2016 Kentucky Derby Cheat Sheet
Level: Beginner
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

2016 Kentucky Derby Replay

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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 subscribe to 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. Trojan Nation (50-1) – Questions abound about the 2nd place runner in the Wood Memorial who has yet to win a race in six starts. He had a nice pace set-up in the Wood and was able to capitalize on an inside trip to give the winner, Outwork, a good fight. This effort was the closest he’s come to winning, which begs the question whether he’s improving at the right time or did he move forward on the sloppy track, or both? He does have a great pedigree for the distance and given his price he might be a good addition to your exotic tickets.

2. Suddenbreakingnews (20-1) – The Southwest winner is one of the many confirmed closers in the field, and he also happens to have one of the best late kicks. Last out in the Arkansas Derby he was making up ground late, but couldn’t get to Creator in time, in part because of a wide trip. He’s made one of the better impressions training at Churchill would be a worthy addition to your exotic tickets.

3. Creator (10-1) – He may have only won his first race back in February (after five tries!), but since then the 11-1 upset winner of the Arkansas Derby has been on an upward trajectory. Of the many closers in the field, he’s got one of the best late kicks and figures to be moving late. He’s also got one of the better distance pedigrees and has been training well at Churchill. He certainly could spring another upset in this spot.

4. Mo Tom (20-1) – The Lecomte winner has had his share of traffic trouble, having to take up, or break stride, in both the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby. What’s encouraging is that in both instances he gathered himself and pressed on rather than giving up. When he’s not getting stopped in traffic he’s got a nice kick and could find himself back in the winner’s circle barring any trouble. At the very least you should consider him for your exotic tickets, and maybe more.

5. Gun Runner (10-1) – SHOW (3rd) – The Risen Star and Louisiana Derby winner has been training well at Churchill since the beginning of April. His only loss in five career starts came in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill over a sloppy track, but he does own a win at Churchill on a fast, dry track. Despite benefiting from an ideal trip in his last two wins, he’s got the stalk and pounce running style that suites the Derby and his pedigree suggests that the distance shouldn’t be a problem. He would not be a surprise in the mix.

6. My Man Sam (20-1) – The lightly-raced runner-up in the Blue Grass seems to get a vote of confidence from jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., opting for the mount over his more well-regarded stablemate Shagaf. His last outing was definitely a move forward and he could be on the improve, but his pedigree doesn’t scream Derby distance, at least in this group.

7. Oscar Nominated (50-1) – Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey make their annual attempt to snag a Derby win for their prized (and talented!) stallion Kitten’s Joy with this year’s Spiral winner. Like most Kitten’s Joy progeny, he’s performed quite well on turf and synthetic surfaces. In addition to making his first start on dirt, he’s also making a rather big jump in class. He does have a nice late kick and shouldn’t have any trouble with the distance, but he hasn’t generated the same positive pre-race buzz that turf-to-dirt Derby winner Animal Kingdom did in 2011.

8. Lani (30-1) – International mystery horse and U.A.E. Derby winner seems to have remained a mystery despite training at Churchill since the beginning of April. To his credit, he has the most experience in large fields, with three of his six starts in fields of 14-16 starters, something that will come in handy in a 20-horse field. He also has a great pedigree for the distance. According to Yutaka Take, his regular rider who has the mount here, he’s not always in the mood to run, but if he is, he “has a big chance” to win. If you think he’ll be in the mood to run, you’ll certainly get a good price!

9. Destin (15-1) – Last out in the Tampa Bay Derby, he stalked the pace set by Outwork, and easily cruised to a win, albeit with a dream trip. That was almost two months ago. Trainer Todd Pletcher is known to do well off of long breaks, but one has to wonder if he’s as fit as some of the others in the field. He does have some positives in that his pedigree is good for the distance and his stalking running style is one that tends to do well in the Derby.

10. Whitmore (20-1) – While he has yet to win a graded race, he’s put it good efforts in all three Oaklawn preps, running 2nd twice and 3rd last out in the Arkansas Derby. He seems to have a knack for getting a good position in the stretch only to be overtaken by a fast running closer. While that scenario is completely plausible here, he seems likely to be still be running at the end, and if some of the fleet-footed closers have trouble, or a bad day, he could have his breakthrough performance.

