The 37 year wait to see a Triple Crown winner in thoroughbred racing is now over. American Pharoah led from start to finish in the Belmont Stakes on his way to a 5 1/2 length victory and becoming the 12th Triple Crown winner in history.
Jockey Victor Espinoza won the Triple Crown after having two previous attempts in 2002 aboard WarEmblem and 2014 aboard California Chrome. For trainer Bob Baffert, it was his fourth attempt after tries in 1997 with Silver Charm, 1998 with Real Quiet, and 2002 with War Emblem.
American Pharoah went straight to the lead and Espinoza was determined to control the pace early on. To his outside was Materiality in second and Frosted in third. Mubtaahij was fourth on the rail with KeenIce fifth, and Madefromlucky sixth. The trailing duo was Tale of Verve and Frammento with the latter nearly nine lengths off the pacesetter.
Pharoah set pressure-less fractions of 24.06 for the opening quarter and 48.83 for the opening half mile while Materiality was still on the outside about a length off the lead. Mubtaahij continued to save ground on the rail with Keen Ice, Frosted, and Madefromlucky behind him. Tale of Verve was starting to be pushed entering the far turn and Frammento was still the trailer.
After going six furlongs in 1:13.41 and a mile in 1:37.99, American Pharoah was set down for the final quarter of a mile and his only real threat was Frosted. Frosted came out in the stretch and looked like he would make a race of it down to the wire, but Pharoah simply pulled away to win by 5 1/2 lengths.
American Pharoah is by Pioneerof The Nile out of the Yankee Gentleman mare Littleprincessemma. He paid $3.50 to win, $2.80 to place, and $2.50 to show.
The debate will now shift to how American Pharoah stacks up against the other Triple Crown winners. That will rage on for decades after this incredible run of races. Pharoah is expected to run again in 2015 though it is highly unlikely he will run beyond the end of this year.
The 2015 Triple Crown culminates on Saturday with 2015 Belmont Stakes. Once again, there is the possibility of a Triple Crown winner with American Pharoah having won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in May.
A field of eight has been assembled to vie for the 2015 Belmont Stakes that carries a purse of $1,500,000. They will go one mile and one-half (12 furlongs) over the main track dubbed “Big Sandy.”
The table below provides the entries along with the jockey, trainer, and morning line odds.
Morning Line Odds
Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Mike de Kock
Tale of Verve
1. Mubtaahij – He was the easy winner of the Group 2 UAE Derby in late March before taking on the Kentucky Derby. In the Derby, he sat mid pack for most of the race and he did not have much of a response in the stretch as he finished 8th. He should like this 12 furlong distance and if he can sit closer to the pace, he could make some noise down the stretch.
2. Tale of Verve – It took this guy six starts to break his maiden and he was then entered in the Preakness Stakes. He surprised many by running second to American Pharoah at odds of 28-1, but he was seven lengths behind Pharoah. That race has led some to believe he has a chance to pick the pieces once again at big odds. He will need some pace to run at in this spot and there does not appear to be much.
3. Madefromlucky – He was under consideration for the Kentucky Derby, but was sent into the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes instead. He did well in the Peter Pan when he made a four wide move in the stretch and pulled away to win by a length. He did beat only four horses that day and he ran fourth and second to Pharoah in his two races previous to the Peter Pan. He could add value to the exotics at a decent price.
4. Frammento – He was a longshot in the Kentucky Derby and he ran like it. He finished 11th beaten 12 lengths that day. He had no pace to run at in the Derby and he does not appear to have any pace in the Belmont either. He is taking the blinkers off for this race, but he appears likely headed for a spot in the bottom of the superfecta at best.
5. American Pharoah – There is not much more to say about him. He has won six straight races after a poor debut including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. He is clearly the horse to beat and he will probably be the controlling speed in this race. He is just a mile and a half from horse racing immortality if he can win this race. The obvious favorite here and the top choice.
6. Frosted – He and Materiality were the only ones to really make up ground in the Kentucky Derby. Frosted just missed third as the wire came before he was able to blow past Dortmund and he finished fourth by 3 1/4 lengths. He should not be nearly as far back in this race and he could sit just off the leaders to give him a good spot turning for home. Must be considered as a slight upset possibility.
7. Keen Ice – He is another closer that will need some pace to run at in the Belmont. He was able to move from 14th to 7th in the stretch during the Kentucky Derby. His efforts prior to the Kentucky Derby show that he was an underneath horse at best and that appears to be the case here as well.
8. Materiality – He started his career a perfect 3 for 3 entering the Kentucky Derby. He had a bad draw with the three post, which caused him to come off the pace. He was near the back of the pack midway through the race and rallied to finish sixth with some trouble. In the Belmont, he should not have the same trip and will be much closer to the pace, if not contesting it with Pharoah. He certainly has a chance in this race.
