At 6:24 p.m. on May 7,the 137th running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby will take place inwhat looks to be an open field. The Kentucky Derby which is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky is considered to be the crown jewel of thoroughbred racing and it is the first race of the three races that make the coveted Triple Crown. When the Derby field announced the eligible participants for the 2011 event it appeared that there was considerable separation between the top horse and the rest of the field. However, a couple of the top contenders turned out bad performances in the Derby Prep plus Uncle Mo andTobys Corner withdraw to injuries the horses suffered. Toby Corner withdrew because he was off in his left hind leg and Uncle Mo has a mysterious stomach ailment.
There seems to be three important factors in thoroughbred racing with the first key being the health of the horse and its current form (how ran in practice, how it ran in its last race and was there or has there been any mitigating circumstances). The second factor is post position and the worst post positions for the Derby seems to be next to rail, post position one, and to the far outside which is post position 20 for today (it depends on the number of horses in the field). The third factor is a combination of factors in the actual race including track conditions, how the horse starts out of the gate, its trip (how smooth or rough the race was on the horse before it got into the closing stretch) and how good of a closer the horse is.
Best Post Position
Dialed In was drawn to the eighth post position on May 4 and two-time Derby Champion trainer, 1991 and 1994, Nick Zito couldn’t be happier for his and for good reason. 10 Kentucky Derby Champions have come out of the eight hole including 50-1 long shot Mind- the-Bird in 2009. Dialed In, who will be rode by Julien Leparoux, was also made the favorite to win the Derby at odds of 4-1. This is also good news for Dialed in as three of the last Derby favorites have been victorious. Dialed In won the Florida Derby in his lat race.
Dialed In has won three of his four lifetime races and finished second in the race he didn’t win. In addition, Dialed in has the won his only previous race at Churchill Downs and had the highest speed rating last race of all 19 horses. Dialed In is also ranked in the top three of two important Thoroughbred statistics which are Prime Power and Class Rating.
Worst Post Positions
Archarcharch, winner of the Arkansas Derby which is a grade one race, was drawn to the dreaded post position one. The reason that the rail position is dreaded by all Derby trainers is that the horse that starts on the rail usually has to use all of its energy to get out of the gate fast or it is blocked in by other horses although there has been 12 winners starting from the rail. John Court gets the ride.
Archarcharch had a sharp workout on April 29 at Churchill Downs and has won three of his six career races. Archarcharch also has a second place which came at his only race at Churchill Downs and a third place showing.
Watch Me Go
On the opposite end of spectrum is post position 20 which Watch Me Go has drawn to. The Derby has gotten a couple of winners from this position but although post position is dreaded, the rail is where the horses try to get too early in the race in order to save energy.
Brilliant speed will start from post position two and in eight lifetime races has two victories, two seconds and two thirds to his credit. In a bit of irony Brilliant speed, who will be rode by Joel Rosario, doesn’t have a lot of speed. However, Brilliant Speed did win his first race in 2011 his last time out which was grade one race at Keeneland to go along with two second place finishes this year.
Pants on Fire
Pants on Fire will start from the seventh position and is rode by hot jockey Rose Napravnik, who has two wins, a second and third place finish in her last eight mounts. Pants on Fire also looked sharp in his last work out and is coming off a grade 2 race win his last time out. Pants on Fire has won two of his eight career races and has finished in the money four other times.
Mucho Macho Man
Mucho Macho Man has finished in the money in seven of his eight career races and has two wins. Rajin Maragh gets the mount on a horse, which will start from post 13, that finished third his last time out in a grade two stakes race. Mucho Macho Man did however, have strong workout at Churchill.
Shackleford, who will start the Kentucky Derby from position 14, finished second behind Dialed at the Florida Derby. Shackleford has five career starts where here has earned two victories and a second place finish. Shackleford will be rode by Jesus Castanon and had an excellent workout.
Hall-of- Fame Trainer Bob Bafferts entry Midnight Interlude will start from post 15. Midnight Interlude has been in the money in each of his four races including twice having reached the winners circle. Victor Espinoza gets the hide for a horse that has won its last two races and had a very good workout at Churchill Downs.
Soldat, who has won three of his eight career races, drew an outside post spot at 17. Although Soldat finished fifth behind Dialed in and Shackleford in the Florida Derby, Alan Garcia should feel good about his chances. Prior to the Florida defeat, Soldat had won his two previous races in 2011.
Nehro, who finished second to Archarcharch, will be rode by Cory Nakatoni and start from post 19. Nehro has one win and two seconds in five career starts.
Jockey Calvin Borel , who will be aboard Twice the Appeal, has won three of the past four Kentucky Derbys.
John Velazquez, who was scheduled to ride the scratched Uncle Mo, will now replace the injured Robby Albarado on top of Animal Kingdom.
Other horses to watch
Nehro, Brilliant Speed, Santiva and Midnight Interlude.