Derby Details 2021 Edition 15

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Derby Details 2021 Edition 15

Kentucky Derby Contenders Profiles

By Tom Carley

April 17, 2021

This is not an analysis of the upcoming Derby race.  That will come in 2 weeks when the post positions are drawn.  This is merely a synopsis of the background info I have summarized from my research to this point.  Some of it will show up in my analysis, but this is mostly fact-based data.

WEATHER REPORT     I will handicap this race condition as FAST.  I am writing this on April 17, so we are too far out to have a forecast.  I will monitor this and adjust my handicapping in the analysis.

Racehorse Analysis

Essential Quality    Where to start with this one?  The clear cut favorite.  Godolphin’s best chance to win the elusive Derby.  When he won the Blue Grass Stakes, he had to fight for the first time in deep stretch.    Undefeated in 5 career starts and won Eclipse Award as the best 2–year-old last year.  Has won on muddy and fast tracks.  Likes to lay near the lead, but as he proved in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile can run from the back of the field.    

Why he can win:     

  • Continues to improve and gets stronger as the races stretch out.
  • Trainer Brad Cox won Eclipse Award for Trainer of the Year last year and has won big races in the last two years.
  • The horse has won at Churchill Downs.
  • Brisnet speed figure of 102 in the Blue Grass Stakes is among the highest in this race.

Why he won’t win:

  • Blue Grass Stakes has not produced a Derby winner this century.
  • Had to change schedule and only got 2 prep races this year instead of the planned 3.
  • Slight concern about his ability to run well in traffic

Hot Rod Charlie     Jumped into consideration for the elite of this division when he won the Louisiana Derby.   Had lost both prior stakes races, even though he ran 2nd in Breeder’s Cup Juvenile at odds of 94 to 1 to Essential Quality.  Has only won 2 of 7 career starts.  Both wins have been with the horse near or on the lead.  Did take 4 races to break his maiden.  Has had trouble at the start in his most recent two starts.      

Why he can win:

  • Has shown he runs well in big races.
  • Has won at 9 ½ furlongs, which is farther than any other horse in the field.
  • Trainer Leandro Mora has won 2 Kentucky Derbies.

Why he can’t win:

  • Has shown he does not like to win with only 2 wins in 7 starts.
  • Will be 1 of many speed horses in the Derby.
  • Jockey has only ridden the horse once and that was in a turf race last September.

Super Stock   Jumped into attention with the win in the Arkansas Derby.  Only started twice as a 3-year-old due to injury suffered in his 2-year-old year, but this horse did have a good foundation with 6 starts as a 2-year-old.  Has hit the board in both starts at Churchill Downs.  Ran a career high speed figure last race out.  Derby will be third race in a cycle.      

Why he can win:

  • Has shown he is improving at the right time.
  • Has won at 5 ½ furlongs and 9 furlongs. 
  • Very good foundation as a 2-year-old will help him as the races stretch out.

Why he can’t win:

  • Has shown he does not like to win with only 2 wins in 8 starts.
  • Breeding suggests distance might be a concern, as sire (Dialed In, out of Mineshaft) average winning distance is 6.5 furlongs and dam (Super Girlie) average winning distance is 6.3 furlongs.

Like the King    A horse that has only run on dirt once intentionally and once more when a turf race was rained off the grass.  Did qualify by winning the Jeff Ruby Stakes which only this year Churchill increased the point value to where he would have qualified.  Has never ran off the board in 6 career starts.  Curiously, worked on April 4 on the grass at Keeneland.  Had run near the front end before his last race.     

Why he will win:

  • Trainer Wesley Ward has won big races before including at Ascot.

Why he won’t win:

  • Has not displayed the ability to run well on dirt.
  • Some would question the level of competition he has beaten.
  • The recent grass work is a head scratcher.
  • Speed figures much below other competitors.

Known Agenda    The first Todd Pletcher trained entry in the field.  Disappointed in 3-year-old debut at Sam Davis Stakes.  Then has come back and won twice at 9 furlongs.  Both wins have come after adding the blinkers.  Irad Ortiz will ride this one in Louisville and has won both his races on this horse.  Has a quick closing move and can also run closer to the front end than most closers so he would not have to pass so many horses.  Looked convincing in winning Florida Derby. Speed figures have increased greatly with each 3-year-old race. 

Why he will win:

  • Has won twice at 9 furlongs.
  • Appears to be improving the most of any horse in the field. 
  • Trainer Todd Pletcher not only has own two Derbies, but also is the hottest barn in the field.
  • Has won both races after adding the blinkers.
  • Bred to get the distance and the longer the better.  

