Monday, April 30, 2012

Kentucky Derby 2012 Part I

Kentucky Derby 2012 – Part I

For the past twelve years I’ve been a more dedicated fan of the Triple Crown (The Kentucky Derby / Preakness / and Belmont Stakes) – and in my opinion the 2012 Kentucky Derby promises to be the most competitive, most “complete” Kentucky Derby I’ve ever seen – and quite possibly could be the most “complete” Kentucky Derby we’ll ever see.
By “complete” I mean that all of the major competitors will be healthy and instead of it being only one or two favorites against the rest of the field  - this Kentucky Derby has 6 to 8 horses that (with a solid post position) could make a very solid choice as the “favorite”. It’s anybody’s guess….but in this case that’s a great thing.

Here are the nine horses that I believe make this Kentucky Derby special:
Daddy Long Legs -

It’s rare when the UAE Derby winner contends in the Kentucky Derby. The UAE Derby is held in Dubai and it’s usually held in March. It takes a lot out of a horse to travel that distance and acclimate in only a month and a half. I believe the last UAE Derby winner to enter the Kentucky Derby was Regal Ransom – and (in my opinion) they only entered him because the 2009 field was so weak (The Winner was 50-1 longshot – and my personal nemesis Mine That Bird). 
This year it appears that UAE Derby Winner Daddy Long Legs will run in the Kentucky Derby – if he pulls out a victory….he’d be the only horse to ever win both the UAE Derby and Kentucky Derby! However I wouldn’t hold your breath – he finished 12th in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile - against a number of these other horses.

Hansen –
Hansen is the defending Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Champion – a race he won at Churchill Downs (home of the Kentucky Derby) last November. He’s won four out of his last six races – however he’s also finished in 2nd place in two of his last three races.  He was a bit of a surprise in the Breeders Cup last November and I think most horse fans believe his success has been due slightly more to luck than skill….and that come this Saturday his luck might run out.

However you can’t deny that Hansen has the ability to jump out to an early lead and keep it….and in this particular Derby, where 8 or 10 horses could be bunched up in the final turn – his early lead could be the difference maker. If he wins the Kentucky Derby he’d be the first horse since Street Sense (2007) to win both the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile and the KY Derby.
Union Rags –

Union Rags may be best described as a “favorite in waiting”. He was the favorite going into the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile and finished a close second behind Hansen. He was the favorite in the Florida Derby – but he finished third --- not because he had an off day, but more so because he couldn’t find an open lane until it was too late to make a final charge.  He has a bad habit of not being able to  close the big races….however he may also be the best three year old in the country – with a bit of good luck this horse could blossom into the superior talent that we were promised last November.  His time could certainly be this Saturday!
Creative Cause -

He finished 3rd in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile and he recently defeated Bodemeister in a blistering San Felipe mile & 1/16 (which is impressive, once you’ve seen Bodemeister). He certainly may not be the best horse in the field this Saturday – but he’s got enough closing speed and experience that with a little luck he could take home the roses.
Bodemeister –

Despite his defeat against Creative Cause – Bodemeister could be the “star” on the rise! He dominated the Arkansas Derby, which in my opinion is one of the key prep races to win. He has a habit of bouncing (meaning he tends to follow a win with a loss….and then follow the loss with a win) – so his Arkansas Derby victory could be a matter of the right race – wrong time…..but his runaway victory in Arkansas (9 1/2 lengths) was flat out scary – possible "big talent" with this horse (might be the one to watch in the Preakness).

Gemologist –
I should probably point out that this list is in no particular order….because while all of the above horses are very good (if not great)….only Gemologist is undefeated! He’ll enter the Kentucky Derby 5-0, and winner of the Wood Memorial - one of finer prep races you can win.  I like Gemologist quite a bit, however the one strike against him is that he hasn’t raced against this kind of talent yet… it’s difficult to know exactly where to rank him. The question is – has he been ducking these other horses….or have they been ducking him???  Hard not to appreciate a horse that consistently simply shows up and wins.

Dullahan –
Finished 4th in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile – however he most recently beat the “Champ” Hansen in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 12th. The buzz on this horse is that (like Bodemeister) his talent is on the rise and that he’s coming into his own at precisely the right time!

Two additional horses that make this race both interesting and special are Take Charge Indy and Alpha….but I’ll be writing more about them in my Kentucky Derby Part II – Who’s Yo’ Daddy.