Heading into the Kentucky Derby, Suddenbreakingnews has a bit of a problem. This year he has alternated good races and bad, and he is coming off a pretty good one. That could suggest that he won't be at his best in the biggest race on the planet. Of course, the sample size is small, and we need to rely on much more than simple little patterns when it comes to handicapping the Derby.
So, can Suddenbreakingnews be a real contender in the Derby? He's not going to be among the favorites, but can he be a horse that offers real value at a fat price - one who inflates the exotics and creates paydays? Or it going to be a slow news day on the first Saturday in May?
Last race: As seemed to be the theme in this prep season, the early fractions in the Arkansas Derby were fast. That set things up very well for Suddenbreakingnews, who is a very deep closer. He showed no urgency at all through the first three-quarters, starting moving around the turn, and kept on rolling right to the line where he was second. He looked comfortable and not particularly challenged in the effort, though he was clearly second best on the day. It was a solid effort, though not spectacular - the race set up perfectly for a runner of his style, and he just did what he should have been able to do. Getting such a perfect trip in the Derby is far from assured - he will likely get the early fractions he needs, but finding a path from back to front in a huge field is never easy. In this Derby there are a lot of horses that will be looking for the same type of trip, too, which adds to the challenge.
Prior experience: The Derby will be the ninth start for this well-seasoned horse, but his first outside of Oklahoma or Arkansas. He debuted in August and actually broke his maiden twice - he was disqualified to second after the first win so had to try again. From there it was a second in an allowance and a first and second in smaller stakes before taking the leap to graded company. He won the Southwest Stakes in February in his three year old debut. In the Rebel next time out, though, he encountered traffic, had to check his progress, and finished a flat fifth. He shook off that rough performance next time out in the Arkansas Derby.
Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel. Now, this is a racing family. Donnie has won more than 2,000 races and is the leading all-time trainer at Remington Park. He won a Breeders' Cup with Caleb's Posse but has largely operated at a more regional level - very successfully. His father Don has been a trainer to some extent since 1956 and has 2,500 wins to his credit. Donnie's brother Kelly has 1,350 wins of his own. All three currently train on the same circuit. Von Hemel isn't a familiar name to casual fans, but he and his family know their stuff, and they will have this horse ready.
Jockey: Luis Quinonez has been winning a lot of races since 1990 - more than 3,500 in total. A lot of those have come on Von Hemel-trained horses. While he certainly knows how to sit on a winner, this is by far the biggest race of his career. He has won just 13 graded stakes races in his career - just over half as many as the 22 Breeders' Cup races that fellow Derby jockey Mike Smith has won. The lack of experience in the Derby, and in the biggest of races in general, is a concern here. He's talented, but talent isn't always enough in these races - especially with a horse that isn't among the best in the field.
Breeding: There is some regal breeding here. He is a son of Mineshaft, who was the horse of the year in 2003 and won multiple times at the classic distance. Mineshaft is a son of the great A.P. Indy and a grandson of Seattle Slew, so stamina is in full supply. His damsire is Afleet Alex, the winner of the Preakness and Belmont in 2005. We don't know if Suddenbreakingnews is good enough for this race, but if he isn't it won't be because of stamina concerns - his influences are excellent.
Odds: The perception of this horse has improved slightly since his second-place finish in the Arkansas Derby, but not significantly. In the final official Kentucky Derby futures pool, which took place weeks before the Arkansas Derby, Suddenbreakingnews opened at 30/1 on the morning line and rose slightly to 34/1 three days later. After his second-place finish in his final prep race the horse now sits at +2500 to win the Derby at 5Dimes.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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