Hype, by definition, is characterized as exaggerated publicity or promotion.
In the case of the Kentucky Derby, hype determines odds, favorites and ultimately the disappointment from owners, trainers and jockeys alike when only one horse wins and the rest of the field is left to wonder what went wrong.
Like clockwork, horses that have been hyped as contenders will not live up to that mantle in the 139th running of the Derby.
After Black Onyx was a late scratch on Friday from post No. 1, the 19-horse field became finalized. Among the favorites this year expected to be going head-to-head down the final furlongs are Orb, Verrazano, Goldencents, Itsmyluckyday and Normandy Invasion—only one horse can capture the 2013 crown.
As Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated so bluntly puts it, the Derby is just simply hard to predict.
Two years of training, races and hype have come to the first Saturday in May, so let's take a look at three horses who will not be able to live up to the publicity and promotion they've received so far.
2013 Kentucky Derby Layout
|1||SCR (Black Onyx) ||SCR||SCR|
|2||Oxbow ||Gary Stevens ||D. Wayne Lukas|
|3||Revolutionary||Calvin Borel||Todd Pletcher|
|4||Golden Soul||Robby Albarado||Dallas Stewart|
|5||Normandy Invasion ||Javier Castellano ||Chad Brown|
|6||Mylute ||Rosie Napravnik ||Tom Amoss|
|7||Giant Finish||Jose L. Espinoza||Anthony W. Dutrow|
|8||Goldencents||Kevin Krigger||Doug O'Neill|
|9||Overanalyze||Rafael Bejarano||Todd Pletcher|
|10||Palace Malice||Mike Smith||Todd Pletcher|
|11||Lines of Battle||Ryan Moore||Aidan O'Brien|
|12||Itsmyluckyday||Elvis Trujillo||Eddie Plesa Jr.|
|13||Falling Sky||Luis Saez||John Terranova II|
|14||Verrazano ||John R. Velazquez ||Todd Pletcher|
|15||Charming Kitten ||Edgar Prado ||Todd Pletcher|
|16||Orb||Joel Rosario ||Claude R. McGaughey III|
|17||Will Take Charge||Jon Court ||D. Wayne Lukas|
|18||Frac Daddy||Victor Lebron||Kenny McPeek|
|19||Java's War||Julien Leparoux||Kenny McPeek|
|20||Vyjack||Garrett Gomez ||Rudy Rodriguez|
Horses Who Won't Live Up to the Hype
Operating out of the No. 8 post, Goldencents has hype not only because it has won three of its last four races, but also because Kevin Krigger is looking to become the first African-American to jockey a winning horse at the Derby since Jimmy Winkfield's two-year run in 1901 and 1902.
While Goldencents won the Santa Anita Derby in its last running, the post position and layout of the track is going to be very difficult to overcome.
On the inside of fellow favorites Orb and Verrazano, Krigger will have his work cut out for him. He must establish a nice pace early with noted fast-starters Falling Sky and Revolutionary eager to get out to the turn quickly and keep his horse eager enough to last the full 1 1/4 mile.
It's a tall task, and one that could pose serious problems without a perfect run.
One advantage Krigger will have is that he has ridden Goldencents in all of the horse's six races, but the position on the track and outside contenders scare me away from this horse finishing anywhere near the money after the final stretch.
Oxbow's odds don't make it a horse that you would expect to have much hype around, but the return of Gary Stevens to the saddle after a short retirement certainly does.
Stevens, the three-time Derby winner (1988, 1995, 1997), got a favorable announcement when Black Onyx was scratched. The scratch moves Oxbow and Stevens to the inside, where he already has won a race (1988's Winning Colors in the No. 1 post).
Stevens and Oxbow are in the No. 2 slot, but they have a huge threat directly to the right.
Calvin Borel and Revolutionary are in post No. 3, and one would figure that horse has the edge in the race to the rail. Borel, another three-time winner, loves the inside posts, too, and Revolutionary has better odds to pull off this race win.
Oxbow and Stevens are a great story, but the hype around his return and an upset from the inside aren't great with Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion and Mylute all lurking on the outside.
To win this race on Saturday, Verrazano has to break a 130-year-old curse.
As noted by Edward McClellan of Slate.com, Apollo was the last horse to win the Derby when only training as a three-year-old thoroughbred, a record that has stood the test of time over the years and makes trainers get their horses in a maiden race during the winter, in most cases.
Verrazano is a perfect 4-for-4 in its career, but that doesn't discount the fact that it was a three-year-old, by definition, when first winning a maiden race.
While having Todd Pletcher training and John Velazquez jockeying is a huge coup for a potential front-runner win, Verrazano will have to overcome greater odds than its current good standing with those in charge of running bets.
Becoming the first horse to win after not racing in the winter in 130 years would be a storyline that would exceed most of the others at the track on Saturday. But don't count on history being made with Orb, Itsmyluckday and others in the middle of the field posing a huge threat to the start gate and a late push.
Then again, it's the Derby—anything can happen.
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