Kentucky Derby Picks and Analysis, 2015

Beyer speed figures are not the Bible of horse race handicapping, but they do provide a bit of a measuring stick as to how well a colt has performed relative to the history of those that came before him. It used to be that running a Beyer over 100 was practically a prerequisite for win consideration in the 10f Kentucky Derby, but horseplayers have grown accustomed in recent years to Derby fields with less and less of these types of runners. Incredibly, from 2009-2013, there were never more than five horses to have run 100+ Beyer Figures in a single race, and only three runners combined over those five years had duplicated 100+ Beyers.

This year, we get a deep and accomplished field the likes of which we have not seen in years. Eight horses in the field have run triple digit Beyers around two turns this year; the last time there were this many in a single race was 2007. Four horses have duplicated triple digit Beyers, which is the first time that has happened since 2006. We are in for a highly competitive edition of the Run For The Roses.

Without going into the full depth of the statistics, suffice to say that we ran the numbers regarding the performance of the first and second place finishers in years like this one, where four or more horses entered had duplicated Beyers above 100 entering the race. What we found is that this has happened 12 times, and that in each and every single one of those races, a colt who had posted at least one Beyer above 100 won the race. These were not the years of upsets like Giacomo and Mine That Bird or even Super Saver and Animal Kingdom, who won against far weaker fields by this measure. Perhaps even more interestingly, the second place finisher in those stronger years had posted a Beyer above 100 a staggering 10/12 times, versus just 2/11 times in weaker years.

With Golden Soul and Commanding Curve bombing into the exacta at long odds and with little rationale the past two years, bettors will undoubtedly seek long priced colts underneath their top selection this year as well. However, if history is any indication, the 2015 Derby exacta should be quite full of form, and it is important to remember how much weaker the fields of the last two years were relative to this one.

That doesn’t mean we are going for straight chalk in this edition, as there are still several colts with high credentials that will go off at attractive prices. It is just a careful warning that bettors may be better served searching for bombers in the third spot rather than the second. Here is a careful evaluation of each contender, broken down by expected running style, with designation for Sire/Damsire, Top Beyer and Tomlinson Distance Rating:

PACE

#18 AMERICAN PHAROAH 5-2 (Pioneer of the Nile/ Yankee Gentlemen)

105 Beyer, 301 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Simply put, he’s one of the classiest, most professional colts we’ve seen on the Derby Trail for a long time. Following a commanding win in last year’s FrontRunner Stakes, his first try around two turns, he suffered a slight injury that kept him out of the Breeders’ Cup, but he was flattered when Texas Red, a colt he had beaten by 4.75 lengths in that race, destroyed the field. He’s only had two preps leading up to this and both were really just glorified workouts given how easily he dispatched those fields, and he has the look of a horse ready to peak in his third off the layoff. His BRIS Late Pace Figure of 109 for his Rebel still tops the field for all prep races, and although he didn’t duplicate that figure in his Arkansas Derby win, he wasn’t fully extended and still came home in :37.78 and :12.58, which is plenty good enough to win. This isn’t a one dimensional speed horse. He shows Mr. Prospector 5x removed on his sire line, so check that off the list. In a field loaded with horses who have posted triple digit Beyer speed figures, he has duplicated the same on three occasions, culminating in a career high 105 in his last.  He arrived at Churchill nearly three weeks before the race, and has had plenty of time to get comfortable, posting a bullet breeze in :58.40 a week ago.

Cons: The only major cause for concern is pedigree-related. While his sire and grandsire both posted runner-up finishes in this race, his dam line is not nearly as impressive, as Yankee Gentlemen’s progeny have an average winning distance of just 6.31f, which is the lowest in the field for any damsire. As a result, his dosage profile lands above the 4.00 level, which has been a historical red flag, but not a total dealbreaker, as four horses have overcome the same to win this race in the last quarter century (Mine That Bird, Giacomo, Charismatic, and Real Quiet).

