Trying to separate the top horses in this year’s Kentucky Derby is not an easy task. There would seem to be a number of attractive candidates for this year’s Run for the Roses. In fact, I don’t expect I would receive too many objections if I called this one of the deepest fields in many years. Of course, only time will tell if the exploits of the 2012 three-year-old crop will rival the best groups of recent years, but they are off to a very good start. Not only do they have consistency, as best evidenced by their collective strong records, and also by the welcome fact that nine of the horses that ran in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile have come back to win graded stakes this year, but they are also running fast. The winners of the Florida Derby, Sunland Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass, and Arkansas Derby all came home in under 1:49 for the nine furlongs, with two of them even bettering 1:48.
The cast assembling for this year’s Kentucky Derby also has depth. No fewer than eleven horses are likely to be bet down below 20-1, including: Bodemeister, Union Rags, Gemologist, Creative Cause, Hansen, Dullahan, I’ll Have Another, Alpha, Take Charge Indy, Went the Day Well, and Daddy Nose Best … and that list does not even include one of my choices, El Padrino. In comparing the relative depth of this year’s field versus previous editions, I thought it would be interesting to look at the ten favorites from each of the past ten years, so that we can do a little eyeball test to see how this year’s group stacks up.
2011 – Dialed In was favored, followed by Nehro and Mucho Macho Man. After that it was Midnight Interlude, Soldat, Twice the Appeal, Archarcharch, Master of Hounds, Stay Thirsty and Animal Kingdom in the 4-10 spots.
2010 - Lookin at Lucky and Super Saver were the top two favorites, after that it was Sidney’s Candy, Devil May Care, Awesome Act, Ice Box, Paddy O’Prado, Mission Impazible,Line of David, and Dublin in the 3-10 spots.
2009 – Friesan Fire was favored, followed by Dunkirk and Pioneerof the Nile. After that it was Chocolate Candy, General Quarters, Papa Clem, Hold Me Back, Desert Party, Musket Man, and Regal Ransom in the 4-10 spots.
2008 – Big Brown and Colonel John were the top two favorites, after that it was Pyro, Eight Belles, Court Vision, Gayego, Z Fortune, Visionaire, Denis of Cork , and Big Truck in the 3-10 spots.
2007 – Street Sense was favored, followed by Curlin and Scat Daddy. After that it was Hard Spun, Nobiz Like Shobiz, Circular Quay, Any Given Saturday, Tiago, Cowtown Cat, and Dominican in the 4-10 spots.
2006 - Sweetnorthernsaint and Barbaro were the top two favorites, after that it was Brother Derek, Point Determined, Sinister Minister, Lawyer Ron, Bob and John, A.P. Warrior, Steppenwolfer, and Jazil in the 3-10 spots.
2005 – Bellamy Road was favored, followed by Afleet Alex and Bandini. After that it was High Fly, Noble Causeway, Sun King, Greeley’s Galaxy, Wilko, High Limit, and Don’t Get Mad in the 4-10 spots.
2004 – Smarty Jones and Lion Heart were the top two favorites, after that it was Tapit, The Cliff’s Edge, Master David, Imperialism, Borrego, Friend’s Lake, Birdstone, and Castledale in the 3-10 spots.
2003 – Empire Maker was favored, followed by Peace Rules and Ten Most Wanted. After that it was Buddy Gil, Atswhatimtalknbout, Indian Express, Funny Cide, Scrimshaw, Brancusi, and Offlee Wild in the 4-10 spots.
2002 – Harlan’s Holiday and Saarland were the top two favorites, after that it was Medaglia d’Oro, Perfect Drift, Johannesburg, Came Home, Essence of Dubai, Castle Gandolfo, War Emblem, and Lusty Latin in the 3-10 spots.
Obviously it’s far too early to judge where the 2012 favorites will end up in the long run, but it's clear to see, this could be one of the toughest fields assembled in many years.