This race runs through #5 American Pharoah as expected. He is likely to be the controlling speed and has not done anything wrong this year. He may have pace pressure from #8 Materiality, but he has shown the ability to win coming from behind. #1 Mubtaahij is interesting because he should relish the distance and be closer to the pace than he was in the Derby. #6 Frosted will be worth a look if you are trying to beat Pharoah while #3 Madefromlucky looked nice winning the Peter Pan at Belmont on May 9.
Top selection – #5 American Pharoah
2nd selection – #1 Mubtaahij
3rd selection – #6 Frosted
4th selection – #3 Madefromlucky
Check back on Saturday night for a recap of the 2015 Belmont Stakes.
While the dust settles and the Preakness contenders are considered, there are still some questions that need to be answered even if it will not happen for many months (or possibly years).
Below are unanswered questions from the 2015 Kentucky Derby.
1. Were the Top Four Finishers that much Better than the Rest?
The top four finishers in the Kentucky Derby were American Pharoah, Firing Line, Dortmund, and Frosted. Those four were separated by 3 1/4 lengths while the rest were at least another 3 1/4 lengths behind.
It was an easy pace for the top three as they went around the track basically as the top three throughout the running of the Kentucky Derby. Frosted was the only one of the top four horses who had to close late and he barely missed third by a shortening head.
But were they really that much better than the rest of the field? Perhaps they are just head and shoulders above the rest of the horses in the Kentucky Derby, but that is probably not the case.
We will see over the next few months if the top four really were better than every other horse.
2. How Good is this Crop as a Whole?
Coming into the race, we had a pretty good idea about Dortmund and American Pharoah, as well as several other horses such as Materiality, Carpe Diem, Upstart, and Frosted.
It turned out that American Pharoah and Dortmund were better than nearly everyone else in the Kentucky Derby.
The caveat here is that we will not be able to answer this question for many months because these horses are still going to face fellow three year olds for the next few months. If we want to compare crops, we will not be able to do so for a few years when most of these horses will no longer be competing.
Many have said this is one of the more talented and deep three year old crops in the last decade and Saturday’s Kentucky Derby results may just prove how good they are if the top four continue to dominate. The real question then becomes how the fringe horses, those who are considered good, but not yet at the same level as the top four, do later this year.
It will be an intriguing journey to watch, that is for sure and there will be plenty of opportunities in the fall for the three year olds to match up against older horses.
3. Is American Pharoah a Legitimate Threat to Win the Triple Crown?
In the immediate aftermath of the Kentucky Derby (literally the first 10 or 15 minutes after the conclusion of the race), many opinions are thrown around about whether or not a horse can go on and win the elusive Triple Crown.
Well, that is only going to intensify with the advent of social media to get opinions out there within mere second of the conclusion and there are usually only two camps; one that is adamant he will win the Triple Crown and another that is adamant he will not win the Triple Crown.
This author falls in the latter camp that does not think he will win the Triple Crown. Of course, that is hardly an inclination of whether or not he will.
First, he must win the Preakness before even having a shot at winning the Triple Crown, but he is quite likely to win the Preakness shortening up a half furlong.
Secondly, he had a dream trip in the Kentucky Derby just off of Dortmund and Firing Line, but he did not have that huge burst of speed at the top of the stretch to pull away from his foes. Then again, maybe he was being saved by Victor Espinoza.
Third, the Belmont is called the Test of Champions for a reason. It is the third race in five weeks and it will be American Pharoah’s fourth race in eight weeks. There is a reason 13 horses have tried since 1978 and failed to win the Triple Crown. The grueling mile and a half journey will not be kind to him.
Again, none of this is a guarantee American Pharoah will not win the Triple Crown, but history is against him.
4. What do we do with the horses that finished well?
Given the slow pace of the Kentucky Derby, it is hardly a shock that few horses were able to close in the final quarter of a mile. On Saturday, there were only three horses that were really identified as being able to make up ground in the stretch.
Below is an image (courtesy of Blood-Horse) of the horses turning for home to provide an idea of where each horse was.
The three horses we will focus on are #3 Materiality (near the top of the photo) #14 Keen Ice (to the left of Materiality) and #15 Frosted (middle of the photo to the left).
The most impressive of the three horses mentioned was Materiality, who came from way back in the field as seen in the photo. He did well to go from nearly last to sixth in the final quarter of a mile and he ran the final two furlongs in :25.61, according to the Daily Racing Form. None of that even mentions the poor start he had.
Frosted was the only horse to be shown during the live running of the race to have closed well. He just missed third place from Dortmund, but he was closing even prior to the final quarter of a mile. Between the six furlong and one mile calls, Frosted went from 15th to 7th and ran that quarter of a mile in :23.97.
He slowed down in the stretch, but still did well to make up the ground he did into such a slow pace. His final quarter was timed in :25.98.
The only other horse to make up ground was Keen Ice. Coming into the Kentucky Derby, most knew he would make one run and needed some pace to have a chance to hit the board. That proved to be the case.
He was immediately brought to the fence at the start of the race and continued to race near the back of the field throughout. At the top of the stretch he had five horses beaten and then closed to to finish seventh, losing by 8 3/4 lengths.
