Photo: Benoit Photos
The 2014 Kentucky Derby brings us to Golden Gate Fields in Albany, California this Saturday as a field of eight vies for Derby Points in the El Camino Real Derby (Gr. 3). I usually enjoy this time of year as it is the only occasion I am drawn to handicap this fine track and I enjoy the task as well as the change of scenery. As for this year though, I found this renewal to be an especially tough race to get a nice handle on. I found it very hard to have a rock solid opinion about any of the runners. With that said, let’s get to know the field, try to analyze the pace scenario, and figure out how to attack this thing…
Pace – I found figuring out the projected pace to be a very tough challenge. There are no pure “I must have the lead” types in here. In fact, I am having a hard time envisioning any of them on the lead. Will Craftsmen show speed while adding blinkers today? I kind of doubt it. I believe it will be either Enterprising or I’ll Wrap It Up on the lead today. Neither of them is a confirmed front runner though and I don’t think either will enjoy being there. Maybe the savvy Gary Stevens tries to pull a robbery. If anyone can pull off a heist in here it certainly is him. Personally, I am leaning towards the off the pace runners who I believe may enjoy the extra furlong today.
Craftsman – I am not too sure what to make of this guy. I was not that impressed with his last race visually as he did not swap leads in the stretch on cue. He did close okay though, and into a slow pace at that, and maybe the addition of blinkers will help him out today. He does own a Gr. 3 win from over in Ireland, but I think I will pass on him today. He has distance and surface questions to answer and I am just not sure how he will respond. I can’t blame you if you want to take a shot with him though, the field as a whole does not instill fear.
Puppy Manners – He is the “other” Hollendorfer in the race. I am going to give him a chance on the win end today on the basis of he owns a pair of victories on this track, and that I believe he should like the distance. In his last race, the Cal Derby, I thought he closed well enough while up against a slow pace. I think he has a shot in here, albeit a small one.
Infosec – I am going to pass on this colt. He ran pretty well in his last, but I am not too sure he wants any part of 1 1/8th miles. He may improve while going a route of ground for the second time, but he will do so without my backing. If you want to take a shot with him though, I definitely understand. As I stated previously, I do not think this field is too scary.
Tamarando – This colt gets the services of Russell “The Muscle” Baze, and in my estimation is your most likely winner. He has been keeping much better company than any of his foes today. The last three horses that have finished in front of him have been California Chrome, Shared Belief, and Candy Boy. That right there is the crème de la crème of the sophomore California crop at this point in time. He definitely prefers synthetic tracks and I believe he will appreciate today’s added distance. The only real knock I have on him is I am not sure about today’s pace scenario. There is not a lot of early lick in here and that may compromise his late running style. Regardless, I believe he has a bit of class, and that may be enough to prevail this afternoon.
Enterprising – I was kind of torn on him. Ultimately, I ended up siding against, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he ran well. He ran a nice second last out in the Cal Derby, but he could not get by the winner in the lane. He gets Gary Stevens back aboard today, who has been along for the ride in both of this colt’s wins. In his last, he stalked a slow pace, and eventually just could not get by the winner who had plenty left in the tank for the stretch. The problems I have with him is I am not positive he wants the distance and that I am not sure about the pace scenario. He may be on the lead and I am not confident that is where he is going to want to be. I will pass today, but he does have a shot.
Icy Ride – I do not think today is the day that this Baffert trainee graduates. I haven’t been impressed with him visually and he has yet to cross the line first. Maybe he will appreciate the distance, but I just can’t side with him on top.
I’ll Wrap It Up – I am going to pass on this Doug O’neill charge today. He is another one in here who may be on the lead, and I am not so sure that is where he will want to be. His only win came in a off the turf maiden race at Hollywood Park. In last two, the Sham Stakes and a N1X turf allowance, I just wasn’t that impressed visually. In the Sham he finished fourth of four, and in the Turf allowance, while he did encounter some trouble in the lane, I didn’t think he was going to beat the winner (Dance With Fate) anyway. I can’t envision him taking this down today.
Dance With Fate – I am interested in this one. He displayed a nice late kick in his 2014 debut in N1X turf allowance. If he is able have that same kick while going an extra panel today he could get a jump on the dead closers I like and be very tough in the lane. Distance is the question with this colt and I have a feeling he will handle it just fine. I consider him a contender.
The Play – I have zero solid opinions in this affair. I cannot sit here and lie and tell you I do. It just wouldn’t feel right. If I play this race at all, it will be for a little action and with a small wager. I would play an Exacta Box with Tamarando, Dance With Fate, and Puppy Manners. If I was playing multi-race wagers, I do like the three I have chosen, but I suggest going as deep as you can. Good luck, folks.
As you can see I am not too confident in this race. I think seven of the eight have a shot to win. As for the field as a whole, I do not have high hopes for them on the Derby Trail moving forward at this point. But, you never know, that may change after Saturday. I will try to break this race down early next week and see if anyone comes out of this race that we need to keep our eyes on.
Have a winning day, everyone.