Kentucky Derby Raceday Preview

The big day has arrived! At about 6.34 pm ET a maximum field of 20 will set off in search of Derby glory and maybe, just maybe, immortality. Just before we review today’s action, we must congratulate Cathryn Sophia, who showed her run in the Ashland was all wrong with a devastating performance in the Oaks. Employing a stalking trip, she took over in the straight and strode away to win comfortably.

Along with The Run for the Roses, we have another wonderful undercard of 6 sumptuous graded stakes races starting with race 6 the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile. Let’s look at each race in turn:

Race: R6 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile

Grade: Grade 2

Age: 4 year old and up

Distance: 1 mile (Turf)

Purse: $300,000

Tepin will be all the rage to defend her crown in this race. Last year she beat a hot field of Grade 1 performers by a comfortable 1 ½ lengths at a relatively unconsidered price of 9/1. She looks a class above these both in terms of actual performance and Beyer figures. She has recorded Beyers of 99 or more in all races and has recorded marks of 107 in the last two. To put this in context, the second favourite, Isabella Springs, recorded her best ever Beyer of 105 when being defeated by Tepin.

Race: R7 Churchill Downs Stakes

Grade: Grade 2

Age: 4 year old and up

Distance: 7 furlongs

Purse: $500,000

9 runners face the starter in what looks a hotly contested open race. It’s high quality too with 7 of the runners having achieved a Beyer of 100+ in one or both of their last two races.

Bill Mott’s Speighster is a fascinating runner. He is unbeaten and looked capable of being top class when his career was put on hold with an ankle injury. A chip has been removed and he has been off the track for 10 months as a consequence. This seems an incredibly hot race to reintroduce him to the track and one can only deduce that they think he is up to it.

At 5/2, Salutos Amigos is the Morning Line favourite. He has won over $1.5m in prize money and has been showing impressive closing speed in winning a grade 3 and a grade 1 at Aqueduct. Kobe’s Back has been similarly making hay in grade 2s at Santa Anita.

This looks a very difficult race to call with some quality finishers in the field. If it were to get tactical, then Holy Boss, who has good early pace and is from a very shrewd yard, may be able to dictate matters from the front.

Race: R8 Humana Distaff Stakes

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 4 year old and up fillies and mares

Distance: 7 furlongs

Purse: $300,000

Now it’s the turn for the fillies in this competitive race over the one-turn 7 furlong course. It looks like connections have been experimenting with stretching the stamina of Taris, the 5/2 ML favourite, and, while she has performed well, she is now back to what she does best. She recorded her best ever Beyer of 110 over this trip in 2014.

Wavell Avenue already has a decision over Taris when they met in the Breeders Cup although some would argue that Taris did not get a good trip that day. Wavell Avenue had been off the track for 5 months when she was beaten by Sheer Drama (ran well yesterday) in the Madison and should be spot on for this race. She is my idea of the winner.

Race: R9 American Turf Stakes

Grade: Grade 2

Age: 3 year old

Distance: 1 mile and a 1/16 (Turf)

Purse: $300,000

This race has attracted a maximum field and looks very competitive while lacking any obvious superstar. Unsurprisingly then, the Morning Line goes 4/1 the field.

Airoforce is expected to put his very moderate recent runs behind now he is returning to turf but this is not a race for me as there are too many angles. For those keen to have a wager, Azar should give you a good run a t a decent price.

Race: R10 Pat Day Mile Stakes

Grade: Grade 3

Age: 3 year old

Distance: 1 mile

Purse: $250,000

It’s another maximum field and another very open race with the Morning Line going 5/1 the field. Ralis has rather lost his way since winning the Hopeful Stakes (Grade 1) by almost six lengths. He showed a bit of a return to form when close up in the Spiral and the drop back to one turn and the application of blinkers should help.

Bob Baffert is never one to shirk a challenge and saddles American Freedom here (ML 6/1). This horse has had just one race, a maiden on the slop at Santa Anita but recorded an incredible Beyer of 98, the best in the field. If the assessment is accurate, he must be a contender.

Race: R11 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 4 year old and up

Distance: 1 mile and a 1/8

Purse: $500,000

Chad Brown seems to hold all the aces in this valuable turf event with the first and second favourites in Slumber (3/1) and Big Blue Kitten (5/2). They both bring Grade 1 form and very strong Beyer figures to the table and it would be a surprise if one of these did not take the race.

Tourist has plenty of pace but is stepping up a furlong. If he can dictate the pace at sensible fractions he might just upset the applecart.

Race: R12 Kentucky Derby

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 3 year old

Distance: 1 mile and a 1/4

Purse: $2,000,000

Best prices available on market leaders:

Nyquist – 7/2

Exaggerator – 8/1

Mohaymen – 10/1

Gun Runner – 12/1

Destin – 14/1

Brodys Cause – 16/1

Mor Spirit – 16/1

Creator – 20/1

Finally, after a card that would grace any raceday, we come to the Run for the Roses. As usual a maximum field of 20 will contest one of the biggest races of the calendar over 1 ¼ miles of the Churchill Down’s dirt track. With that number in the field, however good your horse, they will need a bit of luck!

Until the Florida Derby, everything had looked straightforward for the then favourite Mohaymen. He was beating up all the contenders in sight by wide margins but then in the Florida race the wheels came off. He was never travelling and was well beaten by Nyquist and horses he had slaughtered in previous races. Beyer was not impressed by the race and awarded Nyquist 94 and Mohaymen an inconsequential 80.

If we are to take the Florida Derby (and Beyer assessements) at face value then we should be looking outside these two for the winner of the Kentucky Derby. However, as Cathryn Sophia demonstrated so ably in the Oaks yesterday, one bad race does not make a bad horse so I am going to side with Mohaymen.

I will also have a second bet on the second favourite Exaggerator. You couldn’t fail to be impressed by the way he destroyed the useful Mor Spirit last time out at Santa Anita, which earned a Beyer of 103 and he looks like he is still improving.

Good luck today with your bets and above all enjoy a fantastic day’s racing.

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