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Derby Contenders - Part I

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Part II

CALIFORNIA CHROME

TRAINER: Art Sherman (Debut)
JOCKEY: Victor Espinoza (1 for 5)

RUNNING STYLE: On or close to the lead.

AS A JUVENILE: It’s pretty safe to say you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that would have thought he’d be your 2014 Kentucky Derby favorite at the end of 2013. He did win three of seven starts but all of his wins came against California breds over synthetic surfaces and he was off the board in both of his starts against open company as well as his lone start going two turns, which was his conventional dirt debut. He closed out the season on a high note, winning a Cal-bred stakes in his first start with Victor Espinoza in the saddle

THIS YEAR: In a word, perfection. He’s been unmatched and undefeated in three starts, winning by a combined 18 lengths. He led all sophomores with 150 Derby points.

Breakdown
Last 3 Starts Finish Brisnet Beyer
1 1/8m, dirt, Santa Anita Derby-G1 at SA 1st by 5 ¼ 106 107
1 1/16m, dirt, San Felipe-G2 at SA 1st by 7 ¼ 102 108
1 1/16m, dirt, Cal Cup Derby at SA 1st by 5 ½ 94 88


CONNECTIONS: The now 77-year-old Sherman was the exercise rider and rode the train from California with 1955 Derby winner Swaps, coincidentally your last Cal-bred winner of the roses. Espinoza won the 2002 renewal with War Emblem.

WORTH NOTING: It’s been said he’s not the best shipper. This will be his first start outside of CA and he isn’t scheduled to arrive in Louisville until Monday or Tuesday of Derby week.

FAIR PRICE: He’ll be the overwhelming favorite…..easily half the price of the second choice. If you’re a fan, I wouldn’t bet him to win at anything less than 3-1

DANCE WITH FATE

TRAINER: Peter Eurton (Debut)
JOCKEY: Corey Nakatani (0 for 16)

RUNNING STYLE: Closes from mid-pack

AS A JUVENILE: A winner of just one of five starts, he did finish second in consecutive grade 1 races, the Del Futurity on synthetic and Front Runner at Santa Anita on dirt, before closing out the season with a dull try in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after getting bothered at the start of the race.

THIS YEAR: In a word, non-conforming. He’s run three times this year, twice over synthetics, including a hard charging win in the Blue Grass last out and once on turf, hardly a traditional way to get to Louisville on the first Saturday in May.

Breakdown
Last 3 Starts Finish Brisnet Beyer
1 1/8m, synth, Blue Grass-G1 at KEE 1st by 1 ¾ 99 97
1 1/8m, synth, El Camino Real Dby-G3 at GG 2nd by ½ 89 90
1 mile, turf, opt cl/alw at SA 1st by 1 ¾ 88 83


CONNECTIONS: Considered by some to be the best active rider to have never won a Derby, this will be Nakatani’s 17th try while Eurton is taking his first crack at it. Speaking of Eurton, he’s a solid if not spectacular trainer on the West Coast that usually hits at around 17%

WORTH NOTING: Winless in his two starts over conventional dirt, connections were non-committal as to running after the Blue Grass score stating that was indeed the race they had circled on their calendar this spring.

FAIR PRICE: I know those 108 Derby points look great on paper but don’t let them fool you as they were almost exclusively earned in the Blue Grass last out over the Polytrack. If you like this guy anyway, you shouldn’t accept anything less than 18-1

VICAR’S IN TROUBLE

TRAINER: Mike Maker (0 for 5)
JOCKEY: Rosie Napravnik (0 for 2)

RUNNING STYLE: On or close to the lead.

AS A JUVENILE: Third in his debut over the Keeneland Polytrack in a sprint, he broke his maiden emphatically by 13 lengths off of a two month break in mid-December going six furlongs over a course labeled good in 1:10 3/5.

THIS YEAR: In a word, consistent. A couple of convincing scores in the LeComte and most recently in the Louisiana Derby sandwich a troubled trip third as the tepid favorite in the Risen Star in which he was caught extremely wide the entire way from post 13.

Breakdown
Last 3 Starts Finish Brisnet Beyer
1 1/8m, dirt, Louisiana Derby-G2 at FG 1st by 3 ½ 104 97
1 1/16m, dirt, Risen Star-G2 at FG 3rd by 5 ½ 92 87
1m70yds, dirt, LeComte at FG 1st by 6 ¾ 88 97


CONNECTIONS: One of three that trainer Maker has pointed to the race. One of two that owner Ken Ramsey has pointed to the race. Since the beginning of 2013, Maker and Napravnik have teamed up to win at a solid 26%.

