Let me start out by saying that I have no idea what to do with this Kentucky Derby.
I have thought that Uncle Mo was a standout for months now and had he not gotten sick would have been all in on him. Now that he is not running, nothing in this hodgepodge collection of 3-year-olds stands out to me. I will gladly offer my thoughts on this blog, but I'm sorry to say that I do not have a strong opinion on the race.
My strongest play of the weekend will be Joyful Victory in the Kentucky Oaks. Based on her last two starts, the way she looks in the mornings, and Larry Jones' confidence, I think she will win. Plum Pretty is her main threat and will use her in exotics, as well as Summer Soiree, who should have the lead.
As far as the Derby, here is my two cents:
As I said on That Handicapping Show, I am picking Soldat to win, and using Mucho Macho Man, Dialed In, and Shackleford in an exacta box. Brilliant Speed and Animal Kingdom are my longshot picks to use in trifectas. If it rains, I like Soldat even more, and will also use Derby Kitten and Stay Thirsty.
Having settled on the foursome Soldat, Mucho Macho Man, Dialed In, and Shackleford is as surprising to me as anyone else, and helps give an indication on how confused I am in this race. I didn't like any of the four during leading up to the Derby, but because of the way things have unfolded during a crazy prep season, have somehow landed on them.
Soldat has the least negatives of anyone coming into the race and for that reason he is my pick. He has been consistent throughout his career, having hit the board in seven of eight starts; has three consecutive 1 1/8-mile races under his belt (only Shackleford can also say that); should sit a good stalking trip despite an outside post (I expect him to be fifth or sixth early); has trained great coming into the race; has thrived since coming to Churchill; looked good on the track; gets a hot rider in Alan Garcia; and his trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, said he hasn't missed a day of training in over a year. All those factors combined have me landing on him.
The major negative with Soldat is obviously his Florida Derby disappointment. I have to draw a line through that race and believe he had an off day, which may have been due to his inability to get over the track well. If he you toss that race, he is as consistent any anyone here. So Soldat it is.
I'm primarily going to use Dialed In because of his quick turn of foot and Julien Leparoux, who is as good as any rider in the country, especially at Churchill. I think he fits Dialed In's come-from-behind style well, as he is very patient. Admittedly, with no tactical speed he is as the mercy of pace and trip. But if I like Soldat, I have to like him and Shackleford.
Shackleford has been a standout in the mornings and may be peaking at the right time. He set a fast pace in the Florida Derby and still ran on well. He should be on or near the lead and if he is able to get away with a moderate pace, could take them a long way. Dale Romans in very confident.
Mucho Macho Man? Well, I haven't liked him all season, so call this a hunch play. He looks great and should be in the mix if he gets a good trip.
Brilliant Speed and Animal Kingdom are synthetic/turf horses who may or may not relish the track. Brilliant Speed closed faster than anyone in the Blue Grass and hasn't run a bad race since last summer. Animal Kingdom could be any kind of horse but has trained well and has yet to miss the board.
Good luck to everyone and have a great Derby weekend. Let me know who you like.