The World According to Dave: Kentucky Derby Preview

Get out your fancy hat, mix yourself a mint julep, warm up the vocals for a rousing rendition of My Old Kentucky Home, and rangle up two bucks to invest. It’s time for the Kentucky Derby. Wait, you haven’t been watching all of the prep races? You don’t know how to read the Racing Form? Don’t worry about it, here’s everything you need to know.

The Derby is the first of the three races in the Triple Crown. Only three years old are eligible to run. It is contested at a mile and a quarter, a distance further than any of the participants have ever gone in a race before. Winning the Triple Crown makes you one of the greatest horses of all time. It last happened during the Carter administration. In recent years long shots have been very successful.

This year’s 20 horse field includes five horses trained by Todd Pletcher. The Dallas native who is based out of New York has a New Yorker attitude and scowl. He’s been the best in the business for the last decade and won the Derby for the first time three years ago with Super Saver.

Pletcher’s best bet is the undefeated Verrazano. There is some question about whether the four for four colt wants to go a mile and a quarter. He won New York’s biggest Derby prep race, the Wood Memorial last month.

Pletcher is also employing three time Derby winning rider Calvin Borel. After Javier Castellano ditched Pletcher to ride Normandy Invasion, Borel was called upon to captain Revolutionary. It seems like a good fit since Borel is known for patience and late running horses weaving their way to the finish line and Revolutionary has a lot of late kick. He won the Louisiana Derby in March

If Verrazano isn’t the favorite, that honor will likely go to Orb. The winner of the Florida Derby, Orb is being ridden by the red hot Joel Rosario after his regular rider John Velazquez opted to stick with Verrazano. Orb is the only horse in the race who has won three races around two turns, and he seems to be improving as the distances get longer.

If we use last year as our guide, I’ll Have Another won the Derby after capturing the Santa Anita Derby. This years Santa Anita champ was Goldencents. Doug O’Neil trained I’ll Have Another and used first time Kentucky Derby jockey Mario Gutierrez to pilot the victory. This year Derby rookie Kevin Krigger gets the call to direct Goldencents. There is some debate about how good the quality of racing was this year in Los Angeles.

Itsmyluckday has the speed to be in contention from the get go and ran very well in two starts during January before finishing second to Orb in the Florida Derby. If he likes the track, and can handle the distance, he’s an interesting potential sleeper.

Java’s War, Overanalyze, Palace Malice, and Normandy Invasion are all long shots that have some late speed. Java’s War has never won on dirt, but is bred to like the long distance and has rallied impressively in two straight races. Overanalyze is a Pletcher runner that won the Arkansas Derby easily and has worked well leading up to the race. Palace Malice and Normandy Invasion have both only won once, but have consistently been close, seem to be improving, and given the right trip could be in contention.

I’m taking Java’s War over Orb, but don’t bet with me, my last Derby winner was Grindstone in 1996. That being said, I did have last year’s exacta, and on the first Saturday in May, you’re either pretending to know something, listening to somebody pretending to know something, or not watching which means you’re not a lot of fun. Enjoy the Run for the Roses. Talk to you in two weeks at Pimlico.

-Dave Friedman


Jon's Tweets