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.
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. Using my annual Derby spreadsheet as a guide, we review the current top 22 horses likely to be entered next Wednesday.
With tracks such as Keeneland and Meydan changing from synthetic surfaces to dirt and the Spiral Stakes winner Dubai Sky shelved due to injury, the Pamela Anderson division was dropped this year in favor of a new division, the Party Crasher division.
Before we jump into Derby 141, 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 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. (#Boom)
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? (Why yes, yes he can)
So let's get down to business and reveal our 2015 Degrees of Separation for Kentucky Derby 141:
The AMC Gremlin Division: My father bought my mother an American Motors Corporation (AMC) Gremlin back in the late 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:
Itsaknockout: Slow speed figures, and basically made the field based on a disqualification. May get some action with the Mayfeather-Pacquiao fight scheduled for the same evening. Can you say TKO?
Ocho Ocho Ocho: Slow Slow Slow. Unfortunately I’ll be forced to make a hunch bet since my daughter’s birthday is on 8/8.
Mr. Z: He’s logged some serious miles and earned his gate with his Arkansas Derby showing. Sorry, nothing but zzz’s here.
War Story: Nice horse, but he just doesn’t stack up on paper against the monsters in this field.
Danzig Moon: It’s great to have Casse and an Ontario-bred colt in the Derby, but he’d be better suited pointing towards the Queen’s Plate.
Far Right: He seems like he’ll make a nice miler. The only hesitancy on this throw out is Mike Smith in the irons.
Frammento: On the outside looking in right now. Might not be such a bad thing.
The Party Crasher Divison: This is the the newly-designed division nad represents the spot where the horse won’t win, but he’ll cause havoc on your exotic betting by crashing the exacta, trifecta and superfecta at a price. Think Golden Soul and Commanding Curve.
Tencendur: Relatively unknown NY-bred trained by George Weaver. If you follow the Saratoga meet, you know Weaver strikes with big prices at opportune times. This could be one of those times. Leave him off the bottom of your tickets at your own peril.
Bolo: Steady west-coaster who has decent numbers, pedigree and is the poster child for Phillip Rivers.
International Star: I just can’t see him wearing the roses, but crashing the party late? Sure thing, boss.
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.
Vacant until Wednesday.
The George Costanza Human Fund Division: These will be the horses that will be 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.
El Kabeir: New York circuit. Check. Calvin Bo-rail in the irons. Check. Money sapped at windows. Check.
Madefromlucky: If he draws the No. 7 post, he’ll take some serious dumb money. Pletcher horse also guarantees some action at the windows.
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.
Firing Line: Dueled Dortmund on the Cali-circuit and did not embarrass himself, he may relish Pimlico and wear the Black-eyed Susans on the third Saturday in May.
Keen Ice: Most likely horse to skip the Preakness and go right to the Belmont if he finishes in top half of the field. His sire lost the Belmont by a nose and his damsire was a known router.
The Brett Favre Division: The horses that are bound for this division are those I just can't make up my mind up on as we sit one week out from the Run for the Roses. Include them, exclude them....indecision has set in.
Upstart: That Gulfstream surface on Florida Derby day is an enigma when it comes to judging the horses coming out of that race. Which Upstart will show up in the Derby? You tell me.
Stanford: He’s either finishing last or lining up as a candidate for the Party Crasher division. Leaning towards the toss…
Frosted (pictured): Didn’t run a lick at Gulfstream, but captured the Wood for McLaughlin at the Big A. Good chance he ends up as the wise-guy horse that disappoints. Still on the fence…
Carpe Diem: He really hasn’t done anything wrong. I just don’t get the feeling he’s in the upper echelon with the others. The top Pletcher horse has fizzled in the Derby every year since…..forever. I’m most likely to take a stand against the son of Giant’s Causeway.
American Pharoah: The likely favorite doesn’t make the top division? Am I crazy? My doubts linger within the pedigree on the dam side. There are sprinters galore throughout the female tail. Being able to achieve the 10-furlongs with potential traffic issues he hasn’t yet encountered in the trials. Those questions are enough to have me on the fence.
Charlie Sheen Division: The horses I think have the best chance at...wait for it...winning!
Dortmund: Sired by a Derby winner and nothing short of impressive handling traffic and showing versatility in running style. He has the stuff Derby winners are made of.
Materiality: Curses were made to be broken, ask the 2004 Boston Red Sox. He registered a monster performance at Gulfstream in the Florida Derby on a tiring track. Fresh horse with top jock Castellano in the irons, sign me up.
Mubtaahij: Sure you can think of 20 reasons why he shouldn’t win the Derby. The trip from Dubai, changes in diet, lack of medication, jockey unfamiliar with Churchill aboard, etc. etc. This year I went with the types of horses that can take charge at the top of the stretch based on their prep races and pedigrees. He’s my sleeper pick.
That's a wrap on this year's 2015 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. Of course, this is my preliminary look into the field and the post position draw can change all of that.
The News will be onsite in Louisville on Wednesday for the draw, look for coverage here on the Sports, Ink blog through Saturday’s race.