Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Sue Kawczynski
The field for the 2014 Kentucky Derby is taking shape ... here's the early HRN morning line, and my final Down and Derby before the big race.
My Top Pick
Wicked Strong (8-1) - I expect the final 3/16th’s of the Churchill Downs’ stretch to be a real bother for many in this year’s field. This one, on the other hand, should be flourishing late. Don’t be surprised to see some Sunday Silence like weaving late, but the result will be the same.
California Chrome (5-2) - If the fastest horse wins the 2014 Kentucky Derby, this is your winner; however, I think there are enough questions (pace, distance, break, and leaving California for the first time) to believe that he will become yet another favorite to taste defeat in Louisville.
Hoppertunity (12-1) - After a rough trip in the Risen Star, he came back with two solid efforts in the Rebel and Santa Anita Derby. Not only might he be ready for another move forward, but the distance looks like it should be within his scope.
Cairo Prince (15-1) - I’ve always believed in the talent of this one. He has an explosive move that can suddenly clear the field. It did not happen in the Florida Derby, but I believe that to be the exception rather than the rule. If he stays the trip, watch out ... SCRATCHED
Candy Boy (20-1) - The Santa Anita Derby was a disappointment, as Stevens tried to stick with Chrome like glue, and Candy Boy had no answers for his burst. The Run for the Roses is often a totally different ballgame, though, and I’ve always thought that he could go the distance.
Ride On Curlin (25-1) - He’s got plenty of experience, including over the Churchill Downs strip, and he seems to be still on the improve. I liked his relax early, and finish up good late yesterday. He deserves to be a longshot, but I certainly could see him making some noise at ten furlongs.
General a Rod (25-1) - The grandson of Dynaformer should appreciate someone else having to chase Wildcat Red early. He had to do it at Gulfstream in three consecutive races. Get him to relax a bit early in the Derby, and I could easily see him grinding his way past horses late.
Intense Holiday (25-1) - Erratic run in the Louisiana Derby leaves more questions than answers for another from the Todd Squad, but his late run in the Risen Star does give some hope.
In with a Chance
Constitution (8-1) - Beware the undefeated horse. Fair enough, but winning the Kentucky Derby in only your fourth lifetime start might be reserved for only the special horse. He’s obviously very good, but I am not quite sold that the Florida Derby winner is special yet ... SCRATCHED
Samraat (20-1) - His perfect record is no more, but I continue to respect this plucky NY-bred. All but the winner weren’t exactly flying home in the Wood Memorial, but he showed the determination that I’ve grown to love by nailing Social Inclusion at the wire for second.
Medal Count (30-1) - His future may be on turf, but, and it’s a big if, but if he takes to the Churchill Downs surface like he has to turf and Polytrack, this developing colt could become a real threat to rally onto the board.
Danza (15-1) - Where did that come from? His Arkansas Derby runaway was a real eye opener; however, the chances of him pairing that one up with another move forward is seldom done.
Vicar’s In Trouble (12-1) - Superstar among Louisiana-breds has Rosie in the irons, but might find the contested pace, and final furlong, a bit too much to handle as opposed to his perfect trip win in the Louisiana Derby.
Chitu (20-1) - Still an up and comer, but I believe the the chasm between the Sunland Derby and the Kentucky Derby may be a bridge too far.
Wildcat Red (20-1) - He demonstrated admirable speed and class in Florida, but I just cannot see him lasting the entire Derby trip.
**Uncle Sigh (30-1) - Lost all chance at the break in the Wood Memorial, still I believe he is a cut below the other New York-bred on this list.
Midnight Hawk (30-1) - Since I don’t give Chitu a big shot in here, this one would be hard for me to get overly excited about.
Tapiture (25-1) - Impressive in the Southwest, but a disappointing run in the Arkansas Derby likely points out his weakness as the distances get longer.
*Dance With Fate (20-1) - His connections are on the fence for the Derby, and it might be best to skip it. My guess is the Blue Grass winner is not a ten furlong dirt horse.
We Miss Artie (30-1) - His Spiral win was exciting, but everything tells me that his best game would be shorter and on turf or synthetics.
Ring Weekend (50-1) - If he cannot win the Calder Derby, can we really expect him to surprise the world at Churchill Downs?
* - A decision on the Kentucky Derby status of Dance With Fate is not expected until next week.
** - If Dance With Fate, or anyone else defects from the top 20, Uncle Sigh is first on the list to get in.