Kentucky Derby Betting News and Notes
Kentucky Derby Betting News and Notes
Kentucky Derby 2013 – Orb Dazzles in Final Workout, Fear the Kitten ounds Out Field
By: The Linemakers
LOUISVILLE, Ky.— A wide-open Kentucky Derby might finally have a clear favorite after Orb dazzled onlookers Monday at Churchill Downs.
The Florida Derby winner looked the part of the public choice in his final tuneup before the race on Saturday. Working in tandem with stablemate Overwhelming, Orb effortlessly surged away from his companion in the stretch and galloped out strongly up the clubhouse turn. He completed the half-mile drill in 47.80 seconds.
While the time wasn't the fastest of the overcast morning, Orb scored big on style points.
Even his usually reserved Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey was impressed.
"I thought it was great," he said. "I thought he finished up really well. He's getting over this racetrack really well, which is important. I'm happy to be sitting here."
After posting his first win at Aqueduct in November, Orb emerged a top Derby horse by reeling off three straight wins at Gulfstream Park, culminating with the Florida Derby. The four-race winning streak, coupled with a workout that showed a high comfort level over the Churchill Downs strip, will likely lure betting support.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he was the post-time favorite," McGaughey said. "He's done so well here, and people have seen it."
Down to five
Todd Pletcher said that Lexington Stakes winner Winning Cause would skip the Derby, leaving him with a record-tying five starters.
The decision wasn't a negative reflection on Winning Cause or his workout Monday. The colt has already won twice this month at Keeneland and a Derby run would mean three demanding races in a tight timeframe.
"He seemed to come out of the Lexington in good shape and he worked well," Pletcher said. "He seems to be a happy, healthy horse."
Pletcher pointed to the Preakness, the Peter Pan at Belmont on May 11 or the Marine Stakes at Woodbine on May 26 as possible next races for Winning Cause.
"We felt the proper thing to do for the horse was to sit back, let things unfold in the Derby and see where to go after that," Pletcher said.
He will send out undefeated Verrazano, Overanalyze, Revolutionary, Palace Malice and Charming Kitten in the Derby.
Fear the Kitten makes field
While the colt, on paper, figures to be out-classed by the Grade 1 field, Fear the Kitten is likely to be the 20th and final Derby entrant.
Fear the Kitten has just six points in the Derby points system, but only 19 other horses intend to run for the roses on Saturday, clearing the way for the one-time maiden claimer.
Trainer Bob Baffert has decided against stating Govenor Charlie and Code West, and Pletcher’s Winning Cause, D. Wayne Lukas’ Titletown Five and Paul Aguirre’s Tiz a Minister also will not go.
The Mike Maker-trained Fear the Kitten has two wins in seven career starts. Those victories came in a maiden claimer at Keeneland – when he was claimed by trainer Luis Cotto for $40,000 for owner Frank Irvin – and an allowance race at Churchill Downs as a two-year-old. Since then, he has a second- and third-place finish in Grade 3 company and has run fifth three times, including in the Blue Grass Stakes, his only try in a Grade 1.
Rosie looks to make history
While Kevin Krigger, who’ll ride Doug O’Neill’s Goldencents on Saturday, will attempt to become the first African-American jockey to win the Derby, Rosie Napravnik will try to become the first female jockey to do so.
Napravnik, who was profiled on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday night, is second in the nation with 114 wins this year and fifth with $4,301,499 in earnings.
The Derby may be the ideal spot for her mount, Mylute, the gray colt’s trainer believes. Mylute rallied from far behind but missed by a neck in the Louisiana Derby.
"He hasn't quite shown that killer instinct you need to be a top racehorse," trainer Tom Amoss said.
The Louisiana Derby was his final prep, and Amoss hopes it was the final piece of the Mylute puzzle.
"Even in the Louisiana Derby, he passed the winner, Revolutionary, in the final sixteenth of a mile, but he still didn't quite understand," he said. "He learned from the Louisiana Derby, just like he learned from each of those races."
Mylute is 2 for 9 in his career and will reunite Saturday with Napravnik, who was aboard for his last win, an allowance race at the Fair Grounds in December.
Re: Kentucky Derby Betting News and Notes
Derby Countdown - Part I
By Anthony Stabile
Welcome to the Derby Countdown, your source for anything and everything in the last days leading up to Kentucky Derby 139 on May 4 at historic Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Anthony Stabile, best known for picking 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide at odds of over 12-1, will break down the top contenders for this years’ Run for the Roses, exclusively on VegasInsider.com, culminating on Friday, May 3th with an extensive analysis of every runner that steps into the gate for the most exciting two minutes in sports. On both May 3rd and May 4th, Kentucky Oaks and Derby Day, you’ll be able to purchase Stabile’s Pick Packs, full of selections and plays for two of racings’ most exciting days of the year.
With less than a week until the 139th Kentucky Derby, we’ll spend the next few days taking a look at the almost two dozen horses still pointing to the Run for the Roses. Of course, only 20 can run and who’s in and who’s out will be decided by the newly implemented points system that replaced the old graded stakes earnings disaster.
Normally when I write the countdowns and previews I try to cover the runners by region, and will do so to some degree from hereon in, but this initial edition will be dedicated to a trainer, Todd Pletcher.
