The 2014 Kentucky Derby, like the events before it and those of similar ilk, is quite the strange spectacle as humans take a back seat as the focal point.
Few other sports feature the star of the show as a non-human, but thus is the case when 20 horse-jockey combos line up for a thrilling two minutes at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
It's quite the dynamic. A good jockey can perhaps get the best out of a horse that may enter the spectacle as an underdog. Conversely, an iffy, unproven horse can doom even the greatest of jockeys from contention in such a deep field.
Let's take a deeper dive into the dynamic and identify which horses aren't worth the investment and which jockeys bettors should throw financial backing behind.
|1||Vicar's In Trouble||20-1|
|7||We Miss Artie||50-1|
|8||General A Rod||15-1|
|11||Dance With Fate||20-1|
|18||Ride On Curlin||15-1|
|20||Pablo Del Monte||50-1|
KentuckyDerby.com. Odds via Oddshark.
Odds courtesy of Odds Shark.
Horses to Avoid
The No. 2 post position normally gives horses some trouble, and that's especially the case for Harry's Holiday, a horse that has had his fair share of struggles leading up to the Derby.
Sports Illustrated's Derby preview best explains why Harry's Holiday's recent performances and hardly qualifying for the Derby put him at a serious disadvantage on Saturday:
This is a tough spot for Harry's Holiday. He finished second by a nose in a slow Spiral Stakes at Turfway on March 22, and then lost a shoe in a dull 13th-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 12. He only became the 20th qualifier for the Derby when Midnight Hawk withdrew from contention on April 2.
As if that's not enough, jockey Corey Lanerie, while experienced, has never been atop a horse in the Kentucky Derby.
All things taken into consideration, Harry's Holiday is a must-avoid option for all bettors.
We Miss Artie
It's not a good sign when a horse enters the Kentucky Derby without a win on a dirt track.
That's the main point of emphasis for We Miss Artie, a Canadian-bred horse that is in for a rude awakening when he jumps up in class on Saturday.
"I wasn't that happy with his effort," Pletcher said. "I just expected more, and I'm not sure We Miss Artie should be running in the Derby. I'll talk to and we'll see."
Daily Racing Form added more detail:
Pletcher says this morning was probably the worst he's seen We Miss Artie work on dirt. #KyDerby— DRF Derby (@DRFDerby) April 27, 2014
This one writes itself. We Miss Artie has struggled in practices and other events of the same kind, so it's best to avoid him as he enters a field with 19 other competitors.
Forget for a moment that Ride On Curlin is a tad of an unknown on Saturday and races out of the No. 18 spot.
Calvin Borel eliminates most of the negatives that can be thrown in the horse's direction thanks to his familiarity and high success rate in the proceedings at Churchill Downs.
Borel has won the Derby three times since 2007. That year he rode atop Street Sense. 2009 atop Mine That Bird. One more time in 2010 along with Super Saver. Add in a recent Hall of Fame induction, and it's easy to see why Borel has momentum.
"I had to work very hard but it paid off. It takes time," Borel said, via the New York Daily News' Jerry Bossert. "I have no idea how long I’m going to ride because I love the game so much. It’s worse than drugs. I love to get up in the morning and go to work and see my friends and I’ll just go from there."
Borel makes Ride On Curlin a favorite, and he's one bettors should feel safe to invest in given the good he has done them in recent years.
California Chrome is a very, very special horse, but one has to understand that his recent run of dominance can in large part be accredited to jockey Victor Espinoza. Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden
has the specifics:
California Chrome has won three consecutive races in dominant fashion, all since Espinoza became his rider. His victory by 5 ¼ lengths in the April 5 Santa Anita Derby is the most impressive performance of the year by any of the 20 Derby horses, and the colt has been made an overwhelming favorite in the program. But on Wednesday California Chrome drew the No. 5 post position, not a disastrous draw, but a little closer to the rail than trainer Art Sherman and Espinoza might have liked. (This is especially significant because California Chrome occasionally hesitates when the gate opens, which is deadly in the Derby).
So, that's impressive momentum thanks to a jockey who can get the most out of California Chrome and a rather favorable post position.
Most jockeys who will enter the fray Saturday have had some semblance of success recently or they wouldn't partake in the event, but Espinoza surpasses the rest thanks to his ability to consistently have California Chrome at the top of his game.