Conclusion: The question we eagerly anticipate in this race will be to see what this horse is capable of once he is actually asked to run. The best part of his Arkansas Derby win was the fact that he proved that he doesn’t need the lead to win; he sat back a length behind the pace and exploded to the lead easily when asked. He is just such a smooth mover and does everything so effortlessly. The feeling here is that when he is finally forced to exert some effort, it might be something very special to behold. Third off the layoff, he certainly comes into this race the right way, and while there is something to be said for having been more battle tested than he has been, there is also a school of thought that believes it is better to not have peaked too soon. He knows how to win so he has that education, but he also hasn’t had to work that hard too attain it. We’ve let Big Brown and California Chrome beat us at similar odds when they towered over the field and have learned from those mistakes. The post isn’t ideal, but isn’t as concerning as if he had drawn near the rail, and remember that Big Brown won easily from the #20 using a similar running style. The pick.

#8 DORTMUND 3-1 (Big Brown/ Tale of the Cat)

106 Beyer, 242 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Undefeated conqueror of the west has shown versatility and grit in winning all of his six career races. He certainly has an edge over the field in terms of foundation, and has been battle-tested, having to run back past Firing Line after being passed into the stretch of the San Felipe. He has now posted three consecutive triple digit, ascending Beyers (103,104, 106) and has a win at CD in allowance company as a two-year old. He lost a shoe in Santa Anita Derby and managed to stay on well, demolishing that field with relative ease. He couldn’t have drawn any better, as he’ll have a straight shot in the middle of the field and should have no trouble either making the lead or tracking the early leader.

Cons: A massive tank of a horse at 17 hands, he depends so much on building momentum and appears at times to only have one gear, or to lack a turn of foot. His enormous size may cause traffic trouble in such a large field, and while he threw a shoe and had the field easily beaten last out, his late fractions look very middling. He actually ran each panel of Santa Anita Derby slower than the previous one, coming home in just :38.16 over the final 3/8, and there’s some question as to the overall quality of horses he has beaten. He is another that shows some questions as to whether he is ideally bred for a race this long. Although his sire Big Brown won the race, his damsire shows an average winning distance of just 6.75f, and this isn’t an incredibly balanced stamina profile for a Derby winner. His Tomlinson Distance Rating of 242 is more than low enough to eliminate him as a win contender historically speaking.

Conclusion: It would be no surprise to see him run a strong race, or perhaps even win. But, given his likely odds and the fact we are already supporting the favorite on the top line, there are reasons to take a small stand against him here in terms of value. His tendency to go to the lead combined with questions regarding his desire to go this far loom the main concerns. The value in this race may indeed lie in trying to keep him out of the exacta on that angle, and to use him defensively underneath in trifectas.

#3 MATERIALITY 12-1 (Afleet Alex/ Langfuhr)

110 Beyer, 328 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Shows the highest last out Beyer in the field, earning a 110 for his Florida Derby win over a much more seasoned colt in Upstart. He actually shows two triple digit figures (one of just four horses in the race who has duplicated 100+ Beyers around two turns) in just three career starts. He seems bred for the distance, with a sire who finished third in a fluky edition of this race before sweeping the Belmont and Preakness, and shows Mr. Prospector 4x removed on his sire line. At 328, his Tomlinson Distance Rating is the second highest in this race. In his first attempt at 9f, he crushed Stanford by 5.75 lengths, which appears to elevate the Florida form above that in Louisiana.

Cons: We’ll start with the big one: the Apollo curse. No horse has won this race without racing at the age of two since 1882. Unraced at two, Materiality has just three career starts and enters at a major disadvantage in terms of foundation. The Florida Derby is tough to measure, as the speed figures were universally high, but the final fractions and Late Pace figures over the tiring track were abysmal. Trainer Todd Pletcher doesn’t have the best record in this race to say the least, and this could be a case of too much, too soon for a talented colt. He wasn’t done any favors coming out of the #3 post, as he will now be forced to send earlier than he may have liked or risk being swallowed by the 17 horses to his outside.

Conclusion: It’s tempting to leave him off altogether as a result of combining the Apollo curse with his front-running style, especially given his post. On the other hand, we could be on the verge of witnessing a colt with limitless talent that is poised to buck the greatest elimination criteria this race has ever known, and he certainly has the pedigree to do it. We land somewhere in the middle, and can see him landing a piece after taking the field a long way on the lead similar to Bodemeister three years ago. At some point though, his lack of foundation will catch up with him in this company at this longer distance. A player for the bottom of exactas and tris, but we will try to beat him on top.