11. Exaggerator (8-1) – PLACE (2ND) – The Santa Anita Derby winner has been consistently inconsistent in his nine career starts. In between three of his four wins have come two losing efforts. Throw into the mix that two of his wins have come over a muddy track, including his last win in the Santa Anita Derby, and it’s hard to know what to make of his chances. He does have a good pedigree for the distance and if you think his last effort wasn’t solely a function of the sloppy track then he’s a solid upset pick.

12. Tom’s Ready (30-1) – Trainer Dallas Stewart has a knack for getting his longshots to finish well in Triple Crown races. In the last two renditions of the Derby where he had an entrant, each finished 2nd. Tom’s Ready hasn’t quite stood out as much as his predecessors, but he did finish well for 2nd last out in the Louisiana Derby, and his running style is more tactical than some of the other longshot off-the-pace types. If you like him, or think Stewart can pull it off again, he should be a good price.

13. Nyquist (3-1) – WINNER – The undefeated 2-year-old champion is certainly a deserving favorite despite having taken an unconventional path to the Derby, even by unconventional standards! While most of his races have been won by running on or close to the front, he displayed flexibility in his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile win when he didn’t get his customary position and had to run from mid-pack, an experience that could come in handy in a 20-horse field. He doesn’t have a slam dunk distance pedigree, but he looks like the most likely winner on paper.

14. Mohaymen (10-1) – FOURTH – If, and it might be a big if, you’re willing to toss his 4th in the Florida Derby, he appears to be a viable contender, at least on paper. His first work after the Florida generated a lot of buzz and seemed to indicate that he came out of the race no worse for wear, ready to return to form. Since that work, he’s appeared more headstrong and willful, which could indicate that he’ll be more involved in the pace scenario than usual. He’s well-bred for the distance and has a nice late kick, but like many in the field it’s hard to get a handle on how he’s coming into the race.

15. Outwork (15-1) – After setting a contested pace in the Tampa Bay Derby and finishing 2nd to Destin, he was able to prompt the pace (sit right behind the pacesetter) in the Wood and hold on for the win. With several other front-runners in the field he could opt to for the same tactics here. He’s become a bit of a wiseguy horse after training well at Churchill and appears to have potential to move forward, although it seems to hinge on how involved he’ll become in the pace scenario and whether or not it turns into a duel.

16. Shagaf (20-1) – After three easy wins, including the Gotham, it’s hard to know if his lackluster 5th in the Wood was an indication that he didn’t like the muddy track or if he needs a perfect trip, or both. He made a nice move going into the stretch but couldn’t make up ground. He’s certainly well bred, especially for the distance, and has a made an increasingly good impression in the morning. Even if he is sitting on a big effort, the Kentucky Derby is the worst place to need a good trip.

17. Mor Spirit (12-1) – The Robert B. Lewis winner has finished 2nd behind Danzing Candy and Exaggerator in his last two outings. He’s made a decent impression training at Churchill over the last two weeks and gives the impression that he might end up being part of the pace scenario. Despite having a good running style for the Derby, if he can keep himself just off the pace, he doesn’t have one of the better distance pedigrees.

18. Majesto (30-1) – Last out this maiden winner finished 2nd behind Nyquist in his first stakes outing and has since made one of the better impressions in the morning training at Churchill. As his name suggests, he’s a big, good looking contender and could be poised to move forward off his last effort. Assuming he does, he might make a nice addition to your exotic tickets given the price.

19. Brody’s Cause (12-1) – Other than his first race run over the turf, his 7th place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby has been his only clunker. Last out in his Blue Grass win, he was under pressure from his rider to pick up the pace going into the stretch. Once he responded, he was cleared the field with ease. Other closers in the field have a better late kick, but given that he’s been training well at Churchill he could be in the picture late and would, at the very least, make a good addition to your exotic tickets.

20. Danzing Candy (15-1) – The San Felipe winner looks the most like this year’s “loose on the lead” front-runner, especially if you consider the insane pace he set last out in the Santa Anita Derby, where he finished a distant 4th after tiring. Pair his zippy final work with trainer Clifford Sise Jr.’s “go to the front” strategy, and this year’s Derby should have a lively pace. The Santa Anita Derby was run over a wet track, which are known to be tiring. Given that his front-running win in the San Felipe was over a fast dry track, he could be less likely to weaken on Derby day (presuming the forecasts are correct). Whether or not he can hold on for piece is not entirely clear.

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