Through three months of the Kentucky Derby prep season, for the most part, we watched one unspectacular effort after another. Many of the prep winners wired their respective fields after setting pedestrian paces and having ideal trips, and the ones who did come from off the pace, well, you just kind of got the feeling that they weren't going to run the same type of winning races in their next efforts (see Ron the Greek, Connemara, Alphie's Bet).
Many of the most lucrative preps, including the Louisiana Derby and Florida Derby, were packed with large fields of promising but unproven horses. Did the next superstars break out from these races or were the winners beating 3-year-olds that were just not ready for prime time? The latter seemed to be the most probable scenario.
We debated back-and-forth about which, if any, 3-year-old was going to separate itself from the pack. Were we going to go into the first Saturday in May without a clear-cut favorite? Were we going to go into the Derby with a wide-open betting race, much like last year after the late injuries to Quality Road and I Want Revenge?
Well, it took more than three months but we got the superstar we were looking for. The horse that will likely go off as the big favorite. The horse that seems to have it all. The horse that again has people dreaming of the Triple Crown.
Even before his 9 3/4-length romp in last Saturday's Wood Memorial, Eskendereya showed signs of being a star. It wasn't just that he won the Fountain of Youth by more than eight lengths, it was how he did it. He was able to rate off the pacesetter, take over with ease, and draw away with a lot left in the tank.
But we needed to see him do it again before we called him the real deal; against grade I company and in the same dominating fashion.
He did. And we now have our big Derby horse.
Eskendereya seems to have everything a Derby winner needs. He's a big, robust horse with staying power. He is immaculately bred. He has tactical speed. He rates willingly. He is professional. He has a world-class trainer-jockey team. About the only thing he doesn't have is a name that rolls off the tongue.
It would be foolish to say any horse is a can't-miss Derby winner with three and half weeks remaining. There is still a lot of time left. He must stay healthy, train well at Churchill, and draw a favorable post. And even then, anything can happen with 20 3-year-olds going a mile and quarter.
But there is no debating that we now have our Derby favorite.
My question to you is, with three and half weeks remaining, do you think Eskendereya will win Derby 136?