February Derby Thoughts

66 days! We are only 66 days away from the Kentucky Derby! The Derby picture is getting a bit more in focus, we got 14 prep races left to go and 1547 points still to be taken!

If the Derby was run tomorrow, here is the field and how many points they have

  1. Mohaymen, 70
  2. Gun Runner, 51
  3. Nyquist, 30
  4. Mor Spirit, 30
  5. Mo Tom, 22
  6. Forevamo, 20
  7. Zulu, 20
  8. Sunny Ridge, 18
  9. Exaggerator, 16
  10. Flexibility, 15
  11. Brody’s Cause, 14
  12. Greenpointcrusader, 14
  13. Swipe, 12
  14. Fellowship, 12
  15. Collected, 11
  16. Airoforce, 10
  17. Suddenbreakingnews, 10
  18. Cocked and Loaded, 10
  19. Discreetness, 10
  20. Frank Conversation, 10
    1. AE Riker, 10
    2. AE Vorticity, 8

If there is one thing I love in racing it is undefeated horses, and we still have three with Mohaymen, Nyquist and Smokey Image. This is so great.

Going by past years, looks like Mohaymen and Gun Runner have definitely stamped their Derby tickets already as the cutoff point is normally around 40 points.

Speaking of Mohaymen, he once again had a super easy win at Gulfstream while Golden Ray was losing his mind. He had a bit of a tougher time in this race, seems like Zulu isn’t quite the pretender I thought he was, but with a little urging Mohaymen cruised on past him. He still really reminds me of Cairo Prince, only thing is Cairo Prince had an injury that took him out of the Derby and ultimately ended his career, so its a little unfair to use that comparison as a knock. Fact remains though, a lot of early Derby favorites don’t carry their skill all the way to May.

At the Derby Museum I always said it as like that kid in middle school who was super good at sports because he grew up fast. In PE he was always the top basketball player, or kickball player, faster and stronger than everyone. But once high school rolled around, everyone else caught up and suddenly he isn’t the star he was. Same thing with horses, top juveniles do not always maintain their dominance at three. Those that do are stars, American Pharoah, Beholder, Shared Belief to name a few. They are exceptions, not the rule.

That’s what makes Mohaymen, Nyquist, and Smokey Image so interesting. All three are carrying on their form pretty soundly so far. Nyquist held off Exaggerator pretty comfortably in the San Felipe. For some reason Nyquist has carried most of the “but will he get 10 furlongs?!” load compared to the rest of the contenders, which is a stupid question considering absolutely no one in the field has run close to that distance. Being an Uncle Mo, I get it not only did he never run the far and Nyquist is his first crop. Still, so far the horse has given little indication that 10f is too far besides the fact that he’s still young and developing, as is everyone else. Whatever. Shipping to Florida for the FL Derby and then going up to Kentucky from there isn’t even that bad either.

Smokey Image is the coolest horse this year because he has slayed everyone he’s ran against, even if they’ve all mostly been against lame California-breds. But he’s such a tank, I really want him to step up in the San Felipe. His average win margin against mostly lame-CA breds is 4 and a half lengths. The San Felipe field is looking pretty solid too with Mor Sprit, Exaggerator, and that Danzig Candy horse pointed that direction. Not to mention that work where Smokey’s Image looked really awesome accidentally chasing Danzig Candy. Smokey Image rocks.

I still really like Exaggerator because he’s so far the only contender I’ve seen with my own eyeballs, plus it will be fun to see Kent D have another big shot in the Derby because he is just so loony. Mor Spirit is pretty cool too. Not totally wild about him but there’s really not much to knock. He had that oopsies work where they called it off in the middle, but all was well and he is still looking good. Mor Spirit is absolutely one to consider but there are more impressive horses to look out for at this point, but having Baffert and Stevens with him is not something to ignore.

Still maintain that Greenpointcrusader will never win another race.

Best prep of the year so far has been Suddenbreakingnews. At least in the fun to watch aspect. What a crazy run in that Southwest Stakes eh? He’s been alright his whole career but not really top level, his win at Oaklawn could have been luck but he also might be coming into his own. Whitmore right behind him isn’t looking too bad either. But seems like the Arkansas group isn’t quite as strong as they’ve been in the past.

Brody’s Cause is super interesting to me. Having the huge break between the Breeders’ Cup and the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12 is huge in my opinion. Giving horses a decent winter break is important, since the road to the Derby and if they continue the Triple Crown is very tiring. And hell, its only March there is a lot of the year still to go. So Romans and co taking it easy on him is a huge plus.

Last few years I’ve never been too into the Louisiana and New York runners. So horses like Gun Runner, Flexibility, and Sunny Ridge etc. I don’t wanna get that excited about. They normally do pretty well in the Derby, but a winner hasn’t come out of either of those in a while. The last one was Super Saver and look how his career ended up.

Haven’t heard many people knock this crop yet, which is normally what people love to do this time of year. But it does look like we have a pretty solid bunch going into March, it will be really exciting to see how they all progress.

 


 

Last 10 Derby winners at this point (March 1) of the year.

American Pharoah: Champion two year old, still unraced in 2015.

California Chrome: Dominantly won the California Derby on January 25, but his only graded stakes performance was a well beaten sixth in the Del Mar Futurity.

Orb: Won his stakes debut in the Fountain of Youth

I’ll Have Another: Stakes-placed at two, but stepped into the Derby picture after winning the Robert B Lewis.

Animal Kingdom: Two career starts in maidens, still unraced in 2011.

Super Saver: Won the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs at two, still unraced in 2010.

Mine That Bird: Had a fantastic juvenile season at Woodbine, but absolutely sucked in the Breeders’ Cup. Came in second in the Borderland Derby at Sunland Park on Feb 28.

Big Brown: Only raced once at two, still unraced in 2008.

Street Sense: Had a sensational win in the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs which proved to be a foreshadowing to how his Derby would go. Still unraced in 2007.

Barbaro: Won the Tropical Park Derby on the turf on New Year’s Day and took home a win in the Holy Bull on February 4.

Kinda crazy that half of the Derby winners in the last 10 years had yet to run by March 1, right? Two of them, Animal Kingdom and Big Brown, haven’t even run in a stakes yet. So who knows who will enter the fray in the coming weeks.

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