The obvious thinking here is that these horses will be prime candidates at Belmont going a mile and a half in the Belmont Stakes.
Just last year, Wicked Strong and Commanding Curve (the fourth and second place finishers in the Kentucky Derby respectively), were considered possibilities to win. The former finished in a dead heat for fourth and the latter was eighth.
In 2013, the second and third place finishers from the Derby, Golden Soul and Revolutionary, were the deep closers who hit the board in Kentucky. They finished ninth and fifth respectively in the Belmont Stakes.
In 2012, Dullahan closed to finish third in the Derby, but failed to do so at Belmont. He finished seventh as the 5/2 favorite that day.
Ice Box in 2010 was expected to do well in the Belmont Stakes. He ran fast closing second in the Derby, but failed at the 9/5 favorite in the Belmont by finishing ninth.
A lot of people think back to a deep closer winning the Belmont in Jazil (2006). That was nearly a decade ago. The problem with deep closers is two-fold. First, the pace of the race needs to be somewhat fast for a mile and a half. Second, they need to be able to get a mile and a half.
Deep closers can win the Belmont, they just need a lot of things to break their way in order to do it.
5. Is the Kentucky Derby Points System Working?
This is a tricky question because everyone has a different idea of how it should work. 2015 marks the third year of the Kentucky Derby points system. Coincidentally, it also marks the third straight year that a favorite won the Kentucky Derby. Make of that what you will.
It is probably not a mistake that the fractions have slowed down dramatically since the inception of the points system. 2013 saw an opening quarter go in 22.57 and the opening half mile in 45.33. In 2014, it was 23.04 and 47.37 while 2015 was 23.24 and 47.34.
The reason for this is simple. There is no more cheap speed in the Kentucky Derby. In 2012, the last year without a points system, a horse named Trinniberg entered the Kentucky Derby. His prep racing coming into the Derby was the Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes at 7 furlongs on the main track. He ended 2012 by winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
There can still be unexpected speed in the race. Take 2013, for example, when Palace Malice shocked nearly everyone when he went straight to the lead under Mike Smith and tried to go gate-to-wire though he tired on the far turn.
It is clear that the Kentucky Derby points system is keeping sprinters out of the Kentucky Derby and that is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it has led to slower fractions and favorites winning the last three years. It is up to you to decide if that means the system is working.
Perhaps, and this is simply conjecture, is that more horses will be bred to go the classic distance of a mile and a quarter. It is still possible to have speed going 10 furlongs, though stamina will be needed to allow a horse to last the distance.
The Kentucky Derby points system will be fun to keep an eye on for the future and how it affects those who enter in Derby prep races. We may continue to see favorites or we may start to see a parade of long shots.
We are approximately one day removed from the 2015 Kentucky Derby and American Pharoah‘s one length victory, but there are still some lessons that we learned. There are also some questions that remain unanswered.
Below is what we learned from the 141st Kentucky Derby.
1. Pace Makes the Race
It seems so simple, but it was clearly true for the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Dortmund led Firing Line and Pharoah through some dawdling fractions for the Derby. His opening quarter was in 23.24 and opening half mile went in 47.34.
For horses of that caliber, that is a cake-walk and makes them very difficult to defeat. The first quarter of a mile in 23.24 was the third slowest since 2000.
Now, it is clear why so few horses were able to make up ground. The leading trio set an easy pace and were able to stride home without much of a chance of fading back to the rest of the field.
2. Todd Pletcher Continues To Struggle in the Derby
This probably is not news to most avid followers of horse racing. After his three horses failed to win on Saturday, trainer Todd Pletcher now stands at 1 for 46 in the Kentucky Derby. His lone win was Super Saver in 2010.
What is amazing is that few trainers, if any, get more highly regarded two year olds than he does. Yet, he has a sub par record of leading those two year olds to Kentucky Derby success. He has had some good horses in the past, but this was regarded as part of his best crop of three year olds.
To be fair, Pletcher has not had the best luck when it comes to the Derby. In 2011, he had highly regarded Uncle Mo only to see that horse scratch prior to the Derby. Just a year earlier in 2010, Pletcher had Eskendereya scratch from the race and he probably would have been favored.
It will be difficult to back any Pletcher trained horse in the Kentucky Derby for a while, at least from this perspective.
3. Foreign Horses Have Yet To Make a Serious Impact
If we go back to 2009 when Regal Ransom tried the UAE Derby to Kentucky Derby route, we will see that a serious trend has developed.
In 2009, Regal Ransom won the UAE Derby and then finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby. In 2011, Master of Hounds finished second in the UAE Derby, then went on to finish a respectable fifth in the Kentucky Derby.
In 2012, Daddy Long Legs won the UAE Derby and then finished last (20th) in the Kentucky Derby when he had to be eased. The 2013 UAE Derby winner Lines Of Battle finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby and last year Toast of New York was not pointed towards the Kentucky Derby.
However, Toast of New York did run well at Del Mar on polytrack finishing second in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. He then ran second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt to end the year.
