such a longshot. Wildcat Red isn't a horse that absolutely has to have the lead, but he is definitely happiest either setting the pace or running right near it. That's not a particularly ideal running style in the Derby because of the huge field and the frequently frantic early pace. Winners most often come from somewhere off the early pace. In this field there are a lot of horses who will be looking to be in a similar position up front, so the competition for space will be intense, and the early fractions could be very fast.
Musical saddles: Yet another reason for concern here. In each of his last four races - all stakes races with high profile - the horse has had four different jockeys. Joel Rosario, Javier Castellano, Luis Saez, and John Velazquez have all had a turn, with Velazquez on board last time out. It is never, ever a good sign when a horse in big races can't hold on to a jockey, and that's especially true for a horse like this that was clearly on track for a starting spot in the Derby. Velazquez rode in the Florida Derby, but he won't be making a return visit to the saddle - he is planning to be aboard Intense Holiday. Instead, a fifth rider - Rafael Bejarano - will take a shot. Bejarano doesn't have a win in a Triple Crown race, but he has won four Breeders' Cup races, so he is solid. Still, the lack of consistency - and the unwillingness of a big-name jockey to commit to this solid horse long term - is another strike against.
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