Looking at the Potential Kentucky Derby 141 Field: Casey’s Picks
Looking at the Potential Kentucky Derby 141 Field: Casey’s Picks– The Kentucky Derby is next Saturday, and with there being no more prep races for these young horses to compete in to secure a spot, here is how I see the top twenty horses along with two alternates in case there are any defections within the next week. The Kentucky Derby has brought heartbreak to connections in the past, and while this is a list of the first twenty-two horses on the leaderboard, there is plenty of time left for something to happen to let any other horse in. Looking at the potential Kentucky Derby field, here are my final top twenty horses and the first two horses that would be eligible in case any horse should withdraw or scratch from the race.
1. Dortmund (Big Brown – Our Josephina, by Tale of the Cat) This colt has done nothing wrong in his six-race career. Having him anywhere other than at number one is wrong, in my opinion. I am sold on the fact that he is the most battle-tested, most experienced, and biggest fighter of the bunch, which is important come Derby Day. What I would be worried about come Derby Day is his size. However, his sire won the Kentucky Derby despite being the biggest horse in the field, and Dortmund seems to be almost better than his sire. When he works, there is no action wasted, and his strides eat up twice as much ground as any other horse on the track. When he breaks from the gate, his start will determine which style of running we will see from him and whether or not he is limber enough to make his way through nineteen other horses around the turn and headed for home.
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2. Carpe Diem (Giant’s Causeway – Rebridled Dreams, by Unbridled’s Song) As a $1.6 million dollar two-year-old, Carpe Diem is less than $100,000 away from repaying his debt. He has only one loss in his career which came in a distant second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after being forced into an unfamiliar running style. However, he was able to close and catch Upstart, who came in third. Returning last month to win the Tampa Bay Derby and then the Blue Grass Stakes, this colt has done everything in his career with ease. His stride reaches out further and further in an attempt to eat up as much ground as possible. Because he isn’t as battle-tested as Dortmund, which no one else really is, Carpe Diem will have to give 120% come Derby Day since he has yet to really fight for a win. Raw talent is something those in racing do not experience very often, and with Carpe Diem being versatile, bred to run all day, and experienced, he has every opportunity to win the 2015 Kentucky Derby.
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3. Upstart (Flatter – Party Silks, by Touch Gold) After running a huge Beyer in his season debut in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream, he regressed a bit in the Fountain of Youth where he technically finished second due to disqualification, and he then seemed weary in the Florida Derby in which he finished second to Materiality. When Upstart travels to Churchill on Tuesday, he will have a few gallops over the track, but he will have most of his training at Gulfstream. The dark bay ridgling should improve away from the slow and tiring Gulfstream main track.
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4. American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile – Littleprincessemma, by Yankee Gentleman) While he is training lights out and seems to move easily over the Churchill Downs main track, there are reserves of how much he can handle come Derby Day. While he has trounced all of his competition, how much competition has he really faced? He has yet to face any truly major competition, such as stablemate Dortmund or Carpe Diem. While his pedigree says sprinter, he does have some back pedigree that may help him stay competitive come Derby Day. Yankee Gentleman is out of a half-sister to Shared Belief’s dam, and his great-grandsire is a half-brother to Preakness winner Codex. Some wonder what American Pharoah can’t do, but others wonder what his limit is. I tend to agree with the latter.
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5. Mubtaahij (Dubawi – Pennegale, by Pennekamp) As I was watching his UAE Derby, my jaw dropped. While he seemed immature with his lead changes in the stretch, he trounced his competition. Yes, Dubai competition is likely of lesser quality than what he will be facing in the Derby, but this Dubawi colt seems to be superior and has ability to improve. De Kock has only been to the United States a few times with his horses, but he did bring Horse Chestnut over, a horse who never finished out of the money in six starts. With the way Mubtaahij has been improving at the right time, he is a serious threat here. Note: He is the only entrant in the Kentucky Derby field who will run without Lasix.
6. International Star (Fusaichi Pegasus – Parlez, by French Deputy) This is the only horse in the Kentucky Derby who has won three points races this year. Starting with the Lecomte, this colt also won the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby. The Ramseys have been a huge presence in recent years in the Kentucky Derby, and this colt is their best shot thus far. A son of the 2000 Kentucky Derby winner, this colt has what it takes to be able to maneuver a twenty-horse field. He is able to go through an opening before the opening is truly open. While the colt may not be as fast as American Pharoah, Dortmund, or Carpe Diem, this one has his small size and courage to be able to have his late kick and weaving abilities to be a serious threat.
7. Firing Line (Line of David – Sister Girl Blues, by Hold For Gold) Firing Line is going into the Kentucky Derby off a six-week layoff. Whether this is good or bad is yet to be seen, but with Firing Line being out of the picture since the Sunland Derby on March 22, this is almost a case of “out of sight, out of mind.” Most don’t remember Firing Line nearly defeating Dortmund on two occasions, but they do remember Firing Line romping over inferior competition in the Sunland Derby (GIII). This is likely going to give Firing Line higher odds come Derby Day. Pedigree speaking, Firing Line is by front-running winner of the Arkansas Derby Line of David who came back to run 18th of 20 in the Kentucky Derby. While his pedigree teeters on the edge of 1-1/8 miles, Gary Stevens has the mount in the Kentucky Derby and is the right jockey to get the extra distance from his mount.