So what does all of this mean?
That foreign horses run decent races, but are not a serious threat to win the Kentucky Derby at this time. This could be due to the large amount of travel they have to do from Dubai (or wherever they ship from) to the United States. That can take a lot out of a horse.
Another reason could be the breeding. Most foreign bred horses are simply not bred to run on dirt. Yes, some do well over the main track (see Toast of New York or Giant’s Causeway), but by and large, most are not suited for it. It is the same way with American turf horses going overseas. They are usually trounced on turf in France, Great Britain, Dubai, or Hong Kong because they are not as royally bred to win on turf (and at longer distances).
That does not mean that it cannot change in the future. It very well could, but not for the foreseeable future.
4. The Win Odds Do Not Reflect Real Chances
This is a nice way of saying some people do not know the way odds work. The best examples that can be provided from the 2015 Kentucky Derby are in the form of Ocho Ocho Ocho and Mr. Z.
Ocho Ocho Ocho went off at odds of 26.10-1, which equates to a $2 win payoff of $54.20. That means that Ocho Ocho Ocho had roughly a 4% chance of winning, based on the odds. However, most people would agree that he had a far worse chance of winning the Kentucky Derby, meaning his odds were not in line with the expected payoff.
The other, and best, example is that of Mr. Z. While we can debate whether he should have been in the Kentucky Derby, his off odds of 36.60-1 did not provide fair value. Unless a person thought he had a 3% chance of winning (or better), then those odds were a steal. However, looking at his form coming into the Kentucky Derby, he had a sliver of a chance in this race, thus making his win odds disproportionately negative for those who bet him.
Seeing disproportionate win odds is nothing new, however. Call it the “Mine That Bird” effect. When Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby in 2009 at odds of 50.60-1, he shocked many with the victory (including this author).
What we saw in the subsequent years were ridiculous odds that were far too low. In 2010, the Kentucky Derby saw only two horses at odds of 30-1 or higher. In 2011, no horse went off at odds higher than 40-1.
There was a bit more realism in the wagering for 2012 when two horses went off at odds of 55-1 or higher, but 2013 was back to no horses under 40-1 on the tote board. Even last year saw no horse go off at odds of 50-1 or higher.
In 2015, we saw a horse go off at nearly 70-1 odds (Frammento went off at 69.50-1).
There are two reasons for this “Mine That Bird” effect. The first is that people want to be on a long shot, any long shot regardless of the odds. If a horse is 30-1, people want to be able to say “I picked the 30-1 winner of the Kentucky Derby” and it does not matter if that horse should have been 50-1.
The other reason is that there has been a parade of long shots winning prior before 2013. I’ll Have Another won at 15-1 in 2012, Animal Kingdom won at 20-1 in 2011, Super Saver won at 8-1 in 2010, and Mine That Bird won at 50-1 in 2009.
Of course, the favorites have won the last 3 years, which may produce more realistic odds in the future.
5. Luck Will Always Be Needed To Win the Kentucky Derby
This sounds intuitive, and it is, but this is worth repeating. Luck is a big part of winning the Kentucky Derby. A bad step here or there and you will have to take your horse out of the race.
For example, we saw Stanford, El Kabeir, and International Star all scratch prior to the race. The latter two were due to foot issues while the former was made to point to a different race. Had Stanford stayed in, perhaps the pace would have been quicker and allowed closers a better chance. We will never know.
Another reason why luck is a part of it is in the draw for the race. Todd Pletcher had bad luck when his two best horses drew side-by-side at two (Carpe Diem) and three (Materiality) in the gate. It is widely accepted that drawing to the inside is at a disadvantage due to the amount of horses that come over to the rail from the outside going into the first turn. The draw could have affected the pace of the race as well. Then again, maybe it would not have mattered at all.
No matter how you look at it, luck is and always will be part of the Kentucky Derby equation.
This is what we learned from the 2015 Kentucky Derby, but what questions still linger after the running of the 141st Kentucky Derby? Be sure to check back to find out.
American Pharoah Proves Best In Kentucky Derby 141
It was billed as a race that was trainer Bob Baffert’s to lose, but he did no such thing. American Pharoah was too much for Firing Line to hold off in the stretch as Baffert’s other entry, Dortmund, held on for third.
The race began well for the eventual top three finishers. Dortmund broke well and went straight to the lead while Gary Stevens was right next to him on Firing Line. Back in third by a length was American Pharoah who was being kept out in the clear by Victor Espinoza.
Bolo, Carpe Diem, and Danzig Moon all started well and were the next three horses in line. Mr. Z was seventh, Ocho Ocho Ocho was eighth, Upstart was ninth, and Tencendur was tenth, but only by about 4 1/2 lengths.
Itsaknockout was eleventh early, Mubtaahij was twelfth, Materiality was thirteen, Frosted was fourteenth, and War Story was fifteenth. The trailing trio were Frammento, Keen Ice, and Far Right with all of them about 14 lengths off the lead after a quarter of a mile.