When the first Saturday in May rolls around this year, there is a pretty good chance that Pletcher, a fairly dismal 1 for 31 in the Derby with Super Saver being his lone winner back in 2010, will be saddling a record-tying five runners in the Derby. He could have easily saddled eight or nine if it hadn’t been for injuries suffered by both Violence and Shanghai Bobby and for him showing prudence by not entering point qualifiers Winning Cause and Forty Moves. We’ll start with the colt that has the most points and who may in fact be sent off as the favorite, the undefeated VERRAZANO.
By the time this Derby is over, you’re going to wish you had a dollar for each time you heard that Apollo way back in 1882 was the only Derby winner to have not raced as a two year old. That tidbit, along with the fact that his pedigree suggests he may have distance limitations may be the only two bullets his naysayers have going onto the Derby because it’s hard to knock what he’s done on the track.
After toying with maidens on New Years’ Day at Gulfstream Park, Verrazano won an entry level allowance contest by over 16 lengths a month later at Gulfstream as well. Obviously a serious Derby contender, Pletcher decided to send the son of More Than Ready to the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs, a curious decision for such a lightly raced horse when you consider that the Tampa surface is considered one of the quirkiest in the country.
Verrazano passed his stakes and two turn debut with flying colors, essentially going gate-to-wire by a comfortable three lengths over eventual Blue Grass winner Java’s War. A trip to New York for the Wood Memorial was up next and while his ¾ length score wasn’t nearly as visually impressive as any of his first three starts it was probably his most useful and informative for Pletcher.
Sitting a couple of lengths off of a longshot pacesetter, regular rider John Velazquez, winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby aboard Animal Kingdom, set Verrazano down to grab the lead at the start of the far turn before gathering him back to keep him in a bit of a dogfight with the one-time pacesetter.
After disposing of the cheap speed, Verrazano held off an early stretch bid from the then undefeated Vyjack and the furious late rally of Normandy Invasion under a vigorous hand ride by Johnny V. While the early pace was somewhat pedestrian, Verrazano came home the last three furlongs in :36 3/5 and galloped out strongly past the wire.
Verrazano arrived at Churchill Downs in mid-April and has impressed everyone who has watched him train over the course. A five furlong move in 1:00 15 on 4/21 was followed up by a sparkling :59 2/5 move going the same distance on 4/27, his last major work before the Derby.
When Pletcher won his lone Derby three years ago, it wasn’t with either of his main riders, Johnny V. or Javier Castellano in the saddle, it was with Calvin Borel, racing’s newest inductee into the Hall of Fame, who this year will pilot REVOLUTIONARY. Oddly enough, Borel, who also took the 2007 running aboard the popular Street Sense and the 2009 renewal aboard 50-1 upsetter Mine That Bird, picked up the call after Castellano decided to ride Normandy Invasion instead of this colt by War Pass.
Sent off as the favorite in each of his six starts, Revolutionary burned an awful lot of wagering money in his first three starts, all around one turn, going off as the heavy chalk at odds of 7-5, 3-10 and 2-5. It wasn’t until his first try around two turns that Revolutionary finally got the job done, at a relatively robust even money, in a one mile contest over the inner track at Aqueduct.in late December.
His next start would come over the same course a little over a month later in the Withers. Revolutionary gave his backers fits again, breaking a bit slowly and trailing throughout most of the race before uncorking a furious late rally in the lane to get up in the last two jumps by a neck at a shade under odds of 4-5. Still, he overcame plenty of adversity that day and while the quality of the field was suspect and his speed figure was on the slow side many figured he’d be a colt that would make an impact on the Derby Trail.
Nearly two months after his Withers tally, Revolutionary faced his biggest test to date in the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds and was the highest price of his career, 2-1. Again breaking towards the rear and last early, Revolutionary came five wide on the far turn and gamely won a deep stretch battle by a neck over longshot Mylute by the same margin he took his previous race by.
Anyone and everyone in Louisville agree that revolutionary has arguably been one of the two or three best looking on the track in the weeks since the Louisiana Derby. He’s worked a pair of half miles, covering the distance in :48 4/5 on 4/21 and :48 1/5 on 4/27 while scraping paint along the rail under Borel. Though neither of those times are as flashy as some of his competitors, it’s the way he’s doing it and training in general that has made him the talk of the town.
Sometimes that talk can be negative and that was the case with OVERANALYZE heading into his last start in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Though he was flying a bit under the radar, the rumor mill still managed to churn out info that had him having traveled terribly to Hot Springs and not handling the track at all. The result: a rousing 4 ¼ length score off of a wise trip under new rider Rafael Bejarano, who was subbing for Velazquez, that thrust him right back into the Derby picture.
Coming into the season, Overanalyze was one of the winter book favorites after winning three of five starts as a juvenile, including the Futurity going six furlongs at Belmont and his last start of the year, the Remsen going nine furlongs where he battled gamely through the stretch before holding off Normandy Invasion by a nose.
In his only other start this year, Overanalyze got the worst of the draw in the Gotham, pulling the outside post 11 which forced him into a wide trip before finishing a non-threatening fifth as the 8-5 favorite.
A son of Dixie Union, Overanalyze worked a sharp half mile in :47 on 4/27 at Churchill in what will be his lone morning drill before the Derby.
Like Verrazano, PALACE MALICE will be making his fifth start of the year come Saturday. After breaking his maiden in his second start last year, Palace Malice went on the shelf for over five months before popping up in an entry level allowance contest at Gulfstream where he finished second going seven furlongs over a sloppy track.
