Mr. Z is the worst of the three horses that Zayat Stables is aiming for the Kentucky Derby. First, though, you can't have too much sympathy for Zayat - or any other owner who is in position to start three horses in the biggest race there is. Second, there is no shame in being third best behind the decent El Kabeir and the truly brilliant American Pharoah. So, can Mr. Z eclipse his stablemates and win the Kentucky Derby? Oddsmakers don't think so - at 85/1 in early futures action at BetOnline he is tied for the longest odds in the field. That's not that flattering.
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Ideally, the horse probably should be looking for a different, and slightly softer, spot. This is the Derby, though, so any horse with the breeding and the potential - and enough points to get in the field - is more likely to be given the chance than not. After all, if horses like Mine That Bird and Giacomo have taught us anything it's that any horse that is entered can win on any given day.
Arkansas Derby: This race was fine. Not great but fine. He got a good start and then contented himself with rating off the too fast early pace. He was right behind stablemate American Pharoah. He made a nice move around the second turn and looked good. When it came to the stretch, though, he flattened out slightly and was caught before the line by Far Right. He was in an entirely different class than American Pharoah - like everyone else - but he measured up solidly with the rest of the field. There is no particular thing about the race that I can complain about too much, but it didn't really get my pulse racing in anyway, either. Before the race I thought he was a nice enough horse but not a spectacular one. Now? Pretty much the same.
Prior experience: You really can't complain about a lack of experience with this guy - the Derby will be his 13th career start. To accurately judge this horse you have a decision to make - is winning important to you or is consistently solid good enough? He broke his maiden the first time out - at Churchill Downs. Since then, though, he does not have a win. Every race has been a stakes, though, and he has finished in the Top 3 in eight of 11 of them. He's not quite good enough, but he always finds a way to get up for a piece. At the price he is likely to go off at in the Derby he could key a very big exotic payoff if he could do the same in the Derby. One nice thing has been his versatility. He has run on the lead, but he doesn't need it. He can rate nicely and has even done well starting way off the pace. The biggest concern, though, is that by the time a horse has had this much experience we don't often see a massive move forward. What we have seen is probably closer to what we will get than with less-experienced horses. That is a problem, because what we have seen isn't quite good enough.
Trainer: I could go on all day about D. Wayne Lukas. He's a legend - to say the least. He has won the Derby four times and owns the record for the most Triple Crown victories with 14. Starting in 1994, Lukas won an incredible six straight Triple Crown races. He is 79 years old now, and for much of the last decade or so it seemed he was well past his prime. He has had a renaissance the last couple of years, though, winning the Preakness in 2013 with Oxbow and adding two Breeders' Cup wins to his total in the last three years. He knows how to win and is in his best in Triple Crown races. Anything is possible with Lukas. His influence on this race extends beyond his own horse this year - former assistants Todd Pletcher, Kiaran McLaughlin and Mike Maker could have as many as seven horses between them in the field.
Jockey: The horse has had seven different jockeys over his career and a different rider for each of his last six outings. At this point it doesn't much matter who rides him - he is used to change. Ramon Vazquez rode him for the first time last time out and was criticized by the trainer for moving a bit too early. It's not yet clear what Lukas will do for this race, but I am not too worried about it. He could do better than Vazquez, though.
Breeding: Like fellow Derby hopeful Danzig Moon, this horse is a son of Malibu Moon. That horse also sired 2013 Derby winner Orb, and he is a son of the great Belmont winner A.P. Indy, and grandson if Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, so there is stamina on the sire side. His damsire is Storm Cat, who is also the damsire of current superstar Shared Belief among many others. The dam side probably trends a bit shorter than the Derby distance, but it could be worse. This isn't the most perfect Derby breeding, but it isn't a disaster, either. The horse has bigger issues to overcome than his blood.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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