04/21/2010 12:00AM

Eskendereya can adapt to fast pace


PHILADELPHIA - Rule. Sidney's Candy. Line of David. Conveyance. American Lion. Super Saver. Eightyfiveinafifty?

I don't remember this many quality speed horses pointing to the Kentucky Derby at this stage. I had been thinking this for a while, but if you put all those horses in a starting gate, it is hard to imagine a scenario that does not include a meltdown.

Randy Moss explains the specifics in his . What I know is there are a lot of 1's in the past performances.

I am not sure which of these colts are need-the-lead and which are want-the-lead, but I do know I could not bet any of them to win if all of them are in the race. In fact, one could make a reasonable case to get them all out of the superfecta. That final 440 yards of the Derby are unforgiving under the best of circumstances, and these would not be the best of circumstances for a speed horse.

And just imagine if Eightyfiveinafifty wins the Derby Trial and is entered in the Derby. As Moss suggested, we really could be looking at 2001 when they went 22.25 seconds, 44.86, and 1:09.25.

The track was crazy fast that day, which contributed to the really fast fractions and Monarchos's winning time of 1:59.97.

It also is true that the top four after a quarter-mile finished 13th, 14th, 16th, and 11th. Millenium Wind (11th) was 9-1. Balto Star (14th) was 8-1. It was not like all of those horses were hopeless longshots on paper.

Sidney's Candy's accomplishments are obvious. This is a really talented colt. He will attract major attention at the windows. But how will the colt deal with a really hot, contested pace in his first start on dirt? And if they try to take the colt back off the pace, will he run anything like he has been running?

If you are game enough to toss all the speed horses, you will be throwing out the winners of the Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby, Illinois Derby, San Felipe, San Vicente, Sam Davis, Delta Jackpot, Southwest Stakes, San Rafael, Hollywood Prevue, and Kentucky Jockey Club.

That is being pretty game. This really is quite an accomplished group of speed horses.

Post positions will matter as will jockey and trainer intentions. Some will react to all the other speed and take back. One or two brave riders may decide to become the speed of the speed and then watch how fast they go.

The race within the race will be fascinating and will have a huge effect on the outcome.

In a recent pace-fig blog post, Moss asked a great question about certain favorite Eskendereya. What happens if the colt is 10 lengths off the pace instead of just off the pace?

Eskendereya stalked moderate paces in his overwhelming Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial wins. After using so little energy to stay in the race, he blew by the front-runner and won both races with complete ease.

Well, I think Eskendereya is going to be 10 lengths off the Derby pace. What Todd Pletcher will want to see is a comfortable colt going say around 48 seconds for the first half-mile. If the leaders are 10 or more lengths in front, it really should not be a big deal. The front-runners are coming back if they are going so fast as to be that far ahead.

What Pletcher will not want to see is the favorite in a crowd near the rail as they hit the backstretch. That could be an issue for a colt who has been able to sit great trips in his two stakes wins.

So, post position could be really important for Eskendereya. I would think outside would be preferable to inside.

That is precisely why I thought No. 20 was no big deal for Big Brown in 2008. The Rick Dutrow-trained colt had some of the same issues as Eskendereya going into the Derby.

What would happen if Big Brown got too far behind? What if he was in traffic?

Well, the pace was moderate that year, and Big Brown was sixth after a half-mile. The post took care of the traffic. Big Brown never had a horse outside of him until the pony caught up to him in the gallop out.

This Derby really does remind me of the 2008 Derby. If only Pletcher was as confident as Dutrow. Well, he may be as confident. He just won't say it in the same colorful way.

Lookin At Lucky is more accomplished than anything that ran against Big Brown, but Bob Baffert's colt has not hit 100 on the Beyer Speed Figure scale. The 98 in the Rebel, his only dirt start, was promising, so you have to think a triple-digit Beyer is there.

Still, it is hard to be confident of any horse other than Eskendereya, with his Beyers of 106 and 109 in his last two starts. There is that, and there is all the speed that will be in front of the favorite.

I think it is much more likely that Eskendereya will benefit from the pace than be compromised by it. The colt has not shown a move in his races, but he hasn't had to, at least not so far.

When the front-runners begin to back up on the far turn, Eskendereya may look like he is moving faster than he actually is. Collapsing horses can create an illusion. I do not think Eskendereya's last two races were an illusion. They looked plenty real to me.

It might be a different trip in the Derby, but the really good horses fire regardless of the situation. We are about to find out if Eskendereya is a really good horse.