This is the only blog I do annually (assuming you don't count 2013 as a year). In 2011, I correctly had the 20-1 Animal Kingdom as my winner, but in 2012 I told I'll Have Another that I went into the future, and back again, only to tell him he didn't win the Derby- even though he actually did.
This year I assume I'll revert to my once-awesome 2011 form- or my "back class" as it's known in horse racing parlance.
Post Position #1. Vicar's in Trouble Morning Line odds: 20-1
TR Slyder: You like to be near the front end of your races and you drew the rail in a field of 20 horses. No horse has gone wire to wire since..
Vicar's In Trouble: (interrupting) War Emblem in 1999, I know.
TR: Impressive! But what ought to make your trip even more difficult is that no horse was won...
VIT: (interrupting) From the rail since War Admiral in 1937? I've heard that factoid about 87 times in the last two days too. And let me guess, you're going to tell me that I'm now War Admiral?
TR: Actually no. No one confuses you for War Admiral, and I was going to say that you'd need the word "War" in your name to have much of a chance, despite your talent.
2. Harry's Holiday (50-1)
TR: What's it like having absolutely no chance in the Derby?
Harry's Holiday: You have no chance to win it either, so you tell me.
TR: Good point, I guess it's no so bad. Especially since I'll just be watching from my couch or maybe a bar at Arlington Park, you'll have to get all sweaty and have dirt kicked in your face and all that.
HH: Sounds like your Derby day will go a lot better than mine.
3. Uncle Sigh (30-1)
TR: The only races in which you've been competitive were when you had the lead (or were very near it) the entire way. You'll be wearing blinkers Saturday, which suggests you'll be sent to the lead immediately, and as we know, it's very difficult to win the Kentucky Derby wire to wire. Further complicating your chance of winning, is that the only race you've ever won was a 2013 maiden race. How do you like your chances?
Uncle Sigh: I am not going to win.
4. Danza (8-1)
TR: You went from a nobody to a very sexy pick very quickly. Prior to winning the Arkansas Derby and vaulting into the Derby mix, you had beaten a grand total of 7 horses who were not maidens. Then you went off at 40-1 in the Arkansas Derby, ran one of the best Derby preps of the year and smashed the field for fun. And to put a ribbon on the whole weekend, your last 8th of a mile was faster than Will Take Charge's final 8th of a mile on that track just 45 minutes earlier, which legitimized that race for many skeptical fans.
After that you shipped to Churchill Downs where you worked like a monster in the mornings, and become the darling of the workout-watching press. Now you're 8-1 in the Derby.
How are you feeling going into the Derby?
Danza: I feel great! I've loved working out Churchill and was surprised not every horse has taken to the track as well as I have. My inside draw isn't ideal, but it should ensure I don't get hung 6-wide going into the first turn. As long as I don't run to traffic problems, I expect to be passing horses down the stretch and looking for California Chrome and the wire.
TR: I'll be looking for you down the stretch as well, my man. Lastly, what was it like working with Danny Pintauro? I'm a huge fan of his work.
Danza: I'm not Tony Danza, I'm a horse who was named after him.
TR: Ohhhhhhh. Well, since I like your chances I'm still gonna keep saying, "I'm feeling Danza like I was Judith Light", even if it wasn't you she co-starred with.
Danza: Good luck getting that one to take off.
5. California Chrome (5/2)
TR: Well here you are: The bully on the block. The big dog with the big chain. The Derby Favorite. The horse everyone wants to see. The most likely triple crown winner from his class.
California Chrome: Uh, I guess so.
TR: ....The horse that can't be beaten. The freak of the crop.
CC: I get it.
TR: Oh. Are you sure? I had like 7 or 8 more superlatives prepared.
CC: Oh, I'm sure.
TR: A few years ago I learned via Urban Dictionary that "Alabama Chrome" is slang for duct tape. I keep trying to think what California Chrome would be under that logic. Like duct tape on a veggie pizza maybe? Or duct tape on your Quiksilver board shorts?
CC: Or how duct tape on your sunglasses that you're currently wearing backwards? Or when Guy Fieri is using duct tape instead of a belt again?
TR: Man, those were pretty good ideas for a three year old!
