If you are only going to take a bit of time getting ready for the Kentucky Derby then you’ll want to get to know these five names. There is a pretty good chance that one of these five horses is going to be wearing roses late Saturday afternoon.
Pioneerof The Nile
His story: He’s the Santa Anita Derby winner, trained by three time Derby winner Bob Baffert and ridden up to this point by Garrett Gomez, the top jockey in the country.
Pros: He’s done nothing wrong this year, winning while stepping up in competition. His last two races have developed in bizarre ways, but he has the class to overcome the problems and make the most of situations that aren’t ideal. He’s well bred for the challenge.
Cons: The winner of the Santa Anita Derby has not won the Kentucky Derby since Sunday Silence did it in 1989. This horse has never run on a dirt track before, so we have no real way of knowing how he will handle the change.
I Want Revenge
His story: After a decent start to his campaign in California, he crossed the country and really found his stride. He crushed the field in the Gotham Stakes in his first dirt start, and then overcame incredible adversity to win the Wood Memorial in his last prep.
Pros: His win in the Wood shows that he is more mature than his years. He’s been the most visually impressive runner in the field the last two times out. Owner IEAH Stables was also the winner last year with Big Brown.
Cons: He’s been a totally different horse the last two starts than he was before that – that form could be fleeting. Jockey Joe Talamo is young and inexperienced. The Wood Memorial last produced a winner in 2000 with Fusaichi Pegasus.
His story: Florida’s top horse, Quality Road is coming off of wins in the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby, and stands a good chance of being the Derby favorite.
Pros: He’s been a dominating winner in both of his races – a man among boys. He’s the real deal. The Florida Derby winner has won two of the last three Derbies – Big Brown and Barbaro. Quality Road won the race in a faster time than either of them.
Cons: Trainer Jimmy Jerkens has not won the Derby, and three year olds are not typically his strength. The horse suffered a quarter crack injury after the Florida Derby, though he appears to be bouncing back from it well.
His story: The Louisiana Derby winner has long been seen as a top contender. His trainer, Larry Jones is retiring this year and really deserves a break – two years ago his Hard Spun couldn’t catch a break against Curling, Street Sense, and Rags to Riches, and last year his filly Eight Belles broke down and was euthanized right after finishing second in the Derby.
Pros: He’s bred extremely well and should be able to handle the distance.
Cons: There are a few. He will take a break of seven weeks between his last race and the Derby. No horse has won off of that kind of break, and it seems unlikely. He also has never run more than 1 1/16 miles, and it’s a big jump between there and the Derby distance.
His story: This slightly under the radar runner has won the Tampa Bay Derby and Illinois Derby his last two times out.
Pros: He’s won over four different tracks and he isn’t reliant on just one style, so he is versatile – a key Derby trait. He has improved with every start, and looked thoroughly professional winning in Illinois.
Cons: His pedigree is a potential issue – though he handled 1 1/8 miles well last time, even that seems beyond his potential based on breeding. The Illinois Derby has produced jus one winner – War Emblem in 2002. Since then the winners have consistently disappointed in the big race.