It's President's Day weekend, which means in addition to pitchers and catchers, we can start to look at Kentucky Derby horses for the first time. (What, did you think this blog could go 4+ months without a racing post? Gimme a break.) It's still pretty early in the process, and we've had exactly one standout horse so far in a field of hundreds, so it's a bit premature to make anything resembling an exhaustive list. Still, let's take a peek at the 6 most intriguing horses at this juncture. And no, that steed hat Giselle is riding is not one of them, sadly.
1. War Pass. Last year's two year old champ won all four of his starts and did so with aplomb. Plagarizing Andy Beyer went so far as to compare this colt to Seattle Slew, which is praise in its highest form. Let's settle down kids. His sire, Cherokee Run, is known for breeding sprinters and milers, not distance horses. Personally, I think he'll be running the wrong way on the far turn at Churchill in the Derby.
2. Pyro. He's got a mere two wins, but also has a pair of good seconds to War Pass last year, and rocketed from last to first to win the Louisiana Derby in a final quarter under 23 seconds, which is even better when you consider the pace scenario, and has made him everyone's future book favorite. Plagarizing Andy Beyer has compared this horse to Secretariat. It's clear that in his old age Beyer has morphed form resident curmudgeon to Dick Enberg.
3. Crown of Thorns. The spectacularly named son of Repent, he's got a pair of nice wins this year and is bred to run forever. The oddity here is that he's only run on synthetic surfaces, i.e., a substance neither dirt nor grass. (Think of it as something like that odd faux-clay shit you played tennis on in high school.) How is this going to translate to dirt? This is going to be a theme come April, by the way.
4. Monba. Everybody's "wiseguy horse", including mine, he should have won his last start with a horrendous trip in the Cash Call Mile. Well-bred to get the distance, he's probably Pletcher's best hope. While I'd normally advise against the hype horse, this is the second hype horse I've liked this century, the other being Monarchos who won easily at 10-1 on Derby Day. Forewarned is forearmed.
5. Court Vision. He won two races at Aqueduct so impressively last year, IEAH, which is literally a horse racing hedge fund, and an entity I'd call the KKR of the thoroughbred world, has bought a share of him with the idea that he'll represent their growth shares. Yes, insufferable pricks from the world of Stephen Schwarzman have officially entered racing.
6. Cowboy Cal. The Barbaro comparisons are inevitable, as he's 3-for-3 on the grass, and has the breeding to do well on the dirt. It's only a matter of time before Pletcher gives him a shot in a dirt race (Florida Derby?) rather than settle to have the next Kitten's Joy. However, if this horse also dies and/or leads to another 600 media hours of dealing with Barbaro's passing, we will all be much less for it.
What are the odds of one of these horses taking home the roses in May? Well, combined in last week's future pool, they received about 42% of the action, meaning the racing public says the odds are about 3-2 that the winner will come from that sextet. I'd lay those odds. There's a lot of racing between now and the first Saturday in May, and while these are the ones to watch, you wouldn't have put Giacomo, Smarty Jones, Funny Cide or War Emblem on a similar short list either.