My 2016 Derby picks were changed pretty significantly by the draw this year (more than most years). Some horses moved up…others dropped down (and one dropped WAY down). Who do you like?
Exaggerator is by Curlin (my favorite) out of a Vindication mare. Trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by Kent Desormeaux, this handsome colt turned heads with his win in the slop in the recent Santa Anita Derby. His record indicates consistency (4 wins, two 2nds, and one 3rd in 9 starts) and he has a turn of foot that can be showstopping…even if it doesn’t get him a win. He doesn’t have to be come from the clouds closer to still be effective. His speed figures are consistently fast this year and I think he’ll love the distance. I give this horse a huge shot to win if he stays out of trouble. I LOVE his post and he’s going to have no issues placing himself exactly where he needs to be. Should have less traffic issues than other closers.
Mor Spirit is by Eskendereya out of a Dixie Union mare. He’s trained by Bob Baffert (the only active trainer to win the Triple Crown) and ridden by the great Gary Stevens. He was 2nd last out to Exaggerator in the Santa Anita Derby, but was not pushed in the stretch after it was clear there was not catching the winner. He’s consistent too with 3 wins and 4 seconds in 7 starts. His speed figures indicate he regressed a bit last out (but prior to that he was speeding up in every start), but we’ll toss that race for several reasons. He’s fast enough to win it, but if he will is another question. He’s a talented horse that I expect will make a lot of noise down the line. He’s got the right style as a stalker/grinder. I think he has a strong chance of challenging for the win here. I love his post as he will be the furthest out stalker and can place himself wherever he wants and will be easily cleared by Danzing Candy.
Nyquist is by Uncle Mo out of a Forestry mare. He is trained by Doug O’Neill and will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez. He was 1st in the Florida Derby last out and is undefeated in 7 starts. His speed figure was a little lower in his last race than they were in his sprint start to the year, but that could indicate a bit of a bounce last race (and he didn’t really have to work for his Florida Derby win)…or it might indicate he’s just not going to make the distance. He’s a handsome horse that has done nothing wrong and I love the way Doug O’Neill trains for the Derby. His breeding says he can’t get there (so does his Dosage), but so far his talent and grit says he can. Deserving favorite with a good shot to win if he can outrun his breeding. I’m not sure I love his post (but mainly due to the way that speed laid out), but until he’s defeated…he’s still Nyquist.
Whitmore is by Pleasantly Perfect out of a Scat Daddy mare. He’s trained by Ron Moquett and will be ridden by Victor Espinoza (he has won 5 our of the last 6 Triple Crown races). He was 3rd last out in the Arkansas Derby just being nipped by Suddenbreakingnews for 2nd (and was the first closer to make a run as he’s not a “from dead last” type). He’s consistently in the money with 2 wins, tw0 2nds, and one 3rd in 6 starts. His speed figures have also been steadily improving with two 97’s for his last two races. Has he hit his peak? Maybe…but I don’t think so. He’s always there and running at the end, but consistently doesn’t have enough for the win. He’s also a gelding, which is against his favor to win. I expect he’ll hit the board, but isn’t the winner. Why is he ahead of Creator? I simply like him more. His post, like Exaggerators is great and really helped him out. I expect he’ll make the most of this by being more forwardly placed than the rest of the closers and getting the first run.
Gun Runner is by Candy Ride out of a Giant’s Causeway mare. He is trained by Steve Asmussen and will be ridden by Florent Geroux. He was 1st in the Louisiana Derby last out with a record of 4 wins in 5 starts. Speed figures are increasing each race with a Brisnet Figure last out of 104. I love the way he runs. I am not usually a fan of LA Derby horses…but this one is good. He’s typically a stalker, which is ideal for the Kentucky Derby. He has improved with every start and I love the way he’s training. He’s got a good shot at the win in my opinion. Gun Runner is going to save some ground by being the first horse to the rail on the front as the closest stalker to the rail and he won’t have to battle it out like the horses on the outside will be doing, but if he’s not sent, he risks being shuffled back after the fast outside horses come over and he’s not a huge guy. Worried a bit about this post.
Creator is by Tapit out of a Privately Held mare. He’s trained by Steve Asmussen and will be ridden by Ricardo Santana. He won the Arkansas Derby last out (so I have to include him in my choices out of principle) and is getting better fast with two wins, 4 seconds and 1 3rd out of 8 starts. His speed figures have gotten significantly better in his last three outings, so he’s a colt on the improve. Out of all the Tapits, his breeding is my least favorite…but I think he’s the most likely to make noise. He’s a little bit deeper of a closer than I prefer for the Derby, which is why he’s so far down my selections…but I think he’s got it in him to hit the board and maybe win. I love his striding out in his latest works and he looks like he wants to go further. Not a huge fan of this post for him as he’ll likely hit traffic like Suddenbreakingnews. Too bad.
