Kentucky Derby 2012: Analysis Using CFB's Finest

Adam Kramer@kegsneggsNational College Football Lead WriterMay 4, 2012

Kentucky Derby 2012: Analysis Using CFB's Finest

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    On the surface, the Kentucky Derby has absolutely nothing to do with college football. Dig a little deeper, and, well, it still has nothing to do with college football besides the whole tailgating, bourbon consumin’, and for some, gambling aspects that comes with this big moment. Oh, and it’ll likely consume at least a portion of your Saturday. A tradition usually left for the fall.

    The Kentucky Derby is magnificent. It’s about the hats, and the mint juleps (delicious), the horses (of course) and yes, the wagering. Handicapping this yearly race can be a challenge, especially if you don’t follow racing and wouldn’t know a racing form from a local newspaper. Have no fear, interested pony participants, I’m here to translate horse performance into a language you understand.

    Football. And, more specifically, college football players that will be front and center on your televisions come September.

    I’ve tried to keep the racing breakdown as simple as possible, and I’ve added a football player (or in some cases more) with each horse to compare to. The basic gist of the race is simple: it takes place at Churchill Downs in Kentucky, it’s run on dirt, it’s a mile and a quarter race, it’s run by three-year-old horses. That's all you need to know for now. 

    There you have it. Let’s meet the field, who I like, and who they might translate to on the football field.

1. Daddy Long Legs

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    Morning Line Odds: 30/1

    Football Translation: Da’Rick Rogers (Tennessee)

    The lone European horse of the race has been given the unfortunate privilege of starting in the one position, which has proven to be one of the tougher starting spots (if not the toughest) in the entire Derby. He did run on this track in The Breeders Cup Juvenile last year, and finished 12th showing little from the start.

    He’s gotten much, much better since then, and he would be much more of a factor in any other spot. Great odds given the quality of the horse, but he’ll need to run one hell of a race. I’m not so sure that happens. On the bright side, as long as Daddy Long Legs beats all Florida horses (and perhaps even a ‘Bama horse), Tennessee fans will be thrilled.

2. Optimizer

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    Morning Line Odds: 50/1

    Football Translation: Whoever Wins the Notre Dame Quarterback Job

    If you like long odds, you’ll certainly get them here. Optimizer sandwiched his 2nd place finish back in March with ugly 9th place finishes in graded (better) races. He’s run twice on the track and didn’t finish in the top three in either. Simply put, he’s probably out-classed in this race, although it is the Kentucky Derby and anything can happen. And while anything can happen, I will not be including him on my ticket. I can already hear Brian Kelly yelling at me (and the horse) because of it.

3. Take Charge Indy

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    Morning Line Odds: 15/1

    Football Translation: Geno Smith (West Virginia)

    Take Charge Indy has only run once since the end of January, but he made the most of his showcase. He went wire-to-wire in the Florida Derby against a more than respectable field to win his first race since breaking his maiden (aka: first win). That effort is going to be difficult to repeat at a longer distance and with an upgrade in competition, but he’ll likely jump out early and see how long it lasts.

    I’m not quite sure he’ll be able to withstand the horse coming up late, but Calvin “Master of Churchill” Borel is on the mount. I apologize to all couches in West Virginia for leaving the three off my ticket. 

4. Union Rags

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    Morning Line Odds: 9/2

    Football Translation: Knile Davis (Arkansas)

    An incredibly gifted horse that should be viewed as a serious contender. He’s been brilliant at times, and might be the best horse of the group when it’s all said and done. His last race, however, (which might fall on the jockey to some degree) was a cause for concern, and he has faltered at times along the way.

    I’ve watched him run for a while now and I think he’s ready to pull it all together. He’ll be on the top of my ticket, and there’s simply too much potential for me to go against. Plus, this Arkansas fan won’t be his jockey so you can (and should) still wager on him.

5. Dullahan

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    Morning Line Odds: 8/1

    Football Translation: Landry Jones (Oklahoma)

    In all likelihood, a horse off the pace will be flying up the backstretch, and there’s a good chance it could be this pony. Dullahan has the late firepower that bodes well for the Derby, and he is hoping that horses create a brisk pace early on. If it’s fast he’ll likely be a factor as others start to run out of steam, and he could fly onto your television picture down the stretch.

    The problem, however, is that he hasn’t run much on the dirt, the surface he will try to master on Saturday. Still, I think he’s capable of a monster ride as long as PLEASE DON’T THROW IT INTO DOUBLE COVERAGE AGAIN. OH NO.

