I should admit a bias right up front. I am passionate about almost all things Kentucky Derby. One thing I absolutely can't stand, though, is a second-tier Todd Pletcher horse. Pletcher struggles to get even his best horses to perform on Derby day, and in his pursuit of quantity over quality he often puts horses in the race that would be much better suited in other, lower-profile spots.
This is far from the worst horse he has entered in this race - it's not even the worst he is bringing this year. It just isn't good enough to get the pulse racing. At this point I can't even imagine a scenario in which this horse wins. Where's the fun in that? The oddsmakers at Bovada have the horse at 25/1 in early futures action, so their answer to the only question that matters at this time of year - can Itsaknockout win the Kentucky Derby? - would seemingly be at least a little more optimistic than mine.
Florida Derby: I like pretty much nothing about this race for this horse. He was sitting fourth out of the gate and settled in fairly comfortably there throughout the race. It should have been a good launching point for a move around the final turn and into the stretch. That just wasn't the case, though. He was completely flat, never faltering, but also not firing at all. He wound up a non-threatening fourth. I can't say it was a bad race. I certainly can't say it was a good race. It was just a race - a completely forgettable, unremarkable race. Hardly felt like a launching point for Derby glory.
Prior experience: One of the reasons I struggle to be excited about so many of Pletcher's Derby horses is that he regularly comes into the race with much less racing experience than I would like to see. This horse is no exception - the Derby will be his fifth career start and his first away from Gulfstream Park. He won his first two outings - a maiden race in December, and an allowance race at the start of this year. Next up was the Fountain of Youth, the key prep for the Florida Derby. He was the second horse across the finish line but was placed first after Upstart was disqualified for interference. He's only seen one track and has only exhibited on running style - sitting off the leaders in mid-pack. He also hasn't worked particularly sharply in recent outings. If it sounds like I can find all sorts of ways to be negative about this horse, it's because I can. Needless to say, if he were to hit the board in the Derby it would be costly for me.
Trainer: Todd Pletcher is one of the best trainers in the world 364 days a year. The odd thing, though, is that there is no race that he cares about each year than the Derby, yet there is no race that he, nor any top-level trainer for that matter, has had less success with. He has started 40 horses in the Derby and has just one win to show for it. That's just not good enough. He has basically had a quarter of the field in recent years, but even that hasn't been enough. His only win was in 2010 with Super Saver in what was one of the most flawed races in recent history. At the Breeders' Cup I have no trouble backing Pletcher. At this race, though, it takes a really special horse to get me to overcome my aversion - and this is certainly not that horse.
Jockey: Luis Saez has been aboard for all four career starts, and I expect him to get the nod again here - though Pletcher has not officially made his jockey decisions just yet. Saez is young, but he is already making a big name for himself. This will be the third straight year he is in the Derby, but he would likely prefer to forget about the last two. He was dead last with Falling Sky in 2013 and only beat one horse aboard Wildcat Red last year. He's much better than those results - though I'm not convinced he has the horse to prove it.
Breeding: Here, finally, is something I can be a bit more positive about. Itsaknockout is a son of Lemon Drop Kid. That horse had stamina to burn and comes from a family - with horses like Mr. Prospector and A.P. Indy in there - that contributes to that stamina significantly. It's a good family for this Derby test. Damsire Cherokee Run was champion sprinter in 1994, so that's not ideal for this race. The dam, Stormy B, though, brings a lot of stamina influences to the table from her dam side. It's not ideal breeding, but it won't be the reason he is going to be so underwhelming on Derby day, either.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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