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    The Grade 1 $2,000,000 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands will run Saturday, May 2, 2014 under the historic twin spires of Churchill Downs race track in Louisville, Ky. It’s the one race on everyone’s bucket list and hardest race to win. Restricted to 3-year-olds, a horse only has one shot at the coveted garland of roses. Owners and trainers that find their way to this race are a fortunate few. For some, the fortune runs deep.

    This year trainer Bob Baffert is one of those most fortunate. Not only will he saddle morning-line favorite American Pharoah for owner Ahmed Zayat, he’ll also saddle second-choice Dortmund for owner Kaleem Shah. All week, the backside (and trackside) buzz has revolved around this pair. The talent runs deep with American Pharoah’s three grade one wins and Dortmund’s two, plus an undefeated record.

    American Pharoah, a son of Pioneerof the Nile, typically goes to the front and is likely to win wire-to-wire. Assigned post 18 and set to break from the 17 hole after Stanford’s defection, jockey Victor Espinoza will likely have to steer American Pharoah to the left, causing him to use energy early to get toward the middle of the track before the field goes into the first turn. If he doesn’t make the lead by the first call, I don’t think it will be detrimental.

    American Pharoah is a talented colt that has shown he can rate just off the leaders and still turn on the turbo when called upon. But if he gets shuffled back to the middle of the pack, I don’t know how he’ll handle having his running style stifled. When American Pharoah’s dad ran his Derby in 2009, he was there at the front, yards from the wire when Mine That Bird snuck up the rail and blew past him to the win. With the Saturday morning scratch of International Star due to a corner crack in his hoof, American Pharoah will slide down one in the gate and break from post 16, avoiding post 17 that has yet to produce a Kentucky Derby winner.

    Stablemate Dortmund will break from post eight under jockey Martin Garcia. Dortmund has also won a few races wire-to-wire, but I don’t expect him to go to the lead in the Kentucky Derby. There’s no reason to push him out after the speed when he’s proven he’s capable of sitting comfortably behind the leaders. From post eight, he can settle into the middle of the pack and react to the action in front of him. He has the speed to catch the leader, regardless of how sharp a pace is set.

    My favorite thing about Dortmund is his heart. The guts this horse showed in the Feb. 7 Robert B. Lewis (G3) when he fought back on a late-surging Firing Line at the finish was incredibly impressive for a colt making his first start of the year. He went on to win the San Felipe (G2) by 1 ¼ lengths over Prospect Park and the Santa Anita Derby (G1) by 4 ¼ lengths over One Lucky Dane. His speed and perseverance make him an attractive choice. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a physically attractive colt as well, displaying a muscular physique and illuminating copper coat on a massive 17-hand body.

    With two equally deserving and capable favorites that I feel have to be played on top, the problem in this Kentucky Derby is figuring out how to make up the players underneath. Or who to throw into an exacta box with the potential to win if the two favorites were to become compromised and unable to get to the wire first.

    I’m not going to talk about every horse or even all that have the potential to make up the superfecta. With this Derby group, you’d still be reading this by post time! I want to point out some potential horses that are not being mentioned by every other handicapper floating around the Downs this week. Therefore, I will not mention the “buzz” horse Frosted.

    Mubtaahij is the Irish bred foreign invader coming out of an eight-length victory in Meydan’s UAE Derby (G2). That race was at 1 3/16 mile, farther than any of the other Derby contenders have attempted. He has three wins in four starts for the year. Trainer Mike de Kock, from South Africa, has over 2,500 wins, 95 in Group 1 races. To add to the horse’s talent, he’s looked incredible on the track this week in his morning gallops. Although Sunny’s Halo, a Canadian-bred, won the Kentucky Derby in 1989, a non-North American-bred has not won since Tomy Lee did it in 1959.

    Firing Line, the Simon Callaghan trainee, comes into the race after a 14 ¼ length romp in the Sunland Derby (G3). This was his first race after losing to Dortmund by a head in the Robert B. Lewis. So, if you like Dortmund, why not Firing Line? He’ll have hall of fame rider Gary Stevens in the irons to encourage him to the wire. He’ll break from post 10 which should not be a bad spot either.

    The one horse that might be a good longshot to put into the play is Bolo. Bolo finished third to Dortmund in the Santa Anita Derby, beaten 6 ½ lengths. He also finished third to Dortmund in the San Felipe, beaten only 1 ¾ lengths in that race. He was forced four-wide into the stretch and came down the middle of the track, taking out tiring competitors. Although he wasn’t able to catch One Lucky Dane or Dortmund, the Derby is a different race. Trained by Carla Gaines, if Bolo were to win, it would produce a new Derby record—first female trainer to win the Kentucky Derby.

    The Kentucky Derby will run at approximately 6:34 p.m. Eastern Time. At this point, after the announcement of late scratches from El Kabeir on Friday and International Star on Saturday morning, 18 horses will break from the gate.

    For wagering purposes on a limited budget, I’ll take Dortmund, American Pharoah, Firing Line, Bolo and Mubtaahji in a five-horse $1 exacta box; cost $20. Longshot play $5 to win/place on Upstart. The Derby offers such great wagering value that you should take advantage of the prices and options. Play the longshots, mix in horses with lower odds with those with higher odds, play the exotics. Don’t let the year’s best wagering race pass you by!

    To help you analyze the horses on your own, check out my article from earlier this week with replays and take-aways from this year’s big prep races. 

    The Kentucky Derby is the 11th race on Saturday’s card with a scheduled post time of 6:34 p.m. Eastern Time. The Derby will be aired live as part of NBC’s coverage from 4-7:30 p.m. The race is included in Horse Racing Radio Network’s coverage from 5-7 p.m. Derby Day coverage begins at noon on NBC Sports Network and WAVE 3 (locally). Replays will run on HRTV and TVG. Click here for free PPs courtesy of Brisnet. 

    Photo: American Pharoah

    Jessie Oswald's picture

    About Jessie Oswald

    I'm a lifetime Louisville resident with a passion for horse racing. When I'm not working as a paralegal or taking care of my family, I follow Thoroughbred racing and love to share the excitement and beauty of the sport with anyone willing to learn!

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