This is a very strange Kentucky Derby field. Most years there are several top level contenders, and the challenge is to figure out which one is going to rise to the occasion. This year there are just three horses that seem to be elite – Eskendereya being the best by far, with Lookin at Lucky and Sidney’s Candy, a couple of California invaders, close behind. The rest of the field is full of horses that have shown promise at times but have done more things to raise doubts than to create confidence. More than most years, then, looking for a longshot takes a massive leap of faith. Here’s a look at five of those longshots that you could make a case for – though it’s hard to believe that any of them are better than the best here:
Awesome Act – This is by far my favorite of the horses beyond the top three. He’ll likely go off at 15/1 or so, so the price is attractive. He’s coming off a dismal third place showing behind Eskendereya in the Wood Memorial, but he’s still moving in the right direction. He wasn’t allowed to run at all in that last race, and still had the heart to close reasonably strong. It looks like he has lots of room to improve off of that race, and he’s bred to run forever. He also has Julien Leparoux, one of the better jockeys out there and an experienced Kentucky rider, on board. He’s a live one.
Ice Box – I expect him to be in about the 15/1 range as well. He won the Florida Derby last time out – the same race that Barbaro won before his Derby win. I’m not saying that this horse is Barbaro, though. The Florida Derby was by far his best race ever, though, so it is hard to believe that he can replicate it. The best thing going for him, though, is his running style. He’s a closer, and that sets up well if the pace is as fast as it could be given the amount of early speed in the field. He could be ready to pick up the pieces.
Super Saver – The red hot Todd Pletcher getting him ready, the Derby king Calvin Borel riding him, some impressive breeding – especially on the dam’s side, and a race last time out that he could easily bounce off of for a big performance. That’s a lot going for a horse at 20/1 or so.
Conveyance – This is the other Baffert horse. Bob Baffert trains likely second choice Lookin at Lucky, but this horse is going to go off at a much higher price – likely in the 35/1 range. I love Lookin at Lucky, but I like this one, too. He was a frustrating second last time out in the Sunland Derby, but Mine That Bird was only fourth in that race last year, and things turned out okay for him in Kentucky. That last race was his first loss. His lack of experience is a concern, but he’s clearly talented, and the price is worth a look. At worst he’s going to be in my exotics.
Dublin – I’m a romantic when it comes to the Derby, so I’ll always give respect to D. Wayne Lukas horse. I just hope that it’s not more respect than he deserves. This horse was very disappointing in the Arkansas Derby, but he has boatloads of obvious talent, his sire, Afleet Alex, won the Preakness and the Belmont, and the extra distance of the Derby could be just what he needs. There are lots of questions here, and lot of excuses to wade through, but this is a higher class horse than you often find in the neighborhood of 25/1.