There are 397 3-year-olds -- the most since 2009 -- now eligible to the
Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The fee at first
opportunity to nominate is $600, a reasonable if usually ill-conceived
gamble. It is anticipated that a few others will be nominated later, at
$6,000 apiece, after showing fleeting, unanticipated glimpses of usually
empty promise that imperil an owner's grip on reality. This makes the
natural odds of any one of these making the Derby's limited field of 20
slightly more than 200-1. At the moment, everyone is a longshot, some
more so than others.
Hansen, the defending divisional champion, Union Rags and the unbeaten
Algorithms are most prominent among the contenders. Alpha threw his
saddle in the ring on Saturday with an impressive score in the Withers
Stakes in New York. There is much more to see.
But this is not about which of the 400-plus will run in the Derby or the
rite of spring that revolves around the attempt to identify the winner
early enough to profit from one or another of the available ante-post
wagering options. More often than not in recent years the Derby winner
has been a surprise who faces a limited and usually inauspicious future.
Despite initial flurry of polls that now begins in January, it is too
early to come to grips with the Derby's myriad and likely unforeseen
This is about silliness, the ill-considered stripping of dignity from a
proud animal by an owner in the earliest rapture of Derby fever, a
mighty blow struck on behalf of tastelessness, an affront to the breed.
And it's only February.