The top three did not change as they went down the backstretch. Dortmund continued to lead and Firing Line continued to hang right on his flank. Meanwhile, American Pharoah continued to sit in the perfect spot just behind those two.
As they left the far turn and headed into the stretch, American Pharoah came around the leading duo to put in his bid to win the Kentucky Derby. He lead by a head at the stretch call and would slowly pull away from Firing Line to win by a length. It was another two lengths back to Dortmund in third, who barely held on for third over a fast closing Frosted.
The remaining order of finish was Danzig Moon in fifth, Materiality in sixth, Keen Ice in seventh, Mubtaahij in eighth, Itsaknockout ninth, Carpe Diem tenth, Frammento eleventh, Bolo twelfth, Mr. Z thirteenth, Ocho Ocho Ocho fourteenth, Far Right fifteenth, War Story sixteenth, Tencendur seventeenth, and Upstart last of eighteen.
El Kabeir, International Star, and Stanford all scratched leading up to the race. Tale of Verve did not draw into the race with his scratch time early on Friday morning. The entire results chart can be found here via Equibase.
Final running time for the one mile and one quarter race was 2:03.02.
This race, however, was all about the top three. It was trainer Bob Baffert’s fourth Kentucky Derby win after saddling Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), and War Emblem (2002).
For jockey Victor Espinoza, it was his third Kentucky Derby win. He was aboard War Emblem in 2002 for Baffert and also won the 2014 Kentucky Derby aboard California Chrome.
American Pharoah went off as the 2.90-1 favorite and paid $7.80 to win, $5.80 to place, and $4.20 to show. He is the third consecutive favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. American Pharoah is owned by Ahmed Zayat, who has now his first Derby.
The second jewel of the Triple Crown is in two weeks at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland. There will probably be a mix of Derby horses and newcomers to challenge American Pharoah. The Preakness is at a mile and three sixteenths and will be held on Saturday, May 16.
Below is a table that summarizes the entries for the 2015 Kentucky Derby.
Morning Line Odds
Ocho Ocho Ocho
Mike de Kock
D. Wayne Lukas
Tale Of Verve
Brian Hernandez Jr.
1. Ocho Ocho Ocho – He had the misfortune of drawing the rail here. He won the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot at two, but his rider for that race, Mike Smith, saw fit to jump over to Far Right afterwards. He is a cut below these horses and will need a lot to go his way. Pass on his chances in this race.
2. Carpe Diem – He is still listed as one of the morning line favorites for this race despite the poor draw. He has been solid in his career with four wins and a second in five career races. He was second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a two year old after he broke slowly compared to the others. That may be the case again here and it is hard to endorse him from the win angle. He could still hit the board, but he will need to work out a trip from this spot.
3. Materiality – Another Todd Pletcher horse that got a poor draw though not nearly as bad as his stablemate directly to his inside. He is three for three in his career and has been very good in every start. He ran a slow mile and one eighth at Gulfstream in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, but received a huge Beyer Speed Figure of 110. The worry here is his lack of foundation with just three career starts and also the crush of horses that will come over on top of him. He will need to be used hard to avoid the crush of horses and that may compromise his chances. It is tough to decide what to do with him…
4. Tencendur – It took him a few races to get going after breaking his maiden on January 15, but he came up with a solid second place finish in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. He did have a good trip and that race and he reunites with his maiden breaking rider Manuel Franco. The question about him is can he repeat that Wood Memorial performance and will he be good enough? The feeling here is probably not.
5. Danzig Moon – He broke his maiden in his third start and his three year old debut on February 7. He then ran fourth in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby behind Carpe Diem and then ran second to him again in the Grade 1 Blue Grass by three lengths. There is some buzz about this horse having a chance, but he will need to run a bit faster to get in the picture.
6. Mubtaahij – He is what most would consider the wild card. He has not raced in the US and we know little about the depth behind him in his victories. He won the Group 2 UAE Derby by 8 lengths in a visually impressive manner and his connections are bullish about his chances. He has two wins at a mile and a sixteenth so the distance should not be a problem. How good is he? We will see on Saturday and is must use on top.
7. El Kabeir – He has been consistent this year hitting the board in all four starts. He showed more tactical speed in his first two starts in 2015 before coming from off the pace in his latter two. He did not have much of an excuse in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial when he finished third and he will need to step up here. He will need to closer as well if he wants a chance of getting a piece.
8. Dortmund – He is an undefeated six for six and he has been impressive in each race. He has won easily and he has also won in dogfights (twice over Firing Line). He can rate off the speed or take them gate-to-wire while the former is more conducive in a race like the Kentucky Derby. There is lots to like about him and he is a must use on top.
9. Bolo – He began his career on turf finishing fifth in before back-to-back wins on the turf. He was switcher over to dirt for the Grade 2 San Felipe where he ran a solid third behind Dortmund and Firing Line. His Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby produced another third place effort, but he will need to step up big time to have a chance in this race.
