A little more than a week ago, after Uncle Mo went down in the Wood Memorial, I wrote that Kentucky Derby 137 had become a free-for-all.
After watching The Factor flop in the Arkansas Derby and a couple of more upsets in major preps, I would like to rephrase: Derby 137 has become crapshoot.
It's never a good idea to label a 3-year-old class until end of the year, so I will reserve judgment on that for now. But after watching nearly all of the Derby preps, at this point I feel adequately equipped to make the following assessment: This is a very mediocre crop of horses vying for the Triple Crown. It's an opinion I've had for a while now, and it has been confirmed by what I've seen over the past two weeks. I'm not sure that I'm going to get much argument from most people on that.
Normally by this point in the game--a little more than two weeks out from the Derby--I can feel fairly confident in excluding about a dozen of the 20-some contenders to win. I usually start by tossing the horses coming off of synthetic preps, exclude those with subpar Beyers, and eliminate the late-bloomers that don't seem to be seasoned enough for the First Saturday in May.
This year, I can't do any of that. This is such an evenly-matched, hodgepodge group that I honestly would not be surprised if the Spiral or Blue Grass winners (or runner-ups for that matter), or horses that broke their maidens earlier this season (Midnight Interlude, Nehro) won the Derby. And Beyers? Well, forget about them this year. Only one horse (The Factor in the Rebel) has a 100-plus Beyer going two turns, and he may not even make it to the race. The rest of them fall somewhere in the low to mid-90s. Trying to analyze speed numbers is pointless this year.
I guess what I'm saying is, throw out all the rules this year. Respect synthetic and turf contenders. Consider the foreign horse. Don't put too much stake into how short or long the layoffs are. And the Apollo rule? Fahgettaboudit. Nothing is off limits this year. Come to think of it, a sloppy track would seem almost fitting.
I'll wait until Derby week to begin the fruitless task of attemtping to analyze the field, so I won't get into anything specific right now. Instead, I'll take a quick stab at what the morning lines might look like come May 4. This is just a stab, but it is an indication of how ridiculously wide-open this race will be.
Dialed In: 7-2
Uncle Mo: 5-1
Toby's Corner: 10-1
Mucho Macho Man: 12-1
Jaycito: 15-1 (if he wins Lexington Stakes)
Midnight Interlude: 15-1
The Factor: 20-1 (I don't think he's going)
Pants on Fire: 25-1
Stay Thirsty: 25-1
Brilliant Speed: 30-1
Master of Hounds: 30-1
Silver Medallion: 30-1 (if he wins Lexington)
Comma to the Top: 50-1 (I don't think he's going)
J P's Gusto: 50-1 ( I don't think he's going)
Animal Kingdom: 50-1
Twice the Appeal: 50-1
Decisive Moment: 50-1
Watch Me Go: 50-1