His subsequent three starts came against graded stakes foes. He almost stamped his Derby ticket in the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds but could manage just a third place finish when beaten a half-length. Then in the Louisiana Derby he had a nightmare trip while racing inside and basically being forced to steady and check for a quarter mile in the stretch.
Desperate for Derby points, Pletcher wheeled this son of Curlin back two weeks later in the Blue Grass, switched riders and finished second by a neck despite sitting a perfect trip and getting his head in front in deep stretch at one point. Another who’s worked just once between his last start and the Derby, a solid half mile at Churchill in :47 1/5 on 4/27, he’ll get the riding services of Mike Smith, who upset the 2005 Derby aboard 50-1 Giacomo.
CHARMING KITTEN was right behind Palace Malice when the hit the wire in the Blue Grass and almost grabbed the brass ring under Joe Bravo, who’s otherwise committed in the Run for the Roses, leaving this son of turf specialist Kitten’s Joy without a rider as of this writing.
The Kentucky Derby will actually be his conventional dirt debut as his first seven starts have come over synthetics and on the turf. Both of his wins have come on the turf, including a minor stakes named after his sire earlier this year at Gulfstream. He was absolutely flying last out which likely has his connections thinking he’ll relish the added distance of this race. Charming Kitten worked a half mile at Churchill on 4/27 in:48 2/5.
Re: Kentucky Derby Betting News and Notes
Derby Countdown - Part II
By Anthony Stabile
Today’s installment of the Derby Countdown takes us to two places that probably couldn’t be more different if they tried – California and Arkansas. We’ll start on the West Coast where the most interesting development may not be their lone representative, GOLDENCENTS, but the fact that Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who at one point had over a half dozen head pointed towards the Run for The Roses will not have a runner in the race for the first time in five years.
Don’t get me wrong, Goldencents has plenty of storylines of his own. His trainer, Doug O’Neill, of course won last years’ Derby and Preakness with I’ll Have Another and was poised to take a run at the Triple Crown before he was forced to scratch his colt the day before the race due to a recurring leg injury.
His jockey, the outspoken, cocky and confident Kevin Krigger will be making his Derby debut and will look to become the first African-American rider to win the Derby, a race dominated by black jockeys in its’ early days, since Jimmy Winkfield in 1902.
And let’s not forget about Goldencents himself who’s done little wrong in his six race career. He debuted at Del Mar last Labor Day weekend, where he went gate-to-wire over the synthetic course by over seven lengths. Off that effort alone O’Neill felt the son of Into Mischief was worthy of a trek east for the prestigious Champagne at Belmont.
After breaking a bit awkwardly, Goldencents found his way to the lead but was soundly defeated by the eventual B.C Juvenile and Eclipse champion Shanghai Bobby. Goldencents found himself making another road trip six weeks later, this time to Delta Downs for the lucrative Delta Jackpot. Making use of his abundant early speed once again, Goldencents set a fast early pace en route to a 1 ¾ length score in his final start as a juvenile.
Coming into this year as one to watch in regards to the Derby, Goldencents started the year off on the right foot, overcoming a bit of early trouble and showing the ability to rate off the pace when he won the Sham at Santa Anita as the big favorite. But two months later in the San Felipe, Goldencents found himself entrenched in a wicked speed duel with the now-injured Flashback and tired through the stretch to finish fourth
O’Neill pressed on and decided to run his colt in the Santa Anita Derby. Coming off his San Felipe flop, the public sent Goldencents to post at better than 6-1, and in an effort reminiscent to the one he put forth in the Sham, Goldencents sat just off the early pace before rolling home by 1 ¼ lengths.
Goldencents has worked twice at Santa Anita since the S.A. Derby it’s doubtful that either move instilled any fear in his rivals as an easy half mile in :48 2/5 on 4/17 was followed by a somewhat pedestrian six furlong work in 1:16 1/5.
While Goldencents is the lone product of the California preps this year to make it to Louisville, Hot Springs was a hotbed of Derby productivity as the four we’ll talk about today, along with Arkansas Derby victor Revolutionary, all earned points in Oaklawn Park preps.
Two of those runners, WILL TAKE CHARGE and OXBOW, are trained by D. Wayne Lukas, who has won the Derby four times with Winning Colors in 1988, Thunder Gulch in 1995, Grindstone in 1996 and Charismatic in 1999.
As is his want, Lukas is taking an extremely unconventional approach with Will Take Charge, who was last seen in mid-March gutting out a head victory over his stablemate in the Rebel. Lukas decided a couple of weeks after the Rebel that Will Take Charge would TRAIN up to the Derby without racing in another prep.
After breaking his maiden at second asking last year, Will Take Charge ran against stakes company in his five starts since with mixed results. He finished dead last in the KJC at Churchill before coming back to finish second in a minor stakes at Remington Park. Things turned around once he got to Oaklawn as Will Take Charge won the Smarty Jones by a neck before finishing well behind runaway Southwest winner Super Ninety Nine in his last start prior to the Rebel.
Lukas has trained this son of the great Unbridled’s Song vigorously, working him five times since his last start, including two drills going a mile. Will Take Charge finished his serious training with a five furlong move in 1:01 at Churchill on 4/29. Jon Court, who’s piloted the colt to all three of his career wins, will ride.
Oxbow has taken a far more traditional path to Churchill Downs, and in true Lukas fashion, will be making his tenth career start in the Derby. After breaking his maiden in his fourth start going seven panels in gate-to-wire fashion at Churchill, Oxbow has also been fed a steady diet of stakes competition.
