Streaks were made to be broken. When 20 horses line up for Kentucky Derby 138 this afternoon, a number of streaks have the potential to end with the emergence of this year's winner of the first jewel of thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown.
Bodemeister, the 4-1 morning line favorite, will attempt to become the first horse to win the Derby being unraced as a 2-year-old. Trainer Bob Baffert, on the road to recovery from a heart attack he suffered in Dubai in late March, tries again to put this Derby rule to bed. After a convincing 9 1/2 -length victory in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, the speedy colt drew post No. 6, which unfortunately is inside the other speed horses, Trinniberg and Hansen.
Baffert thinks this is one of the deepest fields in recent memory.
"I think it's a very competitive Derby," Baffert said. "You watch them all train and they all look great out there. This is one of the toughest Derbys I've been in probably the last 10 years. It's a really competitive field."
The draw didn't seem to faze veteran jockey Mike Smith, who rode Bodemeister in the Arkansas Derby.
"The ideal thing would probably be to be to the outside of the other speed. We'll play it off the break and see what happens. I think that if he gets away well, he's going to run extremely well," Smith said.
Take Charge Indy, will try to become his famous sire A.P. Indy's first Kentucky Derby champion. The former Belmont Stakes winner was recently retired from stud duty and this could be one of his last chances to produce a Derby winner. The Grade 1 Florida Derby winner has been off for five weeks since defeating the highly regarded Union Rags at Gulfstream Park. The king of Churchill Downs, Calvin Borel, has the mount on Take Charge Indy, so there's a good chance he'll be skimming the rail throughout the race in his patented racing style.
What's more is the horse hasn't gathered much attention since his arrival at Churchill and his odds could be juicy on Derby day. "Nobody has really looked at us," co-owner Chuck Sandford said. "He's been under the radar, we win a Grade 1 and we're still under the radar. He's like the Rodney Dangerfield of horses, absolutely getting no respect."
I'll Have Another, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby champ, has two streaks that he'll try to end this afternoon around 6:45 p.m. (Coverage on Ch. 2 starts at 5 p.m.) It's been 23 years since the Santa Anita Derby champion won the Derby, when the great Sunday Silence prevailed in the 1989 Derby. He'll also attempt to become the first horse to ever win from post No. 19, where only one horse in 21 attempts has ever hit the board. His sire, Flower Alley, won the 10-furlong Travers and placed in the Breeders' Cup (BC) Classic at the same distance. His damsire, Arch, was the father to the 2010 BC Classic winner, Blame.
Only two horses outside of post No. 17 have ever won the Derby, Gato del Sol (1982) and Big Brown (2008), out of posts 18 and 20, respectively. Horses in the outside gates generally will travel additional distance or expend energy too early in attempts to get to the front of the calvary charge to the clubhouse turn.
None of the 3-year-olds entered in the Run for the Roses have ever raced at the 1 1/4 -mile classic distance in their short careers. This makes pedigree handicapping of the utmost importance when analyzing whether a horse has the stamina, in addition to the speed to master the distance.
The Grade 1 Wood Memorial winner, Gemologist, is by two-time BC Classic champion Tiznow, who also has never sired a Derby winner. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt is perfect in five career races and will attempt to become the eighth undefeated horse to win the Kentucky Derby, the last being Big Brown. He held off a game Alpha in the Wood after a three-wide trip in his second race of 2012. He comes into the Derby third off the layoff on the form cycle and looked spectacular on Thursday morning on the backside.
Alpha, a horse who has been known to be fractious at times when entering the gate, drew post No. 11, which means he will load first (along with the rail post as they load two horses at a time), which is not a positive development and one of the reasons I am hesitant to include him in the mix.
One longshot horse, Daddy Nose Best, has a similar running style as last year's champion, Animal Kingdom. He comes into the Derby off wins in two stakes races in the Sunland Derby and El Camino Real Derby, run at lesser-known tracks. What intrigues me is the ground he has made up during the late going in both races. Visually he looks to have the turn of foot necessary to win the biggest race in the U.S. From a pedigree standpoint, his damsire, Thunder Gulch, won the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and the Travers in 1995, so he has the stamina on his damline to compete in stretch.
The Post Time outlook for Kentucky Derby 138 is that of the speed horses, only Bodemeister will hang on to hit the board. Battling for the top spot will be Take Charge Indy and our selection, Daddy Nose Best, who will prevail at the wire.
We'll be looking for Take Charge Indy and Borel to also challenge along the rail, but will eventually succumb to the Daddy. Gemologist is the other horse that has looked tremendous during the week and we see him completing the super.
Post Time selections: 1 - Daddy Nose Best; 2 - Take Charge Indy; 3 - Bodemeister; 4 - Gemologist.
Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com. He posts every Friday at the Sports, Ink, blog at www.buffalonews.com and can be found on Twitter (@EquiSpace).