Kentucky Derby Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 05/02/2008
Well, the Kentucky Derby field is finally set. Wednesday the 20 allotted spots were filled and post positions were determined later in the evening. We now know who is going to take part in the Greatest Two Minutes In Sports, but I still don't know how much closer we are to determining a winner in one of the most wide-open fields of the last 20 years.
The 134th running of the Kentucky Derby will take place at 6 p.m., Saturday, May 2 at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. Here's a breakdown of all 20 contenders in the field for the 134th Run For the Roses, in order of their post position:
1. Cool Coal Man - 50-to-1
The odds say it all. This horse is a pace setter, but is going to have a very difficult time getting off the rail. Cool Coal has won at Churchill before, topping Recapturetheglory in November in an allowance race. But he has also finished dead last at the Downs. Nick Zito is just taking a stab with this one.
2. Tale of Ekati - 25-to-1
A lot of people seem to forget that this horse actually ran down War Pass in the stretch at Aqueduct on April 5. He also appears to be peaking at the right time, with his Beyer Ratings improving over each of its last three races.
3. Anak Nakal - 50-to-1
This one is just a filler. He's got a great inside position, but this horse isn't going to win anything. Not even going to waste my time.
4. Court Vision - 20-to-1
Here we might have another solid sleeper. Court Vision has never posted a Beyer Speed Rating of higher than 90 - which is a major drawback. But he has won on this track before, taking a graded stakes race here in 2007. Also, this is another horse that's been smoking in workouts, putting up a 46.42 in four furlongs here just two weeks ago.
5. Eight Belles - 14-to-1
The only filly in the group, this little lady is trying to become the first female winner since 1988. In fact, the last filly to run in the Derby was back in 1999. Eight Belles seems to have some steam with four straight wins heading into Churchill Downs. However, those wins were against a bunch of nobodies in fields ranging from five horses to 12 horses. This horse is not a legitimate contender.
6. Z Fortune - 12-to-1
This horse is one of the few that have managed a triple-digit Beyer Speed in its prep races, posting a 102 during its place in the Arkansas Derby. This horse is a pace setter, and a great position will help it get out in front early as long as it makes a clean break. That said, this horse has been caught from behind before (by Pyro at the Risen Star) and I don't think it has the juice for a win.
7. Big Truck - 20-to-1
This horse sounds more like a linebacker than a world-beater. This horse won the Tampa Derby, but that was against a soft field. This is another one of the horses that had a quizzical performance at Keeneland, finishing 11th. So if we're going to overlook that race there are other more talented horses that I'd like more than this one.
8. Visionaire - 16-to-1
Here we have yet another closer. Only this is one of the least accomplished. Yes, Visionaire has three wins under his belt. But prior to that weird Keeneland race this horse hadn't finished higher than a single other horse in the Derby field this year. His pedigree also suggests that he could have trouble with the distance.
9. Pyro - 7-to-1
The No. 3 horse on the board was able to secure a solid position to begin the race. A key will be which of the three closers that are starting in the No. 8, 9, and 10 posts will get clear first. Pyro is somewhat of a wild card. He has won or placed in five of his seven races. And two of those second-place finishes came at the heels of War Pass. However, Pyro has a habit of slow starts. In this field I just don't know if this horse can be counted on for another incredible stretch push. Also, he finished a terrible 10th in his last race, the Blue Grass Stakes. That race was on turf, but it's still a potential red flag.
10. Colonel John - 4-to-1
I really think that this is a very soft favorite, especially at the price. The Colonel has won four of its last five races, but none of its performances were dominating. This horse is a closer - and a very good one at that - but in a field full of talented closers I don't think you can justify the price on this horse to win.
11. Z Humor - 50-to-1
This just isn't a very strong horse and the only way it's going to factor in this race is if it bumps Colonel John out of the gate or if it seals one of the pace-setters coming from posts 18 and 19. Z Humor hasn't finished higher than third in any of its three races this year and hasn't topped that in six of his last seven.
12. Smooth Air - 20-to-1
This horse is picking up some steam heading into the weekend. Smooth Air took second to Big Brown in Florida and was third in the Tampa Bay Derby. He's also found the money in all seven of his lifetime starts. However, it isn't bred for this distance and was outfinished by Big Truck in a shorter race than the Derby.
13. Bob Black Jack - 25-to-1
This horse has won eight of its 21 career races and won't be intimidated by the field. However, the word around the campfire is that he can't handle the distance. I'm not so sure about that. This is a California mount that has gone stride-for-stride with Colonel John and nearly held one of the top favorites off at Santa Anita.
14. Monba - 20-to-1
This is yet another interesting mid-priced horse. Monba has had experience, and success, on both dirt and synthetic tracks. Monba has faced a full field in all six of his career starts and has won three of those races. He only has a top Beyer of 92, which will keep him out of the money, I believe.
15. Adriano - 20-to-1
This is another horse that hasn't mounted up in over six weeks. But he's also got a little bit of talent and is trapped in this interesting outside field. This is another pace setter and another mount looking for a clean start. However, I don't think this one can hold up for the whole distance.
16. Denis of Cork - 14-to-1
This horse is a closer, and one of several among the favorites in this race. Reportedly, Denis of Cork has put up the best workouts of any horse at Churchill Downs this week. That's the good news. The bad news is that he hasn't raced in six weeks and that long of a layoff usually doesn't bode well for Derby runners. Jockey Calvin Borel is on this horse and is looking to be the first jockey with back-to-back winning mounts since 1982-83.
17. Cowboy Cal - 50-to-1
If you're looking for a ride to throw in to sweeten some trifecta or exacta odds, this could be your man. Cal is a Polytrack specialist, but so was Barbaro a few years back. Cowboy Cal is one of only a few horses that have had some success in 10-furlong races, posting second-place finishes in the Dubai, the Jockey Club, and the Travers. He also finished in second place on the dirt of Churchill Downs last year and has three wins and two second-place finishes in his last five races.
18. Recapturetheglory - 25-to-1
This horse is a bit of an unknown. But, much like Gayego, this one is a pacesetter and won't benefit from being this far out on the break. This mount has run Churchill before, placing in a 1-1/16th allowance race there back in November. Trainer Louie Roussel is bringing this horse in and it's the first time he's had an entry at the Derby since Risen Star in 1988. That horse won two of the three legs of the Triple Crown.
19. Gayego - 25-to-1
Unfortunately for this horse, it was pushed to the outside with the last post draw. Gayego is a pacesetter and could have done some damage on the inside. But this may be too much ground to cover for the front-runner. Still, he has three wins and two places in five lifetime starts, including an impressive victory at the Arkansas Derby (103 Beyer). This horse is likely more of a threat at the Preakness.
20. Big Brown - 4-to-1
The clear-cut favorite has a tough mountain to climb. No horse in the last 75-plus years has won the Derby from the No. 20 post position. Big Brown was wide in Florida, his most impressive win to date, but that was against a soft field. Next, it's been nearly 100 years since a horse won the Derby with just three lifetime starts prior to the Run For The Roses.
Post time: 6:04 p.m.
TV: NBC (coverage starts at 5 p.m.)
Purse: $2,210,000 if 20 start
Distance: 1 1/4 miles