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Analyzing the Kentucky Derby Contenders

Date: 05/1/2006

Like last year, we thought we would do something a bit different and give out picks for the Kentucky Derby. These could change based on post positions 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 selecting my winner. This year is a tough Derby for me to pick. It is easier to say who I don't think will win than to say who will win. Since the post positions haven't been drawn yet, that will obviously influence my final picks, but here are my top four horses for this year's Kentucky Derby.

Sweetnorthernsaint - The only thing I don't like about him is that he tends to run out front and there is a ton of speed this year that could burn him out early. Other than that, he has done everything right to be considered a possible Derby winner. He has the speed to win with four straight 100+ Beyer figures and he has tossed out three straight bullet works including one at Churchill Downs.

Brother Derek - I have the same problem with him that I have with Sweetnorthernsaint since he is another front runner. If he is really as good as he looked in California, he can win but his works haven't been as good as I would like. I know one of them they deliberately kept him behind another horse to get him used to dirt in the face, so perhaps they will try to rate him in the Derby. He did win his maiden race rallying from 6th, so maybe he can make the change here.

Point Determined - This one may just be peaking at the right time for the Derby. He improved in his last two races and definitely has the breeding for the distance. 2 of his last 3 works are bullets and the other was 3rd best of the day, so he is definitely sharp. He also likes to stalk the pace so could be in the right spot to pass the tiring speedsters in the stretch.

Steppenwolfer - Can a gray longshot rally from way back to win the Derby again this year? He hasn't gone fast enough yet to win, but then neither had Giacomo last year. He will come late and if the speed all burns out, he could be the one to pick up the pieces. While I don't have much confidence in him, he is worth a small wager anyway. Jazil would be another to consider this way, but I like Steppenwolfer better.

Terence:   The Kentucky Derby is by far the toughest betting assignment of the year, and like last year, a full field of 20 is expected to go on Saturday. 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, giving preference to closers over wire types. With so many of the top contenders being front-runners, a very fast pace is expected and this should set it up for a closer.

Cause to Believe
Cause to Believe may be an outsider to many, but he ranked high in our angles analysis and has the advantage of being a closer. With so many speedsters expected to go off at short prices, the race should set up for a come-from-behind type as we saw with Giacomo last year. He was unable to catch Sweetnorthernsaint in the Illinois Derby, but that one got away uncontested, something the "Saint" will not be able to do on Saturday. His final workout apparently was not a good one, a slow 1:01.51 for 5 furlongs, which should drive the price even higher on this contender. In the Beyer department, the grey colt will need a new career top to wear the Roses, but in this field, if the speed collapses he may be the one to do it.

Bob and John may have won the Wood on the front-end over a sloppy, sealed track, but he is typically a grinder that doesn't quit, and if he can wear down the pacesetters (and there will be several) entering the stretch he could be there at the end, as usually the Derby winner has the lead by the 1/8 pole, something he has done in each of his five career wins. Trainer Bob Baffert, a veteran in the Triple Crown wars, put his #1 jockey Garrett Gomez on him, which signals that Bob and John is his pick to do best in Louisville. His #2 man (and Bob and John's previous rider) Victor Espinoza gets stablemate Sinister Minister, a confirmed pacesetter. Since his Wood victory, Baffert has worked him out three times, two of which were bullets, including a 1:11.40 6-furlong breeze at Santa Anita on Sunday. This is the typical workout pattern of a Baffert Derby winner.

Brother Derek comes out of California which was the preferred prep path of the 1990's, and with Giacomo winning last year, perhaps another Golden State streak is in order. Trainer Dan Hendricks has been working with him to get him to rate and get accustomed to getting dirt in his face as well as to muddy surfaces, so his half-mile work in 49.36 seconds on Monday is even more impressive. Make no mistake, the Brother is ready, and his four straight triple-digit Beyers show that he is not stopping anytime soon. However, I downgraded him here because of his natural running style, as it is unlikely Hendricks can suddenly convert him into a closer, and because he will likely go off at a short price if not as the favorite. In a 20-horse field anything can happen.

Sweetnorthernsaint is a confirmed front-runner coming out of the Illinois Derby. That combination worked for War Emblem in 2002 and unlike Blue Grass winner Sinister Minister, this one did not have the advantage of the heavily speed-biased Keeneland main track, instead pulling off his gate-to-wire job over a much deeper, slower Hawthorne track. Like Brother Derek, he is coming into the Derby off of four consecutive triple-digit Beyers. He shares a lot of the same positive angles as Lawyer Ron, but on the tote board the "Saint" should go off at higher odds than "Ron". He worked a bullet 6 furlongs in 1:11.79 on Saturday just before the renovation break, so he was actually galloping over a slower surface than most of the other contenders that morning.

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