With twenty horses in the field, all three-year-olds young enough to still develop, it will not be cut-and-dried. But, we have enough information to identify which horses will likely play certain roles, and which ones have suggested enough versatility to be wild cards.
Thursday is a perfect time for Kentucky Derby talk: the draw will be over, and my picks will be finalized. I did Triple Crown race segments with Dane and Ben last year as well, and they were a blast. Thanks again for inviting me on to the show — let’s pick some winners!
Last year, nestled between the Golden Rod Stakes (GII) and the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII), Churchill Downs carded an allowance-optional. It was an N1X for two-year-olds, going a one-turn mile on the dirt.
Dortmund came. Dortmund saw. Dortmund conquered. Dortmund proved a force on the Derby trail.
This year, Churchill carded the same sort of race again: a top-shelf N1X allowance-optional, a mile over the dirt, between the Golden Rod and the Kentucky Jockey Club.
Though only seven horses saw the starter in that race on November 28, a pair from that group were on my radar before the race.
eleven names have always hearkened back
to what the books of history have said
mute tones of sepia and white and black
accented with blue checks or devil’s red
illuminated manuscripts of old
bring illustrated tales of hero steeds
though yellowed leaves fall short of making bold
the full extent of witnessing those deeds
our generation clung to history
the only path to that elusive prize
resigned to think that we would never see
the pinnacle of sport through our own eyes
three days, five weeks have coloured the next page
a Pharoah for our place and for our age
Two weeks ago, I went to the Kentucky Derby with Candice.
It was my first trip to the Derby (though not my first to Churchill Downs), and my first to any Triple Crown race. It was a bit different than I expected, mainly because I am so used to being a railbird, and yet general admission tickets did not cover access to the apron. We could get to the paddock or the infield. From the paddock, we could see the horses before the races, but would have to watch the races on the screen. From the infield, we would be in the midst of a huge party…but only be able to see the horses when they ran by our section of rail, assuming we were lucky enough to get a rail spot.
The Humana Distaff originally drew a field of eight, though it looks to be down to seven with the defection of Sweet Whiskey to Friday’s La Troienne instead. Sweet Whiskey looked to be lone speed, and now the sprint has become a paceless affair. Judy the Beauty looks that much tougher, but there are a few very nice long shots to use underneath.
Derby fever has set in…and has even caused Chicago Railbird to fly (at least figuratively) south to Kentucky for the weekend!
In the first of my two columns at ShapperDaCapper this week, I take a deep dive into the Kentucky Derby. I split the horses into tiers, explain why I like the horses I like, and explain why I am not enamoured with a few horse likely to go off at shorter prices.
Historically, Picks and Ponderings has done a point-counterpoint for the Kentucky Derby, with Paul Mazur and Chris Hernandez duking it out over the Derby field. However, since I joined Picks and Ponderings in the time since the last Derby, that point-counterpoint has become a roundtable.
A few horses we agree on. Others, less so. However, a field as contentious as the Derby provides fertile ground for a friendly little argument.
In our Derby preview, the three of us have our say on every horse in the field as well as provide our selections for who looks best set to take home the roses on Saturday afternoon. Head on over there, see who we like, and leave us a comment if you have anything to say!
Typically I write for people who know horse racing well, so this was a little different. The Final Wager focuses on Jeopardy! strategy and trivia, so this time I was writing for trivia aficionados who want to learn something about horse racing. I had a great time working on it — and between Keith’s rundown of the nuts and bolts and my diversions into a few more sophisticated things, hopefully it gives fellow trivia nuts a little idea about the sport and how much fun playing the races can be.
Got Derby fever? I can’t cure it, but I can enable it.
Tune into Sports Town Chicago this Thursday (April 30) at 9:05 am Central. I will be a guest on the Dane and Ben Show, and they will be interviewing me about my handicapping insights and picks for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
The station streams online, so you can listen from your computer or your phone.
I have been following Keen Ice since before he debuted. He finished fourth in his first race, a five and a half furlong maiden race at Ellis. He was well-beaten that day, and starting to run late. I hardly worried, though. Curlin babies tend to develop with age, and five and a half furlongs seemed far too short given both sides of his pedigree.
Keen Ice wowed me on September 6. That day he stretched to a mile, and looked hopeless turning for home. Starbound and Tiznow R J had pulled so far in front that they were in a race of their own. Keen Ice finally figured out that it was time to go — and go, he did! He motored home to nail them just in time. Welcome to my Derby radar, Keen Ice.
I went out there early to get a look at him, since it is not every day that a Derby contender comes through Chicago. The work was an easy three-furlong move on a very windy day, and hardly looked like a Big Derby Work. Still, it looks like he handled the ship well, and he looked like a healthy and curious horse.
Not often does an Illinois-bred horse make it to the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby. The last time a horse bred in the state even made it into the starting gate on the first Saturday in May was in 1989. That year, Western Playboy won the Jim Beam (now Spiral) Stakes (GII) and the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) en route to a fifteenth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.