6. Bodemeister

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    Morning Line Odds: 4/1

    Football Translation: Matt Barkley (USC) 

    This one certainly looks the part. Bodemeister is physically gifted and certainly a deserving favorite for the Derby. On paper, this horse has done everything that you want to see in his prep races and cruised in his final tune-up, winning by 9.5 lengths and posting the biggest Beyer (a speed number) of the group.

    If he runs his race and takes to running the extra distance, he will jump out early and never look back. He probably has to be on your ticket somewhere, and I will certainly be including him. Related: Lane Kiffin has already offered Bodemeister a scholarship as a three-year-old, and honestly, I can't blame him.

7. Rousing Sermon

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    Morning Line Odds: 50/1

    Football Translation: E.J. Manuel (Florida State) 

    I absolutely love the name and many will love the odds on Saturday. The problem, however, is that Rousing Sermon has only won twice in nine starts and struggled mightily against better competition. Those competitors with tails will be running next to him when he takes off, which is a tough task. Hence 50/1 as early odds.

    He does, however, close quite well and will be hoping for fast fractions and a late surge like many others. Stranger things have happened, but they’d have to be awfully strange to hit the board. Unlike Florida State teams for the past 475 years, this horse comes into this race with rather little hype.

8. Creative Cause

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    Morning Line Odds: 12/1

    Football Translation: Montee Ball (Wisconsin)

    Consistent, talented and experienced. Creative Cause has plenty of races for a three-year-old, although he seems somehow under-appreciated given the firepower in this field. He’s been in the money in all eight of his races, and his running style tells you he will be in the mix at the end.

    He’s a west coast horse, which can be a problem for some, but he has run on the track before. There’s not a lot to pick apart about this horse, and he’s got a great shot in this race. And if Bret Bielema were jockeying, he’d likely go to the whip early and NEVER stop. Good thing he’s not.

9. Trinniberg

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    Morning Line Odds: 50/1

    Football Translation: De’Anthony Thomas (Oregon)

    Here’s a prediction that I’m quite confident with: Trinniberg will either be on the lead or just a head behind twenty seconds after the race begins. Ship it. The horse loves to jump out and probably has more short-term speed than anyone in the race.

    Thing is, the race is much longer than anything he’s ever raced in and he simply won’t be able to stay out front. Look for fast fractions out of him early and plenty of camera time. This could be great news if you’re a closer waiting to pounce. As fast as he is, I’m not so sure Trinniberg could have caught DAT in the Rose Bowl.

10. Daddy Nose Best

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    Morning Line Odds: 15/1

    Football Translation: Rex Burkhead (Nebraska) 

    If there’s one horse that seems to be sitting very comfortable under the radar, it’s this one. Daddy Nose Best (also a very solid name, I might add) has won both races he’s entered in 2012 and has improved each time out. He hasn’t run against the kind of class he’ll see in the Derby, but that doesn’t mean the outcome will change. He’ll likely stalk the leaders throughout and then try and make his move just before the backstretch. Very capable horse, and you have to like the 15/1 morning line odds. Also, the alternative is Taylor Martinez throwing, so...

11. Alpha

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    Morning Line Odds: 15/1

    Football Translation: Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina) 

    Back in November, Alpha finished 11th in the Breeders Cup Juvenile on this same track. It’s a different story now, however. His performance at the Wood Memorial in April (where he finished 2nd and closed brilliantly) tells you he wants to run longer. He’ll get a chance in the Derby, and he should sit comfortably up front and wait to make a move at the end. See a theme here?

    I like the horse a lot, and I love the odds. If the upward trend continues, he could find himself in the winner’s circle for a nice price. And if it doesn’t, Steve Spurrier will most certainly throw his visor which is almost better than winning a bet of any kind.

12. Prospective

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    Morning Line Odds: 30/1

    Football Translation: Keenan Allen (Cal)

    Prospective likely won’t generate much conversation on Derby day because nothing on the form truly jumps off the page. With that said, that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of factoring into this race. He’s 30/1, so a big run is a long shot (like him), but he has at least run plenty of lengthier races which is more than many of the other horses can say.

    In all likelihood he’ll be out-classed and over-matched, and there are other long shots that might figure better. If Jeff Teford history holds, Prospective will likely bomb in this race and then go on to win multiple grade one races in his future (aka: the horsey NFL).

13. Went the Day Well

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    Morning Line Odds: 20/1

    Football Translation: Braxton Miller (Ohio State)

    One of two horses with experience running overseas, Went the Day Well comes into the Derby in the best form he’s ever been in. His win back in late March was his top performance of his young career, and he’s clearly got talent. He also has a brilliant trainer (Graham Motion) and jockey (John Velazquez) that will likely take in wagers because they always do.

