04/30/2015 11:40AM

Derby talk


This year's Kentucky Derby has quality and depth. Who can ask for anything more? 

I've broken down the contenders into four tiers.  Let's take a look:


I've broken this tier down into six strong win contenders. In order of preference, they are:


He has the "Apollo Curse" looming over his shoulder as a Derby entrant with no juvenile experience and the inside post might force his hand in the opening two furlongs. That being said, he's an undefeated colt with two wins at nine furlongs, a strong route pedigree, very fast races on his page and morning workouts that indicate he's retained his sharp form.
Yes, they came home slow in the Florida Derby, but that race turned into a 3 1/2-furlong sprint to the wire, a strong test of speed and stamina to be sure. He won that virtual match race against a quality horse in UPSTART and has had over a month to recuperate from that demanding effort. Is it too much too soon?  Perhaps, but I know I'm on a good horse that will offer decent odds.


If I like Materiality, it reasons that I should like Upstart as well. The New York-bred wasn't helped by the way the Florida Derby unfolded. He was forced all-in entering the far turn against Materiality, a horse that was cranked up to the gills simply because the late-bloomer needed Derby points in order to reach Churchill Downs.
Upstart's tactical gear should work in his favor. He doesn't need the lead and can settle outside in midpack behind what projects to be a strong pace. He drew outside AMERICAN PHAROAH and Jose Ortiz will probably shadow that one's movements throughout. He missed a few days of training due to sickness a couple of weeks ago, and that s always a concern, but the price will be right on a horse that is certainly fast enough to win this race.


What a classy horse. Undefeated from six starts, the son of Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown has basically done it all. He's won at Churchill Downs, has won from on the lead, has won from midpack and from a pace-pressing position. He's displayed brilliance at times and has also had to dig deep into his well of courage to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. He is a massive physical specimen, a colt with the body type that suggests extra distance is his friend.
I didn't like the way he was a bit late to make his final lead change in a weak edition of the Santa Anita Derby, but that seems like nitpicking. He's hard to fault, especially with Bob Baffert in his corner.


Last year's 2-year-old champion has received rave reviews this week from opposing horsemen and his two victories this year couldn't have been any easier.
In the Rebel, he overcame a sloppy track and an awkward beginning, but it must be noted that he got away with murder on an easy lead before showcasing eyecatching acceleration in the stretch.
In the Arkansas Derby, he proved that he could sit behind another horse before being roused for his best. He boasts a push-button turn of foot that the others might not have at their disposal.
He's the one to beat, but his pedigree doesn't exactly scream 10 furlongs and he might chase a faster pace than he's used to. Obviously a major danger.


In the Fountain of Youth, Frosted was coasting on the lead turning for home, It wasn't a question whether he'd win, but by how far. Then, he stopped on a dime. It was a disastrous race for the Tapit colt.
After the Fountain of Youth, he underwent surgery to correct a breathing problem and was entered in the Wood Memorial. Swinging into the stretch of the Wood, Frosted was under a confident hand ride. Here was the moment of truth. Would he finish it off?  He did, and did so nicely under only hands-and-heels encouragement. In the Wood Memorial, Frosted finally realized his immense potential. He would benefit greatly from a fast pace and looks to be coming into his own at the right time.


He's the x-factor in this year's Derby. He won the UAE Derby easily over a field of distance- and class-challenged runners and will face the toughest test of his career in the Kentucky Derby. I'm concerned that the pace will be faster than anything he's faced in his career and he could be much farther back than usual. Still, there's no denying that this horse has some ability and distance should be his friend.



Might have moved a bit prematurely when wide in the Wood Memorial, but was no match for Frosted when that one came calling in the stretch. Still, that was his first race with blinkers on a fast track and he displayed improved tactical speed and ability.
If you believe the pace will collapse in the Derby, Tencendur might be able to grab a piece. That triple-digit Beyer earned in the Wood Memorial indicates he has enough ability to crack the board at a price.

9 - BOLO

I'm not sure if 10 furlongs on dirt is Bolo's game. He might be more of a turf miler. He seemed to get a little tired at the end of the San Felipe, his first start on dirt, and just never got involved in the Santa Anita Derby.
From a pure ability standpoint, I think this horse fits. Whether that ability manifests itself more on grass down the road is the major question. Perhaps he can revert to that 101 Beyer from the San Felipe as he makes the third start of the form cycle.