After finishing fourth in the CashCall over the synthetic track at Hollywood Park, Oxbow stamped himself a Derby contender with an astounding 11 ½ length score in the LeComte at the Fair Grounds. Next out in the Risen Star, Oxbow took the worst of a four horse blanket finish when he was beaten a half- length before heading out to Oaklawn.
After his aforementioned second place finish in the Rebel, Lukas switched riders to fellow Hall of Famer Gary Stevens for the Arkansas Derby. Stevens has won three Derbies himself, two of which came for Lukas aboard Winning Colors and Thunder Gulch with his third coming aboard Silver Charm in 1997. Stevens decided to take Oxbow back to last, a move the son of Awesome Again didn’t appreciate one bit yet still managed a fifth place finish after putting in a bit of a run going into the far turn.
Since the Arkansas Derby, Oxbow has turned in a pair of works at Churchill. On 4/22, he went five furlongs in 1:01 before covering the same distance in a sharp :59 4/5 on 4/29. Expect Oxbow to be forwardly placed on Saturday, especially after that last work.
Though a bulk of his points were earned in Florida, FALLING SKY earned his final points in the Arkansas Derby when he finished a tiring fourth after setting an honest, fairly contentious early pace. After winning two of three starts last year, including a minor stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, Falling Sky started his year with a gutsy, front running, neck score in the Sam F Davis over the same course.
Then, in the Tampa Bay Derby, Falling Sky made the mistake of trying to battle Verrazano in the early stages but was quickly disposed of yet still managed to hang on for the show dough. Trainer John Terranova has obviously had the Derby in mind for a while when you consider the fact that he shipped Falling Sky to Churchill before the Arkansas Derby. He’ll have a new rider in Luis Saez this Saturday and is another who figures to be on or near the lead. On 4/26, Falling Sky finished his serious training with a sharp five furlong drill in :59 3/5.
FRAC DADDY may be one of the beneficiaries should the pace be hot up front and may finally be turning into the colt his trainer Ken McPeek thought he could be after an abysmal start to the year. Frac Daddy capped off his juvenile campaign with a second place finish in the KJC, an effort many felt was much better than the winning one.
But after two horrible efforts at Gulfstream in the Holy Bull and Florida Derby in which he didn’t come within the same area code as the winner, Frac Daddy closed nicely through the lane at Oaklawn to grab place money in the Arkansas Derby. Victor Lebron, who was aboard last out, will ride once again in the Derby. In his lone workout since his last start, Frac Daddy covered five furlongs in 1:02 at Churchill on 4/27.
Re: Kentucky Derby Betting News and Notes
Derby Countdown - Part III
By Anthony Stabile
We’ll play a little hopscotch in today’s edition of the Derby Countdown as we’ll cover the who runners earned their way into the Derby via the Fair Grounds, Aqueduct and, this is a good one, Europe by way of Dubai. We’ll start in the Big Apple.
The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct may turn out to be the most influential prep of the season, especially in a pari-mutuel sense as the winner Verrazano, who I covered in Part I of the Countdown, and runner-up NORMANDY INVASION figure to be two of the top three wagering choices.
Trained by Chad Brown, Normandy Invasion broke his maiden at second asking at the Big A early last November by over nine lengths before wheeling back three weeks later in the Remsen on Thanksgiving weekend. Breaking from post 10 on an inside, speed biased course, the son of Tapit closed form far back and looked like a winner in deep stretch before falling a nose short to Overanalyze.
Three months later, Normandy made his sophomore debut in the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds. Brown figured the race was a great opportunity for the colt to earn Derby points while given a chance to use his late running style to his ability over the long stretch. His old rider had other ideas.
After breaking slowly under Jose Lezcano, Normandy Invasion was held towards the back of the pack for most of the way before unleashing a sporadic, choppy rally through the lane while seven wide, with Lezcano having the look of a deer caught in the headlights while settling for fifth and more importantly, zero points. Brown decided to make a change.
Javier Castellano, who’s back aboard for the Derby, choosing this colt over a colt he won a pair of stakes on in Revolutionary, had the call for the Wood Memorial and did everything he could to ensure that his mount would not suffer the same fate he did in his prior start. Keeping Normandy Invasion a bit closer than usual through soft early fractions, Normandy Invasion shook loose in the stretch and flew home under a hard riding Castellano to finish second, three parts of a length behind Verrazano.
As it turned out, third place would have gotten him more than enough points but no one knew that on that day. Since arriving in Louisville, few horses have gotten more positive press in regards to their recent training. He’s worked twice at Churchill, covering a half mile in :48 1/5 on 4/21 before blazing five panels on 4/27 in :59.
Speaking of third place in the Wood Memorial, that brings us to VYJACK, beaten just a length when settling for the show dough last out for trainer Rudy Rodriguez. Vyjack will have a new rider for the second time in his career as Joel Rosario opts of this colt to ride Orb, leaving the mount open for Garrett Gomez.
Prior to the Wood Memorial, Vyjack was undefeated and a three time stakes winner. He started out with a pair of sprint victories over the main track at Aqueduct before trying two turns in the Jerome Vyjack was a bit rank in the Jerome while alternating for the lead for most of the way and won by just a head. It was a close enough call, however, that it cost Cornelio Velasquez the mount.
Rosario climbed aboard for the Gotham and took Vyjack, who was never more than a half-length from the lead in his three prior starts, all the way to the back of the pack. The change in tactics resulted in a powerful, off the pace score by over two lengths.
