after champion Uncle
Mo suffered a shocking first
defeat in Saturday’s Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial (Grade I) at
Aqueduct, track announcer Tom Durkin
boldly declared, “The Kentucky Derby is up for grabs!”
Churchill Downs morning line oddsmaker Mike Battaglia concurs and, in turn, has
taken a crack at a preliminary morning line for the 137th running
of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, which is scheduled for Saturday, May 7, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
early morning line only includes horses currently ranked on the Top 20 of the
Kentucky Derby 137 Graded Stakes Earnings List. That list will likely determine
the field for the 1 ¼-mile classic and remains in a state of flux with five
open graded stakes for 3-year-olds still to be run in advance of the race.
weekend’s Kentucky Derby preps include the $1 million Arkansas
Derby at Oaklawn Park and $750,000 Toyota Blue
Grass over Polytrack at Keeneland. Both are Grade I events at 1 1/8 miles.
all realize that a lot can change between now and the first Saturday in May,
but if they were drawing the field for the race today, I’d make The Factor
the 7-2 morning line favorite,” Battaglia said.
Battaglia’s preliminary morning line: The Factor (7-2); Dialed In (4-1);
Uncle Mo (4-1); Soldat (10-1); Toby’s Corner (10-1); Midnight
Interlude (12-1); Mucho Macho Man (12-1); Animal Kingdom
(15-1); Pants On Fire (15-1); Santiva (20-1); Shackleford
(20-1); Comma to the Top (30-1); Jaycito (30-1); Stay Thirsty
(30-1); Astrology (50-1); Decisive Moment (50-1); J P’s Gusto
(50-1); Master of Hounds (50-1); Twice the Appeal (50-1); and Watch
Me Go (50-1).
Factor, owned by George Bolton and Fog City Stable, has won his
last three starts by a combined 15 ¼ lengths, including a 6 ¼-length triumph in
the March 19 Rebel Stakes (Grade II) over 1 1/16
miles at Oaklawn Park. That was the War Chant colt’s first attempt beyond seven
furlongs and around two-turns. The flashy front-runner, trained by three-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob
Baffert and named in honor of FOX News television host Bill
O’Reilly, will be favored to win Saturday’s Arkansas Derby.
doesn’t take into consideration what we think The Factor might do Saturday in
the Arkansas Derby or whether we think he can get the mile-and-a-quarter,”
Battaglia said. “But at this point with his speed figures and the way he’s been
running thus far, I’d have to put The Factor on top.
you have to like Dialed In’s race in the Florida Derby
and you can’t completely throw out Uncle
Mo after one bad race. I think
the three of those are close right now. Then you start looking at the other
contenders and, yes, they’ve jumped up and run some decent races but they still
look kind of unproven. I kept coming back to the top three to battle for
lot will change in coming weeks. There will be additions and defections that
could impact the complexion of the race, plus we’ll have some setbacks and
impressive workouts. This is simply an early glimpse at how the morning line
might look if the race was run today.
everyone, I was surprised Uncle
Mo got beat. It’s not that I was
sold on Uncle Mo, but I thought he was facing a weak group
of horses in the Wood and that’s the reason I was extremely surprised he got
beat. I didn’t think he’d have much problem winning. As a handicapper, I always
have doubts about two-year-old form carrying over to the three-year-old season.
The one-turn mile race at Gulfstream (The Timely Writer)
against the field he ran against proved absolutely nothing to me as a
horseplayer. He had something to prove Saturday in the Wood, but the race
appeared to come up a little soft. In retrospect, the Wood result actually got
pretty good (speed figure) numbers and the top two (Toby’s Corner and Arthur’s
Tale, respectively) did step up and ran the best races of their careers. Regardless,
I was extremely surprised that Uncle Mo got beat in that spot.”