#10 FIRING LINE 12-1 (Line of David/ Hold For Gold)

103 Beyer, 253 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Gritty front-runner posted a 97 Beyer when he demolished a pretty weak Sunland Derby field on a lightning fast track. He enters fresh off a six week layoff since that race, and thrives with added time between races. He ran with Dortmund to the wire and even passed him at one point during their stretch duel in the Robert Lewis, where he eventually fell short by a head, but earned a career high 103 Beyer. Gets Gary Stevens aboard, who is a master at measuring pace, and this post is more than safe.

Cons: It’s always worrisome when a colt with this sort of front-running style appears to have distance limitations exposed, and to our eyes, that was what happened at Santa Anita against Dortmund. A low Tomlinson Distance Figure and average winning distance comparisons of his sire and damsire seem to confirm the suspicion that perhaps he is better suited to shorter races than this one. The Sunland Derby was very weak, and when looking over his resume, it’s notable that he has never beaten any horse of substance. The most highly regarded colt he has ever finished ahead of is Mr. Z, a winner of one out of twelve career races, and likely the longest shot in today’s field. His come home time of :38.27 over the final 3/8 at Sunland doesn’t exactly scream contender.

Conclusion: A lot of the opinions regarding him are closely intertwined with one’s feeling about Dortmund, as his single claim to fame seems to be running that one so closely in the Robert Lewis. The rule of thumb here is to tread lightly when elevating a horse to the level of another when that other is also a bit more of a mystery than meets the eye in terms of his level of competition. For a horse that appears to need the lead in a race with so much speed, there just isn’t that much that sticks out as a major advantage against this group. It’s an interesting case, as he doesn’t show any above the mean characteristics in terms of historical Derby criteria, but also doesn’t show a lot of reds flags either aside from pedigree concerns. He just seems decidedly average, and this is too strong of a field for an average horse to hit the board; he won’t be on our tickets.

#1 OCHO OCHO OCHO 50-1 (Street Sense/ Horse Chestnut)

86 Beyer, 218 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Dosage profile and Mr. Prospector sire lineage balances out his middling average winning distance and ugly Tomlinson numbers from a pedigree standpoint. Has tactical speed.

Cons: Where to begin? His career high Beyer of 86 is the lowest in the field. Come home times and Late Pace Figures seem to indicate that he won’t benefit from the added furlong, and his Tomlinson Distance Rating is the second lowest in the field. The icing on the cake is the dreaded #1 post, which will force his hand early in a race that was already stacked heavily against him.

Conclusion: More of an 8f turf type of colt, it is somewhat surprising that the connections chose to enter him here, but that’s Derby Fever for you. Should be backing up before the turn for home, toss.

JUST OFF THE PACE

#6 MUBTAAHIJ 20-1 (Dubawi/ Pennekamp)

95 Beyer, 353 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: He showed tremendous push-button acceleration in the stretch when winning the UAE Derby in Dubai easily in his last start. He boasts arguably the field’s best pedigree, showing Mr. Prospector 4x removed on his sire side and a towering sire/damsire average winning distance of 8.60f/8.80f, as well as the highest Tomlinson Distance Rating. As the only horse in the field with a single race beyond 9f, he shows two wins at 9.5f, which indicates strong foundation and fitness, to say nothing of his ability to handle a route distance. Shippers from Dubai haven’t fared well in this race, running seven times without ever hitting the superfecta. However, we believe that the switch to dirt at Meydan relieves one of the traditional question marks those runners have carried with them, as there should be no question as to whether or not Mubtaahij will relish the dirt. Trainer Mike De Kock has never missed the board shipping to America, so you know he only makes the trip when he has a live contender. Draws a perfect post where he can save ground outside the speed and in between two off the pace runners who figure to drop back.

Cons: The quality of his UAE Derby foes was most certainly a large step below those he will see here. The overseas ship and adjustment to Churchill Downs is always a concern, and De Kock chose to keep him at Arlington to train over the polytrack until Tuesday, so he hasn’t had a ton of time to acclimate. Also, he had to change feed patterns, as his regular feed is not FDA approved in the United States (a small thing, but every little glitch counts as a “Con” in this race). The Beyer speed figure “equivalent” he was assigned for the UAE Derby win is only a 95, which would be a major cause for concern against a field this deep if taken at face value. He will be the first horse to contest this race without Lasix in over a decade, which is concerning from the standpoint of competitive advantage.