Anyway, In addition to Big Brown and Smarty Jones, you're one of the very few Derby favorites that no one seems to be able to confidently pick against. No one says, "I think horse X will beat California Chrome for these 3 reasons....", they just say, "Look, I know California Chrome is awesome, and I wouldn't be surprised if he wins, but I just can't bet a 5/2 favorite in a 20 horse field....". What do you thin are your flaws?
CC: Homesickness, is a biggie. This is my first time outside of California and dealing with the moisture in the track has been new to me. I don't want to be too close to the lead for fear the early pace will be suicidal as is it in most derbies, but I also don't want to be too far back and get stuck in traffic down the rail (while getting dirt kicked in my face).
TR: So are you guaranteeing a victory?
CC: Absolutely! Have you seen my last four races?
6. Samraat (15-1)
TR: All of your races seem to to the same: a field of 7 or 8 or horses in New York, you go to the lead against inferior competition where you run a half-mile in :48 and then you hold on at the end. Do you think you can enjoy a :48 half-mile in the Derby, like you had in your previous victories?
Samraat: Oh, no way. That's one of the main reasons I'll lose on Saturday. Not having everything my way will be new for me and will cost me my chance of winning, but I'm training well, so I just hope to have a clear lane down the stretch where I can pass some horses that aren't quite as fit as me.
TR: Do you expect to finish in the money?
S: Honestly? No.
7. We Miss Artie (50-1)
We Miss Artie: (interrupting) .....many turf writers think I'm not a Derby horse and don't even belong here?
TR: Ummmm, yeah that's actually what I was going to say.
WMA: Yeah, I'm in way over my head here. Don't bet on me even for your miracle/ longshot to clunk up for 4th in your Superfectas. Let me put it this way: You'll never see a horse named "We Miss We Miss Artie".
8. General a Rod (15-1)
TR: Most people don't want to give you a chance, simply because of your name and their strong dislike of Alex Rodriguez. Once they hear your name they subconsciously just say "ew" and want to change the subject.
General a Rod: by "Most people", I assume you mean, you?
TR: When you get right down to it, yes.
Anyway, you are one of the more polarizing horses in this race. Some people think your recent losses will have you under-the-radar and you're primed to run a big race, while others wonder if you have the talent to hit the board. How do you like your chances?
GaR: My grandpa won the Derby, and I'm versatile. I don't think I should be the favorite or anything, but I'm about as good as any of the second-tier horses and could present some value at 20-1.
9. Vinceremos (30-1)
TR: In 2009, one of the weakest Derbies in recent memory, your dad got run down in the homestretch by a 51-1 nobody.
6 years before that, your grandpa, Empire Maker, was the buzz-horse favorite and had to settle for second because he couldn't catch Funny Cide- the first gelding to ever win the Derby (for those new to the sport, a gelding is a horse whose had his testicles removed).
Neither your dad nor his dad could win the Derby, and they entered the race with high expectations. Why would I consider wagering on you, considering you've barely had any success at all?
Vinceremos: Because you are stupid.
TR: How dare you?
V: You just insulted me, my father and my father's father. That, and you'd have to be objectively stupid to bet on me with any confidence on Saturday.
TR: Good points.
10. Wildcat Red (15-1)
TR: You're another middle-tier horse that seems to polarize handicappers. You've been first or second in each of your seven races (including a Grade 1, 2 and 3) and you've never lost by more than a head.
Wildcat Red: But...
TR: But you've never been at odds higher than 9/2, you've never started outside of the 5 post, General a Rod appears to be the best horse you've ever faced, you've raced only in Florida, and the Derby will be longer- and faster- than any race you've ever been in.
Wildcat Red: All I can do is play the hand I'm dealt and race where I'm entered. I've raced 7 times and only two horses have beaten me- General a Rod being one of them. And trust me, I hate losing to anyone with "A Rod" in their name. Of all the horses to get beaten by.....
12. Dance With Fate (20-1)
TR: Your dad is Two Step Salsa, and your mom's name is Flirting With Fate, so they named you Dance With Fate. In my opinion, you're the best-named horse in the field.
Dance With Fate: Thanks, man.
TR: You are a little bit like Danza, in that you didn't get much Derby buzz until you freaked in your last race and forced yourself into the discussion about Derby contenders. The biggest concern with you is that your own trainer said you prefer a synthetic racing surface, and he didn't want to enter you in the Derby, before your owners intervened. What do you make of your chances?