10. Firing Line – This colt has done little wrong in his career. He has run second to Dortmund twice with both losses by a head, which enhances his chances here. His last race was an impressive gate to wire score by 14 lengths in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby. He is a speedy horse, but can be rated and has Gary Stevens in the irons. There is a lot to like here.
11. Stanford – Scratched. He will point to the Peter Pan at Belmont or the Preakness in two weeks.
12. International Star – He spent the winter at the Fair Grounds and he made the most of that by winning all three of the stakes races there. He will be flying late here, which will probably mean traffic problems in the stretch, but he can certainly close. He is also by a Kentucky Derby winner in Fusaichi Pegasus. He is a must include underneath with his ability to close.
13. Itsaknockout – He had a great start to his career by going two for two and then was put up to first in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth to make it three for three. His last race was atrocious when he was fourth by 21 lengths in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. It is hard to endorse him off an effort like that.
14. Keen Ice – He has been sub par in his three year old season. He started with a fifth place finish in the Grade 2 Holy Bull before closing to finish third in the Grade 2 Risen Star behind International Star and War Story. He then ran fourth in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby with a wide trip, but was never a threat to the winner. He does a win over the main track at Churchill and will be closing late, but will it be too late?
15. Frosted – He started the winter down in Florida with a second place and then ran a surprisingly bad fourth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth despite holding the lead into the stretch. He supposedly had breathing problems in that race, which led to a throat operation. He came back in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial to win from off the pace. It has been a while since the Wood Memorial produced a Kentucky Derby winner (2000 with Fusaichi Pegasus), but he has the look of a contender.
16. War Story – He has not done a lot wrong in his 5 career starts and he has never missed the board. He raced down in Louisiana where he ran up against International Star finishing second twice and third once. He is taking the blinkers off for this race and he owns a win over the main track at Churchill. This is a typical horse that this author gets sucked into betting, but not this year.
17. Mr. Z – He is the most experienced runner by far with 12 races (next closest is 9), but his form has been declining since the start of the year. He was demolished in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby by 20 lengths and then ran third behind the morning line favorite American Pharoah in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. It is very difficult to endorse his chances here.
18. American Pharoah – The morning favorite has been spectacular in his two starts in 2015. He cruised against his foes in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes in the slop by 6 1/4 lengths and then demolished the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby field by 8 lengths. He has worked well, he has been brilliant, and he should not have too much in the way of traffic trouble out here. However, can he win when a horse looks him in the eye? Will he get too close to a hot pace? Can you take a short price in a 20 horse field? He is a must use on top in multi-race wagers.
19. Upstart – He is another consistent horse in here. After running a solid third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he won the Grade 2 Holy Bull and was disqualified (controversially) from the win spot in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. He was unable to run by Materiality last time out. He should have a good spot in the Kentucky Derby, but if he could not run by Materiality at 9 furlongs last time, can he do it against better at 10 furlongs? Tough decision on him in this spot.
20. Far Right – He has run at Arkansas for the Derby prep season. He won the Smarty Jones Stakes with a nice closing kick near the rail and then did the same in the Grade 3 Southwest. He was no match for American Pharoah last time out and he still retains the services of Mike Smith, who has done will with closers in the past (Zenyatta and Giacomo in the 2004 Derby). If there is a complete meltdown in the pace, he could win, but at big odds he is a must include underneath in the exotics.
21. Frammento – The lucky recipient of Stanford’s scratch, he will breaking from post 20. He did little in the Grade 2 Holy Bull when he finished sixth by 18 lengths, but had a strong rally in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth when he came from more than 15 lengths out of it to finish third by 4 1/2 lengths. He tried the same thing in the Grade 1 Blue Grass, but he could only muster a fourth place finish. He may have a chance to close in this race, but he will need to be quicker if he is to blow up the tote board.
22. Tale Of Verve (Also-eligible) – SCRATCHED.
This race really can come down to a few horses though there are plenty that have a chance to shake up the exotics. The top choice here is #6 Mubtaahij who will come from off the pace here. #8 Dortmund is hard to discredit here and has a big chance as does #18 American Pharoah. A few others to consider in the multi-race wagers are #10 Firing Line, #15 Frosted, and #19 Upstart.
Top selection – #6 Mubtaahij
2nd selection – #8 Dortmund
3rd selection – #15 Frosted
4th selection – #18 American Pharoah
Plays will be:
Win, place, show on #6 Mubtaahij
$1 exacta 6, 8, 15, 18 with 3-5-6-8-10-12-14-15-18-19-20 ($40)
Good luck to everyone betting and be sure to check back on Saturday evening for a recap of the 2015 Kentucky Derby!
Far and away the biggest news of Thursday was the declaration of #11 Stanford out of the Kentucky Derby. His removal will allow #21 Frammento to get into the Derby. It also means that post positions 12 through 21 will shift by 1 stall to the inside.
“We entered the horse in the race to see what sort of post he might draw,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “We were on the fence as to whether or not to run him, but we thought we’d take a look. But after seeing the draw and talking to the owners, we decided it might be best to take him out and consider other options.
