Good afternoon all. I am so so mad at how much it’s been raining over at Churchill Downs so I’m being a butt about not making very many picks. I just am not a gifted slop-capper and more often than not, it yields goofy results making good horses lose for whatever reason. Oaks picks that I posted on Twitter, but was not able to post on here yesterday:
Yeah, would have been magical if she won, but what a crappy race it was anyway. I knew someone was apt to catch Beholder. Good going to Princess of Sylmar.
Now on to my personal Derby “picks”. I have no idea how well most of these stand up to a muddy going, so I won’t be too harsh on myself should they all fail miserably:
5) Orb - It’s really been hard to knock a horse that keeps getting better, had flourishing works at Churchill all week, and seems naturally fit for the job of winning a 10-furlong race. Orb checks off all the boxes so to speak and other than a post position that might squeeze him in early on, I’m not too worried about him doing well, and he may even win. Acceptable odds: 4-1
4) Frac Daddy - Although his preparation trail has been riddled with misses and poor trips, Frac Daddy made a big run last out in the Arkansas Derby to be a late second to Overanalyze. Initially, if someone were to tell me this I would be unimpressed because well, I don’t like Overanalyze in the slightest bit, BUT consider the fact Frac Daddy has been looking amazing working at Churchill AND he has a win there at the track ALONG WITH a close runner-up last year in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes to Uncaptured. His three-year-old year has been largely problematic, but I think we can blame the trip notes on that. With a clear outer post that will keep him out of trouble, this is the number 1 longshot on my list that I think has a shot of running big. He has plenty of speed in his pedigree that has been built to last with front-running Classic winner Skip Away as his damsire, and trainer Ken McPeek has a gift for live longshots. Acceptable odds: 25-1
3) Java’s War - I’ve learned over the years to not take the “little horse” lightly, as in 2010 when I disregarded the mighty mouse known as Santiva who ran full-hearted to a pretty good finish in the Derby. And that was just one mention out of a pile of mentionworthy pint-sized ponies. Java’s War is compact, but beautifully muscled out as I noted back in the Tampa Bay Derby (II), which was his first start back in months as he roared to make a late run at Verrazano before winning the Blue Grass (I). Whether or not turf is his best surface, Java still runs beautifully and Blue Grass runners have a history of doing well in the Derby (hey even Dullahan mustered a 3rd!). His 3rd start back should be even better and I ain’t afraid of no outer post! Charles Fipke also has a respectable breeding program (and yes, I do like Golden Soul too). Acceptable odds: 15-1
2) Itsmyluckyday -Horses who run close to the pace have had a documented note of success in the Kentucky Derby, many of them coming from the Florida preps. Add to this fact that horses that train at Calder Race Course do pretty well for themselves at Churchill Downs, and “Lucky” has been training there up to this race. He was a sullied runner-up to Orb in the Florida Derby, yes, but he was coming up off a 2 month layoff, which is pretty substantial. Lucky has been putting up impressive numbers and races since his two-year-old year and he looks to have gotten better as a three-year-old with the pedigree possibility of running even further.
The fact that I have included a Lawyer Ron son in my top 5 says a lot. Itsmyluckyday will be at big odds compared to how big his ability is. Eddie Plesa seemed pleasant and optimistic about his colt’s chances, and he’s got the speed and mental stability I like to see in a horse going forward into a race of this magnitude. Acceptable odds: 10-1
1) Normandy Invasion - Makes the top spot. I just love how huge and gifted this horse is and I think he is only going to get better when he gets 10 furlongs despite some questions about his weight and worth as a G1 dirt horse. Yes, I realize Alysheba was the last horse to win the Derby with just one prior win, but I’m willing to buck that “history handicap” because Normmy ran some really great losing efforts at 9 furlongs and has been warming up beautifully for his 3rd start back. Chad Brown is a trainer I really enjoy following who has a knack for getting distance out of his horses, and Javier Castellano is one of my top jockeys. It’s been 5 years since Eight Belles fell down for Fox Hill Farms and one year since Javier regrettably sacrificed the ride on Union Rags. He’s dodging Pletcher’s stable on the Derby this year for a horse he believes in. Let’s go, Normmy! Acceptable odds: 12-1