Conclusion: This is probably the best shot that a Dubai horse has had at winning this race. While speed figures and quality of competition loom mysteries, pedigree goes a long way in this race, and he has the running style to capitalize. A very live player that will be used on the top line of exotics; the mystery of his true potential is an unsettling proposition to ignore.

#2 CARPE DIEM 8-1 (Giant’s Causeway/ Unbridled’s Song)

98 Beyer, 306 Tomlinson Distance  

Pros: Has demonstrated a versatile running style in winning four of his five career races, both wiring fields and settling back off the pace. He is a beautiful mover and seems bred to get the 10f, as his sire line especially points toward stamina. He showed ascending BRIS pace figures throughout his Blue Grass win, which also suggest he will handle the added distance, and is one of just four colts in the field to show a triple digit Late Pace figure in his last prep.

Cons: Despite his successes, he still has yet to post a triple digit Beyer, so there is concern that he isn’t fast enough to win this given the strength of the field. In terms of figures, he actually showed a decline between the Tampa Bay Derby and Blue Grass wins from a 98 Beyer to 95 Beyer, although he won the latter under a hand ride. Mental toughness before races has been an issue for him, as he has as had trouble with loading into the gate and saddling in the paddock, and Derby Day isn’t one to calm the nerves of irritable colts. For a colt that still has a lot of questions to answer, we’d liked to have seen him draw a post where he could have show more versatility than the #2 post affords him; he’ll likely have to be sent early to avoid trouble, and that isn’t his ideal style.

Conclusion: There’s a lingering feeling that we have yet to see his best, and he certainly has the foundation and pedigree to be a factor here. Still, in a race with eight colts to have posted a triple digit Beyer, and four that have done so on multiple occasions, he is a tough one to make a case for on the win line without taking a significant leap of faith. Recall how easily beaten he was when second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in his only career loss. Then recall how easily today’s favorite beat the winner of that race, and this seems to provide evidence that he may be just a cut below the best here; that’s 11 lengths to make up for a colt whose figures haven’t really improved that much from two to three. Will use underneath in trifectas but like others better for the top two spots.

#19 UPSTART 15-1 (Flatter/ Touch Gold)

107 Beyer, 292 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Stamped himself as a prime contender back in January, as his impressive Holy Bull win over Frosted remains the fastest BRIS Figure + Late Pace prep of the bunch. He’s one of three colts to have run three triple digit Beyers around two turns and has as solid a foundation as any. He shows a rare combination of stamina influences, as both his grandsire and damsire won the Belmont Stakes. He’s never missed the board in seven career starts.

Cons: Since the Holy Bull win, he’s run twice and both times less impressively. Has he peaked too soon? There’s concern he could regress after consecutive races over tiring tracks at Gulfstream, and he really wasn’t any match for Materiality in his last anyway. A missed workout due to fever three weeks back was re-scheduled and he worked well, but there is just so much that has to go perfectly leading up to this race that you hate to see anything off kilter. While eye-catching on paper, it bears mention that the stamina of Flatter and Touch Gold hasn’t translated to their progeny as one might expect, as both show an average winning distance below 7.0f. Only two colts in the last 15 years have won the Derby with that sort of AWD profile and both (Smarty Jones and California Chrome) appeared to tower over their respective fields by means of other measures that Upstart does not. Still, for a horse that may not want to run quite this far, he won’t be helped by the fact he will likely be forced to run a lot further out of the #19 post.

Conclusion: The feeling here is that he may have peaked back in January and while probably an overlay based on these odds relative to his overall resume, the risk of a bounce coming off two hard races is high. He may be better suited to 9f races, and although the track was tiring at Gulfstream on Florida Derby day, his come home time in that race looms a historical red flag. A contender for the bottom of exotics based on his speed, foundation and consistency, but given head to head losses to horses that appear to have more form upside like Carpe Diem and Materiality, we will try to keep him out of the exacta, and use him only on deep trifecta key bottoms.

