This year’s Kentucky Derby is wide open. This is a race in which any of at least 10 horses could win and I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s a race that I’m going to have to throw out competent runners because I can’t bet them all. None of these horses have ever run at the 1 ¼ distance of the Derby and none have ever or will ever face a field of 19 competitors. There are so many variables in the Kentucky Derby that very often the best horse does not win. As with every Derby, my philosophy is to pick your horse and claim him proudly because as long as you’re in it, you’ve got a shot.
My top pick is Dale Romans’ Dullahan. I’ve been on this horse for a while, so I’m not going to jump off now. Although Dullahan has not won on the dirt, Romans has said that neither the dirt nor the distance will be an issue for Dullahan. I think that the early speed from the sprinter Trinniberg and the super-speedy Bodemeister will set up a nice pace for Dullahan to close upon. Breaking from post 5, Dullahan and jockey Kent Desormeaux will likely sit just behind the pace setters and be ready to pounce as the speed begins to fall back. I think Dullahan is the best shot Romans has had to get his long-awaited Kentucky Derby win.
My second choice is Union Rags. Union Rags was the two-year-old standout going into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but finished a head behind Hansen who went on to be named two-year-old champion. Union Rags returned to win the Fountain of Youth in his three-year-old debut, but could not do better than third in the Florida Derby a month later. Union Rags is another who will be sitting just off the pace and will be ready to make his move when the speed begins to come back. Trainer Michael Matz has said all year long that he’s aiming for the Derby and I expect he’ll have this colt ready.
Third choice is Calvin Borel and Take Charge Indy. In his first start for the year, Take Charge Indy earned a 109 Brisnet speed figure when he finished two lengths behind El Padrino. Two months later, he took charge of the Florida Derby beating Reveron and Union Rags by a length. Borel will break from post 3 and he’ll likely move to the rail where, again, he’ll be ready to pounce on the leaders.
Two horses I’m torn about are Hansen and Bodemeister. These are the front runners I’m expecting the others to close upon. Hansen has the experience and the skill, but his need for the lead and inability to run anything other than fast, may cost him the win.
Bodemeister, who ran his first race January 16, may well turn out to be the best this crop of talented three-year-olds has to offer, but at this point, he’s just too green to put in the win position. However, the Churchill Downs track has been playing very fast, even after an overnight rain. If either of Bodemeister or Hansen can hang on, they’ll win it.
Photo: Kentucky Derby