Churchill Downs: The GI, $3 million Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles
by Brian Nadeau
Brian handicaps at Capital OTB and Horseplayer Now, and he’ll offer analysis and selections of Derby points races, hoping to make us all a little money as we head to the Preakness. Follow him on Twitter here.
#1 Finnick the Fierce (50-1): SCRATCHED One of several huge longshots drew the inside post and will have to negotiate a very tricky run to the turn, even with “just” 17 horses entered, and that that hardly enhances the chances of this son of Dialed In, who was a ginormous price anyway. If you’re looking for a positive, he was 3rd to Nadal in the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park in April, and Hernandez has him firing bullets in the morning, but that won’t lead to any success in the afternoon; easy toss.
#2 Max Player (30-1): Stretch-runner was a distant third to heavy favorite Tiz the Law in both the Belmont in June and Travers (G1) last time at Saratoga for Rice and now heads over to Asmussen in hopes of improving on that form. Honor Code colt shows a figure pattern on the rise and makes the third start of his form cycle, and he should like this trip more than most, and don’t lose sight of the fact that he’s one of just a few to run this distance already too. So, while a win is out of reach, he has more than a few things in his favor and is one of several that could hit underneath at a big price; should pass a bunch in the lane.
#3 Enforceable (30-1): Deep closer saw his form stagnate after a promising start to his campaign that saw a win in the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds in January, but there might be some hidden form here, too, as he had no chance based on the race flow when fifth in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at FG two-back and fourth in the Blue Grass (G2) behind stud Art Collector last time at Keeneland in April. Son of Tapit has been working well for Casse and is another that will like the distance, as he’ll be grinding at the end, if nothing else. He’s another that can’t win, but there should be a lot of staggering late, which means he may finally get a flow and racetrack to his liking; can get a share late.
#4 Storm the Court (50-1): The reigning 2-year-old champion off his win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita just hasn’t progressed at 3 for Eurton, as he’s 0-for-5 this year and hasn’t threatened at any point. If nothing else, we know he comes to play on the sport’s biggest stage, but as a son of miler Court Vision, this isn’t a trip that’s going to move him up; not seeing it.
#5 Major Fed (50-1): Well-bred son of Ghostzapper has been getting bit of morning buzz based on his training for Foley, even though his form is spotty and slow, and that distant second in the Indiana Derby (G3) last time at Indiana Grand won’t come close to cutting it here. Fans will get a big number on one of the better-bred horses for the distance, and he will get 1 1/4 miles, though it will probably be about the 14th fastest of this field; no thanks.
#6 King Guillermo (20-1): SCRATCHED
#7 Money Moves (30-1): The most inexperienced member of the field with just three starts was a last-minute addition for Pletcher and seems to be long on potential, though this is one big step up in class for a colt that has never tried stakes foes. If you’re a fan of this barn, you’ll get this son of Candy Ride (ARG) at a big price, and that game second last time in the SAR AOC was against older, but yikes, this is some big ask; remember the name.
#8 South Bend (50-1): Deep closer went from Hough to Mott and was a distant fourth in the Travers, so he’s got his work cut out for him here off some very iffy form. Son of Algorithms has the most starts in the field (12) and should get the distance, but it’s tough to think that he does much more than pass the also-rans in the stretch; midpack finish seems likely.
#9 Mr. Big News (50-1): Yet another stretch-runner, this Giant’s Causeway colt was up in time at a huge price to win the Oaklawn Stakes in April, then came back to earth when a well-beaten sixth in the Blue Grass last time. It’s good to see Calhoun forge on, and we know he’ll pass some in the lane, but it won’t be too many; can’t endorse.
#10 Thousand Words (15-1): The first of two for Baffert wired the Shared Belief and heavy-hitter Honor A.P. at Del Mar last time and figures as one of the pace players early, but note the latter was fully cranked that day and got whacked at the start, so take that win with a grain of salt. If nothing else, it was fast, and this son of Pioneerof the Nile seems to be on the improve, but wiring three others while walking on the lead going 1 1/16 miles is a lot different than chasing early and holding late going 1 1/4 miles; taking a strong stand against.
