In a very deep, talented and highly-memorable field for the Kentucky Derby this year, if there is one horse that fades into the background for me it's Tencendur. It's not that I think he is the worst horse in the field - far from it, actually. He's maturing quickly and coming off a strong race. It's just that he doesn't elicit any real emotion. Others either strike me as potential megastars, or in the case of Itsaknockout and others I just don't feel like they belong. This horse fits right in between those groups. Solid. Comfortable. Probably not good enough, but I have no problem with him giving it a try.
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Can Tencendur win the Kentucky Derby? I guess so, and it would certainly be profitable for those who back him if he did - he is at 33/1 in early futures action at Bovada. If he does win it, though, then things certainly haven't turned out like they were supposed to. There is no shortage of star horses in this field. This is not one of them.
Wood Memorial Stakes: It's always a good thing when a horse runs his best race last time out before the Derby - as long as he doesn't run so hard that he burns himself out and can't recover in time. In the Wood, Tencendur was definitely at the best he has ever been, but it didn't appear to cost him too much to do it. He settled just off the pace and followed the early leaders. When asked to move rounding the final turn, he did so happily, and he had the lead at the top of the stretch. He was tested by eventual winner Frosted soon after. While he ultimately lost the duel, he was game and professional and actually fired back after being passed - something lesser horses don't do. He was beaten by a couple of lengths, but was well clear of the rest of the field - including El Kabeir and Daredevil, the third- and fourth-place finishers, respectively, who were essentially co-favorites with Frosted. Nice race. Of note, he ran in blinkers for the first time in this race - something we will almost certainly see again in Kentucky.
Prior experience: The Derby will be the horse's sixth career start, with the first five all coming at Aqueduct. After making his debut in December, he broke his maiden in his second try in January. From there it was the two key Wood Memorial prep races - the Withers and the Gotham. He essentially sat in fourth place from wire to wire in the Withers. In the Gotham he was much further back early on than is typical for him. He made a decent late move but was only good enough on the day to get up for fifth. He earned a small payday for his connections in both races, but he had a lot to prove to show that he was any good. The big step forward, then, was a promising sign. It remains to be seen how high the ceiling is for the horse, but the Wood effort sure felt like he was beginning to mature, figure a few things out, and start to test what he was capable of.
Trainer: George Weaver will be making his Kentucky Derby debut if this horse makes it into the starting gate without incident. He has had just one Triple Crown entrant - Greeley's Legacy was fifth in the 2007 Preakness. He knows his way to Churchill, though - he was born and raised in Louisville. He also knows a thing or two about getting horses ready for the Triple Crown races. He started out as an assistant for D. Wayne Lukas, who will have Mr. Z in the Derby this year. Among others, he worked with Derby winners Grindstone and Thunder Gulch. Then he went on to work under Todd Pletcher. He obviously didn't win a Derby with Pletcher, but he still worked with top horses. He has been on his own since 2002.
Jockey: Jose Ortiz picked up the mount in the Wood for the first time, but he isn't likely to be here again - he also rides Upstart, and if that horse is healthy after a brief fever scare recently it seems like a good bet that Ortiz would pick that runner over this one. If that is indeed the case then Weaver has not yet tipped his hand about who might replace him.
Breeding: Is Tencendur going to be able to get the Derby distance? Hard to tell based on his pedigree. Unlike some horses in the field, though, you can't exactly view this pedigree as a major asset. He is a homebred son of Warrior's Reward. That horse was most noted as a sprinter - he was fifth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint in his last outing - and he hasn't done enough as a stud yet to give us an impression of his capabilities or the tendencies of his offspring. Tencendur is his best offspring to date. His dam, Still Secret, was also a sprinter - and a slow one at that. His sire is Hennessy, who has been a successful stud, but mostly with speed horses. When his offspring can run forever, it seems to have more to do with their mothers. In short, there isn't a lot of stamina to be found in this pedigree.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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