Haskin's Derby Report: Quick on the Draw

You better get your eyes trained on both ends of the field when they spring the latch on Saturday if you want see the cavalry charge of speed horses and stalkers parked down on the inside and also the stone closers on the far outside taking back and trying to get position and save as much ground as possible.

That was the odd layout of the field after post positions were drawn on Wednesday. With Vicar’s in Trouble in post 1, Uncle Sigh in post 3, Danza in post 4, California Chrome in post 5, and Samraat in post 6, there are going to be a number of horses all breaking quickly and trying establish their position going into the first turn. Any slipup, any squeezing, any bumping, any bobbling could cost you dearly if you wind up getting sucked back in the 20-horse field and wind up having dirt kicked in your face and having to change your running style.

Meanwhile at the other end of the starting gates/gates, you have Dance With Fate in post 11, Medal Count in 13, Intense Holiday in 15, Commanding Curve in 16, Ride On Curlin in 18, and Wicked Strong in 19. All those horses want to take back and make a late run, so the situation that confronts the speed horses on the inside also confronts the closers on the outside. It all boils down to getting position.

As for the other speed horses, Wildcat Red drew well in post 10, Chitu breaks from post 12, Pablo Del Monte (if he runs) gets post 20, and likely midpackers, Tapiture, Vinceremos, Candy Boy will have to find a way to tuck in behind all that speed.

Looking this morning’s activities, California Chrome again went out about 6:45 and again schooled in the paddock. For a horse who is so relaxed and professional in his races, he does have a bit of nervous energy in the mornings, as he again was busy with the bit, working up a good deal of saliva. He stands fine in the stall, but after a short while he was pawing at ground, then was led out, swishing his tail and getting a bit studdish, which lasted only a few seconds. While in the gate, assistant trainer Alan Sherman kept stroking the colt’s forehead while exercise rider William Delgado reached sown and put his arms around his neck in an affectionate hug.

Chrome’s gallop was much more intense and impressive today than it was yesterday, which is what you want to see. He rolled around there at pretty strong clip, getting stronger the farther he went. This was a real lung opener. But he still was looking to his right down the stretch and there aren't many more days to get focused. He will go out for a jog on race morning.

Trainer Art Sherman doesn’t bring him to the paddock in the afternoon with the other Derby horses and the day’s runners because he wants to stick to the same routine as at home and doesn’t want to tease the horse by having him think he’s about to race.

So, all in all, this was a good morning for the Derby favorite, but he can probably use a little more time in the paddock. By him schooling in the quiet of the early morning, we have no idea how he’s going to react to the throngs of people in the paddock on Derby Day. He does command the eye whatever he does.

There were several gallopers today who caught the eye. No one is handling this track better than Intense Holiday and he had another strong gallop this morning and it was no easy chore getting him pulled up. The horse’s energy level is very high, and it’s all good energy.

His stablemate Danza continues to impress, and what caught my attention is the way he comes on to the track, canters to the sixteenth and then turns around to begin his gallop. Only instead of breaking off in a mild gallop and building up steam, as soon as he turns around, he is gone, immediately hitting open gallop speed. It’s as if the rider stepped on the gas and he went from zero to 60 in about five seconds. It’s moments like this that brings me back to my original question? Is this some kind of freak? I haven’t seen a horse do what he did in the Arkansas Derby off such little racing, and now we’ll see if it was a fluke performance or the birth of a superstar. Right now, I would bet on the latter.

A forgotten horse who has been training exceptionally is Candy Boy, who had a big work last week and strong gallops since. His gallop this morning at about 5:45 was extremely impressive. He has a smooth way of moving, with a piston-like stride, and emits a good deal of power. It might not be wise to ignore him at 20-1.

Seeing Dance With Fate asked for speed in his gallop for the first time, I was impressed with how energetic he was and how he got down into the bit, with his neck slightly arched. If he has trouble handling dirt, he sure didn’t show any signs of it this morning.

We all know by now how well Medal Count is doing on a daily basis, and the prediction here is that he is going to be bet down, despite two poor efforts on the dirt. He does love this track, having trained here regularly as a 2-year-old, and gallops with vigor day after day.

One thing I can guarantee it’s that Ride On Curlin will be fit. His gallops have been long and he had exercise rider Bryan Becchia’s arms fully extended.

