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Breeders' Cup 2017

Derby Fantastic Four

Can you believe it? Only five more days until America’s most prestigious race, the Kentucky Derby! Post positions will be drawn on Wednesday, and it will be then that the 2011 Kentucky Derby field will be set in stone. It is normally then that bettors, handicappers, and race fans make their final picks. However, unless there something huge and earth shattering occurs, my top four has already been picked and will not change.

When picking there are several variables that one must take into consideration. My number one rule whe picking horses is to go with the horse that has proven form over the track. Churchill Downs is a track known for its quirks, either horses love it or they hate it and it’s always better to know ahead of time which end of that love/hate spectrum they will be. The best way to do that is to have proven form over the surface or work over it as much as possible to gauge if your horse is adjusting to the surface. Horses who seem to run slower than average times and have weak gallop outs are the ones you toss.

The next rule is to look for the horse with the most upside coming into the race. You do not want a horse that finished out of the money in their final prep on your ticket, because chances are that they got nothing good out of that last prep race. You want a horse that closed strongly or has been steadily progressing throughout the year, and will likely peak in the Derby.

Third rule, never bet that impressive late closer that almost got there. Those horses will almost always be overbet and will likely disappoint on Derby day, because whatever excuse that caused them to lose in their prep will be multiplied times 10 in the Kentucky Derby. If he got stuck in traffic he will be trying to negociated a 10 horse pile-up, if he had to go wide he’ll go five paths wider, if he was 10 lengths back then he’ll be pushed 20 lengths back.

So, what is the verdict after all the criteria is considered? Uncle Mo would remain my first pick. He proved how much he loved Churchill Downs with his dominating victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and even though he performed below par in the Wood Memorial, it was not a bad effort. Another plus is that he has  been working well at Churchill Downs since then. Those watching say he's looking more and more like the Uncle Mo we saw as a two year old. Lastly, his running style is also quite conductive when it come to the running of the Derby and should keep him out of trouble.

Second pick would go to Archarcharch. He seems to be thriving at Churchill Downs, and a dynamite bullet shows just how much the colt seems to have taken to the track. He is well traveled, racing four times this year, so he is not lacking in foundation. He won his last prep, the Arkansas Derby the right way, despite winning by only a head. He can come from anywhere and has a quick acceleration that should put him close to the lead by the top of the stretch. And a quick little tidbit of history, over the last seven years at least one horse coming from Oaklawn has finished in the top four of the Kentucky Derby.

Toby’s Corner takes up my third spot. He has not worked over Churchill Downs yet, which does worry me, however he is a horse with the mos upside, from where I stand. Of the closers I like him best. His effort in the Wood Memorial was encouraging to say the least and it came at the right time. He will be one of the few horses that has already proven that he can handle a sloppy track, which is always a plus when picking a Derby horse. Being a closer he’ll run into traffic on the turn, but with his turn of foot and upside coming into the race, He might be able to over come it.

Stay Thirsty will round out my top four. Yes, he had a horrible Florida Derby and it would take a radical turn around in order for him to win, however, I am not expecting a win. The colt has been absolutely thriving since his arrival to Churchill Downs. Reports claim that he is looking ready and on the muscle for this race, and after his last pair of works, I can understand why. With how he is working up to the race he has the best chance of any horse to make a radical turn around.

That concludes my Derby Fantastic Four. Now it’s time for me to get off my soapbox and listen to your picks.


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Older Comments about Derby Fantastic Four...

