Kentucky Derby 2013 Horses: Most Interesting Contenders in This Year's Field

Carlos TorresContributor IApril 29, 2013

Kentucky Derby 2013 Horses: Most Interesting Contenders in This Year's Field

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    The Kentucky Derby, "the fastest two minutes in sports," is mainly about the stars of the competition: the horses.

    A field of 19 is expected for the 139th Run for the Roses this Saturday, and there are plenty of interesting contenders to consider in this year's field.

    Todd Pletcher is loaded with five entrants. The trainer dominated the Derby prep races, with the winners of the Wood Memorial, Louisiana Derby and Arkansas Derby leading the way. 

    Interestingly enough, three-time Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert will not be represented this year. A fixture in the Derby, he had to pull out his last two hopefuls Monday: Governor Charlie and Code West.

    Many top contenders were lost to various reasons along the way. Violence, Shanghai Bobby, Hear the Ghost, Flashback and I've Struck a Nerve all were top contenders that had to be taken out of the Derby trail this year.

    But the field remains a very competitive one, and the horses have trained well for the big race. Let's take a look at the most interesting contenders in this year's field.


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    Trainer: Thomas M. Amoss

    Jockey: Rosie Napravnik

    Owner: Goldmark Farm, LLC and Whisper Hill Farm

    Record: 9-2-3-2 

    Earnings: $417,695

    He impressed romping by 10 lengths over optional claiming company to close the 2012 campaign at Fair Grounds. 

    His 2013 debut was a disappointing seventh in the Grade 2 Risen Star, although he finished just 3.25 lengths behind the winner.

    He bounced back with a big performance in the G2 Louisiana Derby, finishing a close second after a stretch duel with the winner, Revolutionary.

    He has been zipping over the Churchill Downs track in the mornings. His last workout was a bullet 47.8 seconds over four furlongs with Rosie Napravnik aboard.

    Napravnik was the jockey in his romp last December and will ride him on the Derby.

Will Take Charge

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    Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

    Jockey: Jon K. Court

    Owner: Willis D. Horton

    Record: 7-3-1-0

    Earnings: $545,371

    Trained by four-time Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas, he entered the Derby picture after his hard-fought win in the ungraded Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 21.

    His next race was the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, but disappointed with a sixth-place finish 18 lengths behind the winner, Super Ninety Nine. On that race, it appeared like the sloppy track might have hindered his chances.

    On his next start, the G2 Rebel Stakes over a fast track, he won by a head after holding off a stretch attack by stablemate Oxbow. He redeemed himself and established as a legitimate Derby contender. 

    He has been training frequently since his last start was the Rebel on Mar. 16. His last workout was on April 21 covering one mile in 1:41.75 while shading his last quarter in 25 seconds.

Java's War

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    Trainer: Kenneth G. McPeek 

    Jockey: Julien R. Leparoux

    Owner: Charles E. Fipke

    Record: 7-3-1-1

    Earnings: $672,091

    This is small, May-foaled horse that runs bigger than what he looks. 

    Last October, after winning his second and third races, he ran third to Joha and Dynamic Sky in the Grade 1 Dixiana Breeders' Futurity. He was squeezed between horses with a furlong to go and couldn't rally again.

    On his next start at the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (Nov. 24) he made his bid but flattened in the final furlong finishing sixth, five lengths behind the winner.

    He wouldn't run again until the G2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 9 this year and ran a big race finishing second to likely Derby favorite Verrazano. He ran from last to second, but proved no match for the winner.

    His last start was the G1 Blue Grass Stakes on April 13 and he once again rallied from last, but this time made it to the wire on time, beating Derby participant Palace Malice by a neck. 

    His works have been pure maintenance. His last was in company with stablemate and Derby participant Frac Daddy, covering five furlongs in 1:02 and galloping out six furlongs in 1:16.03.


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    Trainer: Edward Plesa Jr.

    Jockey: Elvis Trujillo

    Owner: Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa

    Record: 10-5-2-1

    Earnings: $625,600

    This is the veteran of the Derby contenders with 10 starts.

    He turned heads Jan. 26, when he defeated the reigning two-year-old champ and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Shanghai Bobby in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes. He beat the then undefeated champ in track record-setting fashion, covering the 8.5 furlongs in 1:41.81—a 104 Beyer Figure.

    On his next race at the G1 Florida Derby on March 30, he ran his race stalking the early pace and taking the lead at the quarter pole. But he was caught and outrun by Orb, one of the likely Derby favorites.