Finally, there is Wicked Strong, who had his best day here, galloping strongly to the pole and then breaking off at the quarter and finishing up an eighth past the wire in :36 3/5. This is the way all horses used to be trained, except that their three-furlong blowouts were usually the day before the race. But it was good to see a horse blow out for a race once again, and Wicked Strong did it very well and seemed to get a lot out of his sharpener.

I’ll recap most of what I’ve seen tomorrow when I try to make some sense of it all and come up with a few betting strategies.

Danza looks a picture as he powers his way down the stretch. It's hard to take your eyes off this colt.

Ride On Curlin prances along before starting his gallop.

Ride On Curlin again.

When California Chrome gets antsy in the saddling stall he'll start pawing at the ground.

Chrome receives a lot of affection from exercise rider William Delgado.


California Chrome likes to work on the bit, even as he strikes a majestic pose.

Another great morning for Medal Count.

Chitu is now Bob Baffert's only hope for the Derby.

This is Untapable on the jumbo screen. Pretty Amazing.

Another shot off the jumbo screen; this one of Candy Boy.


Leave a Comment:

PA Handicapper

I look forward to your selections. The insight you bring is confident and informative. Good luck on the selections you post. I like Intense Holiday over Dance with Fate, Cal. Chrome, Candy Boy, and General A Rod.

01 May 2014 6:07 PM

CC has been consistent, but consistently what? Apart from that, we're stymied because a new horse each weekend runs its first and only impressive race.

I think you sort them thusly: pick the best race for each horse -- you have Candy Boy circling his field in a big middle move, e.g. -- and disregard all other races and works. Then weed this list by "unlikely to reproduce that form on Saturday despite the best efforts of connections to make it so."

If in the course of this anyone figures out what's with Intense Holiday, drop me a line.

"He has a tendency to crossfire" has to be a lie. Who would be so negligent as to run a horse without bandages when it is likely to strike itself? It could be the difference between and clean, protected cut and infection, adhesions, euthanasia.

01 May 2014 7:06 PM


thanks Steve for all of the tips and good luck to all

01 May 2014 7:31 PM
Sail On

Thanks, Steve, your reports make it almost tolerable that I can't be there! Your little Powershot, (I have one too) takes super pictures.

01 May 2014 7:32 PM

Ev'ry picture tells a story, don't it (lol).

01 May 2014 7:33 PM

I am opening nominations for wise guy horse I nominate Medal Count who will run his 3rd race in 30 days anyone second the nomination or want to nominate another colt,be my guest.

01 May 2014 7:36 PM

Untapable is built just like a colt and I've got the pix to prove it!

You go girl! Kick off Daddy's double!

And simmer down, Tapiture, easy, Daddy's not mad at YOU.

Good luck, Steve. You've got some owing you after the cowardly and widespread stampede by industry insiders to load all their sins, real or imagined, onto your shoulders.

Dinny Phipps should be defending you and the industry from these cultists and his failure to do so should lead to his rapid replacement and relegate him to obscurity. With hissing.

Thoroughbred race horses have a wonderful life. The best of food (always first on a horse's list), daily intensive grooming, light exercise and fitness training, health checks, foot and body massages, better access to top healthcare than most people. They are always handled by pros, there's always something going on, they have challenges and competition (second to food on their list), and because they are not always competing for real they can all win once in a while, getting to the front on the gallop out.

We have to take it to PETA. Believing, as they do, that any interaction between homo sap and other species in 'unethical,' including sharing living space with one, they do not actually know anything about animals and need to be exposed for this. They believe that barring human intervention all animals would interact benevolently and harmoniously, by consensus -- even horses, to whom competition for rank is the meaning of life.

01 May 2014 7:42 PM
NH Gal

Steve, Zenyatta used to paw at the ground so is this not a good thing with California Chrome?

01 May 2014 7:55 PM

Every year at this time, I watch all of Secretariat's races and every documentary.  With each passing of the triple crown races, it becomes more and more apparent that he was the greatest horse of all time.  

So,in honor of Secretariat, I'm betting on Chitu to win the derby.  There is so little talk about him, so hopefully it will stay that way.  Martin Garcia says he is fast and will win.  

01 May 2014 8:42 PM
sara futh

Thanks, as always, Steve, for keeping us uptodate on the Derby and Oaks candidates. Can't wait!

