LOUISVILLE - This year's Derby field is exceptionally competitive and trying to narrow a 20-horse field down 10 horses to handicap from has been quite a task.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Hansen was resting in his stall when I saw him Thursday, and has been listed with relatively high odds considering his accomplishments.
There will be a lot of early speed in this year's Derby, and finding a horse who is capable of cupping the deep dirt track as the early runners fade is the challenge. These horses have not run the 1-1/4 mile distance before, I'm looking for one who has proven he knows how to come off the pace previously running 1-1/8 mile.
Here is the starting lineup from the inside post out:
Daddy Long Legs - Odds 30-1, earnings $1,308, 752, Jockey Colin O'Donoghue, Trainer Adian O'Brien. Had a total of five starts and three wins. Last time out he won the UAE Derby, but only ran once this year. Breaking from the inside post...... this is a stretch bet.
Optimizer - Odds 50-1, Earnings $215,594, Jockey Jon Court, Trainer D. W. Lukas, Stats: hasn't won a race since last August. Finished 2nd in the Rebel in March. Not likely.
Take Charge Indy Odds 15-1, Earnings $721,000, Jockey Calvin Borel, Trainer Pat Byrne Stats: Won the Florida Derby by a length. Look for these odds to change on him as fans will be rooting/betting for Jockey Calvin Borel. Calvin is no stranger to the Churchill track and he loves the rail! Not worried about the 3 post at all on this one. Calvin won on Super Saver two years ago from post 4. He can handle a wet track, but may not like mud splashed in his face while running. (Just in case in rains.)
Union Rags Odds 9-2, Earnings $1,198,800, Jockey Julien Leparoux, Trainer Michael Matz. Stats: Placed third in the Florida Derby. This is a smart horse, he will need will the extra distance of this race. He keeps a close eye on Hansen when he's grazing in the Churchill backstretch. He knows who his competition is. (It's kind of funny.)
Dullahan Odds 8-1, Earnings $872,091 Jockey Kent Desormeaux, Trainer Dale Romans. Stats: Took first in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland by 1 1/4 lengths on April 14th. He finished 4th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in November. Don't discount this one he'll be trying to close.
Bodemeister Odds 4-, Earnings $704,800, Jockey Mike Smith, Trainer Bob Baffert, Stats: Won the Arkansas Derby by 9 1/2 lengths. He also finished 2nd in the San Felipe in March. With his closing effort and speed fractions...he will be scary.
Rousing Sermon Odds 50-1, Earnings $404,000, Jockey Jose Lezcano, Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer Stats: Placed third in the Louisiana Derby. He doesn't have the most impressive record but he likes to lurk.
Creative Cause Odds 12-1, Earnings $869,000, Jockey Joel Rosario, Trainer Mike Harrington Stats: Took third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and placed 2nd in the Santa Anita Derby. He was extremely playful in the barn yesterday and his coat feels as soft as fresh cotton. He's in good form and has been enjoying the attention from all the media. I know this field is tough but try not to discount him in a superfecta.
Trinninberg Odds 50-1, Earnings $341,300, Jockey Willie Martinez, Trainer Parboo Bisnath. Stats: He's 3-2-0 out of 7 starts. He took the Bay Shore at Aqueduct and the Swale at Gulfstream. This is a tough one to factor considering he's only gone 7 furlongs. May have early speed only.
Daddy Nose Best Odds 15-1 Earnings $633,623 Jockey Garret Gomez, Trainer Steve Asmussen. Stats: Was the winner of the Sunland Derby at 1-1/8 miles by three quarter s of a length over Isn't He Clever. Hmmm, his breeding is tight with Sire Scat Daddy (Johannesburg) and Dam: Follow Your Bliss (Thunder Gulch)
Alpha Odds 15-1, Earnings $500,000, Jockey Rajiv Maragh, Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin Stats: Took second in the Wood Memorial. He has a jockey change as his regular rider Dominguez will now be on Hansen. This may be okay, the horse is alert and was very playful in the barn last evening. I know others may not find this horse interesting but he has a lot of passion. He was showing off a bit last evening to reminded me not to forget about him before I left. Love the breeding here sire Bernardini (A.P. Indy), dam Munnaya (Nijinsky).
Prospective Odds: 30-1 Earnings $443,192, Jockey Luis Contreras, Trainer Mike Casse. Stats: Had a disappointing 6th place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes but I'm hoping that was more of a surface issue. He won the Tampa Bay Derby in March. Could be a good long shot bet.
Went The Day Well Odds 20-1, Jockey John Velazquez, Trainer Graham Motion Earnings $315,345. Stats: This was last year's Derby winning Trainer and Jockey. He won the Spiral by driving 3 1/2 lengths and has a 103 Beyer speed rating from that race. Probably not likely here; if it rains he may enjoy the Churchill surface more.
Hansen Odds 10-1, Jockey Ramon Dominguez, Trainer Michael Maker
Earnings $1,623,305 Stats: He's 2 year old champion and took 2nd in the Blue Grass Stakes, and 1st in the Gotham. He was quiet and resting in his barn last night. The distance could be a factor for him.
Gemologist Odds 6-1, Jockey Javier Castellano, Trainer Todd Pletcher Earnings $748,855. Stats: Won the Wood Memorial. He's undefeated and has two previous wins on the Churchill track. Look out for him.
El Padrino Odds 20-1, Earnings $316,100 Jockey Rafael Bejarano, Trainer Todd Pletcher, Stats: Has won 3 out of 6 races but didn't challenge in his last race in March in the Florida Derby. Probably won't happen here.
Done Talking Odds 50-1, Earnings $381,200. Jockey Sheldon Russell, Trainer Hamilton Smith. Stats: Won the Illinois Derby in a strong finish, but his speed fractions are low. Unlikely.
Sabercat Odds 30-1, Earnings $782,849 Jockey Corey Nakatani, Trainer Steve Assmussen. Stats: Took third in Arkansas Derby but poor finish in the Rebel.
I'll Have Another Odds 12-1, Earnings $634,000 Jockey Mario Gutierrez, Trainer Doug O'Neill Stats: Won the Santa Anita Derby, was first in the Lewis. Real contender here; don't think being far to the outside post will hurt him.
Liaison Odds 50-1, Earnings $487,560 Jockey Martin Garcia, Trainer Bob Baffert. Took sixth in Santa Anita Derby and fourth in the San Felipe. Not likely for this colt as he is winless this year.
A lot of handicapper are still looking toward Union Rags as the winner of this race despite Bodemeister taking the spotlight as the morning line favorite. While Bodemeister is a viable threat and weather conditions will be a factor, look for those that have previous experience on a wet track like Take Charge Indy, Hansen, and Union Rags just in case alternative plans are needed due to rain. Showers are expected in Louisville on Saturday.
Post time is at 6:24p.m.