The Run for the Roses is a mile and a quarter long. It is a reasonable distance, and the traditional distance for the Kentucky Derby. It is a happy medium between the short distance of the Preakness Stakes (1 and 3/16) and Belmont Stakes (1.5 miles)
Last year the difference between the Derby and the Preakness was proven when Animal Kingdom ran out of time to win the second leg of the Triple Crown. What allowed him to win the Derby cost him the Preakness.
One problem with that, however, is that these horses have never run that distance. Typically, the Belmont (the last leg in the Triple Crown) is the race that is known for needing endurance. But really there could be problems for speed horses who just run from the starting gate.
This is why jockeys need to control their horses' willingness to just take off and run. If the horse runs out of energy in the final stretch, chances are they could lose it by quite a few lengths.
Here are some horses that will be racing in the 138th running of the world's most prestigious horse race.
Closing horses naturally have problems with shorter races. Bob Baffert will have his work cut out for him. More attention has been focused on Baffert's other horse, Bodemeister (4-1).
Liaison (50-1) is the offspring of Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker.
This horse is also not anywhere to be found on several experts' lists of top ten Derby contenders.
Being a closing horse can be a benefit, but it is a matter of timing. If the field slows down (which is likely to maintain a steady pace), then the race can fall right into the hands of a closing-style horse. The move to the front will have to happen in the backstretch if Liaison wants to have a chance.
To make it simple, the pace will be too fast for Liaison.
Post Position: 20
Done Talking is at 50-1.
Done Talking is a pure speed horse. He could jump out to an early lead only to fall apart coming around the final turn. Maintaining speed over a long distance is the challenge.
A horse can run out of energy early depending on how the jockey manages its exertion and speed. If Sheldon Russell can keep the horse from running too hard too early, then Done Talking has a chance of using that speed at the end of the race rather than at the beginning.
Managing the speed is Done Talking's only shot at winning the Derby. Russell will have to judge whether or not it is time to let his horse run free or hold the reins back.
With only two wins it is hard to say whether or not Done Talking will do well.
Drew Post Position: 17
Prospective is an obvious long shot and the 30-1 odds show that. He may have better odds than some of the other horses like Liaison and Done Talking, but the reason he has better odds than both of them is because of his closing speed.
The question again is timing of the jockey. Luis Contreras will have to bring out the whip at the right time. If he does it too early, his horse will run out of gas. If he does it too late, his horse's best speed will wasted when he'll have too much ground to make up.
Post position: 12
Todd Pletcher's horses usually get a lot of attention on Derby Day.
El Padrino means godfather in Spanish.
This horse has some notable names in his pedigree, including Secretariat and Seattle Slew. They may be generations apart, but the big names are there regardless.
The odds of 16/1 are a little bit too high in my own opinion. Pletcher being the trainer always helps those odds. I just think El Padrino is more of a middle-of-the-pack-type horse. I base that upon my own judgement after looking at footage of him race. He looks best fit for a wet track and the forecast for Saturday does not favor that. It's going to be hot and dry. Come the final stretch, El Padrino likely won't be able to make the charge to the front or hold it back.
He has some momentum, as he has won his first two races this year, but Pletcher has a better chance of winning the Derby with Gemologist.
Post Position: 16
Some experts like Alpha. I am still not convinced. Horses that come out of the Dubai stable have not historically been able to finish the deal at the Derby.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Alpha looks better at Churchill Downs. He finished 11th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The Breeders' Cup race was shorter than the Derby and given that the Breeders' Cup was at Churchill Downs, the track environment may be an issue.
“He shipped in well and all systems are go,” McLaughlin said. “He looked like he liked the track a little better today than on Breeders’ Cup day, so I was happy about that."
Alpha has a history of bad behavior, so I'm considering that and the fact that race day is completely different from warm-ups.
He had to travel and wound up getting to Louisville on Monday, less than a week before the race.
There was also a jockey change. Exactly who will ride Alpha is supposed to be revealed Wednesday. Ramon Dominguez elected to ride Hanson instead of Alpha. Dominguez is Hansen's regular jockey.
Too many changes for a horse that has potential but without consistency in the routine could disrupt his rhythm. Whether it is a jockey or where he sleeps, too many changes can mess with a horse's mentality.
Post Position: 11
The guys at BloodHorse.com have said this is a deep field. They really have a good grasp on what this group of horses can do. It helped a lot that the same horses will race at the same track that they had in November for the Breeders' Cup.
All you have to consider is that Mine That Bird was a long shot when he won in 2009. Calvin Borel was part of that.
Really who knows what will happen?
The Derby can bring many shocking results that nobody expects. It is not called the most exciting two minutes in sports for nothing.