WORTH NOTING: Napravnik is married to one of Maker’s top assistants, Joe Sharp and is looking to become the first female rider to win the Derby.

FAIR PRICE: Wouldn’t be surprised to see this one vying for second favoritism based on his consistency and daylight score last out. He’ll also take money due to the presence of Rosie. With that said, I still think you’ll get and should demand 8-1.

SAMRAAT

TRAINER: Rick Violette, Jr. (0 for 1)
JOCKEY: Jose Ortiz (Debut)

RUNNING STYLE: Stalking to just off the pace

AS A JUVENILE: A perfect three for three with all of his wins coming against fellow New York breds, Samraat won by a combined 25 ¾ lengths, including a 16 ¾ length thrashing of the Damon Runyon.

THIS YEAR: In a word, consistent, one of the, if not THE best word when it comes to the Derby Trail. Had trouble shaking fellow statebred Uncle Sigh in his two stakes wins this year but followed them up with arguably his best effort when rerallying to grab the place money in the G1 Wood Memorial in his latest.

Breakdown
Last 3 Starts Finish Brisnet Beyer
1 1/8m, dirt, Wood Memorial-G1 at AQU 2nd by 3 ½ 99 98
1 1/16m, dirt, Gotham-G3 at AQU 1st by nk 99 96
1 1/16m, dirt, Withers-G3 at AQU 1st by 1 99 94


CONNECTIONS: Violette has been an important part of the training landscape in both New York and Florida for many years while Ortiz has quickly established himself as one of the top riders in New York, the toughest jocks colony in the country.

WORTH NOTING: Jose’s brother Irad Jr. is scheduled to ride Samraat’s rival and fellow New York bred Uncle Sigh in the Derby. They’ll be the first brothers to ride against each other for the roses since Sam and Eddie Maple did so 30 years ago in 1984.

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FAIR PRICE:
It’s amazing what a single loss can do. If he’d have won the Wood Memorial he would have been unbeaten in six starts and easily the second choice. Now, you hardly hear a word about him, which is a good thing if you’re a fan because you’re likely looking at a juicy 15-1 or so now.

WICKED STRONG

TRAINER: Jimmy Jerkens (Debut)
JOCKEY: Rajiv Maragh (0 for 3)

RUNNING STYLE: Closes from mid-pack

AS A JUVENILE: A second place finish in the slop in his debut was followed up by an impressive maiden score when stretching out to a mile against a highly regarded field. He closed out the season with a tenacious third place finish in the G2 Remsen behind a couple of Derby Trail casualties in Honor Code and Cairo Prince.

THIS YEAR: In a word, surprising. A buzz horse coming into the season, he was quickly dismissed by many after an abysmal run in the G2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream. A fourth place finish in an ultra-tough allowance contest that yielded G1 Florida Derby winner Constitution restored his connections’ faith a little bit. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens convinced the owners to go on to the G1 Wood Memorial and they were rewarded with a rousing score over a pair of undefeated colts in Samraat and Social Inclusion.

Breakdown
Last 3 Starts Finish Brisnet Beyer
1 1/8m, dirt, Wood Memorial-G1 at AQU 1st by 3 ½ 103 104
1 1/16m, dirt, opt cl/alw at GP 4th by 6 ½ 89 87
1 1/16m, dirt, Holy Bull-G2 at GP 9th by 15 ¾ 80 67


CONNECTIONS: Back in 2009, Jerkens had the favorite going into Derby week with Quality Road but was forced to withdraw early on in the week due to a quarter crack problem that plagued him throughout his career. Maragh has ridden in the event three times and is arguably riding in the best shape of his career.

WORTH NOTING: Named after the city of Boston and the thousands of men and women who responded to and survived the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013.

FAIR PRICE: Another who very well could vie for second favoritism based on his big run in the Wood Memorial I’d say 7-1 is about what you should expect on him.

DANZA

TRAINER: Todd Pletcher (1 for 36)
JOCKEY: Joe Bravo (0 for 2)

RUNNING STYLE: Just off the pace

AS A JUVENILE: A hard fought debut score after dueling throughout at Saratoga followed by a third place finish in the G2 Saratoga Special in which he changed tactics and came running late from the back of the pack.

