The post positions have been drawn, and it's time to analyze the field. We'll count down the twenty entrants with some thoughts (the worse the horse, the quicker the comments). First up are the horses that either don't belong, don't measure up, or have holes in their resumes that are pretty fatal. Three thoughts of caution, however:
(1) Just because a horse can't win doesn't mean he can't hit the board. Last year, for example, nobody really thought Jazil or Steppenwolfer could win, but all agreed they could run well. Bear this in mind when it comes to some of these; while I don't think Tiago has any shot to win, he's a great bet to hit the top 4.
(2) By contrast, there are a slew of horses that are the definition of boom or bust. I'd be greatly surprised if Curlin ran 3rd. He's a much better bet to win or run up the track.
(3) The last Derby bet I cashed was a strong future bet on Monarchos in 2001. The previous one was the Real Quiet-Victory Gallop exacta in 1998. In other words, while I know a good amount about racing, I'm not here to pretend I'm a great handicapper. Though I feel like I know who the winner is.
Enough self-laudatory bullcrap. Taking it from the bottom, here's the ten horses that I can't see winning, or frankly, hitting the board on Saturday. As tough as the top tier is to separate, it's that much easier to find the horses who have little or no shot.
Thanks for coming fellas!
#20: Bwana Bull. He accomplished a tremendous record running against schlubs in Northern California. When called on to face second-tier competition in the Santa Anita Derby, he flopped marvelously. So naturally, the next step is to...run in the Derby? Wasn't there an easier and cheaper way to get tickets for the owner?
#19: I'mawildandcrazyguy. Rule of thumb: don't bet horses who smush their entire name into one word. They universally suck.
#18: Storm in May. Well, he ran second in his last race. Sadly, he was trounced 11 lengths in a less than stellar renewal of the Arkansas Derby. The Form sad it best when it said his best shot to his the board was to turn the results chart upside down.
#17: Teufelsberg. I suppose I understand why Jamie Sanders is running him in the Derby; he's her first real horse, and the publicity is great. That being said, he's a front runner with severe distance limitations and isn't top-shelf in a race where speed generally gets burned. Why not go for the Withers and a shot? Let's just hope he doesn't get hurt.
#16: Stormello: The other main pacesetter for the race, he rates one higher than Teufelsberg because he actually wasn't god-awful in the Fountain of Youth. Also, he's got a pissload of frequent flyer miles from traveling to Florida twice this year, so maybe he'll get a free trip to Emerald Downs.
Outside of the Top Tier
#15: Sam P.: This guy's getting some chatter because he's trained by Pletcher and will be about 40-1, though if the chatter continues, it'll be lower. Can't see it, he's run a whopping one good stakes race, and he backed it up with the least inspiring 3rd place finish since Ross Perot's 1996 campaign. A trainer alone doesn't make the horse great.
#14: Cowtown Cat: Pletcher's #4 horse, who did win the Illinois Derby, but did so beating nobody at all, and while running a fairly mediocre time. Plus his name stinks. I know I've said it before, but why the hell would you give a horse such a stupid name after paying a million bucks for him?
#13: Sedgefield. Here's the first horse I could actually see hitting the board, and if you're looking for an utter bomb to throw in your trifecta or superfecta, there are worse ideas. Granted, the Derby will be his first race on the dirt, and his last race stunk, but at 50-1 or so, I certainly have seen dumber ideas. But to win? No shot.
#12: Great Hunter. Sadly, Fred Dryer does not own this horse. Regarding his actual merits, here's a horse where people are simply overthinking in trying to include him in the top tier. Take a step back for a second from the notion that he's been fantastic both as 2 year old and 3 year old and really examine his record. We have a horse that was utterly blah until last year's Keeneland Futurity, where he ran ok in victory. He backed that up with an utterly insignificant show finish in the Juvenile, and now comes in off a split decision in his 3yo campaign: a good win in the Lewis and a hideous 5th place in the Blue Grass. And with the exception of the Lewis, he really hasn't run that well and certainly hasn't run that fast. Frankly, his PP's are very similar to Stormello. And now he's saddled with the 20 post, which can't help things. Pass.
#11: Curlin. If yesterday's column didn't make it clear, I'm not buying the hype. He's no Indian Charlie, a horse I always deemed overrated, and he ran third to Real Quiet in 1998.
Look, there's a real chance we're seeing a phenom like we did last year with Bernardini. But I can't quite see it; the breeding's not quite there, the competition hasn't been beaten, and he still has only run thrice since February 1st. Maybe he'll break all the rules. But at 3-1, I'll take that chance.
Tomorrow: The top 10 horses, or where we start to get to hosses who could actually do some damage on Saturday. And baseball too! This is, after all, a high-class fantasy website.