2015 Kentucky Derby Cheat Sheet
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder
2015 Kentucky Derby Replay
All of a sudden Kentucky Derby time has rolled around and you haven’t been paying attention. For shame, especially when we’ve made it easy for you with our Derby Prep Alert!
Paying attention to the prep season is certainly one of the better ways to feel prepared for the Derby, but because we like you, we want you to feel ready for the big day (but sign up for the Derby Prep Alert for next year, OK?).
Here’s a thumbnail sketch of this year’s field by post position including the morning line odds.
1. Ocho Ocho Ocho (50-1) – The Delta Jackpot winner has yet to live up to his undefeated juvenile form. His best effort this year was running a distant 3rd to Carpe Diem last out in the Blue Grass, and his appearances in the morning haven’t convinced anyone that is form is improving. In fact he didn’t handle the crowd during his first Churchill appearance, which is never a good sign given the size of the crowd on Derby day.
2. Carpe Diem (8-1) – While he’s only raced twice this year, both efforts have shown that the Blue Grass winner can rate off the pace and pull away. His only loss came when he didn’t get a good position early, and that’s always concern in a 20 horse field, especially with an inside post. Despite the monstrous talent of American Pharoah and Dortmund, he’s got a shot, especially if there’s a pace meltdown.
3. Materiality (12-1) – This year’s “Apollo’s Curse” horse is undefeated in only three lifetime starts. Last out in the Florida Derby, he put away favored Holy Bull winner Upstart in a hard fought stretch duel. If he can step up here you’ll know he’s an incredibly special horse given the breadth of talent in this field, especially considering that he’s likely to be up on the pace with American Pharoah and Dortmund.
4. Tencendur (30-1) – This New York-bred contender could be going in the right direction given his decent 2nd to Frosted in the Wood Memorial last out. One could even argue that he did more heavy lifting than the winner by sitting up on the pace. That said, he would really have to step up his game for a piece of the action, especially considering the pokey pace in the Wood and his questionable distance pedigree.
5. Danzig Moon (30-1) – If you’re willing to toss his Tampa Bay Derby effort, he looks the most like this year’s freaky longshot closer. In addition to one of the better distance pedigrees, he’s been making a great impression training at Churchill all week and is worth considering for your exotic tickets.
6. Mubtaahij (20-1) – Could Dubai finally have a Kentucky Derby winner? This import appears to be the best shot in recent memory, especially with Meydan, Dubai’s track, making the switch back to dirt. He swept the local 3-year-old series and won the UAE Derby with ease. He also possess the one of the better pedigrees for the distance. With the right stalking position he could be perfectly positioned to take top honors, especially if the pacesetters tire.
El Kabeir (30-1) – SCRATCHED – The Gotham winner has a few interesting things in his favor. Unlike the Wood Memorial where he stalked a tepid pace to finish 3rd, he should get a solid pace to chase, the tactic he employed to win the Gotham. Couple that with the addition of Churchill’s favorite Derby jockey with a knack for closers, Calvin Borel, and he seems plausible for this year’s freaky longshot closer for your exotic tickets (if you’re willing to overlook his pedigree!).
8. Dortmund (3-1) – SHOW (3rd) – Like his sire, 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown, he comes in to the Derby undefeated. In his six career starts he’s battled out a win more than once and shown that he doesn’t need to lead to win. And just like favored stablemate American Pharoah, his final workout was impressive. Both Baffert trainees are likely to be a part of the pace scenario, and either would be a worthy favorite. Here’s hoping this is the beginning a great rivalry!
9. Bolo (30-1) – His best efforts have come over the turf but his dirt efforts haven’t been terrible. While he doesn’t seem to be upset material he does have a sneaky good distance pedigree and could be interesting in your exotic tickets.