    It was his first race two months after his pair of wins in the Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull Stakes earlier in the year. But that day he was second best.

    His last workout for the Derby came at Calder on April 25 where he covered four furlongs in a slow 53 seconds. He split the quarter miles in almost even 26 seconds and change.


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    Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher

    Jockey: Rafael Bejarano

    Owner: Repole Stable

    Record: 7-4-0-1

    Earnings: $956,381

    Owner Mike Repole is back in the Derby with a very promising contender who resembles Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He wins a race in eye-catching form, then just doesn't show up in the next.

    The horse won his debut Aug. 9 and finished fourth on his next start Sept. 3 at the Grade 2 Hopeful Stakes, beaten seven lengths by the winner, Shanghai Bobby.

    He would bounce back to win convincingly the G2 Futurity on Sept. 30, but then finished third by being beaten eight lengths in the G3 Iroquois Stakes behind Uncaptured and Positively.

    Then on Nov. 24, he won the G2 Remsen Stakes in a sensational stretch duel over fellow Derby contender Normandy Invasion. He showed a lot of heart battling at the end for the win.

    This year, he started his campaign in the G3 Gotham, and true to his up-and-down performances, he finished fifth, getting beaten four lengths behind the winner, Derby contender Vyjack. 

    His last start was the impressive win in the G1 Arkansas Derby, where he drew clear deep in the stretch and won convincingly by four lengths with red-hot Rafael Bejarano aboard for the first time.

    His last work for the Derby was on April 27. He did it in company of Palace Malice, breaking off a length behind and finishing on even terms. He covered four furlongs in 46.9. 


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    Trainer: Rudy R. Rodriguez

    Jockey: Garrett K. Gomez

    Owner: Pick Six Racing

    Record: 5-4-0-1

    Earnings: $542,200

    He was unbeaten on his first four starts, but the quality of the opposition was questionable.

    His first big test came in his last start at the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 6 against unbeaten Verrazano and Normandy Invasion.

    On his previous start, the G3 Gotham Stakes, he gained the mount of the nation's hottest jockey, Joel Rosario, who was able to change his running style. He came from off the pace to finish strong and win driving clear. 

    In the Wood, he ran on the clear in fourth place for nearly three quarters. He would make his move in the final quarter pole and challenged Verrazano, but was outrun to finish third. Normandy Invasion nipped him at the wire for second.

    He has been working steadily, with his last workout coming on April 26, covering five furlongs in 1:00.36. Two-time Eclipse Award winning jockey Garrett Gomez picked up the mount replacing Joel Rosario, who returned to ride Orb.


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    Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher

    Jockey: Calvin H. Borel

    Owner: WinStar Farm, LLC

    Record: 6-3-1-2

    Earnings: $788,500

    He broke his maiden with a romping win by eight lengths on a maiden special last Dec. 28 at Aqueduct. A 102 Beyer Figure was assigned for that impressive win.

    He would return in 2013 as the favorite on the Grade 3 Withers Stakes under new jockey Javier Castellano and graduated with honors.

    Castellano had to ride him idle in traffic for most of the backstretch. When he tried to make a move on the final turn, he couldn't find any room to maneuver, prompting Castellano to push him through a small seam between horses in the stretch.

    Once he got to the seam, he was able to display an impressive acceleration burst and catch Escapefromreality to win by a neck.

    He would validate his form, winning the G1 Louisiana Derby, coming from 12th place and holding off the challenge of Mylute in the stretch, winning by a neck.

    Recent Hall of Fame inductee Calvin Borel will reunite with his 2010 Derby-winning connections as he takes over the reins for the Derby. Castellano stayed with Normandy Invasion for the Derby.

    Since arriving at Churchill he has been displaying great form in the mornings. Borel has been schooling him to run on the rail, and his last work was a strong one.

    He worked in company on April 27 with stablemate Charming Kitten and covered four furlongs in 48.11 seconds before galloping out strongly, getting to the five-furlong mark in 1:00.58.

Normandy Invasion

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    Trainer: Chad C. Brown

    Jockey: Javier J. Castellano

    Owner: Fox Hill Farms, Inc.

    Record: 5-1-2-0

    Earnings: $300,240

    This is a rapidly improving colt that has been zipping with ease through the Churchill Downs track in the mornings.

    He lost to Overanalyze in the Grade 2 Remsen in his last race in 2012 on Nov. 24. He would then be given a three-month break and returned for the G2 Risen Star on Feb. 23. 

