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Kentucky Derby 2014: Dead Heat Debates Derby Fantastic Four

California Chrome Martines 615 X 400
Photo: Melanie Martinez
First off, I would like to start this column by saying congratulations to Untapable and her connections. That was an absolutely, downright, easy and overall impressive victory. I said in a video, after the Rachel Alexandra Stakes, that I thought she was good enough to take on the boys, and I believe she validated that belief today. She was around four lengths clear of My Miss Sophia, a dominant winner of the Gazelle Stakes, and probably close to 10 clear of Unbridled Forever. Her time of 1.48.68 was less than a tenth from the stakes record, and was faster than Rachel Alexandra's tour de force, in 2009. 

After today, I will again say I think she is on a level good enough to compete with her male peers. I hope we will get the chance to see her do so later this season, and maybe in the Preakness.

Now that that is out of the way, we come to the main attraction. On Wednesday, I gave you all my top seven horses for the Kentucky Derby, promising you a Fantastic Four. So, now the unveiling commences. Ladies and Gentleman, I give to you, Dead Heat Debates Fantastic Derby Four!

4) Ride on Curlin- Starting off our list is the "other" Curlin son. Early in the year, it was not Ride on Curlin who garnered attention for his mighty sire, but Top Billing. The latter had a flashy closing kick and was running in the Florida spotlight, before he was knocked off the trail due to injury. Since then, Ride on Curlin has been trying to make waves, and seems quite ready to do so. Racing in Arkansas, he was third in the Southwest and Rebel Stakes, while running closer to the pace. In the Arkansas Derby he improved one placing, but did so by switching back to the closing style that we saw when he finished third in last year's Grade one Champagne.

Since coming to Churchill, he's been training very well over the course. His last work, a steady, workman-like seven furlong drill should give him plenty of bottom, along with a total of four prep races, so far this year. That will help him when the field enters into that last, extra furlong. He also picks up the services of Calvin Borel, or shall I say Bo-rail. If there is anyone who can help this colt overcome his outside post, it is Calvin. Look for him to be taken back and put right along the rail, before making one, big, long sustained run. I believe that the long works, the amount of racing, and Calvin's success over this track, on closers will help this colt make another strong showing.

3) Samraat- This horse gets absolutely no respect. He has won five of six starts, placing second the only time he lost, and still gets no respect. He is tough as nails, has good positional speed, and loves a good tussle for the wire. He is battle tested, and like Ride on Curlin, has a fantastic foundation, formed by long mile works and racing. He looks to get a great trip from his post, probably tracking the likely favorite, California Chrome. He's made a great appearance at Churchill Downs in both his gallops and his works, so it would seem that all systems are a go.

Looking at all that, many wonder, if he looks so good then why isn't he the favorite. Simple, he isn't flashy and he lost his last race, while looking like he would not appreciate 10 furlongs. My counter points to those who say he looked "tired" in his Wood Memorial is to remember he ran a good bit of the race on his left lead. The longer a horse stays on a certain lead, the more it takes out of them, which is why it is important to switch them in a timely fashion. Once Samraat did swap his lead, which was late in the stretch, he found another gear to nail Social Inclusion for the place. I say, if he has worked out that issue, then he is a very dangerous horse tomorrow.

2) Medal Count- This spot was between him and Danza, after the late defection of Hoppertunity. The deciding factor, which horse has more bottom. I am a believer in that the way horses are bubble wrapped and only race, on average, once every 4-5 weeks does more damage than good. A horse can't build up their bone density or muscles in a work the way they can in a race. Their bodies can't be expected to handle the stress of racing, to adjust to handle more, if they are kept in the barn and not on the racetrack. Danza has but four races in his entire career. Medal Count has seven, with five coming in 2014, and he seems to be relishing it.

I also like the fact that he is coming off a good synthetic effort. Since 2007 you have had five horses win, place, or show in the Kentucky Derby after prepping on synthetic in their final start, prior to the Derby. That is five years out of seven, a pretty convincing stat if you ask me. It shows how kind Churchill is to synthetic/turf runners, and I believe that Medal Count will make it 6 out of 8.

1) California Chrome- My top pick. He may not take to Churchill Downs, that's a possibility, and his competition better hope its a possibility that comes to fruition, because that will be their only hope at beating him. Some may say he doesn't have the pedigree, and at first glance that is true, but when you dig deeper, especially on his dam's side, you will find his pedigree comes from a long, long, long line of stamina over a distance of ground. That, my friends, could be the answer to why he has "outrun" his pedigree, or so to speak.

He got a great post in the five stall, where if he breaks well enough, he can sit just behind a couple of speedsters in Chitu and Vicar's in Trouble, before challenging them on the turn. He doesn't need the lead, he showed that when sitting off of Dublin Up, last out, who was hell bent on trying to get California Chrome to duel with him. It didn't work. Chrome sat back, relaxed, and took over when he wanted to. Of course the speed won't be as easy to get by here, but seeing as how most of them will want to throw in the towel, when he is just getting started, I see the race as his to lose turning for home.

