2016 Kentucky Derby Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 5/5/2016
I feel a sense of dread right now. A big one. For the last few weeks - more than I want to admit - I have been doing little other than thinking about and getting ready for the Kentucky Derby. Now, with the post positions drawn and everything set, I find myself with less of an idea of how things are likely to turn out than I have had for years. This is one muddy field.
I really don't like Nyquist much - certainly not at the price he is going to go off at. The problem, though, is that I can't figure out who I do like instead. I can rule out three horses without breaking a sweat - Trojan Nation, Oscar Nominated, and Lani. Beyond that, though, I look at each horse, find something I really like about him, then remember the five things I don't like.
I may just have to wind up splitting my win bet 16 ways - though that could turn out to be profitable given how the odds are setting up. It reminds me of the first Derby I attended in person. Two of us went in 1996, and between us we had 14 horses covered up top in one way or another in the 19-horse field. Sadly, one of them wasn't Grindstone, so all we had to show for the day were memories and too many empty mint juleps.
Thankfully, I still have a bit of time to narrow down my focus a bit and figure out this race. What I can do now, though, is make some 2016 Kentucky Derby predictions - four things that are clearer than the outcome is:
The pace won't be crazy
Outwork can get the lead, but I don't feel like he wants it in a desperate way. The only true leader in this group is Danzig Candy. With him drawing the outside post position, it's no longer clear that he will get the lead if he tries for it or even that his team will seek it out.
It's quite possible, then, that the pace will be set by a horse that doesn't care about the lead, which means it isn't likely to get totally out of hand. It's not in the interest of the close stalkers in the race to step up and set a decent pace, either, because there are a huge number of closers in the field that will really be handicapped by conservative early fractions.
Nyquist's connections are talking like they might seek out the lead, but I don't buy it - at least not in an aggressive way. The only way I really see a fast pace in this one is if Danzig Candy goes crazy out of the gate, makes a huge rush for the lead and doesn't look back, hoping to steal the win from the front. If the rain forecast for Saturday comes through in a significant way then I don't see that happening - Danzig Candy went ridiculously fast early on a muddy track in the Santa Anita Derby but was never comfortable and faded badly late.
If you really want a brisk early pace then hope for a scratch in the field before Friday more. Also-eligible maiden Laoban is a speed horse who would have nothing to lose, so if he makes the field he'd go early and with vigor.
Pletcher's woes will continue
If both Destin and Outwork make the starting gate then they will be trainer Todd Pletcher's 44th and 45th Derby entrants. Somehow, the greatest trainer of his generation has only one win in all those tries. It's inconceivable, and it's only going to get worse. These two were both put at 15/1 on the morning line, and it's fair for both.
There are things to like, but I have major concerns, too - the long layoff for Destin, and the poor caliber of the final prep win for Outwork being chief among them. Pletcher's Derby struggles will live to see another year.
The starting gate will be crazy
Loading 20 young horses for a race always has its challenges. This year, though, I expect it to be worse than usual. Sons of Tapit are notoriously high-strung, and two of the three this year - Creator and Lani - are a real threat to lose their minds in the gate. Danzig Candy isn't exactly a saint, either, though he'll be the last to load so he won't likely cause issues in his short time in the gate. However, he could be a problem waiting around. A few other horses are real question marks. A long delay in loading is generally going to benefit more professional and mature horses, so that's going to be a factor in choosing horses.
The winner will have four legs
Give me a break here - in a field this tough I need one sure victory to build my confidence.
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