#9 BOLO 30-1 (Temple City/ Chief Seattle)

101 Beyer, 307 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: While arguably bred better for turf, he shouldn’t have any trouble getting the distance in terms of pedigree, and it’s worth pointing out how well turf runners like Animal Kingdom, Barbaro, Dullahan and Paddy O’Prado were able to translate their form over this particular track. Ran well when an even third in the San Felipe, posting a triple digit Beyer for the effort, one of just eight colts in the field to do so. Seemed to have an excuse when a more easily beaten third in his last, as he ran the Santa Anita Derby wide throughout.

Cons: Doesn’t have the look of a horse who will relish added ground, as his come home times of :38.96 and :13.25 leave a lot to be desired, as does his BRIS Late Pace Figure of 81, which is among the lowest in the field. A two time winner on turf, dirt just simply is not his ideal surface, and in a field this deep, full of bonafide dirt runners, this puts him at a big disadvantage.

Conclusion: A trendy choice for a deep exotics bomber, but we will look elsewhere with some reservation. There’s nothing glaringly bad about his overall profile, but the sinking feeling that he is running on the wrong surface leaves a lot of question marks; difficult to elevate him into playable, and it’s a leap of faith to simply assume his turf form will translate as well as the aforementioned colts did.

#17 MR. Z 50-1 (Malibu Moon/ Storm Cat)

90 Beyer, 265 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Shows a solid foundation, having raced twelve times in his career. He was a productive two year old, finishing a closing second to the highly regarded Carpe Diem, and finishing in the top half of the field when 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Was flattered after running within a nose of Dortmund last December, although one could argue the two have been heading in different directions since.

Cons: Everything else. He hasn’t won since breaking his maiden 11 starts ago, and seems to consciously avoid winning situations. He veered out sharply after appearing to have the 8f Smarty Jones won, bizarre behavior indeed for a colt with so much experience under his belt. From the standpoint of speed figures, closing fractions and pedigree data, he just appears to be a large cut below the field.

Conclusion: Probably better suited to a closing style, the most frustrating aspect of this colt’s campaign has been his insistence to run rank near the lead. That combined with the tendency towards a hot pace in this particular race is a recipe for disaster. Shows by far the worst profile in the field in terms of historical criteria and is therefore the easiest toss of the group.

STALKERS

#15 FROSTED 15-1 (Tapit/ Deputy Minister)

103 Beyer, 293 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Here is a colt entering the race in the right stage of his form cycle. He had a rough start to the year but had excuses in his two losses, finishing a distant 2nd to Upstart after being bumped at the start of Holy Bull. He may not have liked the tiring Gulfstream Park track that day, or when he faded perplexingly coming for home next out in the Fountain of Youth after holding what appeared to be a winning lead around the quarter pole. Following a minor throat procedure as a result of a displaced palate that may have given him an excuse for his Fountain of Youth meltdown, his Wood Memorial win was most impressive as he closed into a slow pace, fanning four wide nearly the entire race. It’s worth pointing out he got Joel Rosario aboard for that race, who retains the mount here. He seems better suited to off the pace running, and showed highly impressive, field topping closing fractions of :36.50 and :12.45 coming home while never running more than four lengths off the pace. Importantly, the 103 Beyer he was assigned in that race stamps him as a win contender in a highly contested race. We really like the #15 post for this colt, as it offers him space as the first slot in the auxillary gate in between two dead closers that figure to drop well back early. His BRIS speed figure of 107 is the highest in the field, and he’s one of just four colts in the field to post a BRIS Late Pace Figure over 100 in his final prep. His sire and damsire show strong average winning distance numbers of 7.44f and 7.60f respectively. The A.P. Indy sire line has been hot in this race, winning the last two; hat trick?

Cons: Despite his excuses, it is tough to get past the margin in which he was defeated by Upstart in the Holy Bull, or to justify why he decided to stop running when he appeared to have the race won in the Fountain of Youth if the displaced palate theory isn’t believed. Is he a colt that is improving at the right time, or simply just inconsistent?

Conclusion: There was once a time where I’d never consider a Tapit colt a true contender in a classic race, but then Tonalist happened and made me a believer. Simply put, Frosted is the only runner in the field without a single negative in terms of historical trends. After moving forward in the Wood Memorial with a pace and trip that were stacked against him, this race sets up well for him, and the combination of his pedigree and running style makes him perhaps the most dangerous challenger to the favorite at five times the odds. A must use on the top line, and the value play of the race for outright bets.