There you have it folks. The Kentucky Derby Fantastic Four. I hope that over my last couple of blogs I gave you all something to think about, and hopefully some winning tickets. Good luck everyone and have a wonderful Kentucky Derby Day!  


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Older Comments about Kentucky Derby 2014: Dead Heat Debates Derby Fantastic Four...

Wow Dani the race turned out to be run just like you said it would. Good analysis, personally I thought there would be a faster pace, but California Chrome was just too good for these horses on Saturday.
Of course. You should be able to decipher that I am able to decipher that you didn't hit the Super, Even Steven McAleavey.
amino, you really can't stop and have comprehension issues don't you. I mentioned what the super paid. I never said I played it and have three times now said that I did not even play it. As far as ROI, I assume that you know what it means. I write down all of my bets and I am making a nice profit for the year. My worst bets are exactas as far as ROIs go but I still have a profit there. I played over 120 in the derby exacta yesterday and cashed 170. That is a profit isn't it? LOL. I spent 100 on a pick four and cashed a little under 400. I also played an additional 40 in other exactas and did not hit those. Add those and I still profited 10 on the day in exactas. I played a total of 34 in triples and did not cash. I made a saver late pic three in case dan lost and it cost 40 but that was to ensure I would hit the pick four if any of the ones I played in the derby won as I was already alive in the pick four. I played that in advance as I played everything all at once. So, on a bad day where the only horse I really liked, Dan won and paid 3 dollars, I still managed to make a profit on my ROI. The only feature I lost on was 34 in tris but my pick four made up for it.I just wish I could have found the will pays. I see your response as 23 minutes ago and it could be wrong as I responded to you mentioning the same thing on other pages an hour ago about the super. I see sometimes that the pages do not update the times posted accurately but I have now responded to you directly 3 times regarding never playing a super at all yesterday and this was the 3rd.
Pal paul thanks for this advice >> "you should be able to decipher some things"... how am I doing so far?
Toss the chalk from the Super before the race and then not playing it after does wonders for the long term ROI
meant i spent 34 in the trip
amino I did not play the super at all. I went 10 deep in the pick four. I know people that used all. There was a lot hedging on the two day pic three as far as history. 42 horses, a post that has not been won from in 13 years, dan running in a large field and an inside post and chrome trying to be the first ca bred to win in 50 years. If you merely read that and did not know the horses you would think it would pay more than 17 dollars for two dollars is all that I am saying. I played 6 dollars on chrome on that pic three and 8 dollars on 4 others, so I actually lost a little on that bet. In the pick four, I hit it for .50. I used ten there, singled dan, used 4 in the second leg and 5 in the first leg. Not a big profit but a little one nonetheless. I played exacta boxes with two horses and hoped to get a 30 dollar horse to win and that is where I got my butt kicked. I wheeled and pressed and played one tri. Both horses on top of only curve, then all for third. I could have added chrome to the tri but I rushed, bet earlt and never saw exacta payouts as I played at noon. I played curved under everyone in the exacta. So I hit that and mad a couple hundred on the pick four but spent a lot trying to hit the exacta on top with two horses that got bounced around and never showed up. As far as Dani, he made mention of Dan being exceptional at CD at 1 and 1/8th and he suggested him running there in a dirt race and I merely pointed out that he was not exceptional at cd at the distance on the dirt and was one for two. I mentioned he was 1-1 on turf until yesterday and 2-2 on syn at the distance and 12-13 overall on turf and most at a mile. I was not pcking on him and did not even see where, nor made mention of him picking Chrome as i never read it. In the weeks leading up to it I said it was a bad bet and I gave out his odds weeks ago if you remember. I said he would be between 8-5 and 5-2 and that is a bad bet in a big field and it is true. Add him always having things his own way, never dealing with a fast pace, he still has not, having to break well, HE DID, running for the first time out of CA and we have seen horses like him not fire, taking that price was too small. Playing the exotics was where the action was and it really paid phenomenally well. The fave, sec and third in the super with a wiseguy horse that most here paid 3k in the trip and 15k in the super. I did not play the super at all and ony spent 28 on the trip total. But the people that loved chrome and curve easily got more for their money playing chrome curve all and chrome all curve for 34 than betting two hundred to win let's say. There was tremendous value in some plays and not much in others. I would hope you can agree to that as I am pointing out a fact as i have already congratulated those that bet chrome and those, like myself that liked curve and hoped that many had nice scores. That is far from being mean and I said I was lucky to get such a nice pick four as it paid twice the parlay and never saw any will pays to know what it would have paid with curve. I looked and never found them. I also have said on many pages that ist was a slow run race and it was and half the field got in trouble, a lot of it. I just hope nobody got hurt and hope that those in powere listen to the people that have been screaming for years to have 14 in the field. I know the euros run in larger fields and it hardly effects the outcome but they are used to fields that big and run longer to boot. We are used to 3-4 dirt races a year in the us at the distance and only one race a year that has so many horses. DANI, I did not have any idea that you do not bet, some of the posts were bits that I said and were pasted and later deleted as if i wrote them. I did not see that you picked chrome, congrats!!!