Thoroughly likeable blue-collar colt can do it all. He's won sprinting on turf, routing on polytrack and swept the three-race prep series in New Orleans over the winter on dirt.
He's agile and fearless as displayed by the way he rode the rail in his last two races. It's quite possible that he has the right running style for this race, but he's still a bit goofy with his lead changes. He might have to do everything perfectly to beat a field of this quality.


Like Materiality, Stanford has two recent nine-furlong races under his belt. He displayed good speed in both of those heats, but has won twice from off the pace and that versatility gives his rider plenty of options leaving the starting gate.
I like his pedigree, and the way he galloped out after the Louisiana Derby makes me think that he'll handle 10 furlongs. Is he good enough to win?  He'll need to improve off his best races, but is trending the right way and shouldn't be ignored from an exotics standpoint.



Exploded to beat a terrible field in the Sunland Derby last time out and gave Dortmund and MR. Z. fits in the Los Alamitos Futurity last year.
I still can't get over the way Dortmund battled back to beat him in the Robert B. Lewis, however. It sure looked like Firing Line had Dortmund's number, but he couldn't seal the deal despite opening up a length advantage in the stretch.
He has the speed to be close to the pace, but if others decide to burn up front, it could cause some late stamina issues.


A bit of an underachiever at Fair Grounds over the winter, but perhaps the removal of blinkers will spark a career-best performance for shrewd connections.
He paired up Beyer tops in his last two race, often an indicator of immediate improvement, but he's going to need to really step it up against this strong field.


Perhaps the most polarizing horse in the race. He's done nothing wrong in his career and has looked professional and strong in both races in 2015. Sure, those races haven't been as fast as some of the others, but you get the feeling we haven't seen Carpe Diem's best run yet.
The inside post position is a worry as he can get keyed up heading to the post. If he hesitates in the slightest, he could be behind the eight ball in terms of traffic issues. He's a quality horse that can certainly win, but make sure you get your price.


Proven over the track, this former front-runner has transformed into a late-kicker over his last few races.
I didn't think he got the best trip in the Wood Memorial as he was taken back to last in a paceless race and simply had too much to do when the real running began. He can be a bit more forward if need be and Borel fits him like a glove.
The problem with having Calvin riding your Derby mount is that it basically assures underlay status.


Late puncher took advantage of Mr. Z's nutty antics to win the Smarty Jones, and then received a wonderful ride from Mike Smith to take the Southwest. To be fair, he deserved some luck after the rotten trip he received in the Delta Jackpot.
The outside post shouldn't affect him as he's going to be taken well back anyway. There's no reason why he can't be the Commanding Curve or Golden Soul of this year's Derby, but a win could be just out of reach.



He's been the darling of the clockers all winter, but has yet to really put it all together in the afternoon. He was no match for Carpe Diem in the Tampa Bay Derby and the Blue Grass, but seems to be slowly improving for Mark Casse. On paper, he's a bit too slow to win the Derby.


His career-defining win came in the Delta Jackpot, a race in which he got a perfect journey while the second- and third-finishers were stymied by a wide trip and traffic trouble, respectively. He was very late to make his final lead change when no match for Carpe Diem and Danzig Moon in the Blue Grass, and now must deal with the very difficult inside post position.


Doesn't have much speed at all and will need several things to go his way in order to win the Derby. First, he'll need a fast pace. Then, he must avoid traffic or an extremely wide trip. Next, he'll need to improve greatly while his main competition regresses. Like Far Right, he has the Commanding Curve/Golden Soul running profile with a prior victory at Churchill Downs on display.

17 - MR. Z

Hard-luck colt can be his own worst enemy as evidenced by bolting when on his way to a sure victory in the Smarty Jones and by drifting out considerably in the Los Alamitos Futurity. He tried American Pharoah on the turn of the Arkansas Derby, but was quickly rebuffed by his more-heralded stablemate. He has some early speed, but doesn't act like 10 furlongs will be his friend.


Big win came via disqualification in the Fountain of Youth and he didn't do much running in the Florida Derby. He seems like a grinding sort and I've compared him with a horse like Commissioner as one that might do well in a race like the Belmont Stakes. Right now, he doesn't have that burst of speed that often wins races like the Derby.


