By Gene Kershner
We're eight days from the Run for the Roses and it's time for the annual Degrees of Separation post where we separate the contenders from the pretenders within some fun divisions. I've been putting this together for the past six years and this year is no different.
It's a light look at the current qualifiers based on the current leaderboard, a week out and before the post position draw to help segregate the horses I'm high on versus the throw-outs come Derby day. Before we jump into Derby 140, let's take a moment to review some of my better (and really bad) quotes from past Degrees of Separation posts.
Mine That Bird: "Slowest of the slow" (Not my best work)
Super Saver: "Really warming up to this one. Pletcher's best chance to wear the roses. Sports Monarchos' sire, his dam sire is A.P. Indy, so he has the pedigree AND the King of Churchill in the irons. Dangerous." (Don't say so myself)
Ice Box: "If there's a pace meltdown, he will be around to claim a prize." (Make that an ice cold exacta, son)
Animal Kingdom: "Really loved his move in the Vinery Spiral Stakes, but he looks more like a dynamite turf horse than a Derby champ." (Oops)
Shackleford: "Really would have loved to see him in the Preakness versus the Derby, hope the race doesn't wreck him, looks like a monster." (Bingo)
I'll Have Another: "I dig this horse. His daddy, Flower Alley, had a troubled trip in the 2005 Derby and is a Travers winner and BC Classic runner-up. Could be my top pick - we'll see how he draws on Wednesday." (Drew 19, dropped him into my second tier…whoops)
Orb: Likely favorite after his two big wins at Gulfstream with matching Beyer Speed Figures. He'll be on top of my tickets. (Boom)
Palace Malice: Late charger who seems to be a Belmont horse to me. I like him very much, and will keep an eye on his draw, his daddy Curlin won the Preakness and was nosed out of the Belmont. (Wow)
So let's get down to business and reveal our 2014 Degrees of Separation for Kentucky Derby 140:
The AMC Gremlin Division: My father bought my mother an American Motors Corporation (AMC) Gremlin back in the 70s and it was a thing of beauty. Bright red, sleek gold stripes, the works. Problem was...it just wasn't fast. These are the horses that represent this division, and qualify as my throw-outs:
Candy Boy: I just can't get behind this Candy Ride colt, even with Stevens in the irons. The only thing going for him is he's gone against some pretty stiff competition and is tested.
Uncle Sigh: *Audible sigh* His connections likely are just happy to be in the race. Couldn't knock off Samraat in three tries, you know what they say about three strikes….
Ring Weekend: He couldn't win the Calder Derby, hear what I'm sayin'?
Vinceremos: Will take some money based on his trainer, but can't see him making much noise on Derby day.
The Pamela Anderson Divison: This is the spot where horses have made it to the Derby starting gate by winning on the faux dirt and will most likely not make due on the real stuff under the Twin Spires.
We Miss Artie: His daddy was a turf specialist and this guy won on the fake stuff at Turfway Park in the Spiral. Wouldn't be too smarty to bet on Artie.
Harry's Holiday: Another turf horse who was right behind Artie in the Spiral. Thanks for coming.
Dance with Fate: Blue Grass winner was impressive winner at Keeneland, but don't tempt fate as he could be the Paddy O' Prado/Dullahan horse that rounds out the trifecta.
Medal Count: Second-place finisher in the Blue Grass behind Dance with Fate. He has stamina in his pedigree and if he's going to make the medal stand, bronze is the only color I'm counting on.
The Indy 500 Division: Currently empty as whoever draws the rail (pole) will be a toss and will be the automatic qualifier for this spot.
The George Costanza Human Fund Division: These will be the horses that taking in a lot of money and have a little (or lot of) hype, but will be unmasked in the Derby and will not be a factor.
Vicar's in Trouble: If Rosie rides she'll attempt to be the first female jock to wear the roses. That will take some dough-ray-me at the windows. This one is growing on me for a potential exotics position underneath.
Danza: Big win in Arkansas. Check. Triple Digit Speed Figure. Check. Named after a famous celebrity. Check. Money sapped at windows. Check.
The Afleet Alex Divison: Horses that won't win the Derby, but will have to be respected and could hit the board. Horses qualifying here have the potential to become a Classic winner down the road in either the Preakness Stakes or the Belmont Stakes. We nailed this one last year as Palace Malice and Oxbow were the two horses in this division.
Ride on Curlin: His sire won the Preakness and finished second in the Belmont, he's still maturing, will prefer the shorter distance he'll get at Pimlico.
Vicar's in Trouble: Doing double-duty with this horse (see Human Fund division) as I think he could be a sleeper in the Belmont if things don't go his way in the Derby.
The Brett Favre Division: The horses that are bound for this division are those I just can't make up my mind out as we sit one week out from the Run for the Roses. Include them, exclude them....indecision has set in.
Samraat: Is he Alpha 2.0? Is he the kind of horse that wins the Travers later in the year when all of the other 3-year-olds are done for the year? I'm not sure, but I don't think he's going to suck any of money out of my wallet.
Wildcat Red: So far he has brought his A-game and survived despite what his pedigree is telling me. Can he continue to carry through his respectable showing in the Florida preps?
Tapiture: Was really into this horse's progression until he threw a clunker in the Arkansas Derby. Is that enough to keep him off my tickets? Probably.
Intense Holiday: How good was the Louisiana Derby? It hasn't been a key race for the Derby for several years. I'm on the fence with this one, but leaning on including him in the...
Charlie Sheen Division: The horses I think have the best chance at...wait for it...winning!
California Chrome: I'm not picking him to win, but no other colt has been as impressive during the prep season as this son of Lucky Pulpit. But can a son of Lucky Pulpit win the Derby?
Wicked Strong: Really love this horse. Easily could have placed him in the Human Fund Division for the #BostonStrong element. Derby winner Charismatic is his dam sire. Worried about traffic issues with his late running style, but has the goods to get it done. In addition, I picked the Wood Memorial winner to win the Derby back in December.
Hoppertunity: He'llprobably win the Preakness on me and will be testing the Curse of Apollo, but Mike Smith is a big race rider and Baffert will have him ready to fire on Derby day.
That's a wrap on this year's 2014 degrees of separation. It always helps me to flesh out the field this way, as you can't bet 'em all, so this gives me a fun and light way to segregate the field prior to the big day.