“We’re thinking now that either the Peter Pan (at Belmont Park on May 9) or the Preakness (at Pimlico on May 16) might be better spots for him. The horse is fine. We’ll train him tomorrow morning and we’ll probably work him the morning of the Derby before we ship him to New York.
“We didn’t wait to scratch him. We did it now to ensure that the also-eligibles would have their chance to run. We think him coming out now is for the best of all.”
The only horse to work for the Derby was Mubtaahij who blew out three furlongs in :37.40. He ran the opening furlong in :13.10 and galloped out four furlongs in :52.20.
American Pharoah and Dortmund both galloped a mile and a half. Bolo galloped a mile and three eighths and was expected to have a schooling session in the paddock later on Thursday afternoon.
Carpe Diem galloped once around the track, Materiality galloped a mile and three eighths, and Itsaknockout galloped a mile and a half. Stanford galloped a mile and three eighths as well before his defection from the Derby.
Danzig Moon galloped a mile and a half while El Kabeir galloped a mile and three eighths. Far Right jogged a mile and then galloped a mile on Thursday morning.
Firing Line galloped a mile and a half and then schooled in the paddock. Newly entered Frammento galloped a mile and a half.
Trainer Nick Zito had this to say about Frammento’s inclusion into the Derby, “I got the call from the racing office this afternoon. We are all excited. We made it. Everybody is happy. He has been training great. I know we will have to break from the 20, but that is a lot better than Post Zero!”
Frosted schooled in the paddock, schooled in the starting gate, and then galloped a mile and three eighths.
International Star had a simple day of walking the shedrow. Keen Ice galloped two miles and Mr. Z had a simple gallop.
It was a quiet day on Wednesday morning with all the excitement funneled towards the Kentucky Derby Draw on Wednesday afternoon. That will take place at 5:30 PM Eastern Time and can be seen live on NBC Sports Network.
The only horse to work was Ocho Ocho Ocho with a three furlong breeze in :38.40.
American Pharoah galloped a mile and a half as did his stablemate Dortmund. They are expected to be the top two morning line favorites after the draw.
Bold Conquest was not entered in the Kentucky Derby after trainer Steve Asmussen discussed it over with the connections. He would have needed two defections to make the Derby.
Bolo galloped a mile and three eighths and also went to the starting gate for some schooling.
Carpe Diem galloped a mile while Itsaknockout galloped a mile and a half. The duo of Materiality and Stanford both galloped and then visited the starting gate.
Danzig Moon galloped a mile and a half while El Kabeir jogged over the main track. Far Right galloped a mile and a quarter.
Firing Line galloped a mile and a half as did Frammento. Frosted and Upstart both made their first appearance on the track after their flight from Florida. Frosted galloped a mile and three eighths with Upstart doing a routine gallop.
International Star galloped and also went to the starting gate. He was also expected to school during the third race in the paddock.
Mubtaahij galloped a mile around the track and he may have a blowout on Thursday morning.
Tale of Verve was a shocking late entrant into the Derby though he will be the second also eligible behind Frammento. Tale of Verve most recently broke his maiden on April 23 at Keeneland going one and three sixteenths over the main track.
Tencendur galloped once around the track and War Story jogged a mile before galloping another mile as well.
Angela Renee galloped a mile and a quarter while stablemate Eskenformoney galloped once around the track.
Birdatthewire had a simple gallop and Condo Commando galloped a mile and three eighths. Forever Unbridled galloped a mile and three eighths as well.
The Larry Jones pair of I’m A Chatterbox and Lovely Maria both galloped five furlongs and then jogged five furlongs. They also visited the paddock on Wednesday. Jones was aboard the pair once again on Wednesday morning.
Include Betty had a gallop over the surface and Money’soncharlotte galloped a mile. Oceanwave a mile and went a total distance of a mile and three quarters.
Puca galloped a mile and Sarah Sis galloped a mile and a half. Shook Up went to the gate prior to her gallop. Stellar Wind galloped a mile and a half early on Wednesday morning.
The quartet of Todd Pletcher runners, Carpe Diem, Itsaknockout, Materiality, and Stanford, all went to the track. Itsaknockout galloped a mile and a half while the other three were schooled at the gate and then galloped.
Danzig Moon galloped a mile and a half while El Kabeir walked the shedrow on Tuesday morning.
Far Right galloped a mile and a quarter while Firing Line galloped a mile and a half.
Frammento, currently the 22nd horse on the entry list, galloped at Keeneland and was vanned over to Churchill later in the day.
Down at Palm Meadows, Frosted galloped a mile and three eighths while Upstart walked the shedrow. Both are flying into Louisville later on Tuesday.
International Star galloped a mile and a quarter while Keen Ice went further with a 2 mile gallop.
Mubtaahij made his first appearance on the Churchill Downs main track with a one mile jog and one mile canter around the oval.
Ocho Ocho Ocho galloped around the track and is scheduled to work on Wednesday morning.