#4 TENCENDUR 30-1 (Warrior’s Reward/ Hennessy)

100 Beyer, 281 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Ran the race of his career when second last out in the Wood Memorial, breaking the triple digit Beyer and BRIS threshold and actually holding a brief lead in the stretch. While he ended up losing that lead, he did come home in a pretty impressive :37.20 for the final 3/8, albeit after chasing pretty soft opening fractions.

Cons: There’s a lot of speed influences in this pedigree, especially on the bottom, and neither his sire or damsire show an average winning distance for their progeny above 7f, a historical red flag that seemed to bear itself out in his last prep race. He’s also never won beyond the maiden level.

Conclusion: After such a massive improvement in the Wood Memorial, there is some concern of regression in this race. Still, there are plenty of worse colts to use for the very bottom of exotics if spreading 10-12 deep. We aren’t playing the superfecta, so will stand against for the trifecta spots.

#13 ITSAKNOCKOUT 30-1 (Lemon Drop Kid/ Cherokee Run)

88 Beyer, 315 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Claim to fame is a Fountain of Youth “win”, where he was moved up to the top line after losing the race by 2.75 lengths but claiming foul in the stretch after being bumped by Upstart. Working well at Churchill Downs, and shows solid pedigree numbers, including the third best Tomlinson Distance Rating and second best Dosage number. A great grandson of Mr. Prospector, and should have no problem with the 10f distance here.

Cons: Although the track was infamously tiring at Gulfstream for the Florida Derby, his performance that day was almost too terrible to be believable, yet there is a lack of observable excuses for the massive step backward he took that day finishing 21 lengths from the front. Even in his Fountain of Youth “win”, he earned just an 88 Beyer, which is well below the cut here.

Conclusion: Considering he is only in the race by virtue of a disqualification that arguably never should have happened, we will look elsewhere for the bottom of the trifecta, while admittedly intrigued by his potential to make an impact late if he can reverse form, but unable to elevate him above others.

#16 WAR STORY 50-1 (Northern Afleet/ Pulpit)

91 Beyer, 251 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Shows a moderately impressive pedigree, descending as a great grandson of Mr. Prospector, and boasting above average Dosage numbers.

Cons: Beyer numbers haven’t improved much in his short career of only four starts, and he’s lost to International Star three straight races now. The low Tomlinson Distance Rating works to neutralize the positive aspects of the pedigree. A heavily stamina-oriented damside gets chopped up a bit by a speed-oriented sireline. His works over the track this week have been labeled as uninspiring.

Conclusion: There isn’t much to like or dislike incredibly about this middling colt. The excitement factor just isn’t there, as nothing eye-catching about his resume entices any support. We’ll lean on the slow Beyers as an eliminator in lieu of any truly engaging angles here.

#7 EL KABEIR 30-1 (Scat Daddy/ Unbridled’s Song)

94 Beyer, 273 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Has re-entered the conversation as a potential bomber after changing his front-running style and taking back in the Wood Memorial, where he posed pretty impressive come home fractions of :37.10 and :12.60 from well off the pace. He shows a win over the track from last fall when capturing the 8.5f Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in wire to wire fashion. Picks up Calvin Borel for the first ride since that race, and that’s never a bad thing over this particular track.

Cons: In terms of speed figures, he seems to have leveled of, showing no improvement from the 94 Beyer he posted in the aforementioned Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes to his third place finish in the Wood Memorial just four weeks ago. He was actually losing ground to the winner in the stretch, and being so easily beaten for second by maiden winner Tendencur is difficult to overlook.

Conclusion: All signs indicate that this is a Grade 2-3 animal who will churn out a nice return for his owners, but not at this level. It’s just difficult to conclude that he is sitting on any sort of improvement given how consistently middling his figures have been. Sire Scat Daddy seems to bring the kiss of death to this race following his own 18th place finish, and we’ve tossed all of his progeny ever since without regret.

