El Kabeir Odds to Win the 2015 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/15/2015
The path to the Kentucky Derby reminds us each year just how much of a factor timing is. If the race was in early February, or even early March, instead of early May, then this horse would be a much bigger factor in the betting than he is likely to be now. He hasn’t been terrible since then, but the enthusiasm has certainly dimmed somewhat. Now he sits at 40/1 to win the race according to BetOnline. So, Can El Kabeir win the Kentucky Derby? Stranger things have happened — I saw Mine That Bird win with my own eyes — but in this field he’ll have to have a ridiculously good day. In other words, though 40/1 is a nice payout, it isn’t nice enough.
Wood Memorial Stakes: Bettors basically could not differentiate between this horse, Daredevil, and eventual winner Frosted. The good news is that this horse ran better than Daredevil. The bad news is that he only finished third. He settled well off the pace and at the back of the field, and he looked relaxed and comfortable. He made a nice move after about three-quarters of a mile but didn’t have nearly enough in the tank to be a threat to the top two. He made a solid move to get past Daredevil, but that was little consolation.
It wasn’t a terrible race, but it just wasn’t very good — certainly not when he is now heading into a race with horses like American Pharoah, Dortmund and Carpe Diem in it. He had no excuses, had a reasonable trip, and just wasn’t good enough. His connections blamed a slow early pace that the jockey misjudged. While that was definitely true, I struggle to believe it was the only reason he wasn’t good enough. Besides, if he needs a perfect race to win then the Kentucky Derby is not going to work for him.
Prior experience: From November to January this was a horse on a rapid rise. After a solid second-place showing in the Nashua at Aqueduct he finished his year with a wire-to-wire win in the Kentucky Juvenile Cup. Three days into this year he was back at Aqueduct, and he had another big stakes win — the Jerome. What was notable about this win was that he rated early on instead of going for the lead like he had earlier. It showed real development, and people were excited — he was bet down to 1/2 in his next start out in the Withers. He again rated, got the lead, but then lost a duel to finish second. He bounced back in the Gotham, this time coming from way off the pace to win handily on a muddy track. That brought him up to the Wood Memorial. As we discussed, that was far from a great race for him, so now we have to decide if there was a reason for it — and, more importantly, if there is any reason to think he can be significantly better in a few weeks at Churchill Downs.
Trainer: John Terranova II is a solid trainer. Respectable. He’s not among the top tier in this race, though. He has had just one Derby starter — Falling Sky finished 19th in 2013. He has had contact with some very good horses beyond his own, though. His wife, Tonja, is his assistant trainer, and she previously worked for Bob Baffert for quite a while. As a result, when Baffert ships horses to New York for big races they typically stay in Terranova’s stable. It’s that Baffert connection that actually landed Terranova this horse — he best young horse he has had. El Kabeir is owned by Zayat Stable, who will also be represented in this race by Mr. Z and likely favorite American Pharoah. The Zayats were looking for another trainer besides Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas for their top two year olds last year, and Baffert pointed them towards Terranova. That’s a serious endorsement.
Jockey: C.C. Lopez rode the horse in his last four races, but that relationship is likely to come to an end. Lopez, who is 54, has never won a Grade 1 stakes and has never ridden in the Derby. He had a rough outing last time and doesn’t seem like the right fit here. Calvin Borel rode the horse for one race before Lopez, and it’s a decent bet that he’ll be back on board again. All that will do is drive the price lower than it should be, though. The public loves Borel after all his Derby success, but he has been riding lousy in recent years. The connections can, and should, do better.
Breeding: El Kabeir doesn’t have the best breeding in the Derby, but it is pretty solid. His sire owes me money. Scat Daddy impressively won the Florida Derby in 2007, and I bet him in Kentucky as a result. He was 18th. He has good bloodlines and has passed them on well. El Kabeir’s damsire is Unbridled’s Song. He won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 1995 and both the Florida Derby and the Wood Memorial the next year back when that was still possible. I lost money on him in the Derby, too — a disturbing trend for El Kabeir — when he finished fifth in the Derby. He has been excellent as a sire, with 2013 three-year-old champion Will Take Charge his most recent superstar. El Kabeir has decent stamina form both sides and should be able to handle the Derby distance.
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