01 May 2014 8:53 PM
Paula Higgins

Wow Steve, more great observations and your pictures are simply amazing. These horses are stunning and Danza is truly a sight to behold. California Chrome looks spectacular too in spite of his nervousness. I am worried he will not settle down enough in this large field and as you noted, stay focused. I think jogging him the morning of the race is a good idea. I wish they had come earlier but I do understand both sides to this argument. I had a feeling from your previous post that California Chrome was not exactly where we would like to see him and I am sure his trainer as well. But it is encouraging that he was moving pretty well. I just hope he is like Secretariat and just a little juiced up when he is about to run.

Really sorry to hear that Hoppertunity isn't going to be able to run. But they are doing the right thing for the horse and that is what matters.

So, my five are:

California Chrome

Intense Holiday

Wicked Strong



01 May 2014 9:45 PM
Susan from VA

Love your pictures!

01 May 2014 9:58 PM

Steve, CC was grinding that bit before the SA Derby.  He's on edge, man.  I think we're going to have a heck of a race this year!

01 May 2014 10:02 PM

I love Hoppertunity!  Man what a loss!

01 May 2014 10:18 PM
Mister Frisky

Steve is it me,or are you cooling on CC.Im using him in my super box,going 6 deep.He doesn't look sharp enough right now to garner 5/2.Also playing some exotic savers leaving CC off.Im expecting a huge run from Gen A Rod,Ride on Curlin,and the very tough Samraat.Good luck on Saturday.

01 May 2014 10:44 PM

Danza looks like a machine ... compact and strong. Watch his last 100 yards in the Arkansas... FAST ! Danza with the 4 post is now my pick for the win.  He should sit behind the speed and win like he did 3 weeks ago.

01 May 2014 11:54 PM

I see Andy Beyer has picked Wicked Strong and predicts a pace meltdown. He also took a huge shot at Cal Chrome:

"You really have to wonder about this horse going a mile and a quarter. His sire never won going beyond five and a half furlongs, and well, you know, the female family is just garbage."

- so said Andy Beyer about California Chrome earlier today on the radio (Steve Byk At The Races).

Not for Love was or is actually one of Maryland's top sires. He is the damsire of CC. He did win at 1-3/16 miles before...I am sure Beyer has the connections associated with Cal Chrome's dam feeling very proud.

It almost makes you want the horse to win. Lets hope they start letting this horse really gallop over this track and get acclimated. He appears sore when he first comes out and takes time to even get a nice canter going. It was slightly better today than yesterday. Looks like they should have brought this colt last week, especially if they are going to force him on the track at 3:50 PST (6:50 at CD EST). How would you feel about getting up at a time your body thinks is before 4 AM and going to the track. That takes a few days to work through, and animals are more creatures of habit and internal clocks than humans are?

02 May 2014 12:05 AM

Steve Haskin :  Are you classifying Samraat as a speed horse ?  I'm not sure if he is, I think he'll rate farther back behind the true speed horses (ViT, WR, US and CC).  ViT has no choice but to go to the lead and really have to gun it with US on his outside who will have blinkers on.  I don't know if WR will have any chance at all coming from behind so I see him going to the lead as well.

Is Untappable really a filly ??  She looks much more toned than some of the horses in the Derby.   CLAIMER :  This does not mean I'm saying she should be in the Derby, I don't think she has to run with the boys to be good.  She will show us how it's done against the fillies and it will be very impressive and she will continue to dominate her class.  She will then turn 4 and probably dominate again and win Top Older Female award and then come back as a 5 year old and try the boys maybe once or twice and win the HOTY.  She'll retire after and make beautiful babies!

I mentioned awhile back, Chitu will most likely be Baffert's top derby horse and it's unfortunate that Hoppertunity scratched.  I believe Chitu was the better of the two, I wish Hopp was running so I can see who the better horse is for the Derby.  I guess I'll never know.

Here's a thought, the Also Eligibles...if the rule is that by default they get the 20th post, that seems to defeat the purpose of preparing for a chance to make the field if you know you'll get the 20th post anyway.  It seems like it's the most logical way but to me, it just doesn't make any sense to have the AE.  Even of all 4 gets in, the best post would be 17...unless you have the Big Brown type horse in a year where the field is not that strong...but if you do, it's most likely you won't be in the AE list, you'd be one of the favorites and already in.