Vyjack, a son of Into Mischief, raced in mid-pack last out and took a solid run at Verrazano on the far turn but couldn’t get to the winner and settled for third. Since then, things haven’t gone perfectly. Rodriguez has come under fire for some drug positives and had his license application reviewed in Kentucky, eventually agreeing to 24 hour surveillance of Vyjack, who hasn’t been in the best of health and spent some time at a clinic in the Mid-Atlantic region. He’s worked twice since his last start, a leisurely half mile at Fair Hills near the clinic in :51 3/3 on 4/19 and five eighths at Churchill on 4/26 in 1:00 2/5.
From South Ozone Park, New York to Dubai……that’s what the Derby Trail is all about. And while most of the time the Euro import is an easy toss, it may be a tad different this time around. Though he’s never raced on conventional dirt, LINES OF BATTLE is a perfect two for two over synthetic surfaces.
Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Lines of Battle won at first asking going six furlongs on the turf, then lost his next two before galloping home in his synthetic debut. A trip to California for the B.C. Juvenile Turf didn’t pan out as this son of War Front drew outside post 14 and was caught wide the entire way finishing, a non-threatening seventh.
Lines of Battle didn’t run for almost five months when he resurfaced last out in the U.A.E. Derby. Over the synthetic Tapeta surface at Meydan, in his first start over a mile, Lines of Battle stayed close to the early pace and took over in deep stretch en route to a handy 1 ½ length victory. He didn’t arrive in Louisville until early on the morning of 5/1 and won’t go to the track until Friday. Ryan Moore flies in for the ride.
MYLUTE comes into the Derby off a second place finish behind Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby last out when he raced without blinkers for the first time in his nine race career.
Mylute made seven starts as a juvenile, winning twice while hitting the board in four other, including three stakes for trainer Tom Amoss. After a seventh place finish when beaten just 3 ½ lengths in the Risen Star in his first start of the year, Mylute came home strongly through the stretch in tandem with the winner but was out gamed to the wire.
By Midnight Lute, Mylute will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik on Saturday. Napravnik rode Mylute three starts back to a daylight allowance score and is looking to become the first female rider to win the Kentucky Derby. Mylute has worked three times at Churchill, going six furlongs in a sharp 1:12 1/5 on 4/14 then a pair of half miles in :47 4/5 on 4/21 and :50 3/5 on 4/27.
Robby Albarado will pilot GOLDEN SOUL for trainer Dallas Stewart on Saturday off a fourth place finish in the Risen Star despite racing widest of all. In five career starts, Golden Soul sports just a maiden win and two runner-up finishes, including a second place finish in the LeComte three starts back behind daylight winner Oxbow. Golden Soul breezed twice at Churchill, covering six furlongs in 1:12 2/5 on 4/18 and five panels in 1:00 4/5 on 4/26.
Re: Kentucky Derby Betting News and Notes
Derby Countdown - Part IV
By Anthony Stabile
In this final edition of the Derby Countdown for 2013 (don’t forget to check back Friday for my Derby Breakdown) we’ll take a look at two that earned their way to Louisville at Gulfstream Park and the remainder of the field, who have done their best work to date in the Bluegrass State. We’ll start with the Floridians.
There’s a pretty good chance no three-year-old made more progress this past winter and spring from last year than ORB. In his debut at Saratoga won by the now-injured but super talented Violence, Orb broke as bad as a horse can and trailed for most of the way before uncorking a furious late rally to finish third by a length.
But in his next two starts, Orb didn’t come close to duplicating his debut effort, acting up terribly at the gate in his next start when he failed miserably as the prohibitive favorite before finishing fourth when he was ridden aggressively on the far turn while wide just to get involved at all. He finally broke his maiden in start number four when stretched back out to a mile but it was hardly an indication of what was to come.
Orb made his seasonal debut, sporting Lasix for the first time, in an entry level allowance contest at Gulfstream in late January. Sent off as the 2-1 second choice, Orb trailed early and appeared to be up against it as the track was favoring speed and the early fractions were pedestrian to say the least. Orb kept coming though once maneuvered to the outside and drew away in deep stretch to win fairly comfortably in his first start around two turns.
Just four weeks later, trainer Shug McGaughey brought this son of Malibu Moon back for the Fountain of Youth, a race in which he’d meet up once again with Violence, who was using the race as his return effort. Again, over a course favoring front runners, Orb made up a ton of ground, collared Violence coming off the turn then outdueled him to the wire. Unlike in his prior start, Orb did get a very fast pace to close into in the Fountain of Youth and that seemed to diminish his effort a bit in the court of public opinion.
McGaughey contemplated a run in the Wood Memorial but ultimately decided that the extra week between the Florida Derby and the Run for the Roses, combined with the fact that Orb seemed to thrive all winter in South Florida, led McGaughey to declare his colt for the marquee event of the Gulfstream meet.
Sent off as the second choice at nearly 3-1, Orb was presented with a moderate early pace in front of him, stayed wide most of the way and came running down the stretch like he had in his two prior starts to win the Florida Derby by a widening 2 ¾ lengths, stamping him as one of the favorites for the Derby and giving his trainer just his second shot at the roses since the great Easy Goer finished second in 1989.
