Updated on 02/15/2013 10:43AM

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.

Ernest More than 1 year ago
Oxbow. He has a 910 Beyer (yep, that's nine hundred and ten!), according to the latest Kentucky Derty Top 20 Prospects. Mwahaha...
Don Reed More than 1 year ago
Note to headline writer:The word "Sketchy" is already worn out. Tomorrow morning, wake up in 2013.
michael stapler More than 1 year ago
Dynamic Sjy & Normandy Invasion UPSIDE
Robert Clayton More than 1 year ago
I think Delhomme is the most talented, but he needed to grow up a lot as he was very green last year and is a longshot now to even make the field.....Plus being by Dixie Union a mile and a quarter isn't exactly in his wheelhouse
Keith More than 1 year ago
The issue with a horse like Verrazano, of course is will he suffer from having done too much too early without the foundation? Obviously a horse with the foundation like Itsmyluckyday has a better chance of comnng back well off that Holy Bull Gulfstream Park track 8.5f distance setting run and run well enough again in his next endavor (The Florida Derby?) than does "beat up on just who Verrazzano" and didn't really need to do it with such 2nd out lifetime heroics winning by Secretariat Belmont type lengths in front of the field, Interesting that Pletcher is sending this one to one of the B grade preps next, the Tampa Bay Derby. Good luck on that deeper track surface recreating that last race style of win against well seasoned runners. Well, Bsffert got it out of Bodemeister well enought to garner second honors in two Triple Crown legs, but heck, he broke the horse doing it. So....? Keith L.
HorseRacingNut More than 1 year ago
Verrazano sire (More Than Ready) is one of my favorite TURF sires... for runners going no more han 1 mile, maybe 1 1/16. Regardless of the stamina on the bottom, can anyone point out a More Than Ready offspring who has been successful on dirt or turf at a distance of 9f or more?
prose More than 1 year ago
HRN, I can think of no More Than Readys who have excelled on dirt at 9 or 10 fs, but the game is in such a transition, and stamina has been so bred out of the American thoroughbred, that anything is possible at this point. And if anyone is going to break the 2 yo curse (not having had a start as a 2 yo) then it will be Pletcher, who has perfected the art of workouts, and has a horse dead fit coming into a race off a layoff.
charles b More than 1 year ago
As a bettor, I will not be betting any race where I don't have enough information on each horse. Years past I bet on Ferdinand, Sea Hero, Go For Gin and numerous other winners in the Triple Crown races. There was enough information to intelligently analyze a race and the competition. As has become the norm in recent years, trainers are giving their horses fewer starts prior to the derby.Okay by me, but I won't be betting .
Gintowin More than 1 year ago
With such a crapshoot and so much speed, maybe the Filly PURE FUN should run in the Derby and pull another Zenyatta-esque performance like she did in the latest version of the Hollywood Starlet Stakes. Have you ever seen a horse make up that much ground in 2.5 furlongs? WOWWWW! It took Zenyatta 4-5 furlongs. Pure Fun just explodes out of a cannon. It's like she's a Jet banking to the left as she does a fly-by on the talented field. link to the race: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvtEFTCKl_o Cheers
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
She'll have to run against males at least twice to make the field.
LUIS More than 1 year ago
Well. Invasor never wanted to be defeated; used to win by small margin but what a horse. never mentioned when talking about the best and he was.
Darrell Lerner More than 1 year ago
Not true. Of Invasor's 11 career wins, only once did he win by less than a length and only 4 times did he win by less than 2 lengths.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Your article and some comments here again bring to mind thoughts of writing the Derby for four year olds.