There is no secret of who the four favorites will be when post time rolls around in Derby 135 - I Want Revenge, Pioneerof the Nile, Dunkirk and Friesan Fire. All of them will likely be under 10-1, and for different reasons each of them have a good chance to win the race.
But today I'm going to make a case for five longshots. While each of these colts will have to improve and run the race of their lives to get top prize, they are all very capable of hitting the board for our exotic plays. And as we know, that's where the big money is on Derby day.
I'll be back on Thursday with a complete analysis of the Derby, including final selections. Until then, keep studying. There is always something out there that we have missed.
Chocolate Candy - If you like Pioneerof the Nile, the son of Candy Ride must be considered. He was only a length back of Pioneerof the Nile in the Santa Anita Derby and it can be argued that he ran the better race since he was forced to go five-wide on the final turn. Here's a horse that has not been off the board in his last seven starts, has five two-turn races under his belt, and is one of only a couple horses in the field who has gone 1 1/8-miles twice. From a value standpoint, he'll be much better odds than Pioneerof the Nile. Don't underestimate Jerry Hollendorfer, who ranks fourth all-time for wins by a trainer. The numbers will say this colt is not fast enough, but even if that is the case, he is certainly capable of hitting the board.
Likely odds: Somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 20-1
General Quarters - There is a lot to like about this colt and it's not just the feel-good story surrounding his $20,000 claim by a 75-year-old retired high school principal. The son of Sky Mesa turned a lot of heads in his Blue Grass win in which he came home the final three furlongs in a stellar :35 2/5. He has three starts over the Churchill surface, including a win, and trained on the track prior to his Blue Grass score. General Quarters, who has more starts than anyone in the field (11), has good tactical speed that should put him in striking position. And don't forget that he adds Julien Leparoux. Not only is Leparoux the hottest rider in the country, but he broke Pat Day's record for most wins in a single meet last year at Churchill.
Odds: Somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 to 20-1
Hold Me Back - When trying to find the Derby winner, it is important to find horses who are continuing to improve. Not many horses in the field have more upside than Hold Me Back, who will be making just his third start of the year. As a 2-year-old, Bill Mott admitted this was a slight, immature horse that needed time to grow into his body. Since he turned 3, the son of Giant's Causeway has really blossomed physically, and it has showed on the racetrack. His last-to-first Lane's End move was sensational and he made a similar run in the Blue Grass when finishing runner-up. The biggest question mark with Hold Me Back is whether he will handle dirt the same way as synthetics. Many are looking at his off-the-board finish in the Remsen - his only start on natural dirt - as a bad sign. I don't think his poor effort in that race had anything to do with dirt, it was more an indication that he was physically immature and needed time to grow. He seems to have handled the Churchill dirt just fine in his works. If you're looking for a deep closer at a big price, he must be considered. Remember, Mott is a Hall of Famer for a reason.
Odds: Somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 or 30-1
Musket Man - Based on his pedigree, this colt does not belong in this race. However, the son of Yonaguska has already outrun that pedigree twice and has shown no signs of slowing down. Has a pair of prep wins over different dirt surfaces and has won five of six starts overall, making him one of the most consistent horses in the race. He's a colt that likes to make a big middle move and once he gets in front doesn't like to let go. Coa had his choice of General Quarters, who Musket Man defeated two of three times, but chose to stay on this one. That alone is s sign that this horse has a chance.
Odds: Somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 to 22-1
Papa Clem - Using the same logic as with Chocolate Candy, Papa Clem is certainly capable of hanging with Pioneerof the Nile based on his half-length defeat in the Robert Lewis, a race in which he defeated I Want Revenge by a length. In his first try on dirt he set the pace in the slop at Fair Grounds and other than Friesan Fire, defeated every horse in a field that was considered, at the time, as the best Derby prep to date. Then, in the Arkansas Derby Papa Clem showed another dimension by rating off the pace and then outdueling Old Fashioned in the stretch. This horse has shown tenacity and unlike Pioneerof the Nile, is proven on dirt. He will be forwardly-placed and could hang around for a long time. Bejarano is one of the best around.
Odds: Somewhere in the neighborhood of 17 to 22-1