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Below is a list of this year’s derby contenders with a small preview of each horses performance leading up to the Kentucky Derby.
1. West Side Bernie – Grade 3 winner as a freshman on Polytrack, the consistent three-year-old almost always fires and comes off a solid runner-up effort in the Wood Memorial S. (G1) for Kelly Breen. West Side Bernie hasn’t missed the board in four career outings on dirt, including a deceivingly good third in the Holy Bull S. (G3) in his 2009 debut, and the gritty three-year-old earned a 107 BRIS Speed rating in his last start. The colt’s pedigree is slanted toward speed, but his previous route attempts indicate that he will stay the 1 1/4 miles. West Side Bernie might be a cut below the best in here, but he’s an exotics threat if he finds room breaking from the rail under Stewart Elliot, the jockey of 2004 Derby victor Smarty Jones.
2. Musket Man – Once-beaten sophomore answered the two-turn question with a convincing score in the Illinois Derby (G2), winning for the fifth time in six tries. Musket Man has a questionable pedigree but continues to outrun it, and the Derek Ryan-trained colt has trained in fine fashion leading up to the Derby. Those who like the accomplished dark bay will receive a nice price at post. Eibar Coa will break from the two post in hopes of securing a clean trip aboard the underrated Musket Man
3. Mr. Hot Stuff – A full brother to dual Grade 1 hero Colonel John, Mr. Hot Stuff has improved steadily throughout the year and could be rounding into his best race with the added ground. The late-running Eoin Harty trainee has been solely a synthetic performer to date, and the WinStar homebred was third in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Sham S. (G3) in his last two. He’s another who will need a strong early tempo to aid his late rush, but the colt got a huge boost to secure jockey John Velazquez. Mr. Hot Stuff will be pretty far back early, but he should be able to save precious ground from his inside post and will look to rally strongly from off the pace.
4. Advice – Trained by Todd Pletcher, Advice was an impressive winner of the Lexington S. (G2) over Keeneland’s Polytrack in his latest showing to gain entry into this bulky field. The dark bay Florida-bred finished fifth in his lone dirt start and is bred for speed, but his half-mile drill over the Churchill main oval earlier in the week signals that the colt is thriving at this stage of his development. The three-year-old is one of three entered by WinStar Farm and could get a cozy rail trip breaking from post four. Rene Douglas will look to bag his first Derby trophy atop the late runner.
5. Hold Me Back – Lane’s End S. (G2) winner was a perfect-prep second in the Blue Grass S. (G1) in preparation of this for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, and Hold Me Back could offer tremendous value as a prime threat – if he makes the transition to dirt. The visually impressive colt finished well back in his lone dirt try as a juvenile, but his trainer has chalked that up to inexperience and Hold Me Back has trained well at Churchill. He’ll be ridden by Kent Desormeaux, who took this race a year ago aboard Big Brown, and Kentucky-bred has looked good in his local preparation. The WinStar homebred seems perfectly spotted in the five hole.
6. Friesan Fire – This impressive colt is well drawn in post six, which should ensure Friesan Fire a trip close to the rail, possibly with or right behind the first flight. Trainer Larry Jones has finished second in the last two editions of the Run for the Roses and will look to break through before he retires at the end of the year. The son of A.P. Indy has great tactical speed, and while he’s never run longer than 1 1/16 miles, his pedigree and running style suggests that he’ll be ready for this trip. If the track has moisture in it, Friesan Fire may move up even more based on his tremendous Louisiana Derby (G2) romp in the slop. The Kentucky-bred has to be considered a huge threat under Gabriel Saez.
7. Papa Clem – Arkansas Derby (G2) winner Papa Clem is one of the many entries that began their career on the West Coast. Conditioned by Glen Stute, the fleet colt has very good early speed and showed that he can carry it a long way at Oaklawn Park most recently. The win contender has never been worse than second going two turns and retains West Coast king Rafael Bejarano for this journey. The dark bay is arguably the inside speed of the field, and Papa Clem may just clear this group leading into the first turn.
8. Mine that Bird – Mine That Bird was named Canadian champion two-year-old following wins in the Grey S. (Can-G3), Swynford S. and Silver Deputy S. at Woodbine, and he was sold to his current connections following those victories and is now based in New Mexico. Runner-up in the Borderland Derby two starts back, the colt exits a fourth in the Sunland Derby and will step up to face much steeper competition in the Kentucky Derby. He’s well-drawn in post eight, but Mine That Bird is a major outsider.
9. Join in the Dance – Todd Pletcher’s third entrant owns just one win to date, but Join in the Dance finished second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) and a decent fifth in the Blue Grass S. (G1). The Kentucky-bred has excellent early speed and should be prominently placed in the 20-horse contingent, but speed drew both to his inside and outside from the nine post. The colt is bred to be more of a miler and will need a career showing to put this group away in the lane at boxcar odds.
