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Apr 25, 2014

Pros and cons for all Kentucky Derby starters

By: By Jeff Frank, The Sports Analyst

 Philadelphia, PA ( - One thing for certain in the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby is that California Chrome will be the favorite. But what about the rest of the field?

Here is an in-depth analysis with positives and negatives for the top 22 horses in order of Derby points:


PROS - Tactical speed to sit off the early pace; owns highest speed figures in Derby; has a solid foundation and bottom due to 10 career starts; corners the turns and accelerates into the stretch extremely well.

CONS - Poor gate breaks in a few of his previous races; has not been directly behind another horse since last loss, so taking kickback for the first time in a while could be a factor in 20-horse field.


PROS - Speed is greatest asset, but also has shown ability to rate off the early lead; ran well to finish third given his outside post position two races back in Risen Star; won Louisiana Derby.

CONS - Rarely runs a straight path through the stretch, which shows he might wear down inside the Derby's final furlong; Louisiana Derby winner has won the Kentucky Derby just once since 1924.


PROS - Owns the fastest final eighth (12.13) and three-eighths (36.07) of all Derby horses in their final prep, albeit on Polytrack; only horse in field with a combination of these: Turn-To in pedigree (last 11 Derby winners), no Storm Cat in pedigree (No Derby winner ever), won or finished second (by a length of less) in previous start (12 of last 15 winners); a Mr. Prospector sire line (6 of last 12 winners) and sired by a first- or second-year sire (6 of last 12 winners).

CONS - Has never won two straight races (won last); best performances have been on synthetics and turf; trainer not initially excited for Derby after Blue Grass win.


PROS - His two best races came at nine furlongs (the only two times Rajiv Maragh rode him); bred to love 1 1/4-mile Derby distance; won Wood Memorial with authoritative 12.50 final eighth; doesn't have to come from far off the pace as some might expect.

CONS - One of many in field with just two lifetime victories; might need more time off than only a month after Wood Memorial took a lot out of him.


PROS - Had won five in a row prior to his first defeat; as game as they come.

CONS - Finished the final three-eighths of the Wood in a slow 38.45; doubtful to get the 1 1/4-mile distance.


PROS - Does not mind running inside or outside; should improve off a great performance in last; looking good so far at Churchill; third off a layoff.

CONS - Might not duplicate last against a much bigger and better field; has raced just once beyond seven furlongs; Pletcher is a dismal 1-for-36 in Derby.


PROS - Seems to be taking well to Churchill as evidenced by his 1:00 2/5 Wednesday morning work; moves up if wet; very tractable colt.

CONS - No horse has won the Derby without a start as a 2-year-old since 1882; doesn't corner turns as well as many others in the race.


PROS - Risen Star was one of the most impressive prep races this season; shows powerful bursts of speed around the final turn, which is where most Kentucky Derby races are won.

CONS - Risen Star might be an outlier because that was his only win since last August; must overcome Pletcher curse.


PROS - One of few that should have a clean trip considering he figures to be first or second after the first mile; has won five of seven career races; the two losses came by a neck and a head.

CONS - Doubtful to get 10 furlongs; it has been a long time since a Derby winner made all prior starts at one track (all seven races came at Gulfstream Park).


PROS - Ran third-slowest Spiral ever but the other two were won by Kentucky Derby winners (Lil E. Tee and Animal Kingdom); runs well fresh.

CONS - Top races have come on synthetics and turf; speed figures do not come close to the rest of the field.


PROS - Does best running from off-the-pace; only one off-the-board finish in nine lifetime starts; gets Calvin Borel.

CONS - Three of four lowest career Beyer Speed Figures came at Churchill Downs; sports second-worst winning percentage of the top 20 horses.


PROS - Three wins in four career starts, including one at 1 1/8 miles.

CONS - Baffert has shown little confidence in him this past week.


PROS - Ultra consistent with just one off-the-board finish in seven starts.

CONS - Not bred to win at 1 1/4 miles; did not enjoy being rated in Arkansas Derby.


PROS - Finished first or second in last four efforts, including a win in the Tampa Bay Derby.

CONS - Was blown away by Our Caravan in Calder Derby last time out.


PROS - Has never finished more than 1 3/4 lengths from the winner in five starts; sports a good second over the track as a 2-year-old; bred to go long.

CONS - Might be well-bred for 1 1/4 miles but has not shown it on the track; did not have the greatest of works at Churchill on Wednesday.


PROS - Owns a dirt victory at Ellis Park; Sire Dynaformer has had four Kentucky Derby starters with one win (Barbaro), two thirds (Perfect Drift and Blumin Affair) and a seventh (Brilliant Speed).

CONS - Derby will be his third start in 29 days; failed miserably in only two races on dirt which were not taken off the turf.


PROS - Was too close to the pace in Santa Anita Derby; needs to make one sustained run and he has a chance to win.

CONS - Has not moved forward in the spring after a solid winter; just might not be fast enough; lone horse in field without Turn-To in his pedigree.


PROS - Had troubled trip in Wood Memorial after four straight first- or second -place finishes.

CONS - As is the case with Wildcat Red, all his races have come over the same track (Aqueduct); the 1 1/4 miles is probably too far for him, especially if he'll be part of the early pace.


PROS - Did not finish worse than second prior to his last race.

CONS - Ran last in Blue Grass; only stakes win came against a terribly weak field in the Sam F. Davis.


PROS - Came within a nose of winning the Spiral; has a win at Churchill Downs.

CONS - Big rise in class; the probable last-place finisher.


PROS - Bred well to win at 1 1/4 miles; Trainer Dallas Stewart finished second last year with a similar closer in Golden Soul.

CONS - Currently 21st, meaning he needs one defection to make the Derby; has only a maiden win to his credit.


PROS - Ran well to finish third in the Blue Grass as the rest of the speed finished 10th or worse.

CONS - Currently 22nd on the list, meaning he needs two defections to make the Derby; doubtful to last the Derby distance; 0-for-2 on dirt


1) California Chrome - Comes in with four straight victories, just like Orb

2) Danza - Won't be 41-1 in the Derby; expected fourth choice after upset win

3) Dance With Fate - Could be a major factor if Poly form translates to dirt

4) Wicked Strong - Possible winner if the pace is as quick as last two years

5) Hoppertunity - Probable second choice is handling Churchill Downs very well

6) Intense Holiday - Watch out if the Intense Holiday from Risen Star shows up

7) Candy Boy - Needs an entire reversal of form to match strides with top six

8) Medal Count - Three races in one month might be too much to overcome

9) Ride On Curlin - Possible for exotics though switch to Borel kills odds

10) Wildcat Red - Might last the 1 1/4 miles if speed holds up on Derby day

11) Vicar's in Trouble - Same could be said for this colt as well

12) General a Rod - Must improve next workout over track to have a chance

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