Orb did the bulk of his training for this at his winter base, Payson Park, but still managed to put in one of the more talked about works by a Derby contender at Churchill, going a half mile under a hammerlock in :47 4/5 on 4/29 in one of the most effortless and flawless works these eyes have ever seen. Orb will be reunited with the white-hot Joel Rosario on Saturday after being ridden by John Velazquez, who decided to stay aboard Verrazano, in his last two starts.
Another colt who seemed to love the scene at in the Sunshine State this winter is the Eddie Plesa, Jr. trained ITSMYLUCKYDAY. After winning one of three starts at Monmouth Park last summer, Itsmyluckyday won a pair of minor stakes at Calder before failing to hit the board in the Delta Jackpot and a minor stakes on the turf at Gulfstream.
Less than three weeks after the turf race, Plesa brought his son of Lawyer Ron back for the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Years’ Day and was rewarded with a rousing 6 ¾ length victory. Less than four weeks later, Itsmyluckyday was back for more in the Holy Bull, where Plesa threw him into the deep end of the pool as the Holy Bull was earmarked as the return for the undefeated, Eclipse Award champion juvenile Shanghai Bobby.
Shanghai Bobby drew the rail that day and was forced to use his speed and go straight to the lead, a move that played right into the hands of Elvis Trujillo who was riding Itsmyluckyday for the first time and will be aboard again come Saturday. Itsmyluckyday confronted Shanghai Bobby on the turn and went by him fairly easily in mid-stretch to win by two lengths.
Having run three times in 43 days, Plesa backed off Itsmyluckyday and decided to wait for the Florida Derby as opposed to running back in the Fountain of Youth. Just like in the Holy Bull, Itsmyluckyday was perched in the catbird seat going down the backstretch, sitting two lengths off a sensible early pace set by the stretching out Merit Man. Itsmyluckyday made the lead at the top of the stretch but offered little opposition just yards later when Orb rolled on by.
Unlike most other Derby runners, Itsmyluckyday will not have a work at Churchill prior to the Derby and didn’t even ship until about a week before the race. He worked three times at Calder, including a one mile move in 1:43 1/5 on 4/18.
Over in horse country, the Ken McPeek trained JAVA’S WAR leads the contingent, though he has done most of his best work in races run over synthetic tracks and turf. As a two-year-old, Java’s War won two of his three starts on turf, then finished up the year with a solid third place finish over the Polytrack at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Futurity and an off the board finish after breaking slowly and racing wide in the KJC at Churchill.
Coming off a three and a half month layoff, Java’s War had the misfortune of tackling Verrazano in his sophomore debut but acquitted himself nicely, finishing second beaten three lengths in the Tampa Bay Derby. Switched back to the Keeneland Polytrack for his last start in the Blue Grass, Java’s War broke horribly and appeared to lose all chance just strides out of the gate.
But just like it’s been since they switched from conventional dirt to the synthetic course, the closers thrived in the Blue Grass and Java’s War, under Julien Leparoux, managed to overcome the bad start to close fastest of all while seven wide to get up in the final couple of strides.
A son of War Pass, Java’s War worked five furlongs in 1:02 on 4/27 at Churchill and his connections are hoping that the added distance of the Derby combined with the long stretch past the famous Twin Spires will help their colt this Saturday.
Kentucky’s other major prep for the Derby is the Spiral at Turfway Park, a race that produced 2011 Derby upsetter Animal Kingdom. It figured to produce a starter or two this year as well, namely Uncaptured. I doubt anyone, save his connections, thought it would be BLACK ONYX.
Black Onyx finished second in his debut before breaking his maiden at second asking with both races coming in off the turf races in New York. After finishing fourth in an entry level allowance contest at Gulfstream, the son of Rock Hard Ten was transferred to his current trainer, Kelly Breen.
Black Onyx rolled in his first start for Breen and with Joe Bravo riding, on the turf at Gulfstream before shipping to Turfway for the Spiral. Despite racing wide in the Spiral, Black Onyx put in a bold five wide run and managed to hold off the aforementioned Uncaptured to win comfortably. Breen immediately said Black Onyx was Derby bound.
Though he last raced six weeks ago, Black Onyx has breezed just twice at Churchill, going five panels in 1”00 3/5 on 4/13 and a half mile in :48 3/5 on 4/27.
Earlier in Derby week it appeared as if a full field of 20 was unlikely as a number of defections brought the field to 19. That lasted about 20 minutes before Mike Maker announced FEAR THE KITTEN would enter. The very next day, the connections of GIANT FINISH trumped Fear the Kitten with points and made the field themselves, leaving Fear the Kitten as also eligible.
Trained by Tony Dutrow, Giant Finish was third in the Spiral and is two for five in his career, with both wins coming against fellow New York breds. Jose Espinoza rides the son of Frost Giant.
Should someone scratch out of the race by 9AM on Friday, May 3rd, Fear the Kitten, a son of Kitten’s Joy who’d be ridden by Alan Garcia, would draw into the field. After winning the first two starts of his career, including a maiden claimer, Fear the Kitten has raced graded stakes completion exclusively. He was off the board in the KJC, Spiral and Blue Grass but did finish third in the LeComte at the Fair Grounds and second in the Southwest at Oaklawn Park.