Sorry I hit the worng button. As I was trying to type I will be happy if Mo wins, but he seems to be the type of horse to try to beat when betting. I think he will be favorite or second favorite and will have a lot of questions to answer. With only two starts at three, then the illness after the Wood, and like all the horses the question of the distance, I am looking for a horse with a little better odds, like Archarcharch.
  • DeadHeat · Well, after how he is looking, I would not be surprised to see Arch3 go off as a favorite. I understand your logic, though I would counter that many have just as many questions to answer. The only horse I really see that may not is Arch3, who seems to just be putting it all together. · 2364 days ago
I think uncle Mo is the most talented horse in the field and I will be happy for Mike
With Toby out, I'm thinking either Macho or Soldat. The latter if it's a wet track.
  • el kabong · Both good choices, let post position decide. I hope they both get a good one but I won't be finalizing my picks/bets until then as I still think it is important not to get stuck in 1/2 or 19/20. Do you have any future wagers on the back burner? · 2364 days ago
Even if you throw out Stay Thirsty's performance in the Florida Derby he still needs to improve immensely off his Gotham victory. If he can do that then maybe he has a shot.
  • DeadHeat · True, however people at the track say he is much improved. His last worked showed that. He seems much more focused than he has all year, and focus was probably his main issue in the Gotham and why the connections added Blinkers in the FD. If he is more focused watch for him to put in a nice run. · 2364 days ago
According to Repole and a few others Stay Thirsty did not adjust from going from NY cool climate to the FL hot sticky climate. If that was the case and it was just the severe climate change that got him, I would be willing to give him another shot, especially since his last couple works sugest he is relishing the track and thriving in KY. El Kabong, when considering winners that were deep closers remember that two of those horses in the last couple of years has Calvin Borel aboard and the year Giacomo won there was a huge pace meltdown, not unlike last year, which almost aided Ice Box to the point of victory. To me that shows that either a closer needs a blazing pace that will burn the JOP, as you call them. Or they need Borel. This year, the pace does not look overly hot and Calvin would need to pull another MTB ride. So, while I would include a closer I would pick the one with the fastest closing fractions and can knife through traffic, in this cas Toby's Corner, IMO. Repole says he sees Mo running a race near identical to the BCJ, where he sat off the pace and spurted clear. If he is looking as good as they say, the pedigree "issue" does not get in the way, and he is back to 2010 Mo, I don't see a horse in this field that can beat him. If the track is dry MMM has a shot, I would love to see the youngest pull off a win in that race.
  • El Kabong · For Mo to win, he would have to be better than Curlin, or have had a perfect prep season as Street Sense did. In short, on his lack of foundation I can not see Mo winning. Even the great Curlin who had two prep wins, did not have the foundation to pull off the Derby and we know now he was the best in class but he was not ready for this race. His foundation was clearly the problem. Street Sense, another dominant BCJ winner had two outstanding preps and 5G's under his belt. That is why you really have to believe Mo is better than either one of these horses if you think he can win. I don't think he is close to either. He would have to be to get the Derby. I really like the horse and his connections but this race is won by the horse who is best prepared for this one of a kind grueling test with 19 others. Battle testing and gut wrenching challenges like Street Sense's preps, the Super Saver preps and foundation are what build winners(Curlin did not get tested in his preps, he won easy against the weakest fields Arkansas has fielded in years. Even if mo proves to be the best in this class, it won't happen this Saturday. I'm looking for the horse who brings his lunch pail with him on that long walk over to the paddock. I think it comes from one of my 4. That Calvin was on 2 of those closers is important. It proves that a closer has to get a perfect trip and Calvin, while proven, is not the only one who can make that happen. This years pace to me is setting up similar to 2008 and 2006. I think CTTP and POF or Shackleford will set it and will fade. It will be honest, not crazy but none of those guys has the natural speed and endurance of a Hard Spun to hang on to the board. Good luck and keep an open mind right up to the post draw. After that, lock it down. · 2364 days ago
