By Kevin Martin
This year is the first time that colts making the field in the Kentucky Derby qualified under a new points system. In years past, colts qualified based on graded stakes earnings. A total of thirty-six races, with the first coming last year, gave aspiring Derby starters an opportunity to accumulate points towards an entry into America’s greatest horse race.
Most would agree that the new points system, while not quite perfect, is better than the old Derby qualifying system. The best evidence for its success can be found in the strength of this year’s field. The twenty starters are comprised of colts with experience running against classy competition at distances that best prepare them for the mile-and-a-quarter distance of the Kentucky Derby.
Here is a look at the major contenders and a few other colts to consider when making your pick for this year’s Derby:
The Major Contenders:
The colt is undefeated in four career starts and has sustained his position near the top of the 3-year-old rankings for much of the year. He won his debut on January 1st and served notice to the racing world with a dominating sixteen length romp in his second career race in February. Since then, he has won the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood Memorial. He will be a short price and the possible post-time favorite on Derby day.
The winner of four straight races dating back to last November he won the Florida Derby in his most recent race where he beat Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby, two accomplished colts. He is a versatile runner who does his best running in the stretch, a necessary attribute to win the Kentucky Derby. From his human connections to his stellar breeding, Orb is class from top to bottom and will be among the deserving favorites on Saturday.
The winner of the Santa Anita Derby with a lifetime record of four wins from six career starts. The Santa Anita Derby is the same race won by last year’s Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another. Of all the major preps leading to the Kentucky Derby, the Santa Anita Derby ranked the fastest. He is a colt that will likely be on or close to the lead from the start but the big question is will he be capable of maintaining his speed for the Derby distance of a mile-and-a-quarter.
How I’d Bet $100 On The Kentucky Derby
The gutty winner of the Louisiana Derby is currently riding a three race win streak that dates back to his first career win last December. He showed maturity beyond his years in winning the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct – his first race of 2013 – when he fought through traffic and ran in tight quarters between two horses on his way to victory. The crowded fourteen horse field in his last start, the Louisiana Derby, made it a fitting dress rehearsal for the twenty horse Kentucky Derby. Revolutionary will get the services of three-time Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel.
Colts to Consider:
The annual wiseguy colt has many pundits predicting a coming out party for him in the Derby. He nearly caught major contender Verrazano while finishing second in the Wood Memorial. He has yet to win a graded stakes race but, according to those on the ground in Louisville, he has been a stand out in his workouts over the Churchill Downs surface this past week.
He ran two impressive races at Gulfstream Park in his first two starts of the year. In the Florida Derby, his most recent start, he regressed when finishing second, giving up a clear lead in the stretch to the previously mentioned Orb. If he circles back to the form he showed earlier this year, he has a chance to wear the roses and reward his backers well.
He closed from far off the pace to win the Bluegrass Stakes in his final start before the Kentucky Derby. He finished second just three lengths behind Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby but his running style makes him tough to figure in the Derby. With a twenty horse field carving out a clean trip can be difficult but he certainly has the talent should he get the necessary racing luck.
If you have your sights set on betting a colt not mentioned here, chances are you will be paid well for that opinion should he win.
Good luck and enjoy the race!
If you’d like a full rundown of all the Derby colts and some tips on how to play the big race, check out Hello Race Fans.
Kevin Martin is the founder of the thoroughbred racing history site Colin’s Ghost and a contributing editor at Hello Race Fans.