Picking a Kentucky Derby horse can sometimes be as much about tossing others as it is selecting the winner. In large part, handicapping is a process of elimination, especially in a field of 20 horses.
Along those lines, I would like to know which 10 horses you will safely rule out for the win. That is not to say any of those 10 won't hit the board, but with only nine days before the race, we should probably all be able to throw out half the field for the top spot.
That being said, I'm sure at least 90% of us tossed Mine That Bird in 2009 and he is the perfect reminder that anything can happen on Derby Day.
I will be at Churchill to watch the horses in person beginning on Tuesday and will have more definitive thoughts in blog posts next week. For now, here are the 10 I will be eliminating, unless something unforeseen catches my eye.
American Lion--He is a front-running horse who has less speed than most of the other pacesetters. When he won a subpar Illinois Derby he was alone of the lead while running a half in :49 1/5, a mile in 1:38 1/5,and finishing up in 1:51 1/5. If he runs those same splits in the Derby he will be behind about 15 horses. Would need to drastically improve.
Conveyance--Along with Line Of David, he should be on the front end and I wouldn't be surprised if he led after a mile. But the son of Indian Charlie has shown no signs of wanting to run 10 furlongs. Baffert is a master at getting horses to improve rapidly, but wiring this field seems unreasonable.
Dean's Kitten--Having only one start on dirt (fifth by 34 lengths) is the least of my concerns with this horse. I just think he is way too slow. Ramsey and Maker are a leading owner/trainer combo at Churchill, which is probably the most this colt has going for him.
Dublin--This is probably a surprise to many. Is the horse talented? Sure. Has he been competitive against some of the top horses, including Lookin At Lucky, Noble's Promise, and Super Saver? Yep. And there is no doubt Lukas knows a thing or two about getting horses to peak on Derby Day. But the fact is the horse in winless in his last five and has not scored since last September. It's hard to get around that. Plus, he has had every opportunity to pass horses in the stretch in all three starts this year. He is more of a grinder than anything.
Discreetly Mine--Not even sure Pletcher is going to run him, but if he does I likely won't be using him. Wasn't impressed with wire-to-wire job in Risen Star. Louisiana Derby effort was solid enough, but didn't show me anything to get excited about.
Homeboykris--The gelding was pretty good as a juvenile, but was no factor in only race over a mile and has shown little this year. Hasn't reached a 90 Beyer yet. I'm not one of those that will criticize Dutrow for wanting to run him. If he has the earnings, by all means give him a go. I just won't be playing him.
Ice Box--He's a closer who might benefit from a wicked pace, so if you like that angle I will not try to talk you out of playing him. There are things to like, including two wins at nine furlongs and Zito factor. I just don't see him picking off a dozen horses this time.
Line Of David--Give the colt credit for staving off Super Saver and Dublin in his gutsy Arkansas Derby win, which was also his first start on dirt. But he will almost certainly be on or near the lead again and I don't see him repeating the performance, especially for another quarter-mile against stiffer company.
Paddy O'Prado--Improving horse who has looked impressive in his last two. I think he has a bright future, but more so on Poly and turf.
Stately Victor--Am I still bitter about him ruining my Pick 4 in the Blue Grass? Absolutely. But if there was any way I thought this colt could repeat the performance in the Derby I would get over it. Has shown very little dirt form.