  • DeadHeat · Curlin never raced as a 2yr old and had to change his running style completely in the Derby. Mo was a much more accomplished horse, winning 2 grade ones and already going 8.5f by the end of his 2yr old year. Mo got tested in the Wood, and IMO he got something out of it. It sometimes takes getting tired and having to fight to get that bottom. Two completely different senarios when talking Curlin and Mo. Curlin did not have any exp getting beaten or tested and was not know for how well he broke which cost him in the Derby. At his best, it is no argument, Mo is head and shoulders above this crop. SS got a perfect trip in the Derby with Calvin, had he gone wide I doubt even with his two gut wrenching preps, that he would have won. Hard Spun had 3 preps 2 of which were easy and 2 that were just a mile and one on synthetic, yet he probably would have won if SS did not get a dream trip. IMO it is largely based on talent and luck. Preperation is a decent part, but not like the others. Luck is biggest, talent comes next. Look at BB, no foundation at all. However so far and away the best that even with never being tested he won, because his trip was also good. · 2364 days ago
Soldat ,MMM,AAA, end of story!!!!
dialed in has beat many of the horses going to the derby, but it looks like, the top are soldat, mo,nehro, mmm archx3 and mid night interlude. that's not the order,i am just listing. the byers may change at the end of the race, but one of those stalkers or closers has a good chance of winning. soldat and mo might let comma run on his own, even they could get there.
  • DeadHeat · In some of the races I can say I don't listen to the beyers. When a horse is a closer, turf races, and when a dirt race is run like a turf race. Even in DI case, I would not listen to a BSF because it seems to only accout for the earlier fractions, not late. In the Holy Bull he exploded, but in the FD he did not and ran pretty slow come home fractions which makes me think he is more of a miler type. The two horses that might screw w/ my pace senario is Shackleford and Comma. If they go in a speed duel, lord know how fast they will want to go. Soldat and Mo and MMM should be next. However even the top two can rate to an effect which is why I see a pace that is solid but not blazing, setting it up for midpackers/stalkers. · 2364 days ago
What, no Nehro? ;-)
stay thirst only dropped from that tough wide run in the gotham. he should be quite tough in the derby.
At this point, I have it narrowed down to four capable of winning. A very consistent pattern, regardless of weather, shows that closers and stalkers(I call them just off the pace-JOP's) have the best chance. Funny Cide, Smarty, Barbaro, Big Brown, Super Saver were all Just Off the Pace, Stalkers by other name, some closer to the pace, but all within 6 lengths of the lead for most of the race. I divide them into 4 groups, lead, just off lead, off pace-7 lengths back to trailing 6, deep closers(15-20th)going into far turn. Closers and Just off the pace have won the last 8 KD's going back to War Emblem which to me, is an indication of the the type of breeding/running style that is working. In the JOP category, I have Soldat, Stay Thirsty, and Mucho MM as the best. In the deep closer group, I like Dialed In best and Animal Kingdom. That said, Dialed In with Soldat, MMM, and Stay Thirsty are the 4 I have on top capable of winning. Something else that has held true is that at least 2 in the closer category have hit the board since 2005, but never one two(2009 not so) but I will have my two closers on all supers because the track will not be horribly sloppy:) Now, I will have to toss in some OP's because one(two in 09')will hit the board. The two best OP's in my book are Nehro and Arch AA. Configuring them into a ticket is hard but luck is a big part of cashing and don't we all know it. I like Soldat and Dialed In alot. GP has been dry and deep and the times this meet reflect that. The only decent times for the 1 1/8 came after rains had packed the fluff. Soldat ran faster by a full second on a sealed sloppy than he did on a "fast" track even though his fast track run was 4 weeks later when he was stronger and more fit. Despite presumably slow times, Soldat and DI finished up there last 2F's in just over 25 sec. going 9F(using FOY and FD). They will both be fine going 10F's. The best of Oaklawn finished one two. I like them both and place them both in the OP category, but Nehro will like the longer stretch of CD more than Arch will. His progression has been steady enough that I do not think of him as a flash in the pan, closer come lately. Corey should have moved him sooner on that short stretch so I'm hoping he will correct that. This horse can run all day but he has to move sooner. If he waits for Dialed in to pass him, he'll be too late again. That brings me to Mucho Macho and Stay Thirsty. Mucho is training like a beast. He's a late foal and it makes sense that he will get better with time. Running without a shoe in the LAD only points to an improvement next out. His foundation is great, right there with Soldat's and that could make the difference this year. Stay Thirsty, clobbered Toby Flanderson off the bench, went to Florida and layed an egg on the GP powder. Puzzling but he's better than that. Training great and he'll like CD's surface in a race. Foundation is my main concern but he's deeper than Mo in this category. That's all I have for now.

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