Updated on 02/15/2013 9:43AM

Dick Jerardi: Kentucky Derby contenders have sketchy profiles


You know what would really help make this whole Kentucky Derby puzzle easier to understand – if the trainers of the contenders would actually run their horses. It is like trying to solve a mystery without knowing the characters.

The Derby is hard enough to bet, with a field larger than any of these horses have ever experienced or will ever experience again and a distance that is rarely run in America anymore.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

As I went over the history of the 23 individual betting interests in the first Derby future wager, I was struck by how little I knew about many of them. I admit to being surprised when I found out some were not trained by Todd Pletcher or Bob Baffert.

Bottom line, I don’t think the data reveals enough to have an informed opinion. Nearly half of the horses on the list have four or fewer starts. No wonder the public went for “all others’’ so strongly in the first Future Wager, making them 8-5, hoping the 2013 version of Animal Kingdom or Mine That Bird emerges from the shadows.

I know this is the state of the game, fewer starts and fewer clues. That doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.

It says something about the sport circa 2013 that a colt which did not race in 2012 and has not raced in a stakes race would be the individual leader in the betting at 11-1.

I was like everybody else when I watched Verrazano’s Jan. 1 debut – dazzled. It was easy, it was fast, it looked serious. The second start was all that and more, with a 105 Beyer that followed the 93 in the first race.

I like horses that win big as much as I like basketball teams that win blowouts. Anybody that tells you the teams that win close games are the right teams is clueless. If they were really good, the games would not be close. Same with horses.

Except for Affirmed and Zenyatta, horses so good that they could tease their opponents and win all those close races, I do not remember a great horse that did not win some races by huge margins.

So I like that Verrazano has won his two races by a combined 24 lengths. I like that he is running really fast. I would like it even more if I knew more about the hottest colt in the country, like how he might do if facing some adversity, like that a 20-horse field sometimes provides.

Itsmyluckyday is the exception to all the modern rules. The colt has actually run nine times. The first seven were interesting. The last two have been revelations. This is a very serious contender.

In contrast to this time last year where none of the major contenders were running fast, we actually have eight horses with triple-digit Beyers or the 2-year-old equivalent.

In addition to Verrazano and Itsmyluckyday, Revolutionary (102), Shanghai Bobby (100) and Super Ninety Nine (100) have already hit the magic mark. Given expected improvement from late November to mid-winter, I am including the top three from the Remsen on my list. Overanalyze and Normandy Invasion finished noses apart in that race and each got a 99. Delhomme was beaten by less than a length and got a 98.

None of the Remsen Three has started in 2013. We will get no more than two races out of any of them before the Derby, if any actually make the race.

Beyond the lack of racing, there is the injury issue that haunts the Triple Crown. I used to watch every prep race a few dozen times within days of the race. I don’t do that anymore because it’s a waste of valuable time. Too many of those seeming contenders disappear quickly into racing’s version of the Witness Protection Program.

So I watch once, make a few mental notes and wait to see which horses are actually still running by mid-April. Then, I pull a few all-nighters staring at a computer screen, arrive in Louisville with what I think is a decent idea and watch Giacomo run by Afleet Alex in the stretch.

In mid-February, this appears to be a pretty fast group. But it is also a group without enough history to feel confident about anything that might happen on the first Saturday in May.