    His stalking running styles fits the race well, but I’m just not sure he’s in the same class as some of the other horses who have more experience under their belt. In future horse racing recruiting news, all of Went the Day Well’s foals have committed to Ohio State.

14. Hansen

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    Morning Line Odds: 10/1

    Football Translation: Sammy Watkins (Clemson)

    Here’s a horse that will be easy to spot on the track, even with the sea of legs and tails that will make things hard to decipher. Hansen will likely get plenty of airtime and figures to be on or near the lead for most of the race. He won on this track last year in the Breeders Cup Juvenile, although the field has certainly closed the gap and the race is MUCH longer. I love his speed, but his front-running style is a tough act to keep up for a mile and a quarter. [Insert your favorite Clemson-let-down-at-unexpected-time football joke here]

15. Gemologist

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    Morning Line Odds: 6/1

    Football Translation: Denard Robinson (Michigan)

    He’s very fast, and he’s also expected to take in a ton of money for the Derby. The extra distance might not benefit his style, although none of these horses have ever gone this far. He’s 5 for 5 in his career, winning two of those on this track, and will likely be a factor early.

    Don’t love him being in the 15th post, but he’s unbeaten for a reason and has seemingly exploded onto the scene in his last two races. I'm up in the air on this one. Is this a toss it up into quadruple coverage effort, or will Gemologist exhibit his discovered wheels?

16. El Padrino

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    Morning Line Odds: 20/1

    Football Translation: Zach Mettenberger (LSU)

    El Padrino (which is fun to say, fun to write, and just look at that photo) is one of the more difficult horses to handicap in this race. He’s a bit of a long shot at 20/1, but he also has showcased some speed and skills leading up to this one. He gets a new jockey as his former rider (Javier Castellano) has chosen to ride Gemologist instead.

    We can’t blame him for that, but don’t think that makes El Padrino a slouch. He’ll need a solid race to finish top three, but that's a definite possibility given his history. His best racing is in front of him, and he could sneak into the top three here. El Padrino also happens to be Les Miles’ nickname at the local 40-and-older kite-flying club that he frequents.

17. Done Talking

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    Morning Line Odds: 50/1

    Football Translation: Iowa State (The Whole Squad)

    In all likelihood, Done Talking will not be a factor at any point of this year’s Derby and your top three will feature much more capable horses. With that said, there’s something strange about this horse, and I cannot get over his last race, where he closed like a freak to win a very watered-down Illinois Derby.

    If the fractions are very fast early on, then Done Talking could have a small window to make a run near the top. He’s 50/1 and will likely be 60 or 70/1 on race day. This is a massive long shot that could be worth a $2 fun bet if you know damn well you’re going to lose. Confused? Me, too. If Iowa State can beat Oklahoma State in football, this can happen. It won't. (But it can.)

18. Sabercat

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    Morning Line Odds: 30/1

    Football Translation: Danny O’Brien (Wisconsin) 

    And we’ve worked out way to the far outside of the race. The deeper down we go, the tougher it is to finish high because of your starting point. Sabercat got a piece of the podium at the Arkansas Derby where Bodemeister cruised and beat him by nearly ten lengths. He doesn’t have the same speed as some of the other horses and this position makes it very tough to make up ground. Not a bad horse by any means, but too much work to be done for my liking. On the bright side, he doesn’t have to play for/ride for Randy Edsall anymore.

19. I’ll Have Another

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    Morning Line Odds: 12/1

    Football Translation: Tyler Bray (Tennessee) 

    Not an ideal post as we just discussed, and I’ll Have Another will find himself WAY outside when the gates open. History says that this horse will not finish in the top three, but he might be good enough to get a piece if all goes well.

    Since coming up far short in the slop last September, he’s been perfect, and his last win at Santa Anita was an impressive showing that should bring on betting. He’s good, very good, but I’m not so sure he’s good enough to overcome it. This is one to think long and hard about. If he’s wearing orange silks to match Derek Dooley’s orange pants, however, well, then consider it a sign.

20. Liaison

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    Morning Line Odds: 50/1

    Football Translation: Ole Miss’ 2012 Schedule (Because it Sucks)

    Liaison has run against other horses in this race plenty already, and he’s had pretty average success overall. To overcome the 20th post—a brutal starting point—a horse has to be truly excellent and get the perfect trip. While he’s run in four consecutive graded races, he hasn’t shown nearly enough to be considered a serious contender.

    He’ll also start at the opposite end of the universe, aka: the other side of the track. He’ll have great odds, perhaps the best on the board, but I just don’t see it. Hey, it could be worse. You could have games at Alabama, at Arkansas, at Georgia and at LSU in 2012.