THIS YEAR: In a word, meteoric. He finished third off of a six and half month layoff behind more heralded stablemate Anchor Down before his connections decided on the G1 Arkansas Derby over the G1 Blue Grass because he probably wouldn’t have made the field in what was an already overfilled Blue Grass. The result: a monstrous score in the crown jewel of the Oaklawn Park meeting.

Breakdown
Last 3 Starts Finish Brisnet Beyer
1 1/8m, dirt, Arkansas Derby-G1 at OP 1st by 4 ¾ 104 102
7 fur, dirt, opt cl/alw at GP 3rd by 7 ½ 87 79
6 ½ fur, dirt, Saratoga Special-G2 at SAR 3rd by ½ 96 81


CONNECTIONS: Pletcher of course is famously battling his 1 for 36 mark in America’s greatest race while Bravo has had very little experience here. Throughout the year Pletcher will use Bravo as a second tier guy behind Velazquez and Castellano and to go out of town for stakes, hence Bravo riding Danza last out.

WORTH NOTING: Connections are trying to get actor/comedian Tony Danza to the Derby.

FAIR PRICE: A tricky question to answer since you just got Pletcher at $84!!! I can see him taking money simply because of that and the fact that he was running late in the game. You still need to get 20-1 on this colt.

HOPPERTUNITY

TRAINER: Bob Baffert (3 for 23)
JOCKEY: Mike Smith (1 for 20)

RUNNING STYLE: Just off the pace

AS A JUVENILE: He was unraced, which means he will be looking to become the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Derby without running as a juvenile.

THIS YEAR: In a word, spotty. When he wins, he looks like a solid racehorse, like he did in his maiden tally and through the stretch of a roughly run Rebel which he gutted out. But when he doesn’t win, he looks ordinary at best, as evident by his fourth place finish in the Risen Star. Last out looked like a quintessential prep as I don’t believe he was persevered with whatsoever.

Breakdown
Last 3 Starts Finish Brisnet Beyer
1 1/8m, dirt, Santa Anita Dby-G1 at SA 2nd by 5 ¼ 100 98
1 1/16m, dirt, Rebel-G2 at OP 1st by ½ 99 100
1 1/16m, dirt, Risen Star-G2 at FG 4th by 7 90 85


CONNECTIONS: Both know what it’s like to wear the roses and almost pulled it off as a team in 2012 with Bodemeister who finished a tough luck second. Baffert won this in ’97 with Silver Charm, ’98 with Real Quiet and ’02 with War Emblem while Smith shocked the world with 50-1 Giacomo in ’05. Together they win plenty of races out in California and across the country, most famously with Game On Dude.

WORTH NOTING: Perhaps trying to play catch-up for lack of a juvenile campaign, this will be Hoppertunity’s sixth start of the year and third trip out of California.

FAIR PRICE: If it wasn’t for the aforementioned “Curse of Apollo” I’m pretty sure he’d be your clear cut second choice. But with that looming over his head as well as a long sophomore campaign just to get into the Derby I’m thinking you need 8-1 on him.

INTENSE HOLIDAY

TRAINER: Todd Pletcher (1 for 36)
JOCKEY: John Velazquez (1 for 15)

RUNNING STYLE: Closes from the back of the pack

AS A JUVENILE: After breaking his maiden at second asking in his first start around two turns, Intense Holiday ran off the board in a series of stakes – G1 Champagne, G2 Nashua and G2 Remsen – while always putting in somewhat of a menacing run.

THIS YEAR: It looked like we were going to be seeing more of the 2013 version of this colt when he finished third, complete with a “sneaky good” move in the G2 Holy Bull. But that long stretch at the Fair Grounds brought the best out of him as he qualified for the Derby with an exciting rally from far back to win the G2 Risen Star in the last strides. He appeared tired when he hit the rail in mid-stretch last out in the G1 Louisiana Derby but still managed to hold the place.

Breakdown
Last 3 Starts Finish Brisnet Beyer
1 1/8m, dirt, Louisiana Derby-G2 at FG 2nd by 3 ½ 100 91
1 1/16m, dirt, Risen Star-G2 at FG 1st by no 99 97
1 1/16m, dirt, Holy Bull-G2 at GP 3rd by 6 ¼ 91 84


CONNECTIONS: Arguably the most prolific trainer/jockey combo of the past 20 years, they’ve each won the roses but haven’t done it together. Pletcher won it in 2010 with Super Saver while Velazquez grabbed the money the following year with Animal Kingdom. Though Javier Castellano rides his share of the barn, Johnny V. is still one of the main guys in Pletcher’s barn.

