It’s time for another Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which in February still has a pretty low percentage, which is why Mohaymen is the only horse in single digit-odds, while the mutual field is an unappealing 4-5. It shows that there is still a huge chance that the Derby winner is not among the 23 horses listed with individual odds.
We know it’s difficult trying to pick the winning horse at this early date. But what about trying to pick the winning trainer? Some have one or two live horses, and then there are the powerhouse stables that can reach six or seven deep.
So, going strictly by the trainer and the extent of his ammunition, and a touch of the ethereal thrown in, here is my version of the trainer’s Future Wager, but, because of multiple horses, there are only 12 individual betting interests
1—DALE ROMANS (8-1)– Could this be the year the Derby gods finally smile down on the Louisville born Romans, who has done pretty well in the Derby, finishing third with grass horses Paddy O’Prado and Dullahan and fourth with the speedball Shackleford? Even his eighth-place finisher, Medal Count, ran a good race, considering the horrible trip he had. So he’s about ready, especially having his best Derby prospect yet in the late-running Brody’s Cause. And he also has the up-and-coming Cherry Wine, who won his last two in explosive fashion and could be any kind. And the talented Unbridled Outlaw finally is back working after a physical setback in the BC Juvenile.
2—KIARAN MCLAUGHLIN (9-1) – I thought he might have two strong contenders in Mohaymen and Annual Report, but the latter hasn’t been around for a while. Even with just Mohaymen, McLaughlin still holds his strongest hand yet, and he is another who would be worthy of the Derby gods’ good fortune, considering his perseverance over the years and what he has gone through physically. It would be an inspiring feel-good story and Mohaymen is the horse to beat right now.
3—BOB BAFFERT (10-1) – When you’ve climbed Mt. Everest, there are no greater heights to climb. Can Baffert come off his American Pharoah high and actually do it again? No one knows how to get a horse to run and perform well in the Derby and he’s always loaded. This year is no different, with a mixture of experienced, hard-hitting horses and lightly raced potential phenoms. Heading the Baffert brigade is Mor Spirit, who has already won two big graded stakes and placed in another and still looks to have a lot left in the tank. Although Baffert’s Sham stakes runner-up Let’s Meet in Rio ran poorly in the Bob Lewis and Toews on Ice ran poorly in the Smarty Jones Stakes, and Drefong hasn’t been on the work tab recently, Baffert still has the exciting maiden winners Cupid, Ten Blessings, and Malibu Sunset, who runs in Monday’s San Vicente Stakes. However, all three are playing catch-up and only Cupid has been two turns, breaking his maiden in impressive fashion.
4—CHAD BROWN (12-1) – Brown has only run one horse in the Derby, but he has added a number of brilliant dirt horses this year to go along with his incredible arsenal of grass horses. His big stakes horse is Flexibility, winner of the Jerome and runner-up to Mohaymen in the Nashua and Remsen Stakes. But he ran the colt back in the Withers, his fifth start in 3 1/2 months and he ran flat, finishing fourth. He’s still obviously a very good horse and we’ll see what Brown does with him now. His best Derby hopeful could turn out to be Gift Box, third in the Remsen, who has been working well for his 3-year-old debut. And then there is undefeated Shagaf, who has been highly touted from the beginning and seems to have unlimited ability. Another Brown runner to watch is Dixie Runner, who finished third in a one-mile maiden race.
5—MARK CASSE (12-1) – Credit Casse for going to the sales each year and finding dozens of top-class horses mainly for John Oxley and Conquest Stables. Casse may be the fastest-rising trainer in the country and has reached the elite status, helped by his son and assistant, Norman. Casse’s forces are headed by Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes winner Airoforce, who defeated Mor Spirt and Mo Tom, who both have come back to win stakes. Airoforce is headed for the Risen Star Stakes. Casse did have a disappointment already when the highly regarded Conquest Big E failed to threaten in the Holy Bull Stakes. But he had to feel good about Southern Warrior’s fast-closing second to Shagaf in an allowance race at odds of 36-1. Also, watch out for OBS Championship winner Whatawonderflworld this Saturday in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. Casse also has Siding Spring third in the Bourbon Stakes on grass. He could only finish 10th in the BC Juvenile, but had to break from the 14 post and was only beaten 5 lengths at 84-1. He’s bred for the dirt, so one would expect a rebound performance. Casse also has others who can run, such as Bar None, Conquest Daddyo, and Conquest Windycity.
6—DOUG O’NEILL (15-1) – O’Neill’s training job with I’ll Have Another in the 2012 was nothing short of brilliant, especially getting such a lightly raced horse to win the Derby from the 19 post. This year, he has 2-year-old champion and BC Juvenile winner Nyquist heading for the San Vicente. And if his California Derby winner Frank Conversation can duplicate that impressive effort on dirt, O’Neill could have another live one. First, he goes on synthetic again in the El Camino Real Derby. He’s by Quality Road, so although he’s run on dirt already, there is no reason to think he won’t prove successful on it in future attempts. And let's see how Hopeful winner Ralis returns after two disappointing efforts last fall. O'Neill also has Semper Fortis, who is coming off a third to Danzing Candy in an allowance race.
