04/28/2011 1:25PM

Kentucky Derby questions: Contenders without a prep win


Which horse hasn't won a prep race but can win the Derby?

Marcus Hersh“Can” win offers a lot of latitude, and given that, I’ll say Nehro, Master of Hounds, and Santiva.

Nehro has two straight strong second-place finishes, and he galloped out like a house afire after the Arkansas Derby. My feeling, however, is he is going to take much betting action and won’t offer a lot of value. He has come a long way in a short time, has run three straight good races, and could be headed for regression on the big day.

I have no special fondness for Master of Hounds, but he was quite good in the UAE Derby and was competitive in a Group 1 at Doncaster last year at 2. Given the state of North American 3-year-olds, the Derby may be ripe for an outsider.

Santiva was mentioned above as a horse with longshot potential. Again, I don’t love the horse, but put together his Kentucky Jockey Club from last fall and his Risen Star this spring, and one can make a minor case.

Nehro, the runner-up in the Louisiana and Arkansas derbies, obviously comes to mind. He was beaten a neck in each of those two starts and was finishing so strongly in the Arkansas Derby that he probably would have gotten up in another stride or two.

Shackleford, the Florida Derby runner-up, also fits. He nearly lasted in the Florida Derby before being caught in the closing strides by Dialed In. He also is proven over the Churchill strip, is training well locally, and is a winner at 1 1/8 miles.

Mike WelschThe obvious answer would be Nehro, who just missed in the Arkansas and Louisiana derbies and is peaking at the right time. His come-from-behind running style would also seem to be a plus in a Derby loaded with speed.


Recent history
Eleven Derby winners since 1980 have entered the race without a graded stakes win as a 3-year-old. Here are their 3-year-old races before they won the Derby.

2010 - Super Saver
Grade 3 Tampa Derby (3rd), Grade 1 Arkansas Derby (2nd)

2009 - Mine That Bird
Borderland Derby (2nd), Sunland Derby (4th)

2005 - Giacomo
Sham (3rd), Grade 2 San Felipe (2nd), Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby (4th)

2003 - Funny Cide
Grade 3 Holy Bull (5th), Grade 2 Louisiana Derby (2nd), Grade 1 Wood Memorial (2nd)

1998 - Real Quiet
Golden Gate Derby (8th), Grade 2 San Felipe (2nd), Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby (2nd)

1994 - Go for Gin
Preview (1st), Grade 2 Fountain of Youth (2nd), Grade 1 Florida Derby (4th), Grade 1 Wood Memorial (2nd)

1993 - Sea Hero
Grade 3 Palm Beach (9th), allowance (3rd), Grade 2 Blue Grass (4th)

1986 - Ferdinand
Los Feliz (2nd), Santa Catalina (1st), Grade 2 San Rafael (2nd), Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby (3rd)

1985 - Spend a Buck
Grade 2 Bay Shore (3rd), Cherry Hill Mile (1st), Garden State (1st)

1982 - Gato Del Sol
allowance (3rd), Grade 2 San Felipe (2nd), Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby (4th), Grade 1 Blue Grass (2nd)

1980 - Genuine Risk
allowance (1st), handicap (1st), Grade 1 Wood Memorial (3rd)

Next: Assessing slow speed figures »

• After Uncle Mo's disappointing third in the Wood Memorial, does he deserve another chance?
• Which horses are live longshots, and what should their approximate odds be?
• Which horse can't you wait to bet against?
• Which horse hasn't won a prep race but can win the Derby?
• Not one of the most recent major prep races produced a winning Beyer Speed Figure of 100. How does that change the way you will handicap the Derby?
• Which prep race is most likely to be misinterpreted?
• Among the surprising prep race winners, which one is for real?
• Who is the horse to beat?