Don't think he ran badly in the Blue Grass as he was stuck on a dead rail while in midpack. He's moved forward in blinkers, but this seems like too tough an ask if he does break in from the also-eligible list.


Maiden winner at 9 1/2 furlongs won't have an issue with distance. He's just not good enough.

As for the Oaks, I'm not going to get too cute. I like STELLAR WIND and I'M A CHATTERBOX with a lean towards the latter for win purposes.

Best of luck in the Derby!


For those of you beginning to come down with a dose of Kentucky Derby fever, I've posted the lifetime past performances of the last 22 winners. Let me know if you find any interesting patterns.


Annie and SR Vegas have compiled a second updated version of "The 2015 MKB Book of Kentucky Derby Prospects." I have attached it to the bottom of this blog post. Enjoy!


You can follow me on Twitter @DRF_DanIllman.

Remember to tune in to DRF LIVE's streaming coverage of Derby week at Churchill Downs. I'll be on with Mike Watchmaker, Jim Dunleavy and Eric Wing beginning at 10am ET on Friday and Saturday to handicap the Oaks and Derby cards through the big races.


Congrats to joecem for finishing first in the most recent HandiGambling tournament.

Our next HG will be the Kentucky Derby. The HG will consist of the Kentucky Derby and you can also play the Oaks/Derby Double. Just remember the $100 Bankroll. Also, The HG rules do apply and will follow Derby Wagering Menu. .50 trifectas minimums and $1.00 Superfecta Minimums.

Rick M's scoresheet is available at the bottom of this blog post.


SR Vegas and Rick M. have graciously decided to streamline all of the HG rules in order to make them an easier read for everyone...

With so many new people attending Dan's Formblog we thought it would be a good time to update the Handigambling Guidelines and Rules as we go forward in 2014.

Let's remember WHY we began the HandiGambling races in the first place. The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses and why we're betting them the way we are. We are not asking for a novel but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.


-  Please start your post with  HG or HANDIGAMBLING to better recognize and find your entry.

-  You have a mythical $100 to wager in whatever format you choose and that is available for that HG race.
Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.

- Post your WAGER and ANALYSIS to the blog WITH YOUR NAME/OR MONIKER AT THE END OF THE POST.  Remember that posts may start as 'anonymous' or an 'alternate name'. You MUST sign yourself at the end (even if it is the same) This enables the scorekeeper to recognize you .

- (1) ONE ENTRY per person for the Handigambling contest. If you have multiple email addresses, use just ONE for contest purposes.  Multiple entries will be cause for disqualification.

- Separate your analysis from the wager and use the horses # in your wager. Just like you would do in a real wager. No horse names.

-In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. Dan reserves the right to approve or deny any entries.

- The winner will receive a "60-Card Quarterly Formulator Past Performance Plan"

As an example :

HG 2014
The speed in this race goes to  horses # 1, 4 ,6 ..Ennie , Meenie, and Mo
Since it's a sprint I don't see any closers catching them.. like # 9 Miney.
I think trainer Groucho with the #6 Mo has the best stats in this condition, route to sprint.. just a gut feeling at large odds ML 20-1

HG wager
50$ Ex box 1-6
total $100

Thanks Dan!




