Thursday, May 3, 2012

More Kentucky Derby Day Analysis

--Brian DiDonato

Be sure to also check out my Oaks thoughts as well as Steve Sherack and my Kentucky Derby Cheat Sheet. Good luck at the windows this weekend!

GI Kentucky Derby - Much of the talk surrounding this year's GI Kentucky Derby has come down to the pace scenario, and rightly so. The relatively late addition of Trinniberg (Teuflesburg) added lots of fuel to the projected fire, and I'm in the majority who see the longshot's presence as a serious issue for several contenders. Trinniberg does not guarantee a Giacomo-type meltdown, but he certainly makes it a possibility. 
   There is little doubt that Bodemeister (Empire Maker) is the most talented runner in this field--his Beyers tower over his competition, and he seems to get even stronger the farther he runs. His pedigree screams 10 furlongs on both top and bottom, and his sheer dominance and the way he has reportedly trained give me no reason to fear his lack of 2-year-old foundation. The pace is the only thing that will beat him, so I'm playing this race horizontally to account for two possible scenarios. If the pace doesn't materialize or if Bodemeister rates effectively, he will win at a reasonably short price (better for those of us who got him at 22-1 in the third round of futures). But if he gets into a tussle early, all bets are off, and there's a very good chance that Hansen (Tapit) among others will also be compromised. The rest of the horses I'll use in the Pick 3s and 4s are mostly runners who would benefit from the second scenario. I'll also play trifectas based on the second scenario because that's the one that has the potential to yield giant pay-offs if a horse like Done Talking (Broken Vow) or Rousing Sermon (Lucky Pulpit) gets into the number.

Done Talking      Four-Footed Fotos
   I've decided to stick with my original pick from way back in November and go with Done Talking on top. I know it sounds kind of crazy. On paper, he looks much, much too slow. But I think he's capable of running faster, and I know he's going to get the distance and be running late if the race falls apart. Done Talking is the prototypical grinder. He's never going to win by open lengths, and he seems to be a horse who requires a lot of rider encouragement to do his best. When he feels like it, he comes running late, but he'll never do more than he has to. That's probably not exactly what you want to see from your Derby horse, but it also might explain why his figures are so low and why they can improve to a level that is competitive if the set-up is right. I'm not investing too much on him in win money, but I'll take a shot with him at upwards of 50-1 and use him as an "A" in the Pick 4.
Dullahan    Reed Palmer
   My third main Pick 4 include and a horse who I will anchor in meltdown scenario trifectas is Dullahan (Even the Score). There just doesn't seem like much not to like about him. The half-brother to Derby winner Mine That Bird (Birdstone) runs as if more distance will suit him quite well and I'm not sold on the notion that he won't be as effective on dirt. His fourth-place finish in last year's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile from much too far back was fine enough to show that he can handle the surface, and his very powerful GI Blue Grass S. victory showed he has improved from two to three. He was a horse early on who always gave the impression that he had more to give once he figured it out, so it's no surprise that the hulking chestnut has gotten better as time has gone on. He just fits the profile in so many ways, and I wonder if Dullahan ends up being the shorter-priced morning line horse who gets lost on the board a bit. It seems as if I've heard much more chatter about some of his competitors, and I'm not sure he has the attributes that capture the casual wagering public's attention in a race like the Derby. I'll be happy to see him drift up, and would consider a second win bet if he were to somehow float all the way up to 12-1 or higher.
   The second-tier win candidates I'll use as "Bs" or "Cs" in the Pick 4 are Take Charge Indy (A.P. Indy), Creative Cause (Giant's Causeway) and Gemologist (Tiznow). As I mentioned on the Kentucky Derby Cheat Sheet, my original inclination was to dismiss Take Charge Indy as a horse who got an easy lead last time and who would be in trouble with hotter expected fractions in the Derby. But I've come to the realization that there's simply no way he's sent close to the early lead by Calvin Borel. I generally think jockeys are an irrelevant handicapping factor, but when it comes to Churchill Downs and particularly the Derby, Borel does seem to have a tactical edge. He's bound to take money due to Borel's presence, but I wonder how much room mathematically there is for Take Charge Indy's odds to go down considering how some other contenders figure to be bet. I could never bet him to win, but I'm not going to get beat by a Borel-ridden son of A.P. Indy in a 10-furlong race. I'll also use Creative Cause (Giant's Causeway), who has done little wrong in his career. My main concern with him is that he'll find someone a little bit better. I thought his win over Bodemeister in the GII San Felipe was in part a product of a fairly quick pace and I'm not crazy about the figure regression he showed when taking off blinkers (which will stay off in the Derby). But his best races fit well enough and his consistency is an attribute we rarely see these days. Gemologist is hard to argue with on paper, but the way he has been handled this year makes me slightly hesitant. I'm also not sure where he'll find himself early. If he's in a stalking spot and the pace is less than suicidal, he's not beating Bodemeister. Some minor knocks have me thinking he's an underlay at 6-1 or so, but he's too obvious to toss completely.
   I discussed why I wasn't sold on Union Rags (Dixie Union) before the GI Florida Derby here, and nothing about his much-talked-about trip in that race did anything to change my mind. I suppose he could have moved sooner, but he saved all the ground and should've made a bigger late run despite the slow pace if he was really deserving of favoritism here. There's an idea floating around that he doesn't like being inside of horses, and the four post won't help matters if there's any validity to that notion. I still say he's too slow to be favored or close in odds to Bodemeister, and I'll let him beat me.

