The two shortest prices of course.
With undeserved hype surrounding 4-to-1 morning line favorite Dialed In (ranked No. 3 on Horse Racing Nation’s 2011 Kentucky Derby Contenders list) and swirling rumors regarding 9-to-2 second choice Uncle Mo’s (No. 1) potential defection from the field due to health concerns, they’re both a play against in the 137th running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby (Grade I) presented by Yum! Brands.
It’s rather startling that more isn’t being made of the unconventional paths both runners took on their road to Louisville, which likely indicated a lack of confidence from their connections.
After an impressive last-to-first victory in the Holy Bull (Grade III) on January 30, Dialed In’s next race for trainer Nick Zito came against older horses in a second-level allowance optional claiming event on March 6. He finished second as the 1-to-5 favorite in the short field of five, beaten by a horse Zito entered just to fill the race that had finished fourth in a similar spot three weeks prior.
The warning signs that all may not be right with 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo started when his first race of 2011 came in the Timely Writer Stakes. The what?
Trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole (founder of Vitamin Water) had the entire winter to map out a campaign for the next coming of Secretariat and they land in an overnight stake with a $100,000 purse?
Beating up on a field of patsies as the 1-to-20 favorite did nothing to prepare the then-undefeated son of Indian Charlie for the rigors of the Triple Crown trail. And, he didn’t look particularly impressive doing it either.
Why not run in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (Grade II) or Tampa Bay Derby (Grade II)? The typical Kentucky Derby prep races in the Sunshine State.
That question may have been answered when ‘Mo stunned the racing world by finishing third in the Wood Memorial (Grade I) despite having an ideal trip on the front end against a full field of what should have been over-matched challengers.
Wood winner Toby’s Corner had a rough trip, not finding clear sailing until half way through the home stretch, and beat the overwhelming favorite despite trying to lug in. Oh yeah, Arthur’s Tale, a 20-to-1 long shot that had previously been soundly beaten in a pair of ungraded stakes, got by ‘Mo too.
Now, Repole is consulting with five soothsayers to determine whether his prized colt is 100% fit to run, with a final decision expected to be made by Friday. Seems like a good situation to get your gambling money invested in, doesn’t it?
For Dialed In, the choice of races may have been a question of timing, as it’s possible the son of Mineshaft wasn’t ready for the Fountain of Youth on February 26 and the Tampa Bay Derby was too far out on March 12.
Regardless, his win in the Florida Derby (Grade I) was not impressive. He finished the final three furlongs in a sllllow 39 seconds, while just getting up to beat 68-to-1 bomber Shackelford, who was clearly shortening stride through the lane after taking pace pressure throughout.
Do these sound like two horses that should be favored in the most difficult race of all to win? Not by a long shot.
Not when there are plenty of others to choose from that offer more value and are more likely to run well because they ran better in their respective prep races.
Stay tuned over the next couple of days for my picks and wagering strategy leading up to the greatest two minutes in sports.
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