Why he won’t win:

  • Closers have not had recent Derby success.
  • Has had gate trouble in the past.

Rock Your World   Switched from the turf to dirt in his last race and won the Santa Anita Derby.  Does like to be on the front end and took the Santa Anita Derby field gate to wire.  Has little foundation as this horse did not run as a 2-year-old.  Has stretched out from 6 furlongs to a mile to 9 furlongs.  Has the co highest speed figure in the last race.    

Why he will win:

  • Highest speed figure in last race.
  • Has never lost in 3 starts.
  • Has stretched out from 6 furlongs to 9 furlongs.

Why he won’t win:

  • One of many speed horses in the field.
  • Only has run on dirt once.
  • Inexperienced jockey in the Derby.

Bourbonic   Had been running for Optional Claiming $50,000 until the Wood Memorial victory.  Had to be dropped to maiden claiming in 3rd career start to win his first race. Is a deep closer who will have to pass many tiring horses to win this race.       

Why he will win:

  • Owner and trainer (John Sadler) experienced in the Kentucky Derby

Why he won’t win:

  • Closing style is a poor style to have on Derby Day.
  • Jockey is inexperienced in major stakes races.
  • Horse has been running at lower class levels.
  • Speed figures are much lower than this field.

Medina Spirit     Has run 1st or 2nd in all 5 previous races. The first 2 losses were to Life is Good.  Went off as overwhelming favorite in the Santa Anita Derby and never was able to catch Rock Your World.  Another one who likes to run from the near the front.  Johnny V has been flying cross country to ride this horse.  The epiglottis surgery he had after the San Felipe is somewhat concerning given the flat effort in the Santa Anita Derby.

Why he will win:

  • First or 2nd in all races.
  • Bob Baffert’s recent domination of this race.
  • Added distance has not affected ability to maintain speed.

Why he won’t win?

  • Just has not shown the “Wow” factor in his races.
  • Has never raced outside of California.
  • Has never shown the ability to come from behind in a race and win.

Midnight Bourbon   Never raced off the board in 6 career starts.  After breaking maiden at Ellis Park, ran in Iroquois and Champagne graded stakes races.   Lost to Jackie’s Warrior and Reinvestment Risk in Champagne.  Matured and won 3-year-old debut in LeCompte.  Outkicked in the final two Louisiana prep races.  Working very good at Churchill.   

Why he will win it:

  • Never off the board in 6 starts.
  • Experienced trainer (Steve Asmussen).
  • Time to improve ability to finish the race.
  • Get Mike Smith to ride this horse. Tremendous jockey upgrade.
  • Has run well at Churchill Downs

Why he won’t win it:

  • Has won only 2 of 7 career starts.
  • Breeding on Dam side (Catch the Moon out of Maibu Moon) suggest distance will be a limitation. 

Mandaloun    Winner of 3 of 5 starts.  Ran a race 2 back in the Risen Star that would have been an “on the board” performance in the Derby.  Came back in Louisiana Derby and inexplicably laid an egg running worst race by speed figure of his career.  I do not think it was the distance as he was through in that race at the half mile pole.  Has won at Churchill Downs already.  Has been a favorite in all 5 career races.  Fired a bullet work April 10.  

Why he will win:

  • Tactical style will fit well with this group.
  • Had one of the best performances of the year out of this group.
  • Hot trainer (Brad Cox) in the last year in big races.
  • Working well on his “home” track”.
  • Regular jockey will choose him over the barn mate.

Why he won’t win:

  • Not the best horse in his own barn.
  • Distance a concern.
  • Louisiana Derby has not been a good prep race.

Caddo River   There is some question about his participation here.   Has only won twice in 6 starts.  Might be a better mile horse.  

Why he will win:

  • A different horse since the switch to dirt.
  • Has won in the mud.
  • Draw a line through his last race and he shows pattern of improving.
  • Can rate off this hot pace based on his turf experience.

Why he won’t win:

  • Not as fast as other speed horses in this race.
  • Has never won a race farther than a mile.
  • Loses regular jockey to barn mate

Highly Motivated   Winless in two starts as a three-year-old.  Only horse in the field with three consecutive 100 + Brisnet Speed Figures.  However, he did give Essential Quality all that he could handle in the Blue Grass Stakes.  Won the Nyquist on the Saturday Breeder’s Cup undercard fighting against the track bias.     