DWF: I like my chances. If you watch my last few races, you can see my timing is much better. In some earlier races, I was making my move too early and didn't have the endurance to lead to the wire. But lately, I've been taking my time and starting my run at the top of the turn, as opposed to midway down the backstretch.
I've also worked out well over the track and I'm feeling good. I think I'm sitting on a good race and offer solid betting value.
13. Chitu (20-1)
TR: You strike me as the horse that leads this category: biggest disparity between your talent and how little time people have invested in studying you. I think when people hear your name they think, "He's the exact same as Midnight Hawk, who is a miler and not a Derby horse. Chitu will spring out to the lead then fade in the stretch or before.", forgetting that your maternal grandfather is AP Indy.
Chitu: I've always ran in smaller fields and been as speedy as any other horse, so I never really had to rate. But if I can rate here and get an ok trip, I ought to get a a jump on the deep closers and factor down the stretch at a price.
14. Medal Count (20-1)
TR: You're the buzz horse or the it-horse of this Derby.
Medal Count: Really? Even though my record on dirt is very weak and in my last three races I've lost to Dance With Fate, General a Rod and Wildcat Red? How does that work?
TR: Your trainer, Dale Romans, is talking as highly about you as almost any trainer I've ever heard on Derby week, and your impressive workouts seem to validate his confidence. From what I've read, you and Danza have had by far the best workouts of anyone in this field.
Medal Count: Much like Dale, I'm from Kentucky, so I'm feeling at home on this track and it shows in my works I guess. Everyone respects Dale and he's not the type to boast about a horse that isn't ready to fire. I guess I'm the archetypal horse for the derby handicapping conundrum: What's more important- past performances or current form over the surface.
TR: That's sooo weird you said that because that's exactly what I was thinking about you representing that school of thought!
Medal Count: Oh really? Is that why you wrote that down and asked me to read it verbatim so I could quote you?
15. Tapiture (8-1)
TR: My main man, Tapiture! A lot of people think you're the biggest buzz horse here.
Tapiture: No kidding? I didn't know that. Is it my breeding? Or my monster works in the morning? Or because I broke my maiden in a GRADE 2 RIGHT HERE AT CHURCHILL then won the Grade 2 Southwest Stakes in my next start?
TR: Sorry, I meant that as a joke. Your trainer Steve Asmussen just got (rightfully) lambasted for treating horses cruelly, including (but not limited to) using an electronic buzzer on horses. So when I said you're the buzz horse, I was making a play on words.
T: Ok, 1) that wasn't even a funny play on words, 2) Did you really think I'd get that joke? and, 3) That isn't even funny!
TR: Oh come on! It's not even funny for like, horse racing humor?
TR: I'm shocked. I mean, not like, Steve-Asmussen-trained-Maiden-4-Year-Old-Down-the-Stretch shocked, but still shocked nonetheless. I thought it was funny.
T: It wasn't
TR: Ok, we'll start over. You're the only horse to win a non-maiden at Churchill and your two losses have your supporters thinking you're going to be overlooked by the betting public. What do you think?
T: I think I round out the second-tier for some handicappers, who think I have a chance to hit the board. But really I'm bad value at 15/1 and I'm more of a third-tier horse. If you want a legit win horse around 12-to-20 to 1, I'm not your horse.
16. Intense Holiday (8-1)
TR: Most people don't give you a chance because your name sounds like Harry's Holiday, the #2 horse, who has no chance of winning the Derby. They hear "Intense Holiday" and they think, "Oh, he's a Harlan's Holiday, and he probably sucks like Harry's Holiday. Next."
Intense Holiday: by "Most People" do you mean you?
TR: Not anymore. I finally buckled down and distinguished you two earlier this week, but it was tough, honestly.
You seem to be peaking at the right time. Clearly, your best two races were your most recent two, where you didn't have everything your way and you had to battle a little bit before hitting the wire.
IH:The last two races prepared me well. I won't be overwhelmed by the traffic, or the bumping or the distance. Down the stretch I anticipate passing more horses down the stretch than pass me.
17. Commanding Curve (50-1)
TR: Hola. Habla espanol?
Commanding Curve: No, I speak English.