Lani is by Tapit out of a Sunday Silence mare. He’s trained by Mikio Matsunaga and ridden by…well I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter. He won the UAE Derby last out and has won 3 and come in second once in 6 starts. As much as I LOVE the dam side of his breeding (and of course Tapit isn’t too shabby either), this horse appears to be a bit of a nut with two unimpressive (one outright bizarre) morning work at Churchill. Not to mention the UAE Derby winner failing to make an impact in this race every year. He’s beautiful, and has the right running style (stalker) but I’m going to pass. If he wins…I wouldn’t be shocked, but I wouldn’t put a dime on him either. Great post position for him. Not so lucky for the horses around him.
Suddenbreakingnews is by Mineshaft out of an Afleet Alex mare. He’s trained by Donnie Von Hemel and ridden by Luis Quinonez. He was 2nd last out in the Arkansas Derby and has 3 wins and four 2nds in 8 starts. His speed figures have steadily increased each race, so he keeps improving. I love his breeding (though Dosage says he’s just at the upper limits of a typical Derby winner). I love his closing move (though he’s a bit more “from the clouds” than I prefer for the Derby. His biggest negative is that he’s a gelding, and geldings rarely win the Kentucky Derby (only two have won it since 1929…Funny Cide and Mine That Bird). He could be a Mine That Bird, but I’m not sure we’ll have quite the set up that we had in 2009…and Luis Quinonez isn’t Calvin Borel (too bad or his post wouldn’t be so bad). I don’t like his post at all and expect traffic trouble for this late closer. His post move him down my rankings.
Mohaymen is by Tapit out of a Dixie Union mare. He’s trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and ridden by Junior Alvarado. He was 4th last out in the Florida Derby but prior to that was undefeated and quite impressive. His speed figures were fantastic before his Florida Derby clunker. As he didn’t come out of the race with an injury, I’m not sure what to make of it other than he bounced off of his previous effort…or he looked Nyquist in the eye and just didn’t have what it took to pass the Champion. His performance was really quite a head scratcher. He was a bit rank and pulling at the start of his last work, so I expect him to be closer to the pace than most expect…if not pressing Danzing Candy. I’m also not a huge fan of the 4f works for Derby preps. He either bounces back here in a big way or he finishes in the back half of the field and doesn’t do much ever again. I think his post is doing him no favors. He’s next to Nyquist (who broke his heart last time out) and he, Nyquist, and Outwork all in a row are going to go and race for space in the front.
Destin is by Giant’s Causeway out of a Siberian Summer mare. He’s trained by Todd Pletcher and will be ridden by Javier Castellano. He won last out in the Tampa Bay Derby. He’s won 3 and placed once in 5 starts and his speed figures indicate he’s fast enough. I LOVE his pedigree and he has the right style to win the Derby, but I dislike the 8 weeks between starts and I’m not loving his recent works visually. I think he’s a nice horse that will do more along the line, but not a winner here. He’s got it all stacked against him (oh and having Pletcher as your trainer in the Derby isn’t really a good thing). I think being next to crazy Lani isn’t going to be good for him or Destin. Makes me like him a bit less as he may get creamed coming out of the gate.
Mo Tom is by Uncle Mo out of a Rubiano mare. He’s trained by Tom Amoss and ridden by Corey Lanerie. He’s won 3 and run 3rd three times in 7 starts. His last out he was 4th in the Louisiana Derby, which likely indicates he won’t win. His speed figures have been getting better race by race, but he has a habit of finding traffic issues (or his jockey does) and with his closing style, the Kentucky Derby 20 horse field will do him no favors. He’s no doubt talented, and is a popular “Wise Guy” choice, but I don’t think there’s any way he is winning this race as there are other closers I like better (quite a few in fact). Decent post position for him next to a bunch of closers, and he likely won’t have the issues Suddenbreakingnews and Trojan Nation have…but he has a history of finding traffic and I expect him to again here.
Shagaf is by Bernardini out of an Unbridled’s Song mare. He’s trained by Chad Brown and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz. He was 5th last out in the Wood Memorial, but has won 3 of 4 starts. The biggest concern here is that his speed figures have basically gotten slower with each start. That’s not what you want to see going into the longest race of these horses’ lives up until now. He’s also been training 4f for his Derby works…which doesn’t give me hope he has the stamina to do this thing. He’s a big, nice moving colt with a pretty pedigree, but I don’t think this race is the best choice for him. His post position has done him a few favors I think, but I don’t think he’ll win.
Tom’s Ready deserves to be here. I just want to start with that. He’s by More Than Ready out of a Broad Brush mare. He’s trained by Dallas Stewart and will be ridden by Brian Hernandez. He was 2nd last out in the Louisiana Derby to the classy Gun Runner. He’s got one win and four 2nds in 9 starts. My biggest concern with this guy is the massive jump in speed figure in his last race. I expect a bit of a bounce off of that effort and don’t expect him to do much here. He did do every bit of the work to get in the gate though, and I wouldn’t take that away from him. I dislike his stride (it’s very choppy and he appears to hit the ground HARD) and his workmate in his most recent work looked better. I think his post is probably good for him as he can settle right behind Nyquist, Mohaymen and Outwork.
