Less than 24 hours now to the 138th running of America's race, the Kentucky Derby.
It's either the most exciting or fastest two minutes in sports, depending on how you like to call it. We are ready to see the mint julep drinks and ladies hats and then hear My Old Kentucky Home as the horses go for the post parade.
Shortly after, the horses will go off the gate, run in front of the iconic Twin Spires and wait for them to go around the track and come back to the wire and crown the champion with the garland of roses.
Now, who exactly will be the horse that will wear the garland of roses and see his silks go to the winner's silks statue?
Let's just go over the race.
Union Rags is the early betting favorite at 6-1, but the 20-horse field is talent deep and I can count at least 12 or maybe 13 horses that have a legitimate shot at winning the Derby.
The pace will be hot and contested, and the key to have a better understanding of who will win, will be to guess what the pace will be. Everything starts with who should be the fastest horse to the first call, Trinniberg.
Trinniberg has never gone beyond seven furlongs and therefore never run around two turns before. Most people are counting him out but before you do, consider this.
On his last race at the G3 Bay Shore, Trinniberg set the pace at the lowest pace figure (75) of his career and made the biggest jump from midway to final pace figure as he was running very fast late.
Yes, its true it was only at seven furlongs and he had no one to challenge him up front. The Derby has much faster and better horses, but you should ask yourself what if everyone is so confident that he will not get there and don't pressure him early and often.
Take Charge Indy took the Florida Derby that same way. Trinniberg will set the pace, but I think he will be engaged by Hansen and Bodemeister midway through the back stretch, essentially eliminating his chances.
Remember Calvin Borel is all about just once around the tiring horse and then back to the rail. That tiring horse could be Trinniberg and he will wait for the right moment to make just one move and try to win it with Take Charge Indy.
Bodemeister was the morning line favorite and at one of the big two in the bets. He has the fastest Beyers and is working great. He has Derby winning connections in trainer Bob Baffert and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
My main concern with him is that both times he has run behind a horse in a race he has lost. He's a much better horse now, but he hasn't shown yet he is capable of winning from behind the pace setter.
Last year's Juvenile winner, Hansen, did show he can rate when winning the Gotham. But his work was against much lesser company. He has a lot to prove as questions arise regarding whether he can go the 10 furlongs or not. I don't expect him to do so.
Much has been talked about Dullahan and his win in the Blue Grass. I have been following him and picked him to win that race. But I am convinced he is much better suited for turf and synthetic than he is on dirt.
Not that he is a bum on dirt, but just think he is just not as good on dirt as he must be to win the Derby.
You can never discount the horse that catches everyone's eye during the mornings and that horse has been Daddy Nose Best. This horse is constantly improving and his recent form shows he is ready to move forward big time.
Take notice that his last two races—both wins—have been at eight furlongs. He is the only horse on the field with two wins at that distance. He will be among the top three at the end.
Alpha is a different horse this year since he added Lasix. On his last race he ran big but couldn't get past Gemologist in the Wood Memorial. He lost Ramon Dominguez for the race, but Rajiv Maragh is a jockey that can get the best from him.
He had a bullet workout in :59.40 at 5F for the race at Belmont so he is fit and ready. While his gate problems appear to be history, the fact that he will post from the 11th slot means he will be in the gate a lot, and that could hurt him if he misses the break.
You miss the break here and odds are you find yourself out of the winner's circle.
Gemologist comes as the only unbeaten—in five starts—to the race. He has all the tools to win this race. He can stalk the pace but I expect Javier Castellano to bide his time and be a little further than in any of his races.
He should have an advantage starting from the first slot on the auxiliary gate and getting and easy way to be on the clear. He should have first aim at the leaders at the top of the stretch and will be the horse to catch as they turn for home.
Will anyone come challenge him? Expect Union Rags to be that horse.
Union Rags will be on the inside saving ground behind the front pack and jockey Julien Leparoux will have in mind that Castellano knows Union Rags very well and will remember the job he did on him at the Florida Derby.
Boxed-in all the way, but Leparoux will have Union Rags on the clear earlier. That will be his main purpose on the race and will be to seize the clear as soon as he sees one.
Union Rags has done it before and to me he is the most skilled horse of the field and should be the winner after a mano-a-mano with Gemologist down the stretch. Gemologist did show the ability to react to the challenge in the Wood.
But Union Rags will take him just before the wire and make the race join the ranks of the closest finishes in Derby history. Expect Creative Cause and Daddy Nose Best to be right behind them in third and fourth and rounding up for fifth will be Alpha.
Don't forget the race will be the 11th of the card which will be loaded with five stakes races leading up to the big one, the Kentucky Derby at 6:24 p.m. ET.
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