Re: Kentucky Derby Betting News and Notes
Kentucky Derby Breakdown
By Anthony Stabile
1 - Black Onyx
Notes: The Derby version of the “Jersey Boys,” Breen and Bravo send out a colt who’s just 1 for 3 on dirt and who’s done his best running on turf and synthetics as evident by his last two wins, including the G3 Spiral at Turfway over their Polytrack last out. Hasn’t run in six weeks, has breezed just twice and drew the dreaded rail. Not for me
2 - Oxbow
Notes: Ok, who broke out Doc Brown’s time travelling DeLorean and took us back to 1988? That was the year Stevens and Lukas teamed up for the first of two Derby wins together with the fantastic filly, Winning Colors. The problem is its 2013, this horse couldn’t warm Winning Colors up and they caught a bad draw. His best moment came in the G3 LeComte this past winter at the Fair Grounds. This is a much different story. Plus, Stevens gave him a curious ride in the G1 Arkansas Derby last out. Figures to take a few sentimental dollars but none of them will be mine.
3 - Revolutionary
Notes: The first of five from the Pletcher barn, many feel no horse has trained better than he has since arriving in Louisville. It took him a while to get going but once he started winning three starts back he never stopped. While slow, his G3 Withers win came against little and was on the slow side while a fast early pace obviously was a big plus in the G2 Louisiana Derby last out. I used to fall for these deep closers all the time, but not anymore. I know a lot of people love that Borel, who piloted Pletcher’s lone Derby winner Super Saver to victory back in 2010, is aboard but keep in mind he’s riding because one of Pletcher’s go-to-guys, Javier Castellano, opted off. He’ll take plenty of money for several reasons but I’m not sold on him being nothing more than a plodder. A toss for me.
4 - Golden Soul
Notes: He’s won just one of his five starts, couldn’t get within shouting distance of Oxbow in the LeComte where he finished second and didn’t really do much in either the Risen Star of Louisiana Derby, yet his trainer thinks he belongs and was more than happy to get a spot in the gate when they started dropping like flies earlier in the week. Not much to like.
5 - Normandy Invasion
Notes: I was stunned when I saw the morning line price on this horse because I thought there was a good chance he’d be the favorite when you take into account Castellano staying here over Revolutionary and the way he closed in the G1 Wood Memorial when he was second to Verrazano. He has all the makings of the “wiseguy” horse and is another who has reportedly been training up a storm since he arrived at Churchill but did hit a bump in the road on Thursday when he ran off and basically quasi-breezed three furlongs. There is a reason, however, that this horse is still eligible for an entry level allowance contest. I don’t know if it’s his deep closer running style, the fact that he appears to have a bit of “hang” in him or a combination of both. If you’re a fan, and you get anywhere near that morning line price and he wins, consider it an extremely early Christmas present but I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were you. He won’t be that price and he won’t win.
6 - Mylute
Notes: Another in here getting some attention, in some cases for reasons other than HIS ability that I just don’t get. Arguably ran the best race of his nine race career last out, his first without blinkers, but honestly had no excuse other than the fact that he’s just not as good, or as game, as Revolutionary. While they did beat the field by three lengths, third place finisher Departing didn’t sit the best trip and in all likelihood would have been right there. Napravnik was featured on “60 Minutes” this week and is looking to become the first female to win the Derby, something that will not be overlooked by the betting public. There may not be many of them but I’m confident there are better options than this guy in here.
7 - Giant Finish
Notes: Dr. Abramovici or Dr. Asadourian, please report to stall 7 in the Churchill Downs paddock because this guys’ owners have a SERIOUS case of Derby Fever. Third in the Spiral last out, his only two wins have come against N.Y. bred competition and easily has done better work on synthetics than conventional dirt. It’s rumored that Dutrow isn’t even going to Kentucky to saddle him. See ya!!
8 - Goldencents
Notes: Krigger’s trying to become the first black jockey to win the Derby in over 100 years, O’Neill is looking to go back-to-back, having grabbed the brass ring last year with I’ll Have Another and this colt is California’s lone representative in the Derby this time around. He does his best running on or close to the lead, and despite what you might hear in the next 36 hours, he’s the speed of the speed. Got cooked when facing a bit tougher than he was used to in the G2 San Felipe two back before rebounding nicely in the G1 Santa Anita Derby last out. I’m not too sure he’s going to handle the added distance and he is an obvious bounce candidate. I’m taking a pass.
9 - Overanalyze
Notes: If his form pattern holds true, he won’t be close on Saturday as he has a serious “In/Out” pattern working and this figures to be an “out” kind of day. He’s capable of getting the job done on his better days, like when he gutted out a nose Remsen win over Normandy Invasion and last out when he stormed home in the Arkansas Derby, but then he runs clunkers, like his first start of the year in the G3 Gotham and you’re let scratching your head. Hasn’t done much since his last start, but it was just three weeks ago. Still, you’d like to have a little more consistency going into the Derby and the only constant with him is that he’s inconsistent. Not for me.
10 - Palace Malice
Notes: Another eligible for an entry level allowance contest, this will be his third start in 35 days as he was chasing those elusive Derby points just so he could get here for his egotistical owner. So he’s here now, has a Hall of Fame rider who has a Derby win under his belt, has drawn well and should sit a pretty good trip. My biggest problem with him is that his best race was at Keeneland where he was second in the Blue Grass last out over the Polytrack and the fact that he tripped out but still couldn’t get the job done. Plus, he’s adding blinkers. The Derby is hardly the place to be experimenting with equipment changes. I think this may be too much for him in a fairly short amount of time.
