It’s a tradition as old as time itself, compulsive over-analysis of the Kentucky Derby field and wagering strategy in the weeks between the final preps and the Derby Draw. We aren’t even sure which 20 horses will enter the starting gate. But that shouldn’t stop any of us from starting to cross some horses off our list while putting giant red circles around others as our superfecta part-wheels begin to take shape.
One horse that I can’t imagine will appear in the top spot on any of my tickets with the possible exception of the Pick 4 is Classic Empire. It’s inarguable that what he did in the Arkansas Derby was exceptional given what he’s been through this season. The reigning Champion Two-Year Old is clearly a top class racehorse. But as I asked in a previous blog post, when was the last time a horse experienced a bump in the road on the way to Louisville and ended up wearing the roses? Maybe he’s good enough, but as the projected favorite in a field of 20, I don’t see myself taking that risk.
It’s also becoming increasingly apparent to me that there won’t be room for any of the Santa Anita Derby runners at the top of my bets, although Royal Mo might squeeze his way onto my prime tickets. That bunch overall just seems subpar to me. I still feel that Iliad has star potential, though perhaps at a mile and under.
We talked about Untrapped last week. I no longer think it’s fair to compare him to Golden Soul and Commanding Curve. It’s really looking like he wants less distance than he’ll be facing in the Derby.
Allow me to bring up Tapwrit again, if I may. Remember when Pletcher went straight from the Tampa Bay Derby to the Kentucky Derby with Destin? And remember what a solid race Destin ran, leaving people to wonder if the time off had been too much to overcome? Well, maybe Tapwrit’s Blue Grass effort was like the missing link in Destin’s campaign? Not a solid effort, but just enough to keep him fit. His low Beyer in the Blue Grass, from my perspective, is more reminiscent of a horse that either bounced or wasn’t primed for a top effort. It was almost too low to be a true representation of his ability. I’m still aboard the Tapwrit bandwagon, which doesn’t have many other passengers.
The last one I want to talk about this week is Patch. Watch the replays of his three races. Pay particular attention to how hopelessly beaten he appeared at the top of the stretch in his debut. He never threatened for the win, but finishing second looked like a remote possibility until it actually happened. As for his effort in the Louisiana Derby, keep in mind it was his first time around two turns and also his first time facing winners. We have the Apollo Curse to overcome since he didn’t make his first career start until January, and while a horse like Curlin undeniably had more going for him heading into the Derby than Patch does, I haven’t ever been as high on a Derby contender that didn’t start at age two as I am about Patch. I love his chances to hit the board.
The leading contenders to make up the bulk of my Derby Day wagers are, in no particular order: Always Dreaming, Gunnevera, Tapwrit, Patch, Irish War Cry, and maybe Battalion Runner.
This could easily end up being a very Pletcheriffic set of Derby wagers for me.