TR: Oh, lo siento Senor. Hablo solo espanol. Chao y buena fortuna en el Derby.
(Author's Note: I don't actually speak Spanish, but this horse has NO chance to win and I just didn't want to waste my time interviewing him).
18. Candy Boy (15-1)
TR: It seems like your stock has dropped the most in the past month. You used to have all kids of buzz until California Chrome beat you by 8+ lengths, and even Hoppertunity, who many feel was using that race as a Derby prep and enjoyed a hand-ride throughout, beat you by 3+ lengths.
Candy Boy: Right.... I mean it's like not like I was trying to lose or anything...
TR: I'm not done though. Now it seems like every discussion involving you sounds like this,
- Candy Boy has a chance. He has looked really sharp in his workouts
- So good that it looks like he can make up 9 lengths on California Chrome?
- Probably not, but you never know!
CB: The past is the past. I can control only the present and my works are good, and I'm feeling fit. If my Santa Anita Derby was an anomaly and I take a step forward here, would you be surprised if I hit the board?
TR: I mean, I guess I wouldn't be shocked.
CB: So would you agree I'm a second-tier horse with a shot?
TR: Yeah, I guess so.
19. Ride on Curlin (15-1)
TR: It seems like your connections are working on having you sit back and make your run later, as opposed to sending you earlier in some of your earlier races.
Ride on Curlin- Right. I'm more of a grinder. I have the stamina and the breeding, but I have yet to have a dream trip at anything past 6 Furlongs. With Borel on me at Churchill, I figure to get a ground-saving trip and I hope to have a running lane late at the end.
TR: What is the best you can finish, and what do you think your post time odds will be?
ROC: Third and 22/1
20. Wicked Strong (6-1)
TR: You join Dance With Fate and Danza as the horses to go from little or no Derby buzz, to first-tier-of-Derby-betting-favoritism in only one race. And you and Danza are the only two horses I've heard anyone proclaim will beat California Chrome- and all of this despite being in post position 20. My concern is that your big win, last time out, came when you were on the rail and got a ground-saving trip along the rail. This race will feature twice as many horses and you'll be all the way out in post 20.
Wicked Strong: That's a fair concern, and no horse in here is without concern of some sort. What I have in my favor is that I don't need the lead, the distance is of no concern and I'm peaking at the right time. No horse is going to win this without a little racing luck, it's a 20 horse field for God's sake (whatever "for God's sake" means), and if I get a little, I'll be there at the end running strong. Maybe even wicked strong.
21. Pablo Del Monte (50-1)
TR: So I guess you're in the race
Pablo Del Monte: Yeah, I guess I got in after Hoppertunity scratched and my connections took a while to make up their mind.
PDM: Not really. I haven't won in 2014, and the only races I won in 2013 were my first two- a maiden and an allowance. Other than that I've never finished better than third, or closer than 2.5 lengths from the winner.
And now for the part you will rightfully ignore, except possibly to look at after the race only to use to humiliate me later for being so impossibly wrong: My bets.
I think California Chrome is just a better racehorse than the rest of this at a 1 1/4 mile right now and if he runs 92% of his best race he can beat every other's 100% best. He could lose if he gets a poor start or has traffic issues- but I don't think he'll have a great start and trip only to be stared down by a superior animal.He's so good I just want to watch him run again- be it in the Kentucky Derby, or against some random horses in someone's backyard somewhere- he is just exciting to watch.
If your budget is $6 and you prefer low-risk: Bet $2 across the board (Win, Place, AND Show) on #5 California Chrome. If he wins you'll get back about $11.50 and can everyone you won.
If your budget is $13: $1 Exacta 5 with/ 1, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20.
If it hits you'll get back between $18 and $70.
If your budget is $30: $1 Exacta Box: 4, 5, 12, 16, 14, 20
Timothy S. Rogers- may be the horse be with you.
Tags: 2014 Kentucky Derby, California Chrome, Candy Boy, Chitu, Commanding Curve, Dance With Fate, Danza, General a Rod, Harry's Holiday, Horse Racing, Intense Holiday, Kentucky Derby, Medal Count, Ride on Curlin, Samraat, Tapiture, Uncle Sigh, Vicar's in Trouble, Vinceremos, We Miss Artie, Wicked Strong, Wildcat Red