CLOSERS

#12 INTERNATIONAL STAR 20-1 (Fusaichi Pegasus/ French Deputy)

98 Beyer, 234 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Really found a groove in Louisiana this spring, winning all three of his graded starts at Fairgrounds. Simply put, he’s proven to be a warrior that knows how to find a hole and win. His off-the pace running style could suit well in a race with added distance and a hot expected early pace, and he has the tools to capitalize, showing a :36.55 final 3/8 and :12.33 final 1/8 in his Louisiana Derby win. The 107 BRIS Late Pace Figure earned in that race is the highest last out figure, and it is also important to note that his pace figures in his last two races have been ascending. From a pedigree standpoint, he is the closest descendant of the Mr. Prospector sire line in the field (grandson). While his speed figures leave a bit to be desired, the six straight ascending Beyers he has earned seem to suggest a horse that still has some upside.

Cons: Who has he beaten? There is reason to question the quality of the Louisiana circuit this spring. He was all out to defeat Stanford by neck in his last, and that one was crushed at Gulfstream nearly 6 lengths by Materiality. In a race this deep with accomplished speed, the lack of a triple digit Beyer is a cause for concern. Despite being sired by a Derby winner and the proximity of Mr. Prospector, his dosage and Tomlinson Distance numbers are major red flags in terms of a true win contender.

Conclusion: It’s interesting that both of the last two years a Louisiana Derby runner has closed into the exacta at long odds. He won’t be as much of a longshot as Golden Soul or Commanding Curve were, but he could be a massive overlay considering his record. The feeling here is while not fast enough to be a true win candidate barring a complete meltdown up front, he’s one that always finds a lane and will be coming in the late stages regardless. Very live exotic player, a must use in exactas and trifectas beneath the win line.

#5 DANZIG MOON 30-1 (Malibu Moon/ Danzig)

90 Beyer, 304 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Showed solid closing fractions of :37.39 and :12.73 when 2nd last out in the Blue Grass. In fact, he’s one of only two colts in the field to have shown a final 3/8 come home time under :37.50 combined with a triple digit BRIS Late Pace Figure (102), the latter of which is the second highest last prep number in the field. He’s also one of four to show ascending pace figures, which suggests he should relish the extra distance. The bottom of his pedigree is very stamina-laden being out of a Danzig mare, who shows an average winning distance of 8.00f for his progeny. He was incubating a viral infection during the Tampa Bay Derby when finishing a distant fourth, and seemed to rebound when healthier in his next race, making up 9 lengths on Carpe Diem between the two races.

Cons: His speed figures are well below the cut, having posted a career high Beyer of 90, and he would need a big step forward from that to be a factor. He is still only a maiden winner, and even that took him three tries. His April 18th work, where he blew out 5f in a bullet :58.0, raised some eyebrows. Why train a horse who does his best running from off the pace so rapidly?

Conclusion: Screams “wise guy” to us, and while clearly an improving sort, whether he is to be used or not likely depends on your opinion of Carpe Diem, as it is difficult to find an angle that elevates him above that one. Given that, we don’t see him as a contender for the exacta. Still, the combination of pedigree and closing ability merits a look as a potential exotics clunker, and we can support him on the deepest of tri and super keys.

#14 KEEN ICE 50-1 (Curlin/ Awesome Again)

88 Beyer, 304 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Boasts perhaps the most exciting pedigree in the field, with Breeders Cup Classic winners and personal favorites as his sire and damsire. Checks off all pedigree related boxes, and is a great-grandson of Mr. Prospector to boot. Fits in terms of running style, especially in the event of an extreme pace meltdown, as his final 3/8 of :37.20 and final 1/8 of 12.58 when 4th in the Louisiana Derby are highly competitive here.

Cons: A bit of a grinding, plodding type that seems devoid of tactical speed or an impressive turn of foot. As just a maiden winner, there’s a lot to overcome against this group, and a career high Beyer of 88 simply won’t be anywhere in the same zip code in regard to hitting the board.

Conclusion: The Golden Soul and Commanding Curve exacta clunker results are still fresh in everyone’s mind, and the similarities here are difficult to overlook. Both were closers who finished running hard in the Louisiana Derby but missed the exacta, and both showed Beyers in the same range (89 and 88 respectively). Keen Ice actually shows better closing fractions and pedigree numbers than both, and he seems a logical heir apparent if the pattern of inexplicable exacta finishers is to continue. Since this field is much tougher than the last two, and it’s difficult to elevate him above International Star given their last two head to head results, we will use him underneath in trifectas on a pedigree hunch in an attempt at a big score. Call it a hunch for a colt getting his first shot at a distance he was specifically bred to relish.