7—TODD PLETCHER (20-1) – Pletcher’s record in the Derby isn’t the greatest, but he has won it once and finished in the money on several occasions. This year he’s lacking the big horse, but he does have the numbers as usual, although they are all for the most part unproven. Showing the most promise have been Zulu, Gettysburg, Rally Cry, and Mo Power, although none of them have any stakes credentials yet. Perhaps it is a blessing, as many Pletcher 3-year-olds have peaked too early in past years, so this year could be another story with his best horses still on the improve. Others who are eligible to improve are Destin and Prospectus, so it will be interesting to see which ones emerge to be stakes-caliber horses. Gettysburg and Destin, who work together, are both in the Sam F. Davis Stakes.
8—STEVE ASSMUSSEN (25-1) – He hasn’t made any impact on the Derby and is not exactly deep this year, but he does have a very talented horse in Gun Runner, who finished a good fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club after winning his first two starts and has been training brilliantly. Assmussen also has high hopes for Luna de Loco, fourth in the Smarty Jones Stakes, who runs in Monday’s Southwest Stakes.
9—JERRY HOLLENDORFER (25-1) – He has had some of the toughest luck getting horses to the Derby, as he’s gotten them to Churchill only to suffer an injury right before the race. His best horse right now is I Will Score, third in the Bob Lewis, who still has to prove he can rate off the pace and handle two-turn races. I’malreadythere finished third to Mor Spirit in the Los Alamitos Futurity, third to Toews on Ice in the Bob Hope, third in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf, and second in the Zuma Beach, but could only manage a fifth in the Sham Stakes. Hollendorfer’s sleeper could by Mr. Coker, who ran huge first time out to finish second to the highly regarded Danzing Candy and then came back to break his maiden. He stretches out in Saturday's El Camino Real Derby.
10—KEITH DESORMEAUX (30-1) – Although he hasn’t gotten to the Derby yet, he was on his way last year before Texas Red got hurt, and then his BC Juvenile runner-up Swipe chipped an ankle and has been sidelined. But he still has the talented, tough, and versatile Exaggerator, who debuts in Mondays San Vicente Stakes. He's taking a shot with longshot Go Long in the El Camino Real Derby. So it is obvious that Desormeaux has been developing very good horses and looks to be a force in the future.
11—GRAHAM MOTION (30-1) – We know what Motion is capable of at Churchill Downs, having won the Derby with Animal Kingdom, who became the first horse ever to win the Derby in his dirt debut. That same year, Motion thought his big Derby horse was Wood Memorial winner Toby’s Corner, who got hurt following the Wood. Although not loaded in any way this year, he has a chance to make some noise with Smooth Air Stakes winner Rafting in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. And he might have a hidden gem in the Euro import Kasseopia, an easy winner on the all-weather in England who finished second to the talented Riker in the Grey Stakes on Woodbine’s Polytrack. He runs in Saturday's El Camino Real Derby, so Motion will find out on two fronts whether he has any Derby horses.
12—TOM AMOSS (30-1) He finished a strong fifth in the 2013 Derby with My Lute, who was beaten only 3 3/4 lengths. One of leading trainers at Fair Grounds for many years, he is back on the Derby trail with Mo Tom, a fast-closing third in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes before winning the LeComte Stakes this year in impressive fashion. Amoss also has a good horse in Harlan Punch, third in the Delta Jackpot behind Exaggerator before finishing fourth of four, beaten two lengths, in an allowance race as the 3-5 favorite. But four-horse fields can always be used as a toss, especially when all fout finish close up.
In the mutual field are some trainers with Derby experience and others with little or no track record in the Derby. I’m quoting the field at 15-1, unlike the field for the horses. Those included are DOMINICK SCHETTINO, who has Champagne winner and Holy Bull runner-up Greepointcrusader; DALLAS STEWART, who finished second in the Derby in 2013 and 2014 with 34-1 Golden Soul and 37-1 Commanding Curve and comes this year with the hard-hitting Tom’s Ready; CLIFFORD SISE has a live one in Danzing Candy; ALAN GOLDBERG, a New Jersey mainstay for years, has a real runner in Awesome Speed; How great a story would it be if the great JACK VAN BERG can make it back to the Derby with Cutacorner; Another all-time great, D. WAYNE LUKAS, has a very outside shot with Z Royal and Gray Sky; RON MOQUETT, who came with Far Right, has two nice horses in Whitmore, who will take a lot of beating in the Southwest Stakes, and Tisdale. CARLA GAINES, who brought Bolo last year, looks to return with the undefeated Cal-bred Smokey Image; DONNIE VON HEMEL has the fast-closing Synchrony; our old friend JOHN SERVIS, who won the Derby with Smarty Jones, tried to rebound with Bird of Trey in the Southwest; LARRY JONES, who was second in the Derby with Hard Spun, has the improving Jensen, who he trains, owns, and bred; The underrated STANLEY GOLD will try to stretch out Hutcheson and Swale winner Awesome Banner; LINDA RICE has the brilliant Matt King Coal back in training; LEAH GYARMATI has the Withers third-place finisher Adventist; the veteran JINX FIRES tries to get back to the Derby with the dual stakes winner Discreetness; Newcomer JOE SHARP has Rachel Alexandra’s brother Dolphus coming off an allowance victory; It’s a logshot, but Hall of Famer SHUG MCGAUGHEY, who won the Derby with Orb, still has an outside shot with Doctor Mounty if he can break his maiden in the next couple of weeks. His big horse last year, Sail Ahoy, third in the Nashua and fourth in the Champagne and Remsen, has not worked this year.
These are just some of the trainers you get with the mutuel field.