8. Frosted (Tapit – Fast Cookie, by Deputy Minister) Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has changed everything but this colt’s color. With Joel Rosario gaining the mount, Frosted is obviously in good hands as Rosario guided Orb to a Kentucky Derby win in 2013. Deputy Minister is leaving a phenomenal legacy as a broodmare sire as well as he is the broodmare sire of Curlin and Rags to Riches. He also sired horses such as Awesome Again, Go for Wand, and Touch Gold. With the bottom half of Frosted’s pedigree being stamina strong, the ability and versatility of Frosted makes him a top competitor.
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9. Materiality (Afleet Alex – Wildwood Flower, by Langfuhr) Materiality is headed into the Kentucky Derby to make his fourth career start. Materiality not only has the foundation question to answer next Saturday, but he also has the weighty Apollo curse on his back. With Johnny Velasquez deciding to ride Carpe Diem, Javier Castellano gets the mount on this Todd Pletcher trainee. This Afleet Alex colt has taken over as the top Afleet Alex prodigy this year as Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red has been sidelined with an injury. This young colt is a half-brother to last year’s Kentucky Oaks runner-up My Miss Sophia. He is also bred on the same cross as Travers winner Afleet Express.
10. Far Right (Notional – Zindi, by Vindication) Except for being a distant second to American Pharoah in the Arkansas Derby, this colt has proven to be impressive at Oaklawn. He is one of the few true closers in the Kentucky Derby. Mike Smith has the mount going into the Kentucky Derby which will help the colt. Far Right is a son of Notional, a brilliant runner who won the San Rafael and Risen Star before suffering an injury that caused him to miss the 2007 Kentucky Derby. He came back to win the Salvator Mile in 2008 before retiring to stud. Being out of a Vindication mare, the stamina influence is there through Seattle Slew. While he comes from a female family of sprinters, his sire is by In Excess who won the Suburban Handicap in record time, and the bottom half of his pedigree includes Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Nijinsky, and Strawberry Road. His fifth dam, Princess Ribot, is also the fifth dam of 2014 Champion and Horse of the Year California Chrome. He should handle the 1¼ mile distance as well as anyone.
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11. Danzig Moon (Malibu Moon – Leavemeinthedust, by Danzig) This lightly raced colt by Malibu Moon recently secured his spot in the Kentucky Derby in finishing second to Carpe Diem in the Blue Grass after a fourth-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby to the same competitor. The colt is trained by Woodbine sensation Mark Casse, assisted by his son Norman, and is owned by John Oxley who owned 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos. Some say this colt is improving at the right time, and improving at the right time is key. He had a monstrous work at Churchill Downs, going faster than Casse wanted him to, so he will likely only have maintenance gallops and a final, easy breeze, before the Derby.
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12. War Story (Northern Afleet – Belle Watling, by Pulpit) Being by a sprinter and a sire who has thrown sprinters and classic runners, War Story could be any type of horse. He has been running at Fair Grounds against International Star where his most recent finish was a third in the Louisiana Derby after two runner-up finishes to his familiar rival. This colt is a half-sibling to Draw Two, a turf runner and winner up to 1½ miles. He also placed in the nine-furlong West Virginia Derby on dirt. War Story recently had a work on April 15, breezing four furlongs in :49.40.
13. Itsaknockout (Lemon Drop Kid – Stormy B, by Cherokee Run) After a terrible run in the Florida Derby, Itsaknockout has seemingly dropped from everyone’s list. He was spinning his wheels in his last start and his first official loss after being placed first in the Fountain of Youth via the disqualification of Upstart. Training at Palm Meadows with Todd Pletcher for Starlight Racing, he recently went four furlongs in :48 flat in company with multiple graded stakes winner Competitive Edge. He has a stamina-filled pedigree with some speed on the bottom. He should be able to improve away from the slow Gulfstream main track and is likely to improve with age and experience.
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14. El Kabeir (Scat Daddy – Great Venue, by Unbridled’s Song) El Kabeir is a model of consistency. He has been running in stakes races since the Grade I Champagne last October and has won or hit the board in seven of his last eight starts. Of those starts, he has won on the lead, stalking the lead, and closing. In his previous race, the Wood Memorial, his jockey CC Lopez left him with a little too much to do but did the exact thing the final prep is supposed to do: not take everything out of the horse but give him enough foundation. The ability for him to get the 1¼ miles distance is a big “if” based on pedigree, but this colt gives his all every single time!
