Just one more day before the 2012 edition of the Kentucky Derby is run in front of the iconic Twin Spires of Churchill Downs.
Mike Battaglia, the oddsmaker who has been doing the morning line for the Derby since 1975, placed Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister as the 4-1 morning line favorite, followed by Florida Derby third-place finisher Union Rags at 9-2, undefeated Todd Pletcher trainee Gemologist at 6-1 and the Blue Grass Stakes champ Dullahan at 8-1.
Those are your big four, at least on the morning line odds.
Bodemeister has three straight eye-popping three-digit Beyer figures (108, 101, 101) coming into the race and has been improving with each race. He is trained by Bob Baffert and will have Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard.
He is training well, has a good post position, has the pedigree and has Derby winning connections, which certainly enhances his chances. But he will be trying to overcome 130 years of history: No horse since Apollo in 1883 has won the Derby and been over two years old.
He is your horse to beat no matter what anybody else tells you.
Union Rags, trained by Michael Matz, is you second choice, and rightfully so. Matz was the trainer for the 2006 Derby winner Barbaro. Union Rags resembles Barbaro in the sense that he is another strong, very skilled horse that could very well win the Derby.
He needs a clean trip though, and jockey Julien Leparoux—2009 Eclipse Award winner—is aboard and has to avoid trouble at all costs. A bad trip in the Florida Derby might have cost him the race, and he will have no one making him any favors come race time.
Many are writing him off, but he might be the most talented horse on the field, and if he gets that clean trip, expect him to contend down the stretch.
For stretch-running Toyota Blue Grass winner Dullahan, the strategy for jockey, Kent Desormeaux, is simple. Stay back on the second pack and avoid trouble so he can make his final mad dash on stretch like he did on the Blue Grass.
Easy right? You are also noting a trend here, stay out of trouble. That is easier said than done in a 20-horse field where passing through traffic is worse than a traffic jam in Los Angeles.
Woods Memorial winner, Gemologist is the only unbeaten in the field (five wins) and is trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by the nation's leading jockey, Javier Castellano. He has a great post in No. 15 and has all the speed to his inside.
He seems to be comfortable at Churchill Downs where he is two-for-two. He will most likely be placed stalking the leaders. The scary thing about him is that we haven't seen his best race yet. It will most likely take that kind of effort to win here, but if anyone can pull it off it is Gemologist.
There are two horses that have been moving forward steadily with each race coming to the Derby, Alpha and Daddy Nose Best.
Alpha comes from finishing second to Gemologist at the Wood, but he has been a different horse this year since he started on Lasix. Rajiv Maragh will ride for the first time substituting Ramon Dominguez who is aboard Hansen. Maragh is a patient jockey whose style fits Alpha perfectly, dangerous call here.
Daddy Nose Best is the buzz of the track thanks to his preparation and has also been moving forward in his last three races. The presence of jockey Garrett Gomez and his perfectly matched style enhances his chances. I expect a big race from him. Daddy Nose Best has as much a chance to win as anyone.
Hansen has to prove his doubters wrong here. There are doubts of him getting to the 10 furlongs and about what pace will he follow. Will he go for the front and face Trinniberg early or be taken back and try to rate off the pace? If he is to win, he must do the latter.
From the rest, Santa Anita Derby top-two finishers, I'll Have Another and Creative Cause stand out. Expect I'll Have Another to be forwardly placed and Creative Cause to make his run with the second-tier pack.
They both have almost the same chance to win. You just have to remember they were noses apart in the Santa Anita, and it should surprise no one if it would happen again in the Churchill Downs' home stretch.
Consider the weather for tomorrow. The National Weather Service in Louisville, Kentucky says:
"Models are indicating a back-door front will edge into the forecast area by as early as Saturday afternoon, which could trigger more sustainable convection. Either way, heavy rain, wind, and small hail appear to be the main threats at this time."
Of the previous 137 Derbys, 46 percent of them have seen the rain pay the track a visit. The good thing is that the Derby has never been canceled due to weather.
Kentucky Derby | Grade I | Purse: $2 Million | Distance: 10 furlongs | Post Time: 6:24 p.m. ET
|1||Daddy Long Legs||Colm O'Donoghue||Aidan P. O'Brien||30-1|
|2||Optimizer||Jon K. Court||D. Wayne Lukas||50-1|
|3||Take Charge Indy||Calvin H. Borel||Patrick B. Byrne||15-1|
|4||Union Rags||Julien R. Leparoux||Michael R. Matz||9-2|
|5||Dullahan||Kent J. Desormeaux||Dale Romans||8-1|
|6||Bodemeister||Mike E. Smith||Bob Baffert||4-1|
|7||Rousing Sermon||Jose Lezcano||Jerry Hollendorfer||50-1|
|8||Creative Cause||Joel Rosario||Mike Harrington||12-1|
|9||Trinniberg||Willie Martinez||Bisnath Parboo||50-1|
|10||Daddy Nose Best||Garret K. Gomez||Steven M. Asmussen||15-1|
|11||Alpha||Rajiv Maragh||Kiaran P. McLaughlin||15-1|
|12||Prospective||Luis Contreras||Mark Casse||30-1|
|13||Went the Day Well||John R. Velazquez||H. Graham Motion||30-1|
|14||Hansen||Ramon A. Dominguez||Michael J. Maker||10-1|
|15||Gemologist||Javier J. Castellano||Todd A. Pletcher||6-1|
|16||El Padrino||Rafael Bejarano||
Todd A. Pletcher
|17||Done Talking||Sheldon Russell||Hamilton A. Smith||50-1|
|18||Sabercat||Corey S. Nakatani||Steven M. Asmussen||30-1|
|19||I'll Have Another||Mario Gutierrez||Doug O'Neill||12-1|
|20||Liaison||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||50-1|
|AE||My Adonis||Elvis Trujillo||Kelly J. Breen||50-1|