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Analyzing the Kentucky Derby Contenders

Date: 04/26/2005

This year we thought we would do something a bit different and give out picks for the Kentucky Derby. These could change based on who works well at Churchill Downs or any injuries that may occur. If you want our traditional analysis using the historical trends for 20 of the top contenders, check here. Using both of these may give you some additional insights when making your own selections. First are my own picks then my husband, Terence Dulay. These are our picks for possible winners only. There are many of the contenders who are capable of running in the money who should be considered for the exotics.

See who everyone else has picked and add your opinion:
Kentucky Derby Poll
Who will win the Kentucky Derby?

A.P. Warrior
Bluegrass Cat
Bob and John
Brother Derek
Cause to Believe
Deputy Glitters
Flashy Bull
Keyed Entry
Lawyer Ron
Point Determined
Private Vow
Seaside Retreat
Sharp Humor
Showing Up
Sinister Minister
Storm Treasure

Cindy:   I tend to make my Derby selections from watching the preps, studying the past performances, and looking at the pedigrees. While I consider the "profile" of a Derby winner to see if I missed someone, generally I will rely on my own thoughts when picking my winner. Most of my picks will probably be lower odds, but I think it will probably be a horse less than 10-1 to win this year. There are several who are good enough to be bet down that much and no reason to believe it won't be one of them to win. Any longshots will likely be in the exotic bets this year.

Afleet Alex
Afleet Alex: I have felt that Afleet Alex was the one to beat in the Kentucky Derby since the Breeders' Cup last year. He didn't win which means the Juvenile Jinx won't affect him, plus he has only ever run one bad race and they found he was sick at the time. His Beyer figures are consistent with four at 99 or higher. He is a dual qualifier, although that angle hasn't been very productive recently, and he has a nice running style for the race. I really liked the way he looked winning the Arkansas Derby and his workout on 4/26 at Churchill Downs was excellent.

Bellamy Road: How can you not like him after that win in the Wood Memorial? He has several things that concern me such as lack of enough preps and the big Beyer jump last out that could lead to a bounce. I will like him more if he impresses me while training at Churchill Downs over the next week. He definitely has the breeding to get the distance and Zito is red hot this year, so a win would not surprise me.

Bandini: All four of his races this year have been good, with his best coming last out in the Blue Grass. He has shown steady increase in his Beyer figures and has good tactical speed so he won't have to come from too far back. He is sired by Derby winner and has several others in his pedigree, including Northern Dancer on both sides. Pletcher isn't as hot as Zito, but he is certainly no slouch as a trainer either. His top Beyer is a bit lower than the first two, but if he keeps increasing like he has, the next should be a nice peak. He has worked well at Keeneland, so hopefully he will do the same at Churchill Downs.

High Fly: He is very hard to pick against as he has yet to run a bad race, losing only once when 3rd in the Holy Bull. He also has a nice Dosage profile with a huge peak of 20 in the middle for excellent stamina. There are a few of things about him that make him my shakiest pick. I hate that he will have such a long layoff before the Kentucky Derby. This has not been a good strategy for many years and could work against him. His Beyer figures are very consistent, ranging from 95-102, which are good but he hasn't really shown any increase which he will have to have to win the Derby. He also has had two works at Churchill Downs already and they were very lackluster with a 1:06 3/5 for 5 furlongs and 51 3/5 for 4 furlongs. He will have to improve on this a lot to have a real chance on Derby day, but Zito is red hot and might just be holding some cards up his sleeve.

Terence:   The Kentucky Derby is by far the toughest betting assignment of the year, with as many as 20 horses entering the gate, many of which are closely matched. Of the horses expected to enter, I used the "profile" of a Derby winner to narrow down the field to the following four contenders. I then ordered them based on value line. In this race, despite favorites winning in 2000 and 2004, you still want to look for mid-priced horses who were suddenly overlooked by the betting public. The best horse on paper will likely be the most overbet horse on the board. And like in any horse race, the best horse on paper does not always win, or even hit the board.

Greeley's Galaxy: Since he would be a late nomination into the Triple Crown, he would be first to be bumped out of the field. However, if he does make the field in Louisville, he would be a logical contender. Reminiscent of 2002 Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem, he is coming out of the Illinois Derby with a commanding 9 1/2 length win yielding a DRF speed figure (speed rating added to the track variant) of 118, a very positive angle indeed. He should go off at long odds in a race where value is to be searched out.

Afleet Alex: The top choice in our angle analysis, this colt has everything going for him. A sharp workout on April 26 at Churchill Downs verifies that he is ready to fire yet again. His 8-length win in the Arkansas Derby rated a 108 Beyer and a 110 DRF figure, and his stalking style may be a positive in Louisville, as both 2003 winner Funny Cide and 2004 winner Smarty Jones raced similarly. Keep an eye on the toteboard as post time approaches. If Bellamy Road and Bandini are overbet, as we expect they will be, Afleet Alex will be a clear overlay.

Bandini: His Blue Grass win by 6 lengths appears to be too slow, if only the raw time of 1:50 and the speed figures derived from that time are considered. However, he raced four wide and came from a stalking position over a track which historically favors inside speed, and which was slower due to moisture from the previous race day, despite the officially "fast" track condition. He generally stalks the pace and has shown steady progress, and Todd Pletcher generally assigns John Velazquez to his best horses. This potent trainer-jockey combination may finally enter the Churchill winner's circle.

Bellamy Road
Bellamy Road: Even more reminiscent of War Emblem is this guy, slamming home a 120 Beyer in his final prep, a commanding 17 1/2 length laugher in the Wood Memorial. He may win, with that Beyer figure towering over the rest of the field, but on the other hand, his front-running style is not favorable in the Derby and he could easily be drawn into a speed duel or simply not fire, bouncing off that peak effort. Owner Michael Tabor is expected to enter Spanish Chestnut to set an honest pace for Bandini, with Bellamy Road his prime target. I ranked him this low simply because he will be overbet and will go off at odds much too low given the large field and the pace pressure he will encounter.

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