Kentucky Derby Preview

Derby week is now upon us.  This may as well be Mardi Gras for the city of Louisville– it’s party time all week long.  With Thunder Over Louisville, the largest fireworks display in the country; mattress races downtown; Hot Browns, Derby Pie and Mint Juleps; Derby Day is almost here.  For two minutes, the eyes of the world will be focused on the Commonwealth of Kentucky as twenty Thoroughbreds do what they do best: run.

One of the great things about not being an “official” publication, is that we don’t exactly have to play by “official publication” rules.  Whenever the Derby is mentioned in the Blood-Horse, or Thoroughbred Times, you will see it written as “The Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands.”  Blech.  It’s The. Derby.  And I steadfastly refuse to add the suffix so expensively purchased by the Yum! Corporation.  Talk about Yuck!

Ok, glad that’s out of the way.  Down to Derby business.  I, of course, like every other racing enthusiast, had Eskendereya at the top of my Derby list.  Until Sunday, when Todd Pletcher announced that the Derby favorite was scratching due to significant swelling in his left front leg.  Well darn.  Now what?

I could go into a long line of drivel about pedigrees, past performances, racing tendencies, jockeys, trainers, and the like.  Instead, I’ll just refer you to The Blood-Horse, DRF, and Thoroughbred Times.  Their experts will tell you anything you need to know.  Honestly, the Derby comes down to luck perhaps more than talent; pick a name or a random number, and you have about an equal chance of picking the winner.  Twenty three-year-olds going a mile and a quarter in two minutes: your guess is as good as mine.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have favorites, though; horses I’d LIKE to see win, or at least run well.  I’ve never been a huge Pletcher fan, but you can’t help feel just a little sympathy for a guy who’s run 24 horses in the Derby and has yet to win.  He’s entered a filly, Devil May Care, in place of hotshot Eskendereya.  Pletcher’s only Triple Crown victory?  He took down the mighty Curlin in the Belmont with a special filly, Rags to Riches.  Maybe he can get it done on Saturday with another super girl?

Speaking of O-fer’s, there is the dominant Maktoum family from Saudi Arabia.  They’ve won pretty much every major race all over the world; they’ve spent untold millions buying the best bloodstock, building the best farms, and they’ve single-handedly kept the auction market going.  Yet all that money hasn’t bought them a Kentucky Derby.  They have a nice horse, Conveyance, in training with Bob Baffert.  The Indian Charlie colt had an impressive work Tuesday morning at Churchill.  If it’s not Pletcher’s year, maybe it’s theirs?

Baffert’s other horse, now the favorite, Lookin’ At Lucky has certainly had no such luck this spring.  Lucky has had to overcome several awful trips, yet never quit fighting to the finish.  He’s still supremely talented, and perhaps the Derby gods will bless him with the perfect ride at just the right moment.

Just because I’m a huge Tiznow fan, and Winstar is one of the most gorgeous farms you will ever hope to see (and the people are fabulous too), I’ll throw in a little plug for their entrants: Super Saver and American Lion.  Of the two, I’m leaning American Lion, simply because he’s a Tiznow baby (and he’s NOT trained by Pletcher, Baffert, Lukas, Asmussen, etc).

The Road to the Roses challenge is winding down, and our leading entrants are way out in front.  Pari Mutuel Wagering has 329 points, followed by HoosYourDaddy (319), Bourbon Bliss Barn (313), and Slew Stable Won (309pts).  Thanks to all 37 stables who participated, and good luck in the Derby!  We will feature another challenge for the Breeders’ Cup, and again for Derby next year! 

This post would not be complete without a brief shoutout to the fillies’ race of the year, the Kentucky Oaks.  The Oaks is run Friday before the Derby, and doesn’t get quite as much national publicity as it should…but it is a monumental race just the same.  I’m sure you’ve heard of last year’s Oaks winner, the great Rachel Alexandra.  2010 top contender She Be Wild is out of the race, but Blind Luck looks to be the one to beat.  As a side note, “Blind Luck” is an awesome name for this filly: she is by Pollard’s Vision (who was born with only one eye), out of the mare Lucky One.  I wish my horse names could be so clever!

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