Why he will win:  

  • The last race versus Essential Quality showed he is in the class of this division.
  • Gets a great rider in Castellano.
  • Trainer Brown is as good as they come.
  • Tactical style will help in the expected pace scenario in the Derby.
  • Has run well on muddy track.

Why he won’t win:

  • Has never won a graded stakes race.

Helium   A mystery horse.  Two 2-year old races on Woodbine polytrack resulted in 2 wins.  Won Tampa Derby in only 3-year-old race.  Then trained 10 weeks into Derby.   

Why he will win it:

  • Trainer Mark Casse is emerging as major Triple Crown player.

Why he won’t win it:

  • Long layoff into Derby.
  • One 3-year-old prep without a good 2-year-old foundation.
  • Unproven on dirt

Soup and Sandwich  Speed horse that stayed strong in the Florida Derby stretch.  Impressive wins in first 2 career races.      

Why he will win it:

  • Good trainer Mark Casse, who is emerging as a force in Triple Crown races.

Why he won’t win:

  • One of many speed horses.
  • Distance is question.

Dynamic One   Pletcher horse that looked more impressive than barn mate in the Wood Memorial, even though he lost.  A different horse at 9 furlongs than he was at shorter distances when he could not break the maiden.  Loses rider to barn mate.  Only win and that win was with Lasix.

Why he will win:

  • Improving horse at 9 furlongs.
  • Hot barn.

Why he won’t win:

  • Will get a new jockey.
  • Runs without Lasix.
  • Took 4 races to break maiden.
  • One career win.

Crowded Trade    Barn is targeting the Preakness.  Maiden win in 3 career starts.  Lost by nose in Gotham and ran 3rd in Wood Memorial.  

Why he will win:

  • Trainer Chad Brown has pulled off past upsets on a large stage.

Why he won’t win:

  • Only a maiden win.
  • No 2-year-old foundation.
  • Could not beat many horses he would face today.

Sainthood   Three career races at 3 tracks.  Only a maiden win.  Great stretch run in the JR Stakes but had a rough trip.  Tactical style should be a benefit.    

Why he will win:

  • Maturing with each race.  
  • Hot barn.

Why he won’t win:

  • Only a maiden win.
  • No 2-year-old foundation.
  • Best race was on poly.

Rombauer   Barn has indicated they are leaning toward the Preakness.  Won the El Camino Real Derby.  Had almost a 2-month layoff and ran 3rd in the Blue Grass.  Does not like to be anywhere near the lead.  Has never won a race on dirt.    

Why he will win:

  • Has shown he can be a good horse in brief glimpses.  Derby Day could be his day.
  • Has won at 9 furlongs.

Why he won’t win:

  • Has never won a race on dirt.
  • No real fast works
  • Has never faced a foe in today’s race and won the race.

Hidden Stash   Has won a race as a 3-year-old.  Earned points by earning points in 3 races.  Has a win and a third at Churchill in two starts.  

Why he will win:

  • Has never ran a “bad” race.

Why he won’t win:

  • Has only won twice in 7 starts.
  • Closing style will fit well in a large field.
  • Inexperienced Derby connections.

Dream Shake   Barn looking at the Pat Day Mile instead of the 10-furlong Derby.  Lightly raced California horse known for upsetting O Besos in career debut.  Has never won going farther than 6 ½ furlongs.  Bred to like a longer distance race.  Ran 3rd in San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby.   

Why he will win:

  • Trainer Peter Eurton has proven he can upset in high profile race 

Why he won’t win:

  • Has never won going two turns
  • No 2-year-old foundation
  • Will have a new jockey in the Derby as his previous 2 riders choose other mounts.
  • Flattened on the stretch out to 9 furlongs.  How will he handle 10 furlongs?

O Besos    Local trainer Greg Foley seeking Derby dreams with this home bred.  Made improvement to run 3rd in Louisiana Derby.  Won a maiden and an allowance race before the 2 tries at graded stakes company.  Has shown that distance will not be a concern.   

Why he will win:

  • Home track advantage will do him well.

Why he won’t win:

  • Has never won a stakes race.
  • Has never won going farther than 6 furlongs.
  • Both wins were with Lasix.

Get Her Number    First two races were on turf.  Won the Grade 1 American Pharoah in first start on dirt last September.   Long layoff until mid-March when he tried the two leading Arkansas prep races.    Since the layoff has rated instead of being a speed horse.

Why he will win:

  • Did win a Grade 1 as a 2-year-old.

Why he won’t win:

  • Long layoff.
  • Did not hit the board since his comeback.
  • Runs in front wraps

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