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15. Bolo (Temple City – Aspen Mountain, by Chief Seattle) Currently 19th on the leaderboard, Bolo barely made the field after two third-place finishes. While he is obviously a better turf horse than dirt horse, it is known that Churchill Downs is kind to turf horses as we’ve seen in Animal Kingdom, Big Brown, Barbaro, and even Dullahan. Bolo should have no problem with the distance as his sire was a marathoner and his distaff line shows that his dam is a half-sibling to Mining My Own, dam of the aforementioned Dullahan and Mine That Bird.
16. Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense – Winner, by Horse Chestnut) Ocho Ocho Ocho seemed like a brilliant two-year-old who would improve at three, but instead, he has yet to win a race this season. He got nothing out of his run in the San Felipe but finished third in the Blue Grass, which helped him earn just enough points to claim a spot in the starting gate at #18 on the leaderboard. It may seem like he is too fast to be a true distance horse, but Street Sense was no slouch at classic distances, and his damsire won the South African Triple Crown. He also descends from one of the most productive female families in recent times – his third-dam is the undefeated Personal Ensign.
17. Tencendur (Warrior’s Reward – Still Secret, by Hennessy) From the first crop of Carter Handicap winner Warrior’s Reward, Tencendur looks to be a quickly improving colt. If he is indeed improving, he’s doing it at the right time. He ran the race of his life in the Wood Memorial where he finished second to Frosted. Looking at his pedigree, Tencendur is actually bred to be a sprinter/miler type. However, while Warrior’s Reward never won past a mile, his sire Medaglia d’Oro is a huge speed and stamina influence. Hennessy is also seen as a dominantly speedy influence in his offspring. In the tail-end of his female family, there seems to be a lack of significant stamina.
18. Mr. Z (Malibu Moon – Stormy Bear, by Storm Cat) This colt has been highly competitive his entire career, and his worst finish was in the Louisiana Derby where he finished in ninth. This son of Malibu Moon is unbelievably fast, giving American Pharoah some pressure in the Arkansas Derby before fading to hold onto third. Whether he is really a classic distance horse is obviously still in question, but this colt hasn’t ducked competition. His only non-stakes start was his maiden at six furlongs, which he won in his debut. Lukas has constantly run this horse, and whether or not he will still be competitive on Derby Day is a question. Bred to be fast, this colt seems to want less distance rather than more. Note: This colt is bred along the same female line as Private Zone, Cigar Miler and two-time Vosburgh winner.
19. Stanford (Malibu Moon – Rosy Humor, by Distorted Humor) Pletcher is undecided on whether or not this colt will run in the Derby, but if he were to run, this seems like the horse he would send out on the front end to help his other runners’ chances. This is the third Malibu Moon colt to make the Kentucky Derby this year. Whether or not there will be three starters for the stallion is undecided as Pletcher will decide after Stanford works in the next few days.
20. Madefromlucky (Lookin at Lucky – Home from Oz, by Pulpit) Madefromlucky is the final horse of the top twenty, and it is undecided if Todd Pletcher will send this young colt to the Kentucky Derby. In the same situation as Stanford, his running in the 141st Kentucky Derby will be determined following his next work. Pedigree shows that Madefromlucky is built to be precocious and fast but should be able to carry himself two turns. His dam, Home from Oz, is a full sister to 2014 Leading Sire Tapit. The female family closely resembles the female family of Summer Bird, winner of the 2009 Belmont, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup.
21. Keen Ice (Curlin – Medomak, by Awesome Again) Dale Romans is getting more optimistic of Keen Ice’s chances as the colt just worked five furlongs in :59 4/5 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 1/5. This colt is bred to run all day and to get better with age. Curlin was best in his later three-year-old season, and Awesome Again offspring seem to get better as they age, too. The colt has been finishing distant thirds for a while. He did break his maiden going a mile, and while I have been watching this colt since his maiden score, he needs to step it up. However, if either Stanford or Madefromlucky do not go in the Derby, he is the first in line to fill the spot.
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22. Frammento (Midshipman – Ginger Bay, by Golden Missile) Nick Zito seems to think Frammento has a serious shot at the Kentucky Derby, and with his true closer style, he could possibly be a good fit for the Kentucky Derby. If both Stanford and Madefromlucky do not enter the Kentucky Derby, this young colt from the first crop of Midshipman is in. Midshipman is a half-sibling to Fast Cookie, the dam of Frosted. While Midshipman was truly untested at longer distances, he was a winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and then finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, indicating he could pass on enough stamina to his offspring. Golden Missile is the son of A. P. Indy and Santa Catalina, a multiple graded stakes winner. Frammento, if he is able to get into the Kentucky Derby, could be a huge threat if there is a pace meltdown.
The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby is set to take place at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 2, 2015. Gates open early at 8:00 am ET with post time for the first race at 10:30 am ET. Post time for the Kentucky Oaks is approximately 5:45 pm ET on Friday May 1, 2015. Post time for the Kentucky Derby is approximately 6:24 pm ET. Visit KentuckyDerby.com for official information.