10. Firing Line (12-1) – PLACE (2nd) – It’s easy to overlook this guy in the year with so many plausible winners. To date he’s the only horse to give undefeated Dortmund a real fight, finishing a head behind twice while not backing down from the duel. He shipped to Sunland Park for his final prep and won by 14 lengths, albeit against much weaker competition. Given his tactical speed, versatile running style and will to fight he’s worth consideration if you’re looking for a live longshot.
Stanford (30-1) – SCRATCHED – Last out he made favored International Star fight for the win in the Louisiana Derby, but it should be noted that he got away with inside trip and easy, uncontested lead. He’s made a decent impression in the mornings at Churchill, but it’s an unfortunate year to be front-runner considering that the two most likely winners should be up on the lead.
International Star (20-1) – SCRATCHED – In any other year this winner of all three Fair Grounds Derby preps might’ve been the morning line favorite. To his credit he’s battle tested, winning several times by digging in and fighting. And given his come from off the pace running style, he could also capitalize on a pace meltdown. If nothing else he’s one to consider in your exotics.
13. Itsaknockout (30-1) – He pulled a knock-out in the Fountain of Youth when he was elevated to 1st place after being bothered in the stretch by 1st place finisher Upstart. Next out he finished a lackluster 4th in the Florida Derby. He appears to be working well coming into the race but doesn’t seem likely to pull any punches this time around.
14. Keen Ice (50-1) – This maiden winner has finished no better than a non-threatening 3rd in his five graded starts. In that race, the Risen Star, he did appear to be closing well, but has yet to shown anything to indicate that he’s on the improve. His lone win did come at Churchill Downs and he does possess decent breeding for the distance. In other years that might have been enough to get a piece of the action, but probably not this year.
15. Frosted (15-1) – 4th – After some consternation and hard work, which included a throat surgery, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin appears to have gotten the Wood Memorial winner back into fighting shape. In that win he stalked a tepid pace, something he’s unlikely to be able to replicate on Derby day, but he does have an above average distance pedigree.
16. War Story (50-1) – This closer has finished 2nd behind International Star in two of the three Fair Grounds preps and a tiring 3rd last out in the Louisiana Derby. To his credit he’s won at Churchill and does seem to like the surface, but he does not seem to possess the late kick that would put him in contention for his year’s freaky longshot closer exotic play.
17. Mr. Z (50-1) – If you’re looking for a seasoned contender, this is your guy. While he’s only won one race in his 12 lifetime starts, it was over the track at Churchill Downs. He’s also put in some notably game efforts for 2nd and 3rd against today’s company. He’s likely to be prompting the pace and he does have a decent distance pedigree as well as fighting spirit. If he brings his A game he could get a piece of the action.
18. American Pharoah (5-2) – WINNER – The only knock on this year’s favorite, aside from the outrageous amount of media hype, is that he’s never had to battle for a win. Although it’s hard to hold that against him when his winning margins have ranged from 3 ¼ to 8 lengths. He’s tactical enough to secure a good position and versatile enough to let Dortmund lead or take it to him. Fingers crossed that this is the beginning of a fun rivalry.
19. Upstart (15-1) – The well-regarded Holy Bull winner has had a bit of tough luck, getting DQ-ed from a first place finish the Fountain of Youth. He followed up that effort by unsuccessfully dueling with lightly-raced Materiality in the Florida Derby. By all accounts he’s been working well but will need more than luck to turn it around in this spot.
20. Far Right (30-1) – The well-seasoned Southwest Stakes winner was no match for American Pharoah last out in the Arkansas Derby, fishing 8 lengths behind the winner for 2nd. With his come-from-behind closing style he should appreciate the likely strong pace. While he doesn’t have one of the better distance pedigrees or the late kick of some of the other closers, he does have Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
21. Frammento (50-1) – This last minute entry has failed to make a serious impression in his three graded stakes attempts, last out running a distant 4th to Carpe Diem in the Blue Grass. While his pedigree does not scream “Derby distance,” he does seem like the kind of deep closer who, at the very least, might be passing tiring foes in the stretch.
We will add also-eligible Tale of the Verve if he draws into the race.