2015 MKB Bio Document 3 31 15.pdf459.01 KB
Copy of Formblog Miami Mile 4-25-15.xls76 KB
HGDERBY.pdf229.13 KB
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MKB UPDATE: A couple of MKBs will run in the Peter Pan this weekend: SR VEGAS' Madefromlucky ELWOOD BLUZE'S Tiz Shea D Good luck to you both! Annie
Steven More than 1 year ago
FASTEST 10F DIRT RACES 1:57/4 Spectacular Bid (Santa Anita) 1:58/0 Game On Dude (Santa Anita) 1:58/1 Quack (Hollywood Park) (3 year old) 1:58/1 In Excess (Belmont) 1:58/2 Noor (Golden Gate) (first to break 1:59, 1950) 1:58/2 Greinton (Hollywood Park) 1:58/3 Swaps (Hollywood Park) 1:58/3 Round Table (Hollywood Park) 1:58/3 Affirmed (Santa Anita) 1:58/4 Native Diver (Hollywood Park) 1:58/4 Pleasant Tap (Belmont) 1:58/4 Skip Away (Belmont) 1:58/4 Martial Law (Santa Anita) 1:58/4 Go West Young Man (Hollywood Park) 1:58/4 Pay Tribute (Hollywood Park) 1:58/4 Figonero (Hollywood Park) 1:59/0 Ghostzapper (Lone Star) 1:59/0 Skip Away (Hollywood Park) 1:59/0 Best Pal (Santa Anita)
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
Mike A I assume(uh oh, you know what they say about that!) you are more eyes on the individual horse and how they stack up against who they have run against and over what courses than a "numbers" guy, but here goes: My main tool is, and has almost always been, speed handicapping. For the dozen or so tracks I follow, I use the previous meet's final times in each class to establish a par for each maiden, claiming, and allowance and stakes levels, discarding the extreme outliers (exceedingly slow and fast races.) Projecting how a horse will run following a big or non effort visually, for me at least, has led me astray more often than not. Your methods, particularly what you see and your insistence on proper odds, makes my Irish skin green with envy. Am I a big winner yet? Hardly, but the last few years of doing what I'm doing has improved my bottom line, and my biggest problem is not passing races I have no business investing in, something I obviously need to do, and as I stated, you have a better grasp of than I. Chris Lowe
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Annie, Thanks, I had noted his success, but not any future plans. More power to the Ancient Ones Stable horses. Best Regards - Bernard Downes
Sinatra Jeter More than 1 year ago
Van Savant I do know that Dan put me in my place one time, unbeknowest to many on the forum. My comment should have had an :) but what I write simply has no humor. People rarely laugh at what I say to them in person even if I choose my words carefully. Turf Ruler
VanSavant More than 1 year ago
TurfRuler; There is no way that there were "haters coming out of the woodwork whenever a Zayat would post on this forum". That is simply not true. Justin Zayat did post here, I recall that clearly. And I think what you are referring to is that tinky made a couple of statements about some things that Justin had written, and there may have been a minor dust-up, but it all was really much about nothing. But there were no "haters". No chance. Dan doesn't let that nonsense go on, and you know that. Later gator vs
mike turfmonstr More than 1 year ago
International Star does have a bone chip in his ankle, but it doesn't hamper his running at 100%...it's a hairline fracture in a front knee that will keep him out 2-3 months.....too bad Chris Lowe......just curious, when you evaluate the track for below, par or above par do you use the races alone or do you actually look at the horses who are doing the running and what they've been able to do previously.......at the track you are looking at and other tracks they've run on?....Mike A
mike turfmonstr More than 1 year ago
YFL, OK now that I got that of my chest.....I will look at the replay and the chart......as I said yesterday if there is anything there I'll see it......the final quarter was slow for everyone even the winner considering the fractions up to a mile......what I was getting at yesterday was no one ran that well at the distance, but the surprising thing is that with more than a few with a decent turn of foot between 1 mile and 1 1/8th there really wasn't any big moves.......if you are correct about Frosted made up 8 lengths in that quarter.....but couldn't sustain that run......moving from a 23:1 to a 26 and change means you are backing out quickly.....Let me look at the race and we'll see....Mike A
mike turfmonstr More than 1 year ago
YFL, Ahhh you didn't read the whole post where I said I haven't looked at the chart or replay yet......I didn't focus on Frosted during the race......didn't like him didn't care.....I do know what a middle move is...in fact I know a bit more about how a horse runs than most., (but obviously not you.).both good and bad.....If you like Frosted keep betting him.....that's the ticket...."I obviously don't know what a middle move is"......good grief...Was that comment so you could hear yourself talking? Mike A
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
" Congratulations to the Zayat's for finally getting a derby winner in American Pharaoh. It seems as though formbloggers are having a hard time with the owners of this derby winner, of course I'm going back a few years when there were haters coming out of the woodwork whenever a Zayat posted on this forum." I thought the only Zayat that ever posted on the blog was *Justin* ( I could be wrong ) and that he stopped posting in 2009-2010 because of the comments about Kent Desormeaux. ( who was one of the riders for the stable ) I remember the Stable Manager also posted from time to time ( usually when they had a 1st time starter going out ) but he stopped around the same time. Btw, are you saying that formbloggers who took a stand against AP did so only because of there so-called *Disdain* for the Zayat's or are you saying when it comes to offering there congratulations to the stable for there Derby win or is it both? AK47