Well, we got through the post position draw, and several interesting scenarios have emerged. The most intriguing is not American Pharoah drawing post 18, but fellow Zayat Stables runner Mr. Z, who has had problems with erratic running this year, drawing post 17, And that's a long run from the gate to the first turn.
Mr. Z, who is a tough game horse in his own right, but has been his worst enemy, is a horse who has never been worse than third early in a race since last October and who set the early fractions in the Los Alamitos Futurity and Southwest Stakes. Those were the two best races he's ever run. American Pharoah and Mr. Z have different trainers, so the Zayats obviously aren't going to tell Wayne Lukas to send Mr. Z, using him as a pacesetter for American Pharoah while getting him away from the favorite down the stretch the first time.
All everyone can do is hope Mr. Z doesn't doing anything to hamper the chances of American Pharoah, who will need to ease his way in and get a good position going into the first turn, without losing too much ground. Mr. Z has good natural speed, and even if he does run a straight course, will Victor Espinoza have to use American Pharoah to clear him?
Meanwhile, down on the rail, Ocho Ocho Ocho, will have to use his early speed to get a away clean and is probably going to be committed to the lead, or at least right up with it. The two big Todd Pletcher horses -- Carpe Diem and Materiality -- didn't receive any favors in the draw, getting posts 2 and 3, respectively. But if they can get away cleanly and don't meet with any interference, then those seemingly bad posts could become good posts and leave them in a ground-saving situation. You would think Materiality is a possibiilty to contend for the early lead, but I see both horses sitting right off the pace, although I wouldn't be surprised if Materiality outruns Ocho Ocho Ocho.
That brings us to a third Pletcher horse, Stanford, who also has a ton of early lick and he breaks from the middle of the pack in post 11 and could get stirred up with a brilliant horse like Firing Line just to his inside. The most logical scenario would be for the morning line 30-1 shot Stanford to bust to the lead and give Carpe Diem and and Materiality something to run at. But let's remember, all three of those Pletcher horses are owned by three different owners and he would have a hard time justifying using the longest price of the three as a rabbit, even though there's a good chance that's the way it will play out.
It is interesting that the three big California horses -- Dortmund, Bolo, and Firing Line -- all drew well and all drew right next to each other in posts 8, 9, and 10, making all three horses dangerous.
Now, as far as the deep closers, post is not that important, and even Far Right in post 20 should have no trouble taking back and tucking in, especially with Mike Smith aboard. International Star and Keen Ice drew posts 12 and 14, respectively and will have no trouble dropping to the back of the pack. As for one-time speed horse turned stone closer El Kabeir, he has Calvin Borel aboard and drew post 7 with no deep closers inside him to prevent Borel from taking him right to his favorite spot on the rail.
The key is how much pressure the tactical speed horses -- American Pharoah. Dortmund, Carpe Diem, Materiality, possibly Firing Line, and Mr. Z are going to put on each other. I don't expect a blistering pace, but it looks like it should be a contentious one.
These horses are too classy to do anything stupid, so the pace shouldn't be overly hot unless Ocho Ocho Ocho or Stanford runs off and sets quick fractions.
Then we have the second tier, made up of Mubtaahij, Upstart, Tencendur, Danzig Moon, Itsaknockout, and War Story.
So, there are some of the scenarios we could be witnessing. All the remains to be seen is who hits the wire first.
Thursday morning saw some sharp gallops, especially from Bolo, who was down near the rail and moving at a two-minute lick while striding out beautifully...just like a dirt horse. Firing Line again had a strong, but contained gallop wearing draw reins and then visited the paddock. And although Far Right was well out in the middle of the track, he was moving at a strong clip.
American Pharoah and Dortmund both had excellent mornings and looked great in their gallops. Frosted came out at 7:45 and visited the paddock, then had a smooth gallop 45 minutes later. Carpe Diem was the last horse to gallop, well after the other Pletcher horses, and just went around there at a leisurely pace.
Mubtaahij, who turned in a solid three-furlong blowout this morning, catches a few ultra violet rays Wednesday evening.
It's hard not to like Firing Line.
Another look at the beautiful head of Firing Line.
Lucky railbirds get a close-up look at the powerful Baffert pair of American Pharoah and Dortmund.
Father and son take in the mighty presence of the regal Dortmund.
Dortmund begins his gallop.
You can't get a much closer look at a Derby horse than these fans got of Materiality.
Bolo was very impressive this morning, two-minute licking and striding out beautifully.
Frosted was the first Derby horse to gallop and was smooth as silk.
Carpe Diem was as interested in the fans as they were of him.
There is still a chance that Frammento can squeeze his way in the back door, Trainer Nick Zito is dying to get the colt in the race, feeling he is sitting on a peak effort. There certainly is no one more handsome.