11 - Lines of Battle
Notes: Most years, for me anyway, the Euro import is an automatic toss but I have to admit, this guy intrigues me. He’s won half of his six starts and is two for two over synthetic surfaces. Last out in the G2 U.A.E. Derby he basically toyed with them, going 1 3/16 miles. His pedigree suggests he’ll love conventional dirt and he has enough tactical speed to get in the game early. There are plenty of knocks…Euros haven’t done anything in years, he will have trained just once or twice over the course but this isn’t a stellar bunch in my opinion. I’ll be using him in the bottom half of my gimmicks, especially if he’s anywhere near that price.
12 - Itsmyluckyday
Notes: The most seasoned Derby starter with ten races under his belt, he really turned the corner this year in his races at Gulfstream. He won the G.P. Derby and G3 Holly Bull before finishing second in the G1 Florida Derby off of a two month layoff last out. He offered little resistance when Orb came calling but I guess he had every right to get a bit leg weary off the bench. Still, four of his five wins have come in South Florida, where he is stabled most of the year and his speed figures at Gulfstream are 15-20 points higher than anywhere else he’s run. Figures to be one of many trying to work out a mid-pack trip. Connections not used to this kind of pressure. Someone had to be second last time and there was nothing behind him. I’m tossing him out.
13 - Falling Sky
Notes: Went gate to wire in the G3 Sam F Davis at Tampa to start the season but has gradually tailed off since. On or close to the lead type figures to be an early pace factor and nothing more. 2-2 to Falling Sky….he gawn!!
14 - Verrazano
Notes: The only undefeated runner in this Derby, 23 horses have come into the Derby with a perfect record over the past 100 years and seven of them left with it intact. In a four race career that’s spanned just four months, this colt has done nothing wrong. He’s won on the lead and from just off the pace and has yet to get hit with the whip, an impressive point when you consider he won the Wood Memorial last out by less than a length. I know he didn’t race as a juvenile but he broke his maiden on New Years’ Day and hasn’t stopped since, an interesting move for Pletcher who usually preps a horse twice, maybe three times, before the Derby. He should sit a great trip in behind the speed and he’s drawn brilliantly. I can honestly say, with the utmost confidence, that this is his Derby to lose.
15 - Charming Kitten
Notes: Like stablemate Palace Malice, this colt earned his way here in the Blue Grass coming from way back on the far turn to finish third by just ½ length and he has an egotistical owner as well. The Derby will be his first start on conventional dirt and this guy has done his best running on turf. His pedigree suggests he’ll get the distance, but on the lawn. If he’s in the money, I’ll be tearing my tickets up.
16 - Orb
Notes: You knew immediately after he hit the wire when third in his debut that he’d be one to be reckoned with. Horses don’t break as poorly as he did at Saratoga and come flying like he did. They just don’t. It took him some time to get it together but he’s hitting on all cylinders now, seeking his fifth consecutive victory. The stretch out to two turns, addition of Lasix and scene in south Florida did him wonders this winter. He made up ground at Gulfstream three different times in races that had totally different dynamics. He has been known to act up in the gate and can be a head case, two things you don’t need when you’re racing in a 20 horse field that takes time to load in front of over 150,000 people. His talent alone makes him a very dangerous hombre and it seems as if anyone you ask that doesn’t have a dog in the fight is rooting for Shug, one of the nicest guys in the game. His rider is in the stratosphere right now and everything points to this guy running a big one.
17 - Will Take Charge
Notes: Lukas has used some unconventional methods in the past but this has to rank high on the list as he’ll try to get this horse home off of a seven week layoff, and this coming from a guy that usually treats Thoroughbreds like harness horses. Won both the Smarty Jones and G2 Rebel at Oaklawn this season but was awful in the G2 KJC over this course last season. Has worked a mile on two separate occasions in preparation for this but working them isn’t like racing them. Certainly has the pedigree to handle the added distance and who knows, maybe this tactic can work. I don’t think he can win but I’ll use him on the bottom of my exotic tickets.
18 - Frac Daddy
Notes: Perhaps when the Derby is over we can have an entry level allowance race for Derby also rans. There certainly seem to be enough of them in here. I will say this: at least his Churchill form is good as he broke his maiden and finished second in the KJC here in a three week span last November. Has always been highly regarded and finally showed some of that promise when second in the Ark. Derby last out after a pair of Gulfstream clunkers. Didn’t get the best of the draw and appears way over his head against these.
19 - Java’s War
Notes: Finally, a price horse that we can somewhat sink or teeth into! The Blue Grass winner got off to a terrible start and trailed for most of the way before storming home to in by a neck under Leparoux for the first time, the first real rider this guys had. I’m more impressed with his two dirt races, however. He finished a tough trip sixth in the KJC last year when he broke poorly from the rail and raced wide then had to take on Verrazano when finishing second in the T.B. Derby to start his three-year-old season. Now, he’s drawn outside and out of trouble, will be one of the last to load and will be a healthy 20-1 or better. Plus, his pedigree and running style suggest he’ll love added distance. Using him in all of my gimmicks.
20 - Vyjack
Notes: A month ago, this gelding was undefeated and being associated with fellow “Killer V” Verrazano in the weeks leading up to their showdown in the Wood Memorial. He took his shot at Verrazano on the far turn but was held in abeyance and things haven’t gone well since. He got sick, his trainer came under fire in Kentucky and now he’s drawn post 20. Funny thing is Rudy’s mentor Rick Dutrow, Jr. won this in 2008 from post 20 with Big Brown. I doubt things will go as smoothly for him. He’s not for me.