The first Saturday in May has arrived and I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to handicap the Kentucky Derby. In fact, I took the entire week off from blogging at my site to avoid it, and when all said and done, I can’t resist the temptation to pick the winner. Before I begin, I will say that most of the entrants have the ability to win this race, and as we know, when you have fields this big (20) anything can and will happen. So let’s dive in ….
#15 Gemologist ML 6/1
He is five for five and seems to get better in every race. Pletcher’s 3YO has won twice here at Churchill and has no problem with the distance. His running style fits this bunch, he can lay off the pace or take it to the wire if he wants. Workouts have been solid and it’s hard to find anything to go against him. You could say the post position is a bit troubling, but he came off the ninth hole to win the Kentucky Juvenile.
#14 Hansen ML 10/1
When he won the BC Juvenile here in November he beat eight other entrants today. Distance and speed are not in question. He does like to get out front and with the other speed in this one, it might work against him. But then again, Dominguez is no fool and pressed in the Gotham and won it, so it will be interesting to see how he breaks and how up close he gets. Michael Maker has him primed and ready.
#4 Union Rags ML 9/2
After winning three in a row he has shown to be a touch uneven over the last three. What I do like is whenever there has been a break in his racing he wins coming back. His tactical running style fits perfectly for this race and I see no issue with his speed or going this distance. The only concern might be if he stays back on the break he could get jammed up with the pack coming in from the outside. Leparoux is red hot right now and have to believe he has a plan for him.
#11 Alpha ML 15/1
Since the BC Juvenile he has really found a nice groove and looks poised to go all out today. The angle here is that he is improving, McLaughlin has a real strong record with second off a layoff and we get a jockey switch to Maragh. Now the problem will be can Maragh keep him steady in the gate while waiting for the others to load? If he can, I look for him to get into a nice mid pack position and pounce on the pace entering the stretch.
#5 Dullahan ML 8/1
Everybody says he is a turf horse, which is interesting since he has never won a turf race. Yes, his wins are over synthetic and for me that has no bearing on today. His two races as a 3YO have been at a mile and an eighth. He has raced in big fields before and will be set up for a great closing rush. He is a mystery horse and would call him dangerous in this situation.
#2 Optimizer ML 50/1
I liked him the day he won his first outing at Saratoga. Since then he is zero for 8 and has shown flashes of his potential. Today there is no pressure, for no one expects anything of him, and that is what makes him so dangerous. His breeding says he can nail this distance and with this big field and being a closer, it could set up perfectly for him. If the pace gets heated and the stalkers falter, he could blow by all of them. When fields get tangled up at the top of the stretch it’s the one that swings wide off the pace that can get it done. If he is there at the turn, then it’s his for the asking.
Selections: 15 - 14 - 4