When you have two horses like American Pharoah and Dortmund in the same race - not to mention Carpe Diem, Mubtaahij, and others - you have a very top-heavy race. The good news, though, is that the public is going to throw their cash at those top horses in bulk. That means that there are going to be a lot of horses going off at very high prices. The challenge for bettors is to determine which ones of those fat prices actually offers some value. In that quest, here are three live long shots in the Derby field:
Frosted (15/1 morning line): It's strange to think that the winner of the Wood Memorial is a long shot, but Frosted will likely pay more than $20 if he wins, so that definitely counts as a long shot - or at least a longer shot. He looked more than professional last time out winning what was a reasonably deep Wood. He has worked absolutely brilliantly since - though better away from Churchill than he has since arriving there, unfortunately. His Fountain of Youth race two back was just a disaster - he basically stopped in the stretch. He obviously had a physical issue that day, though, and has been much-improved since. Kiaran McLaughlin is an excellent trainer who happens to be red-hot right now, and he'll have the horse ready. His breeding is sound, and he isn't likely to get caught up in an early pace duel if one emerges. I'm not entirely convinced that this horse is quite good enough to beat the best in this race on their best day, but he is certainly a contender.
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Firing Line (12/1 morning line): In other circumstances this horse would be getting a lot more attention than he is now. His last outing was just plain spectacular. He won the Sunland Derby - the last race before the Kentucky Derby for Mine That Bird in 2009 - by 14.5 lengths. 14.5! Even more impressive, jockey Gary Stevens was like a statue on his back the whole time - the horse did it himself. He looked comfortable, too. While that was eye-opening, it isn't the reason I like this horse as much as I do. In both the Los Alamitos Derby in December and Robert B. Lewis in February he finished second. Both times it was just by a head. The winner both times? Dortmund. He gave that great horse all he could handle both times. That's impressive. The horse has never finished worse than second in five starts, and though he won on the lead in the Sunland Derby he has also shown the ability to settle far off the pace and win as well. He's not a slave to a particular pace scenario, in other words. Gary Stevens is the biggest of big-race riders, so the horse is in good hands. The only real concern is that his training isn't ideal. It isn't that he definitely won't be able to get the distance, but we can't be certain that he will be able to, either. Significantly, though, he has been training brilliantly over the Churchill Downs surface and looks as physically ready for this race as a horse can look. At double-digits this horse is a value-packed gift.
Danzig Moon (30/1 morning line): I had my eye on this horse well before he arrived in Kentucky. For starters, I love the breeding. His sire, Malibu Moon, sired Orb and is a son of the great stamina producer A.P. Indy. His damsire, Danzig, has produced dozens of great runners and is a son of the greatest of all sires - Northern Dancer. This horse is going to be able to handle the distance. Comfortably. He has run twice in stakes company. Two times back he was fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby, but he had no move when asked in the stretch. Last race he was significantly better, finishing a respectable second to Carpe Diem in the Blue Grass. What was obvious, though, was how much he had improved and gained confidence between the two races. This is a smart horse developing before our eyes. Where I really went from mildly interested in him to fully intrigued, though, was once he arrived in Kentucky. He makes running on this track look just effortless, and he has been one of the top horses in training here. He is ready. Trainer Mark Casse hasn't had the success in the States that he has had in Canada yet, but he is exceptionally talented and ready for a breakthrough. I don't know that the horse is talented enough to win, but at this price I sure will have him in my exotics.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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