Velazquez has been out with an injury the past month and was cleared to return to riding May 1. He was slated to ride one horse at Belmont Park that day, but it scratched. He had one mount on Thursday at Belmont and finished seventh. He’ll ride one on the Oaks undercard and Dreaming of Julia in the Kentucky Oaks. By the time the Derby runs, he will have ridden in six races since returning to the track, so the question becomes ‘Is Velazquez fit enough and strong enough to handle the demands of the Kentucky Derby?’
In addition, reports from the backside about Verrazano’s presence on the track in the mornings have not been complimentary. Those witnessing his gallops have said that he’s been audibly breathing hard and visually looks tired, hanging his head through much of his time on the track. I saw the same thing when I visited the backside Thursday morning. I’ve been a fan of Verrazano’s all year, but if horse and jockey are ailing, there’s no way Verrazano can keep his undefeated record in a demanding race such as the Kentucky Derby.
Orb and Verrazano are easy picks with potential to win the Kentucky Derby. But this is the Kentucky Derby and the best horse doesn’t always win. With rain forecast for Friday, maybe it’s better to look for a horse with experience on a wet track or on the turf, or a pedigree that suggests he’ll fair well on a wet surface. I’m including turf form here because turf runners tend to handle a wet track well. There’s actually severally horses that fit this bill, either having finished in the money over the turf or a wet track, or having a sire that’s performed well on it. So, another factor will be necessary to narrow the field.
If you take the wet track/turf ability feature and add in a speed figure of over 100 in a race this year, the field narrows to four—Mylute, Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion, and Itsmyluckyday.
Itsmyluckyday will break from post 12 for trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr. and prefers to race on the lead. Although he finished second to Orb in the Florida Derby in his last start and only earned a 94 Brisnet speed figure, in his Holy Bull and Gulfstream Park Derby victories he earned figures of 106 and 111, respectively. The one time Itsmyluckyday ran on an off track, he finished first by over four lengths and earned a speed figure of 103. Elvis Trujillo, who’s been aboard for the last two starts, will be in the irons Saturday.
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