The 137th running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby (Grade I) presented by Yum! Brands shapes up to be a wide-open race in similar fashion to last year’s edition.
At every step along the 2011 Derby trail, we’ve seen a potential favorite fail when they’ve had the chance to solidify themselves as the one, leaving us with what will likely be close to another 6-to-1 favorite as was the case last year with Lookin At Lucky.
Dialed In (ranked No. 3 on Horse Racing Nation’s 2011 Kentucky Derby Contenders list) is the likely favorite for Nick Zito after he redeemed himself for losing an allowance race against older horses by winning the Florida Derby (Grade I).
Undefeated going into his supposed coronation in the Wood Memorial (Grade I), last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I) winner Uncle Mo (No. 1) finished third as the 1-to-9 favorite for Todd Pletcher.
The top contender from California was Premier Pegasus off nearly an eight-length romp in the San Felipe (Grade II), but a knee injury forced what would have been the heavy favorite to scratch the week of the Santa Anita Derby (Grade I). He will subsequently miss the entire Triple Crown.
Although there were question marks about The Factor’s ability to get two turns from the beginning, he won impressively for Bob Baffert in his first try going long in the Rebel Stakes (Grade II) at Oaklawn Park. That brought his hype to a fever pitch going into the Arkansas Derby (Grade I), but after a disappointing seventh place finish as the 4-to-5 favorite, he too was off the Derby trail.
Regardless of what happens Saturday, let’s hope this year’s runners have more post-Derby success than last year’s have.
Only Lookin at Lucky, who finished a tough luck sixth last year, went on to accomplish anything going two turns on dirt in prominent stakes races. The son of Smart Strike won the Preakness Stakes (Grade I), Haskell Invitational (Grade I) and Indiana Derby (Grade II) before finishing a close fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I) and being retired to stud.
Paddy O’Prado, who finished third in last year’s Run for the Roses, and Sidney’s Candy, who finished far back, have won a combined five graded stakes races … on turf.
Discreetly Mine won three graded stakes sprints from four tries, while Mission Impazible scored a win in the New Orleans Handicap (Grade II), to go along with a pair of second-place finishes.
Devil May Care was the only female in the starting gate last year (there will be none this year) and she has gone on to win a pair of grade one races in three tries against females.
Now for the bad.
Last year’s winner Super Saver, who won by two and a half lengths as the 8-to-1 second choice, finished far back in three grade one races before being retired to stud. He follows Mine That Bird, who also went winless after his Derby triumph in 2009.
But, they aren’t the only ones sporting a goose egg.
Eight other horses that ran last year have combined to go a whooping 0-for-34, with second place finisher Ice Box contributing four of those defeats, while American Lion and Line of David are unraced since finishing far back.
A trio of others has one insignificant win each from a combined 17 starts.
That’s a combined 3-for-54 for 14 of last year’s participants. If you’re keeping score.
It wouldn’t be surprising to look back a year from now and see similar results from what appears to be another underwhelming crop of 3-year-olds. Let’s hope that’s not the case.
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