R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe once asked, "Should we talk about the weather?" Of course we should—the Kentucky Derby is upon us.
Much like any other outdoor sporting event, the weather will play a major role in this year's race. So, what conditions can you expect?
A fast track appears likely. According to Weather.com, Churchill Downs should be precipitation-free Saturday, with the temperature at race time settling in at about 71 degree Fahrenheit and sunny skies expected. Despite storms earlier in the week, the weather has calmed well in time for race day.
That should play very well for those horses who are fast on a dry dirt track. For those that prefer running in the muck—or perhaps more accurately, benefit from other horses struggling in the muck—well, that forecast won't be so favorable.
But who are these horses? And, more importantly, where am I predicting them to finish?
Ask and ye shall receive.
|Kentucky Derby Participants|
|1||Vicar's In Trouble||Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey||Mike Maker||Rosie Napravnik||20-1||11|
|2||Harry's Holiday||Skychai Racing LLC, Sand Dollar Stable, LLC, Terry Raymond & Jana Wagner||Mike Maker||Corey Lanerie||50-1||17|
|3||Uncle Sigh||Wounded Warrior Stables & Anthony C. Robertson||Gary Contessa||Irad Ortiz Jr.||30-1||15|
|4||Danza||Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners||Todd Pletcher||Joe Bravo||8-1||3|
|5||California Chrome||Steve and Carolyn Coburn & Perry and Denise Martin||Art Sherman||Victor Espinoza||5-2||1|
|6||Samraat||My Meadowview Farm||Rick Violette Jr.||Jose Ortiz||15-1||6|
|7||We Miss Artie||Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey||Todd Pletcher||Javier Castellano||50-1||19|
|8||General A Rod||Starlight Racing & Skychai Racing, LLC||Mike Maker||Joel Rosario||15-1||14|
|9||Vinceremos||WinStar Farm LLC and Twin Creeks Racing||Todd Pletcher||Joe Rococo Jr.||30-1||18|
|10||Wildcat Red||Honors Stable Corp.||Jose Garoffalo||Luis Saez||15-1|
|12||Dance With Fate||S. Alesia, Bran Jam Stable & Ciaglia Racing, LLC||Peter Eurton||Corey Nakatani||20-1||9|
|13||Chitu||Tanma Corporation||Bob Baffert||Martin Garcia||20-1||10|
|14||Medal Count||Spendthrift Farm||Dale Romans||Robby Albarado||20-1||4|
|15||Tapiture||Winchell Thoroughbreds||Steve Asmussen||Ricardo Santana Jr.||12-1||8|
|16||Intense Holiday||Starlight Racing||Todd Pletcher||John Velazquez||8-1||5|
|17||Commanding Curve||West Point Thoroughbreds||Dallas Stewart||Shaun Bridgmohan||50-1||12|
|18||Candy Boy||C R K Stable LLC||John Sadler||Gary Stevens||15-1||13|
|19||Ride On Curlin||Daniel J. Dougherty||William G. Gowan||Calvin Borel||15-1||7|
|20||Wicked Strong||Centennial Farms||James A. Jerkens||Rajiv Maragh||6-1||2|
|21||Pablo Del Monte (SCRATCHED)||21||Pablo Del Monte (SCRATCHED)|
Some horses run better on different surfaces (We Miss Artie, Dance With Fate and Harry's Holiday come to mind). And some horses prefer a slower track. John Sutton of NJ.com thinks Medal Count is one of those horses, noting, "He hasn’t proven he has that same closing kick on the dirt. The weather forecast calls for a fast track, which has been his downfall."
Adjusting to a dirt track is a big deal for many of these horses. Dance With Fate, for instance, has only run three times on dirt. But as his trainer, Peter Eurton, told Gary B. Graves of The Associated Press, via CountOn2.com, he isn't particularly worried:
I believe there are horses for courses, that old saying goes. But he's amazingly aggressive and nothing really bothers him. I didn't think there'd be a big process of him getting used to it.
I just hoped he liked it like other tracks we've shipped him to. I don't think he'll have a problem.
It is important to note that Dance With Fate has been a runner-up twice on dirt. Perhaps worries about how he'll handle the surface are misguided.
Meanwhile, a fast track probably favors race favorite California Chrome, one of the reasons he's my favorite. Of course, in the interest of being fair and balanced, I present a dissenting viewpoint on CC's chances, via Chris Fallica of ESPN Stats & Information:
While 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman winning the Derby with the Cal-bred would be a great human interest story, recent history says backing short-priced favorites is not the way to go. Since 1980, there have been 23 favorites made 5-2 or shorter on the morning line, with California Chrome being the 24th. Of the previous 23, only Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 won the race. The last time a horse was made 5-2 on the morning line was 2005 when Bellamy Road was favored and finished seventh behind 50-1 shot Giacomo.
As the old saying goes, trends were made to be broken. That's how the saying goes, right?
It would appear that the weather won't be a major factor in the running of this year's Derby. Unfortunately, that means it will be a huge factor for the trainers, jockeys and horses that would have preferred a slower, muckier track.