02 May 2014 12:11 AM
El Kabong

Outstanding. This is the Haskin Report that I wait for every year. And the pictures, You capture moments that can't be portrayed in reports. Delgado hugging CC was so telling of this horse and his connection to his team. Well done. You seem to be having fun with all this Mr. Haskin and I think that is how it should be. Thanks. The final Bloodhorse moment with Lenny…… awesome.

02 May 2014 12:17 AM

Mary, I agree with you on both counts. Big Red, with each passing year, becomes further entrenched as the greatest of all time. Also, I know you said you hope nobody talks about Chitu, but I agree with you there as well. He looks like a monster to me. I wouldn't worry much about the public betting him down, though, as I was already crucified for mentioning I like him to grab a piece of it in another blog post. So perhaps you and I are amongst the few who like him. We can be the dark horses together! Good luck to you and to all. Let's just enjoy the Derby no matter who wins and pray they all come home safely!

02 May 2014 12:28 AM

Vicar's In Trouble- Go Rosie Go!

Harry's Holiday-"Please, let's go somewhere else on vacation".

Uncle Sigh- "Phoo, will I be glad when this is over"

Danza- No walk in the park here!

Califor"ina"Chrome- Some "poetic justice" is surely forthcoming. Big rivers disincline talent, prowess, and favoritism. It's king of the mountain and this colt is on top.

Samaraat- Big Apple boy, Funny on his "cide"

We Miss Artie- Is Jim up for "50 to 1" II

General A Rod-Done deal?

Vinceremos- "Where is my buddy Ring Weekend? He his taking the weekend off. Bummer, I wish I could".

Wildcat Red- "Red, I have a feeling we're not in Florida anymore".

Dance With Fate- may get his toes stepped on

Chitu- Warlords solo. Are you interested Red? Sam? Uncle? Chrome? Pablo?

Medal Count- "Pedal to the metal"

Tapiture- Riding coattails

Intense Holiday- Must be a reincarnation of Sleipnir, Louisville is the perfect place

Commanding Curve-  Made it to the mound after the "hook", a "shut out" won't work, needs a "no hitter"

Candy Boy- not sure what you get, is the Derby like a box of chocolates?

Ride On Curlin- "Bo-rail!"

Wicked Strong- "Wow, that is a big TV up there. Are they going to show "50 to 1"?

Pablo Del Monte- Not outside looking in anymore, welcome!

02 May 2014 1:00 AM

I feel strongly about any of these 3 winning:

Dance with Fate


California Chrome

Dance with Fate's paddock schooling made me go, "Whoa!", just looking at him!  When I review his works/races, he's an athlete!

Chrome is going to grind his bit in half!!!

Danza, I totally agree with Draynay (hell is freezing!)!!!  He's the real deal, IMO!

02 May 2014 1:03 AM
Scott's Rail

Narrowing it to 6-8...Check out Dance with Fate's races.(Calracing.com) This horse likes to race. Very interesting..Trainer is worried about DwF's earlier antics when a quick turn around happened.  Much more on the bit and still finished 2nd.  Hopefully, maturity and seasoning will help slow him down until needed.  I like to wait and see...But he is the ONE, I will have.  I work my Tri tickets from 3rd to 1st.  I have a 1st, just need to figure out the 3rd, 2nd...

02 May 2014 1:11 AM


Amen!  Horses are not predatory animals but prey!  They need food, space to run like hell, no stress (freedom from predators), some procreation (who doesn't!!!)  Give em some run, some protection, some food, etc.  Happy horses!

PETA?  Go home and do some research!

02 May 2014 1:18 AM

California Chrome has been phenomenal...in California.  I hope he can take that form and continue his success outside of that state.  Since coming to Churchill Downs, the reviews about him have been mixed. I am keeping my fingers crossed that he is not a mirror image of Lava Man or Game on Dude whose best performances have been on California tracks only.

