Over the next few days I’ll be traveling to watch the Derby, so I won’t be around to update each day. Up until the big race goes on Saturday, then, I have prepared a few previews to get you ready for the greatest two minutes in sports. I’m doing this a few days in advance, so I have had to make some guesses about the field, and there is a chance that I will be writing about horses that won’t make the field for some reason, but I’ve made my best guesses so forgive me.
We’re going to start today by looking at Todd Pletcher. The most successful trainer in the continent for years has never won the Kentucky Derby despite a stunning number of tries, and that failure hangs around him like an albatross. He’s got perhaps his best shot yet to finally wear the roses. There are as many as six horses that could be in the gates for Pletcher at post time. With only 20 starters than a ridiculous proportion of the field. He’s been incredibly dominant in the spring as well. There are 21 graded Derby prep races, and Pletcher won seven of them. That’s unprecedented success. Here’s a look at the horses that Pletcher is likely to have:
Eskendereya – This isn’t a class full of proven stars, so this horse shines as the only clear superstar in the field. He’ll be the heavy favorite at post time – likely at below 2/1. He was stunningly strong in the Wood Memorial, winning without any doubt at all. He was just as impressive in the Fountain of Youth before that. The knock against him is that he hasn’t faced big, deep fields in these preps s he hasn’t really beaten anyone. He’s had so much left in the tank after those wins, though, that he could easily have risen to any challenge he faced. I’m going to look to beat Eskendereya just because of the low price, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him come out on top.
Super Saver – It’s disappointing that he was only second in the Arkansas Derby in a race that he should have been able to win, but he’s clearly improving and seems to have his best race ahead of him. He was very good as a two year old, has had success at Churchill in the past, and has Calvin Borel, the recent king of the Derby, on board. At the right price he’s definitely a live one.
Mission Impazible – He’s coming off a nice win in the Louisiana Derby. That wasn’t the most impressive field out there, but he did beat at least one nice horse in Drosselmeyer, and the Louisiana Derby has produced some very nice horses in recent years. He’s consistent and unflappable, and could easily get a piece of the action. This is a horse that will be hard to leave out of exotics.
Interactif – He has the money to get into the field, but it’s doubtful that he will run. I still think he should give it a try, though you’ll know by the time you are reading this if he is a go. He doesn’t have a lot of wins, and he seems to settle for less than the lead, but he oozes class and has the ability to come through here. An intriguing option.
Rule – He can work with a pace that is likely in the Derby, and he has class galore. The problem is his last race. He had a chance to really make a statement in the Florida Derby – a race that was wide open and ready for a big performance – but he was underwhelming en route to a fifth place finish. If he can bounce back from that performance – and he certainly should be able to – then he’s a factor here.
Discreetly Mine – He was very impressive in winning the Risen Star, but then was underwhelming at best when he stretched out for the Louisiana Derby when he finished fourth. He’ll likely run in the Derby because he has the money to make the field, but it’s hard to imagine that he’ll have the skill or the stamina to be a real factor here. I’d happily toss him out of consideration.
UPDATE – As you probably know by now, much of what was written here is irrelevant. Eskendereya was removed from consideration with a leg injury. Rule was ruled out as well (pun intended). Interactif didn’t look sharp enough to earn a spot in the gate. The filly Devil May Care has been entered in a move that just stinks of desperation in my eyes. She has had just one good race in her last three, has never seen the boys, and seems badly out of place here. Sadly, though, she’s probably Pletcher’s best hope. After a lousy week Pletcher has gone from a likely winner to very likely to stretch his streak of futility even further.