Just a few short days ago it was a nice, tidy Derby picture.
We had the Todd Squad, led by the big, bad morning-line favorite Eskendereya. Baffert was playing the role of underdog. There were the customary "bubble" horses whose connections were doing their annual complaining about the graded earnings system. And there was no mention of a filly. All in the racing world was right.
Oh what a difference a few days can make.
Now, less than a week before Derby 136 everything has gone haywire. The favorite is out. Rule is out. Interactif is still a question mark. And the once revered Todd Squad is now led by a filly. Baffert has the horse to beat. And at least one, maybe two, of the "bubble" horses have found their way in.
What in the heck is going on here?
Actually, we should have seen this coming. The rumors of Eskendereya's health problems began a couple weeks and were building up steam with every passing day. When Pletcher did not work him on Saturday alarm bells were going off everywhere. By that point, I had already made up my kind that Eskendereya was not going to be my choice. Just too many lingering questions.
At least we had nearly a week to prepare for this bombshell, unlike last year when I Want Revenge was declared the morning of the race. It makes it a little easier for us to accept, though I'm sure that is of no consequence to Ahmed Zayat, who will probably be devastated for a long while.
So now Derby 136 becomes a bit more of a scramble. What we are likely looking at is a 4-1 morning-line favorite (Lookin At Lucky), a 6-1 second choice (Sidney's Candy), an 8-1 third choice (Awesome Act), and a whole bunch of horses sitting in the 10-1 to 15-1 range, including a filly who now becomes the wild card of this race. Interesting.
The crazy happenings of the past few days leaves me wondering why we spend so much time handicapping a race that is so unpredictable. Happens every year. We should have learned our lesson by now.
If you're like me and find yourself leaning toward Lookin At Lucky, be cautious. As we found out over the past 72 hours, anything can happen. On Wednesday, something else unforeseen could throw another wrench into our handicapping.
At this point, I'm waiting for Looking At Lucky to draw post 20. Stay tuned.