GI Turf Classic S. - The flashy Get Stormy (Stormy Atlantic) looks to be in some trouble as he tries to defend his title. He'll have to contend with Little Mike (Spanish Steps) and Turbo Compressor (Halo's Image) early, and it seems likely to be the undoing of all three speedsters. The most interesting closer from a value perspective could be Brilliant Speed (Dynaformer). He ran a huge and somewhat surprising race to be third in last year's GI Breeders' Cup Turf, and the stretch-out to nine furlongs from the mile of the GIII Appleton should suit him well--he might be better going even longer, but he took the GI Blue Grass S. last semester over Polytrack.

GI Humana Distaff S. - There are an awful lot of closers in here for a seven-furlong race, so I'll take a small shot with huge price Mildly Offensive (Sharp Humor). She dueled through quick splits last time when taking an Apr. 5 Santa Anita allowance and the Moss Pace Figures say she'll get the lead if she wants it. Her recent Beyers are woefully slow, but she did earn a 98 in the slop last year. Maybe that surface moved her up, but at 20-1, I'm willing to gamble that she can control things early and cycle back up towards her top.

GII Distaff Turf Mile S. - I really, really like Hungry Island (More Than Ready) in this spot. She never got the credit she deserved last year when stringing together four victories, and she comes off a pair of troubled trips behind Marketing Mix (Medaglia d'Oro). The Emory Hamilton homebred was shut off and stymied on the inside when full of run in the Nov. 12 GII Miss Revere S. over this course, but got through late to be third. She had the opposite problem in a Keeneland allowance allowance Apr. 11 when putting in a sustained rally from what the chart caller labeled as seven wide. According to Trakus data, Hungry Island lost 1 3/4 lengths worth of ground to winner Marketing Mix, who beat her by 1 1/4 lengths. That doesn't factor in the pace dynamics--Marketing Mix was up close to reasonable fractions whereas Hungry Island came from far back. Hungry Island should have more to run at this time, and I'll look for her to come flying late, probably with Aruna (Mr. Greeley) alongside.

GII Churchill Downs S. - He won't be any sort of price, but Shackleford (Forestry) will be tough to beat. I've seen pictures from the GI Carter H. that show that he was bleeding pretty noticeably, which might explain why he couldn't hold on after setting easy fractions. He still earned a very solid 106 Beyer for his third-place run and likes the track--chalky, but rightfully so.

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