#20 FAR RIGHT 50-1 (Notional/ Vindication)

92 Beyer, 215 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Although easily beaten when second last out to a barely-running American Pharoah in the Arkansas Derby, his closing 1/8 fraction of :12.28 in that race actually tops the field, as he actually did make up ground on the winner over the last furlong. A deep closer that likes to come from the clouds, the plan will be to take back and make one late run. He shows a strong Dosage profile of 1.50, which indicates a stamina-laden pedigree.

Cons: In perplexing contrast to his Dosage profile, he shows the lowest Tomlinson Distance Rating in the entire field, which is a massive historical red flag. The average winning distance numbers of his sire and damsire’s progeny are both below 7.0f, which is also a biggie, so there is reason to be skeptical of the Dosage data. With a career high Beyer of 92, much improvement will be needed here in order to make any impact. Workout patterns over the track have left something to be desired, and he drew widest of all to ensure some extra running in a spot that already looks tough for him.

Conclusion: The concern is that he simply doesn’t have the speed to make up the ground he is going to lose in this race. American Pharoah beat him by eight lengths without even running in their last, and it’s difficult to envision the necessary improvement coming to fruition. While he will certainly be picking off horses late, we’ll lean towards closers with higher BRIS Late Pace Figures (94). Too slow.

#21 FRAMMENTO 50-1 (Midshipman/ Golden Missle)

85 Beyer, 244 Tomlinson Distance

Pros: Showed solid enough closing ability and kept on well when a distant 4th last out in the Blue Grass, coming home in 37.54 for the final 3/8 and 12.68 for the final 1/8. Pedigree wise, he descends as a great-great grandson of Mr. Prospector.

Cons: Having never run faster than an 85 Beyer, a field low figure, he has much to overcome in terms of being fast enough. By and large, the pedigree looms an enormous concern, as Tomlinson Distance and AWD numbers (6.60/6.70, the worst in the field as a composite) simply do not point towards a 10f horse. Being just a maiden winner, he takes a huge step up in class.

Conclusion: Having drawn into the field late after the scratch of Stanford, connections will look to make one late run and bomb into the super. Closing fractions merit a look at a price, but there are others that have closed as well if not better that show far more impressive distance pedigrees. Appears an extreme outsider in this group.

PICKS:

1) American Pharoah

2) Frosted

3) Mubtaahij

4) Materiality

5) International Star

6) Dortmund

7) Keen Ice

8) Carpe Diem

9) Danzig Moon

10) Upstart

11) Firing Line

12) Tencendur

13) Bolo

14) Itsaknockout

15) El Kabeir

16) War Story

17) Far Right

18) Frammento

19) Ocho Ocho Ocho

20) Mr. Z

HOW TO BET $100 ON THE KENTUCKY DERBY:

$0.50 Trifecta Key:

American Pharoah/

Frosted, Mubtaahij, Materiality, International Star, Dortmund, Keen Ice/

Frosted, Mubtaahij, Materiality, International Star, Dortmund, Keen Ice, Carpe Diem, Danzig Moon, Upstart

($24)

$0.50 Trifecta Key:

American Pharoah/

Frosted, Mubtaahij, Materiality/

Frosted, Mubtaahij, Materiality, International Star, Dortmund

($6)

$0.50 Trifecta Part Wheel:

Frosted, Mubtaahij/

American Pharoah, Frosted, Mubtaahij, Materiality, International Star, Dortmund/

American Pharoah, Frosted, Mubtaahij, Materiality, International Star, Dortmund, Keen Ice, Carpe Diem

($30)

$1 Exacta Part Wheel:

American Pharoah, Frosted, Mubtaahij/

American Pharoah, Frosted, Mubtaahij, Materiality, International Star

($12)

$1 Exacta Key:

American Pharoah/

Frosted, Mubtaahij, Materiality, International Star

($4)

$2 Exacta Box:

American Pharoah, Frosted

($4)

$20 Place:

Frosted

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