Outwork is by Uncle Mo out of an Empire Maker mare. He’s trained by Todd Pletcher and will be ridden by John Valazquez. He won the Wood Memorial last out and has won three times and placed once out of 4 starts. His speed figures don’t say much and he has replicated his effort in his last two. His Dosage says he can’t possibly win. I love his stride however and liked his last work. I actually prefer his breeding to Nyquist and find him a very handsome colt (Nyquist is too). I think he’ll surprise everyone by finishing in the top 10 this weekend. The Pletcher problem is here too. I don’t think he’s been helped by his PP draw. He’s going to go, but he’ll have Danzing Candy on his outside…and you never want to be a speed horse inside another speed horse. I also think Mohaymen and Nyquist are going to fly out of the gate as well.
Oscar Nominated is by Kitten’s Joy out of a Theatrical mare (yup…turf pedigree in the Derby again). He’s trained by Mike Maker and ridden by Robby Albarado. He was 1st last out in the Spiral stakes and has won 3 times and was 2nd twice in 7 starts. His speed figures are the worst of the bunch by far and he had to be late nominated to the Derby (that’s how little the Ramsey’s believed in him). I think he’s just in the race to keep Kitten’s Joy out there. Do I think he’ll be last? No. Do I think he’ll be in the top half of the field…no. I think being next to crazy Lani isn’t going to be good for him or Destin. Makes me like him a bit less as he may get creamed coming out of the gate.
Brody’s Cause is by Giant’s Causeway out of a Sahm mare. He’s trained by Dale Romans and ridden by Luis Saez. He was 1st last out in the Blue Grass and has won 3 races and came in 3rd once in 6 starts. His speed figures are slow. He’s a closer, but he’s not really fast. He’s handsome…but I think the Blue Grass was weak and that he’s just too slow here. He has not improved enough as a 3 year old to win the Derby. His post draw did him no favors.
Majesto is by Tiznow out of an Unaccounted For mare. He’s trained by Gustavo Delgado and will be ridden by Emisael Jaramillo. He was 2nd last out in the Florida Derby against Nyquist (but basically had 2nd place handed to him). He’s won 1, was 2nd twice and 3rd twice in 6 starts, but not against much. His speed figures have left a little to be desired. I do like how he’s had a 1 mile work in his 2nd work out from Derby. He has a lovely stride and looks slower than he is, but he also looks like a very large colt. FL Derby was deceptive and he seems to be a bit of a “wise guy” bet, but I think Fellowship ran a better race. His post has done him no favors. I think his post is asking too much of this one.
Trojan Nation is by Street Cry out of a Summer Squall mare. He’s trained by Patrick Gallagher and will be ridden by Aaron Gryder. He’s a maiden still and has no wins, one second and three 3rds in 6 starts. He was 2nd in the Wood Memorial last out and came just short of breaking his maiden in a Grade 1. His speed figures have been slow until a big jump last out. He either massively improved, the Wood Memorial was weak, or he was majorly helped by the track. I like to think he’s improving and expect him to finish in the top half of the field. Will he win…no. He’s a big, nice looking horse and I expect him to have a nice career ahead of him if he makes it through the Derby unscathed. His post position puts him against it. He likely won’t get crushed too badly, but this isn’t a good place to be.
My Man Sam is by Trappe Shot out of an Arch mare. He’s trained by Chad Brown and will be ridden by Julien Leparoux. He was 2nd last out in the Blue Grass and has won 1 and came in 2nd twice in 4 starts. His speed figures are so so with a much slower last out than two back. I honestly don’t like anything much out of the Blue Grass this year (including the winner) and I think it was a group of very slow animals. He’s been prepping for the longest race of his life with 4f works…which I also don’t find particularly helpful. Pass. His post isn’t good or bad, I just don’t think he’s very good.
Danzing Candy is by Twirling Candy out of a Songandaprayer mare. He’s trained by Clifford Sise and will be ridden by Mike Smith. He was 4th last out in the Santa Anita Derby after running insane fractions on the front. He’s won 3 out of 5 starts. He’s run some fast speed figures but bounced badly in his last start in his longest race. He appears to be a “need the lead” kind of guy and that’s usually never good in the Derby. He either wins this thing…or comes in last. My vote is for last. He’s a quality animal that will win some graded stakes down the line, I just expect he will be more a Bayern or Moreno type and won’t be very consistent at longer distances. I had him much higher on my list until he drew post 20. He’s going to have to catch a flyer to get to the lead (and probably run way too fast) or he’ll get rank and fall apart. He’s my choice to finish last now.
I am going to be positive and say that I think we will have no last minute scratches or injuries this year and that the AE horses will not make the field. If they do…I toss them anyways.