Paul....who on earth are you trying to make a point to, as I don't bet. I put my picks up, so if people would like they can take them. That is about it. I was just happy to pick my first Derby winner after coming in second three times, all with son's of Empire Maker. I thought the horse ran a great race. The reason the pace was so slow was, apparently a strong tail wind going into the backstretch, which made the jocks on speed take back because they couldn't judge the pace. I never liked Chitu, if you go back a blog I told people to toss him. So, why you are acting like I like the horse I don't know.
People are funny >> anyone who tosses the winner out of the Super and is “more than 10” deep to finish the horizontals should be thanking the racing gods for breaking even, not wailing at ??? dani? about a disgraceful derby race and Pick 3 prices :D
hey anonymous wuss. Taking less than 35-1 for a pic 3 is stupid as you have to spread. If you actually took the odds and somehow singled all, good for you. You took the shortest odds and went against several things in history. I said the filly would win, she still had to be the first horse to win outside of post twelve to win at the distance in 13 years, dan had to win from the inside in only his second try at it on turf and chrome had to face pressure, that nobody did not know would not show up, stalkers and closers that would be chomping at the bit that had no chance due to the lack of pace. Go back and look at the pace. The 3yo fillies ran 44 and change and ran fast. I think the winner would have still won so what is the beef here? I acknowledged him being best three times. I also cashed more on idiots saying chitu was guaranteed in the super. They ran horribly slow and he barely was in the first half of the field. I cashed almost 180 on people betting he would be in the super. I offered 150-1 that he would win and nobody took me up on that, so anonymous, what is your deal? Chitu ran up the track as bafferts only horse and when I made that statement he was to be a rabbit and I said I figured he would be out of the super and probably tenth if he ran hard. Well hopp and pablo did not run or he would have been tenth. Next topic while proving my point. The other speeds did not run squat, chrome ran his beat and would have run faster if he had to and I am not a fan of his. So harp on something else as you post anonylously but are a chitu fan....lol
1 is scary. I cashed and was better to throw it out. A joke. The track was fast and they, laughably, say again there will be a fast pace. Really? Red was not within ten and they walked and the slowest derby in how long? Besides twice they have not run this slow in 25 years. If you knew you would get slow paces, horses being left, horses snatched up before the quarter pole, 15-1 is horrible for the pic three. History said it should pay 35 to one but it was nothing and nobody ran in the filly, turf or derby.
disgraceful derby race. but can't say anything bad about the winner. nobody can run excepy the filly. she will destroy him.
he lost last year and was under pressure. I felt he should have scratched as the prior turf horse scratched against him on a yielding course as he was cutting back. I am alive with more than ten in the pic four. This horse causes heart attacks, he makes it close and he can't be judged by his margin and I thought the euro would be the horse to beat and I have no idea of the pic three and pic four payouts
Again that loss was by a head. He nearly won the race, so yes, i call a 2-1-1-0 record excelling. Most would. You say he should have scratched last year when he was second. Why? He still ran great, his home track is KE. No reason to scratch.
Yes I said HE and it was wise dan. You said he excelled over the dirt at 1 and 1/8th, which he has not. He is one for two with a loss at CD, he is however 2-2 at 1 and 1/8th at a synthetic and until today 1-1 over the turf at the same distance. He has lost sprints and at a mile and a sixteenth last year when he should have scratched over synthetic but he is 20-28 over all and 12-13 in turf races. That does not guarantee him, post, distance he is in fact 4/5 over and course, 1 for 1 over at a distance over turf but they still have to run. I already bet him and if he loses he loses. If I do not play him I can play one, the euro or play 6 others. So I took one.
Paul, who is this "he" you speak of I mentioned a few horses. One was Wise Dan, who is not 2 for 2 over syn, he's actually lost on them before. Once last year in his race prior to the BCT. However that was a second, much like the race he lost over CD, the Stephen Foster. But that race he lost a head. You left that out of your comment. So please, when you post, specify which horse, and also please post all the facts. Not just the ones that make you look good ;)
dani are you on something? He is one for 2 over the CD dirt at 1 and 1/8th. He is 1-1 on turf and 2 for 2 over synthetic over a syn surface. He does not excel over CDs main track at the distance. He is 4/5 with one loss at CD and one win at CD on the dirt. At least look up the races before you comment. If he were to try somewhere over perhaps Monmouth or Saratoga to get people off of their back about not trying and at monmouth he can run into a massive bias if he chose to run there but he did not do anything different last year so I would not expect anything different this year.
Doctor, Wise Dan has excelled over CD going 9f on the dirt. That seems to be the only track his owners will run over if they are to test him on the dirt. Einstein also was more turf/syn favoring but he won the Clark and was placed twice in the Foster. The only reason his trainer would run there was because she even attested to the fact that it is much kinder to turf/syn specialists.

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Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred Racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2001. After that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at the now closed Virginia Intermont College, then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010 Laura came to Horse Racing Nation, but soon branched out to other media outlets, such as Lady and the Track, TwinSpires.com, and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter, while making a return to Horse Racing Nation, where she will once again feature her opinionated columns on the latest in horse racing. 

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