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Kentucky Derby 2009
Kentucky Derby Watch 2009
Who's going to win the 2009 Kentucky Derby? Well, let's start by taking a look at this year's major prep races, and then we'll move on to analyzing the major contenders. You can download free Past Performances for the major contenders at brisnet.com.
Update 5/2 - I Want Revenge has been scratched! What a shame. This leaves Friesan Fire as the likely post time favorite. I like Friesan Fire as the most likely winner, and Desert Party as the best value. Musket Man, General Quarters, and Regal Ransom are all worth tossing in your exotics. Good luck to all and let's hope that all the horses and riders come back safe.
Update 4/30 - Two days away! A full field of 20 is set to go. I Want Revenge seems sure to be the post time favorite. Personally, I'm leaning towards Friesan Fire, and the two Godolphin horses, Desert Party and Regal Ransom, who should be square odds on Derby Day. Alas, rain is in the forcast for Saturday. Some timely links:
The full Derby field from Foxsports.com.
Lots of great videos, including workouts, and prep races at KentuckyDerby.com.
Kentucky Derby coverage at DRF.com, the nation's horseracing newspaper.
A video preview of the race from the legendary (but usually wrong when it comes to the Derby) Andy Beyer of the Washington Post.
Equidaily.com is a great place to look for Derby updates. It's sort of the Drudgereport for the horsey set.
Update 4/29 - Quality Road, who would likely have been the favorite, has been withdrawn from the Derby due to a minor injury. A shame, but hopefully we'll see more of this excellent horse later in the year.
KentuckyDerby.com is offering videos of recent workouts by all the entrants. Having watched most of them, I was most impressed by the Godolphin standout Desert Party, who dusted a workmate in a team drill, but thought Pioneer Road, Square Eddie, Fresian Fire, and I Want Revenge all worked well too. I was least impressed by Papa Clem, but the work wasn't so bad as to make me throw him out of the exotics picture.
Louisiana Derby - won by Friesan Fire in dominant style over Papa Clem, who went on to win the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn. Fresian Fire got a perfect pace-pressing trip over a sloppy track, but was much best, winning pretty much as he pleased. Watch the replay of this race at Youtube.
Florida Derby - Quality Road pressed the pace, took the lead entering the stretch, and turned back a challenge from the lightly raced Dunkirk, in what was undoubtedly the strongest prep of the year. Quality Road set the track record for 9 furlongs over a track that was playing very fast that day. Give Dunkirk a lot of credit for a strong effort despite getting the worst of the trip. See the replay here.
Illinois Derby - Usually not one of the stronger preps, and this year was no exception, but give Musket Man some credit for overcoming a difficult between-horses trip to win commandingly. Replay here.
Santa Anita Derby - Pioneer of the Nile just keeps on winning. He beat a weak field here, but did it with some style, pulling his was to the lead on the backstretch, then turning back all challengers in the stretch. The artificial surface at Santa Anita tends to produce bunched finishes, so I'm willing to cut him some slack for his slender margins of victory. Replay at Youtube.
Wood Memorial - Really strong win by I Want Revenge, who broke slow, got caught behind a wall of horses entering the stretch, and got bumped hard in mid-stretch before pulling away late to win. See the replay here.
Arkansas Derby - Papa Clem got the job done with a pace-pressing trip over a fairly average field. A nice horse, but I don't think we saw another Smarty Jones or Curlin in this race. Watch the replay.
Blue Grass Stakes - General Quarters was lightly regarded going into the race, but was clearly best here despite a wide trip. He also galloped out well. Hard to know how his Polytrack for will translate to the Churchill Downs dirt, but he may be a live longshot. See the replay here.
Enough about the preps. Let's take a look at the major contenders.
The Ones to Beat
Quality Road - Probable favorite and rightly so. Only four starts under his belt, but we're in a new era now and that seems like less of a problem than it would have been in the past. Has tactical speed that will let him sit just off the what should be a moderate Derby pace. What's not to like?
I Want Revenge - If Quality Road is number one, I Want Revenge is 1A. Ran a couple of giant races at Aqueduct. Has moved way up switching to the dirt from the California artificial surfaces. Trainer Jeff Mullins is one of those guys who skirts the edge of legality on medication issues and sometimes crosses the line. Big concern is how he'll bounce back from a tough race in the Wood, and whether the slow start there may have been indicative of some physical problem, as is often the case.
Dunkirk - Lightly raced with only three starts to date, but obviously super-talented. Has top connections with top owners Mangier/Tabor and proven ace Todd Pletcher as trainer. Can raw talent overcome his lack of experience? History suggests not.
Pioneer of the Nile - Best of the West, winning, riding a four race winning streak going into the Derby. In the hands of thrice Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert. Was better than I Want Revenge on the California artificial surfaces, does dirt change the equation? Could be an overlay on Derby day because of the surface uncertainty.
Friesan Fire - Ordinary as a 2-year-old, but has become a tiger at three. Hasn't been seen since the Louisiana Derby. Does he have physical problems? Ready for Churchill Downs, or is he just a Fairgrounds horse-for-course?
A Cut Below
Papa Clem - Was arguably the best horse in the Robert Lewis, where he finished only a half length behind Pioneer of the Nile and beat I Want Revenge, but his dirt races since then suggest he's not quite as talented as some of the other Derby Prep winners.
General Quarters - Has experience on his side with eleven starts under his belt, but his overall record suggests the win at Keeneland owed more to the switch to an artificial surface than any big move forward in ability.
Musket Man - Has been laying low at tracks like Delaware Park and Tampa Bay Downs, but has won 5 of 6 lifetime and overcame a tough trip to win the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne. May rate as a reasonable longshot on Derby Day, but was well beaten by General Quarters in the Sam Davis at Tampa Bay.
Desert Party - Solid talent who lost to his stablemate Regal Ransom in the UAE Derby. Did win the Sanford at Saratoga as a 2-year-old and has solid distance breeding. Wouldn't be a total shocker, but is facing a solid bunch of American colts.