    On the Risen Star, he broke a step slow, bobbled after a few steps and had to make a move seven wide in the stretch trying to catch the leaders. Even after all his troubles, he managed to finish fifth just 1.5 lengths behind the winner I've Struck a Nerve.

    The bad news were that he didn't earn any qualifying points toward the Derby. It was mandatory to finish in the top two in any of the races from the second leg of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, where the winner earned 100 points and the second-place finisher 40.

    He would achieve this in the G1 Wood Memorial, where he ran a close sixth early before finishing second thanks to a big rally under strong urging from jockey Javier Castellano.

    Castellano chose to stay on him over Revolutionary for the Derby. So far, his workouts for the race indicate he is primed for a big race.

    His last workout came on April 27 when he blitzed five furlongs with ease in 58.89.


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    Trainer: Doug O'Neill

    Jockey: Kevin Krigger

    Owner: W.C. Racing, Dave Kenney and RAP Racing 

    Record: 6-4-0-1

    Earnings: $1,250,000

    He finished second to Shanghai Bobby last year in the Grade 2 Champagne on Oct. 6. Although he finished beaten five lengths, he caught the eye of the fans with a gutsy performance.

    He would then win the G3 Delta Downs Jackpot on Nov. 17, beating Mylute, who finished third. His next race was an unimpressive win in the G3 Sham Stakes on Jan. 5.

    Returning two months later for the G2 San Felipe Stakes on March 9, he battled from the beginning but was outrun in the stretch by the winner Hear the Ghost, Flashback and Always a Tiz.

    He would then return for what could be the most visually impressive Derby prep this year, the G1 Santa Anita Derby on April 6. He would win after prompting the pacesetter Super Ninety Nine and holding off the challenge by Flashback in the stretch.

    A 105 Beyer Figure was assigned for that race, which stands as the highest earned on any Derby prep.

    Trainer Doug O'Neill followed the same preparation plan he had with last year's Derby winner I'll Have Another. He did all his work at Santa Anita, with his final work on April 25, covering six furlong in a slow 1:16.20.


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    Trainer: Claude R. McGaughey III

    Jockey: Joel Rosario

    Owner: Stuart S. Janey III and Phipps Stable

    Record: 7-4-0-1

    Earnings: $921,050

    A winner of his last four races, this is the horse that has been turning heads in the backstretch since he arrived at Churchill Downs.

    His first two wins in the streak were over maiden and optional claiming company with Joel Rosario aboard. Those wins earned him a shot at the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on Feb. 23, where he would face the heavy favorite and previously unbeaten Violence.

    His regular jockey, Joel Rosario, went to Speak Logistics, and Hall of Famer John Velazquez replaced him for the race. 

    Velazquez placed him seventh early but just 1.5 lengths behind the pacesetters and keeping Violence in check. He circled around the four rivals on the far turn and made his move to catch Violence in the stretch and prevail in a duel over the final meters.

    With Velazquez back aboard, he was the second choice behind Itsmyluckyday and just ahead of Shanghai Bobby in the Florida Derby. But once again he would stalk the front pack and make his move, circling the opposition on the far turn.

    He would rally to catch and outrun Itsmyluckyday in the stretch, winning clear by 2.75 lengths. 

    His workouts since have been stellar, not as much by the times, but because of how easy he has done them. His final work came Monday when he glided over four furlongs in 47.89.

    Joel Rosario will be back aboard for the Derby.


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    Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher

    Jockey: John R. Velazquez

    Owner: Let's Go Stable, Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith

    Record: 4-4-0-0

    Earnings: $861,300

    Unbeaten in four starts—all this year—he could be the likely favorite of the Derby. 

    No horse has won the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two-year-old since Apollo in 1882, which he will be trying to accomplish. This could be irrelevant, as he missed this by one day since his first start came on New Year's Day.

    He won the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Stakes with ease, but other than Java's War the opposition was of questionable quality.

    His biggest test came in the G1 Wood Memorial on April 6, and he passed it with flying colors. He was able to rate and hold off the challenges in the stretch from Vyjack and Normandy Invasion.

    Although the time was not an impressive one, slow fractions make up for slower final times. 

    He has been working out business as usual with his last workout in company of the recently stakes-placed mare Authenticity on April 27. He covered five furlongs in 59.95, finishing a head in front after breaking off 1.5 lengths behind.

    Gary Stevens was aboard for the workout, but fellow Hall of Famer John Velazquez will be aboard for the Derby. Velazquez has been aboard for all four of his races.


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