#11 Necker Island (50-1): Arguably the second longest shot in the race takes the blinkers off after running third in both the Indiana Derby (G3) two-back and Ellis Park Derby last time, and neither effort is scaring anyone here. Son of Hard Spun is in good hands with Hartman, but he’s also in way out of his element in a spot like this; figures to finish in the high teens.
#12 Sole Volante (30-1): Stretch-runner had a good thing going in Florida this winter, then ran in the one-turn Belmont off 10 days rest after a GP AOC win and didn’t fire when a distant sixth for Biancone. Son of turf miler Karakontie (Jpn) might be stretching the rubber band mighty thin at this trip, though he has run well at two turns, including a win in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs in February, but off such a dud in NY, this seems like too much; needs softer to threaten.
#13 Attachment Rate (50-1): If you’re strictly talking about the 50-1 ML runners, this Hard Spun colt is about 7-5 on the list, since he’s got some solid form and figures and was fifth to Art Collector in the Blue Grass and second to him in the Ellis Park Derby, so he’s not the craziest reach here for the exotics. And it’s a confident sign that Romans entered him late, since, if nothing else, it says he’s doing well, so sure, he’s a huge price, but if you’re looking to add some spice to your exotics, you could do worse than landing in this corner; may outrun his odds.
#14 Winning Impression (50-1): The longest shot in the race, at least on paper, was a distant fourth in the Arkansas Derby and then a no-show seventh in both the Indiana Derby and Ellis Park Derby, so he’s a giant reach today. If you’re looking for a nugget, this son of Paynter starts for Stewart and West Point, who blew up the board when second with Commanding Curve, and the former did it with Golden Soul, too, but this gelding won’t add to that ledger; get home safely.
#15 Ny Traffic (20-1): The first of four straight heavy hitters has had a nice campaign this year for Joseph and has been in the money in a quartet of graded stakes runs, though he also hasn’t won any of them. New York-bred son of Cross Traffic was a nose behind Authentic in the Haskell (G1) last time at Monmouth Park, though that run was flattered when the winner basically hit a wall late, as he had the result well in hand in midstretch, which doesn’t really flatter this one, who could be caught doing the dirty work chasing the pace, too; thinking he comes unglued late.
#16 Honor A.P. (5-1): California’s best hope was essentially eliminated at the start of the Shared Belief and finished second, which probably was all Shirreffs was looking for, anyway, as there was no need to be fully cranked with the big race looming. Long-striding son of Honor Code looked great winning the Santa Anita Derby (G1) over Authentic in June in what was his coming-out party and gives the impression that he’s ready to run the race of his life here. It’s also a feather in his cap that he hails from Derby-winning connections (Smith rides), and he has a running style that should allow him to sit the right kind of trip, and all of that points to him running a real cracker today; absolutely love his chances…for second.
#17 Tiz the Law (3-5): Sackatoga and Tagg will look to dial back the clock to 2003, when they brought a mid-priced contender and New York-bred named Funny Cide to Louisville to win roses, though this son of Constitution is as imposing a Derby favorite as there’s been in years off his 4-for-4 record in 2020. Tactical sort drew perfectly, as he can set up shop 2-3 deep off the speed while gauging the proceedings to his inside before kicking off the far turn, a style that earned him G1 wins in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in March, the Belmont, and the Travers, by a combined 13 1/2 lengths, too, with the latter an absolute sight to behold, as he was geared down for the final 1/16th of a mile, in a frightening effort. And sure, his only loss was at CD, but it was in the slop, in his first try at two turns and outside of NY, while being ganged up on down inside by the locals, so it’s a toss, and judging by the two works since the Travers, he looks like he’s only getting better, which doesn’t bode well for the rest of these; immortality awaits in Baltimore.
#18 Authentic (8-1): Baffert’s second was all-out late to win the Haskell after seemingly putting away ‘Ny in midstretch and opening up, so good luck figuring out not only what happened, but how that relates to today’s 1 1/4 miles as well. Son of Into Mischief has done nothing wrong in a 5-4-1-0 career, but Honor A.P. bounced him easily in the SA Derby, and Baffert never loses the Haskell, so while he could be the controlling speed here, this trip doesn’t seem to be for him, and a superstar spying him the entire way off his flank won’t help matters either; tossing completely.
#17 Tiz the Law
#16 Honor A.P.
#2 Max Player