Tencendur jogged one mile on the main track as soon as it opened. War Story schooled at the gate and then galloped a mile and a half.
As for news on the fillies, Angela Renee and Eskenformoney both galloped. The former went a mile and a quarter while the latter galloped a mile and a half.
Birdatthewire jogged a mile while Condo Commando galloped a mile and three eighths. ForeverUnbridled also galloped a mile and three eighths.
I’m A Chatterbox and Lovely Maria both galloped a mile with trainer Larry Jones aboard for both gallops. Include Betty had an easy gallop early on Tuesday morning.
Money’soncharlotte was an unexpected entrant for the Oaks on the weekend, but drew in with the defection of Luminance and Maybellene. She is on her way to Churchill and will arrive late Tuesday evening.
Oceanwave galloped a mile and a half while Puca had a simple gallop.
Sarah Sis began her day with a jog and then galloped two miles while the morning line favorite for the Oaks, Stellar Wind, galloped a mile.
$500,000 WOODFORD RESERVE TURF CLASSIC (GI) (Entries taken April 29; race May 2) – Chocolate Ride, Finnegans Wake, Optimizer, Seek Again, Slumber (GB), Stephanie’s Kitten, Umgiyo (AUS). Possible: Grand Arch.
$500,000 CHURCHILL DOWNS (GII) (Entries taken April 29; race May 2) – Bayern, C. Zee, Pants On Fire, Private Zone.
$300,000 CHURCHILL DOWNS DISTAFF TURF MILE (GII) (Entries taken April 29; race May 2) – Coffee Clique, Grand Elmendorf, I’m Already Sexy, Kitty Wine, Lady Lara (IRE), Maid On a Mission, Personal Diary, Rosee Is Cozee, Sandiva (IRE), Solid Appeal, Strike Charmer, Tepin.
$300,000 HUMANA DISTAFF (GI) (Entries taken April 29; race May 2) – Classic Point, Clearly Confused, Dame Dorothy, Judy the Beauty, Princess Violet, Sweet Reason, Sweet Whiskey, Thank You Marylou, You Bought Her.
$250,000 AMERICAN TURF (GII) (Entries taken April 29; race May 2) – A Lot, Conquest Typhoon, Firespike, Force the Pass, Metaboss, Royal Son, Tuba, Wireless Future, World Approval.
$200,000 PAT DAY MILE (GIII) (Entries taken April 29; race May 2) – Competitive Edge, Conquest Bigluck E, Hillbilly Royalty, Lord Nelson, Pain and Misery, Prospect Park, Toasting Master, Where’s the Moon.
Bolo, also in from California, jogged one mile around the track while Danzig Moon galloped a mile and a half.
Carpe Diem finally made his way over to Churchill Downs early on Monday morning. All he did was walk around his barn.
The other Todd Pletcher trio of Itsaknockout, Materiality, and Stanford all galloped a mile and a half.
El Kabeir arrived early Monday morning after leaving New York on Sunday afternoon. He walked after his arrival. Far Right galloped a mile and a half.
Firing Line jogged around the track once while Frammento galloped over at Keeneland.
Frosted galloped a mile and three eights at Palm Meadows while Upstart also galloped. The duo will be flying into Louisville on Tuesday.
International Star jogged at the Trackside Training Center and then vanned over to Churchill Downs later in the morning.
Keen Ice galloped two miles while Mr. Z galloped and schooled in the paddock.
Mubtaahij jogged two miles at Arlington Park before being vanned to Churchill Downs with him leaving at 10 AM.
Ocho Ocho Ocho just walked around his barn on Monday morning while Tencendur did the same. War Story galloped a mile and a half.
Kentucky Oaks News
The Bob Baffert duo of Luminance and Maybellene were the only Kentucky Oaks workers. Luminance went five furlongs in 1:02.80 with splits of :12.80, :25.80, :38.40, and :50.60. She galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.60.
Baffert was not too thrilled with the works. “I might not run a horse in the Oaks,” he said. “I worked them today. I wasn’t really sure; I wanted to see how they worked. It’s a tough Oaks and I might not enter a horse in the Oaks.”
The works were OK, but I don’t know if they are ready for that yet,” Baffert said. “There are a lot of races coming up. I wanted to get them here and watch them train. They are doing well, but I want to be in a more competitive (situation). It’s a really strong Oaks field. I’ll pick some other spots for them.”
The Pletcher duo of Angela Renee and Eskenformoney both galloped a mile and a half after some schooling at the gate.
Birdatthewire walked the shedrow for the second straight day while Condo Commando galloped a mile and three eighths.
Forever Unbridled galloped a mile and three eighths as well while the pair of I’m A Chatterbox and Lovely Maria walked the shedrow.
Include Betty jogged the track early and Oceanwave did the same. Puca galloped on Monday morning.
Sarah Sis was schooled at the starting gate and then had an easy gallop. Shook Up simply walked the shedrow after her workout on Sunday.
Stellar Wind, in from California, jogged a mile on Monday morning.