02 May 2014 1:31 AM

Midpack or  behind the frontrunners in a tracking trip, not from the back of the field is where the winner will come from this year with a fast track.I think if you look at the past PPs from Brisnet that I got from these blogs and you view this years paper, the pattern is different in that there are more colts with high early speed(three figure) vs late speed, my take from this is that one of the early presser types will fall into a tracking trip a little farther back than usual in this race and this occurence will allow him to settle much better and win the race.This could be the favorite or many others.As with most Kentucky Derbies its the trip that wins the race, and whoever that is will probably not win another in the TC series this year.I know CC single keyers are hoping he is another that wins at least the first two legs,but IMO it wont happen this year.On the sidelines waiting for the next are Hoppertunity and Social Inclusion just to name two, that will challenge the winner of the KD IN JUST TWO WEEKS.The sport is a lot different than yesteryears, these animals can not run at 100% in two weeks and with the competition these days it makes it more difficult than in the so-called golden eras.There are also other factors  that make running back in two weeks a disadvantage for the animals, which everyone knows about but would prefer to keep in the background to maintain the status quo that make this a reality in 2014.

02 May 2014 5:06 AM

The one constant with race fans is they are a fickle bunch. Everyone seems to be on Danza like white on rice after his huge upset win in the Arkansas Derby but if he runs like a 40-1 shot in the Derby he will be forgotten in a heartbeat. Steve is a seasoned track veteran who has always stressed the importance of horses having a good foundation going into races like this so I will be heeding that advice and passing on Danza.

02 May 2014 5:10 AM

I may be 100% wrong about this, but after reading the comments and seeing pictures and video of California Chrome from others that are at Churchill Downs in addition to your postings Steve, I have come to the conclusion that CC is a totally different horse than the typical thoroughbred. He loves to run and he loves being on the tracks and I think this colt is smart enough to know that he is going to be racing. I think what many perceive as a horse that is either a nervous wreck or not in good condition or brought to Churchill too late, is actually a horse that is primed and on his toes and very much on his game. I watched the video taken the last couple of days of training in California in which his exercise rider was wearing a camera. I for one am not bothered by the pawing or the chomping the bit or the saliva, it seems that this is just who he is. His trainer, his exercise rider and his jockey all seem to think he is ready to go on Saturday. And even if he does not win, I have to agree with what others have said, it has been a joy to follow this colt. He has brought excitement back to racing that has been missing for many, many years and something that racing is badly in need of. None of the colts are as closely watched and loved and adored as this colt is by the public or the non-racing public. He has a huge fan club like that of Zenyatta and the way the people feel about Zenyatta is the same way they feel about Chrome. Like I said, I might be totally off on this and he might come in last on Saturday. I can tell you this, if the love and support of his fans means anything, he will have the wings of Pegasus on Saturday.

02 May 2014 5:37 AM

You have me spoiled! I am reading your articles and enjoying the photos, every time I sit in front of the pc.

I can recite it by heart.

02 May 2014 8:22 AM

Thanks for your expertise and your takes on the horses racing in the Kentucky Derby. Your comments about Chrome's looking around at the crowd reminded me of what was said about Secretariat. Secretariat was fascinated by the flamingos while training at Hialeah. I think that while Chrome is racing with the blinkers on he will be a much more focused horse. Right now he's taking it all in. By the way, thanks for the awesome pictures.

02 May 2014 9:32 AM

By the way, wasn't there another horse from California who used to look at the crowds, pose for her shots, and play to her adoring fans. Doesn't she live at Lane's End?

02 May 2014 9:34 AM
Abigail Anderson

These are the posts I wait for every year because I value your astute observations of these babies before the Big Day. No question that California Chrome has captured my heart and he seems to have the most interesting Derby narrative of the bunch. But I'm also pretty interested to see what Danza will do, how Pedro Del Monte impacts the way the race plays out and whether or not CC gets jostled out of the gate. It's clearly looking like a race (if not a field) with a lot of wild cards!

02 May 2014 9:40 AM
Pedigree Ann

Andy Beyer has put the 'kiss of death' on Wicked Strong, by making him his Derby pick. He usually picks the horse with best Beyer figures, but he couldn't bring himself to pick a California horse, so he selected the horse with the second best figs. Too bad, I thought he had a shot.

02 May 2014 12:19 PM

If Calvin Borel is "smart", he'll keep Ride on Curlin to the outside down the stretch. It's gotta be deep down by the rail right now. Avoid it, Calvin, or you can "keep on pretending"!

02 May 2014 3:51 PM

MEMO to Giddyup check Haskins picks before you print that ticket RE DANZA

02 May 2014 4:22 PM

RamieF, you, me, and Chitu. Thank you for your  thoughtful post.  The tail side of his pedigree is replete with stamina.  Act  

02 May 2014 11:28 PM

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