10. Regal Ransom – Regal Ransom upset stablemate Desert Party when capturing the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) last out and has trained forwardly at Churchill Downs for his U.S. return. Alan Garcia will retain the mount on the Saeed bin Suroor trainee, and the dark bay colt figures to show speed from the start. Regal Ransom is a threat to fill the pacesetter’s roleset , and he’ll be forwardly placed regardless. The 10-furlong distance will be a major test, but he’s an intriguing play for the exotics at long odds
11. Chocolate Candy – Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has thoroughly dominated the Northern California training ranks for more than two decades and would love nothing more than to make a big splash on the national scene with his best Derby contender to date, Chocolate Candy. The dark horse has never run a bad one at a route for and comes in off a strong runner-up effort in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Winner of the El Camino Real Derby (G3) two back, the long-striding sophomore has faced the best out West and held his own. Chocolate Candy must answer the dirt question as he’s never raced on anything but synthetic, but the late runner will pick up Derby-winning jockey Mike Smith and has been training well at Churchill. He could get involved in the stretch.
12. General Quarters – The Thomas McCarthy owned/trained three-year-old is the Cinderella Story of the 2009 Triple Crown campaign as he’s the lone horse in the 72-year-old former Louisville principal’s stable. General Quarters stamped himself as a contender with a much-the-best victory in the Blue Grass S. (G1) in his last, and he appears to be thriving at Churchill. The 10-furlong trip is a big question for the gelding who will surely be a square price, but he’s proven himself on different surfaces and General Quarters got a dream draw in the 12 hole. The red-hot Julien Leparoux will be in the saddle.
13. I Want Revenge – Wood Memorial S. (G1) hero overcame a horrible start and traffic in the lane to storm home at Aqueduct, his second straight impressive showing since switching to dirt for conditioner Jeff Mullins. I Want Revenge is the deserving morning-line favorite and is bred top and bottom to excel at this lengthy trip, and a repeat of his last pair will make him a prime threat in the Kentucky Derby. The 19-year-old Joe Talamo will guide his first Derby runner but if his previous handling of the colt is any indication, he’ll handle the bulky field with ease. I Want Revenge is well-placed in the “lucky” 13 post position.
14. Atomic Rain – By one of the top sires in America, Smart Strike, Atomic Rain finished fourth in the Wood Memorial S. (G1) prior to this event. The Kelly Breen trainee was second in the Remsen S. (G2) as a juvenile but hasn’t won since his second career start. The bay is bred to run all day, however, and the colt put in a solid work leading up to this contest. Joe Bravo will get his second lifetime Derby mount atop Atomic Rain, who will very likely have smooth sailing early in the last slot of the regular gate, post 14
15. Dunkirk – No unraced two-year-old has won the Kentucky Derby (G1) since the 19th century, but this gray is surely special and could be the one to break that streak for Pletcher, who is winless with 21 prior Derby runners. Produced from Kentucky Oaks (G1) stalwart Secret Status (A.P. Indy), Dunkirk has made eye-popping moves in all three of his starts, including a big second in the Florida Derby (G1) in his last. The colt drilled a solid five-eighths at Palm Meadows last week and if he likes the Churchill oval, the Kentucky-bred looms as a surefire threat under Edgar Prado, who piloted Barbaro to a record-setting win just three years ago. Dunkirk will be closing from off the pace.
16. Pioneer of the Nile – King of the West, Pioneerof the Nile has won four straight since joining the Baffert barn and seems poised for a big showing on Derby Day. Well-bred colt has posted low BRIS Speed numbers and has never run on anything but synthetic and turf, but he often does just enough to win and could move up in a big way in his dirt debut. If the impressive bay handles conventional dirt oval, Pioneerof the Nile should be placed in midpack early prior to kicking in late and challenging for a top placing. The Zayat homebred is a live contencer with Garrett Gomez in the irons from slot 16.
17. Summer Bird – Chestnut colt came out of nowhere to finish a big third in the Arkansas Derby (G2) off of a maiden score for conditioner Tim Ice, who just began training this year. Summer Bird has earned huge BRIS Late Pace ratings in each of his three tries to date and should have further improvement in him as a lightly raced sophomore. The Kentucky-bred in the same situation as Dunkirk as an unraced juvenile hoping to buck a 126-year trend, but he should be able to handle the ten-furlong trip as he’s out of a mare by Summer Squall. However, the unproven Summer Bird will have to do so from the 17 slot under Cliff Rosier.
18. Nowhere to Hide – Nowhere to Hide was a surprise late addition following the defection of several other contenders. The bay colt has finished fourth in all three stakes starts, and the maiden winner will face a tough class check in the Derby from post 18. He is trained by two-time Derby winner Nick Zito, but Nowhere to Hide will be one of the longest shots in the field.
19. Desert Party – Winner of the Sanford S. (G2) at two, Desert Party opened his three-year-old campaign with a pair of impressive victories in Dubai for Godolphin. He came up a half-length short as the favorite in the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2), but the Saeed bin Suroor-trained colt gained valuable fitness and has trained great since arriving in America. He’ll break from post 19 with new jockey Ramon Dominguez, and Desert Party will look to settle in midpack before offering his best. He’s an attractive 15-1 on the morning line.
20. Flying Private – D. Wayne Lukas trainee earned his way into the Derby field with a runner-up finish in the Lane’s End S. (G2), but Flying Private will need to improve off a fifth in the Blue Grass S. (G1) last time to challenge. He’s stuck on the far outside (post 20) with new jockey Robby Albarado, and the maiden winner doesn’t own good BRIS Speed ratings. Lukas is a four-time Derby winner, though, and he always merits respect in the Run for the Roses.
- Previews Above Courtesy of KentuckyDerby .com