WORTH NOTING: Owner Starlight Racing is enjoying this springtime as they not only have this guy in the Derby but their first “big horse,” Ashado, was just announced as an inductee into the National Museum and Hall of Fame this summer at Saratoga. Ashado was trained and ridden by Pletcher and Velazquez.

FAIR PRICE: I can’t put my finger on it but we really haven’t heard much buzz from the Fair Grounds Derby contingent this season. With that said, you’ll probably be able to get anywhere from 15-1 to 20-1 on him.

WILDCAT RED

TRAINER: Jose Garoffalo (Debut)
JOCKEY: Luis Saez (0 for 1)

RUNNING STYLE: On or close to the lead.

AS A JUVENILE: He hit the wire first in all three of his starts but was disqualified from his third and final win of the year in a Florida bred stakes race for bearing out in the stretch.

THIS YEAR: In a word, consistent. He lost the Gulfstream Park Derby by a head, galloped home clear in the G3 Hutcheson, won the G2 Fountain of Youth by a desperate head over rival General a Rod then just missed by a neck last out when his rider John Velazquez let the winner, Constitution, up the rail for the neck victory.

Breakdown
Last 3 Starts Finish Brisnet Beyer
1 1/8m, dirt, Florida Derby-G1 at GP 2nd by nk 97 99
1 1/16m, dirt, Fountain of Youth G2 at GP 1st by hd 100 101
7 fur, dirt, Hutcheson-G3 at G P 1st by 4 ¾ 97 96


CONNECTIONS: Garoffalo is new to the big stage but has done a fine job in Florida while Saez winds up here after losing his Derby horse, Cairo Prince, to an ankle chip. The two did team up to win the Fountain of Youth.

WORTH NOTING: For a horse as consistent as he is, he’s four for seven in his career with three seconds, he’s had a tough time keeping a rider on his back. In fact, this will be the first time in five starts this year that he’ll be ridden by a jockey who’s already been aboard.

FAIR PRICE: I haven’t seen too many horses this year, or ever frankly, that love getting into a dogfight as much as this guy. And he gets into plenty of them. While that’s a great quality, especially in a race like this, you’re still going to need to command value on a horse like him. 18-1 is the least you can take.

RIDE ON CURLIN

TRAINER: Billy Gowan (Debut)
JOCKEY: Calvin Borel (3 for 11)

RUNNING STYLE: Settles in mid-pack and makes one run.

AS A JUVENILE: After breaking his record in track record time second out at Ellis Park, it was strictly stakes competition in his final three starts of the year. A fourth place finish in the G3 Iroquois at Churchill was followed up by a fantastic effort in the G1 Champagne where he was third behind Havana and Honor Code and a third place finish in the Street Sense at Churchill.

THIS YEAR: In a word, frustrating. He started the year with an easy allowance score but then had a strange strip in the G3 Southwest when he was 8 wide, wasn’t ridden as aggressively as he should have been when third in a roughly run G2 Rebel then finally was able to work out a decent trip and make a solid run for the place money, and more importantly, place Derby points, last out in the G1 Arkansas Derby.

Breakdown
Last 3 Starts Finish Brisnet Beyer
1 1/8m, dirt, Arkansas Derby-G1 at OP 2nd by 4 ¾ 99 94
1 1/16m, dirt, Rebel-G2 at OP 3 by 1 98 98
1 1/16m, dirt, Southwest-G3 at OP 3 by 10 ¼ 87 80


CONNECTIONS: Local boy Billy Gowan is looking to fulfill every Kentucky trainers’ lifelong dream in his debut and we all know about Borel’s exploits in the race, winning three of these in four years with Street Sense in ’07, Mine That Bird in ’09 and Super Saver in 2010.

WORTH NOTING: His owner, Dan Dougherty, is a Louisville native and local furniture store owner. A Louisville resident hasn’t won the Derby in over 100 years.

FAIR PRICE: The words “fair price” and “Calvin Borel” will never be compatible in a sentence regarding the Kentucky Derby ever again. Still, I think he’ll get lost in the shuffle enough where you’ll get the 20-1 you should get on him. He’d be 5-10 points higher with another jock.


  
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