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Apr 17, 2015

Positives and negatives for Kentucky Derby field

By: By Jeff Frank, The Sports Analyst

 Philadelphia, PA ( - The Kentucky Derby prep races are over, so all we are left with is the post position draw and the weeks of waiting to see which of the 20 horses, if any, will back out.

Here are the pros and cons of the top 22 horses on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, going from the bottom to the top:


Pros - Wonderfully bred by Curlin out of an Awesome Again mare. Deep closer who will benefit from a quick early pace. Sports a victory at Churchill Downs.

Cons - Has won just one of seven starts and did not improve off third-place showing in the Risen Star. Beaten a combined 41 lengths in his five graded- stakes races. Needs a very fast pace to have any chance to win.


Pros - Well-bred 3-year-old by Lookin at Lucky. His dam is a full-sister to Tapit. Finished a length out of second money in the Arkansas Derby after running second to American Pharoah in the Rebel. Moves up on an off track.

Cons - Has never defeated any of the 20 horses he will face in Kentucky, if he makes the race. Would join Giacomo as the only Derby winner in a very long time to win the Run for the Roses without a stakes victory


Pros - Has world of ability with a large percentage of that talent coming on the turf. Still, he closed strongly on Dortmund approaching the top of the stretch in the San Felipe Stakes only to lose by 1 3/4 lengths in first career dirt try.

Cons - Made his mark on the turf and that is where he should return after losing to Dortmund by almost seven lengths in the Santa Anita Derby. Despite solid long-distance pedigree (on the sire line), he does not run like a horse that will improve as the distances increase, at least on dirt. Owners seem to be overruling the trainer in regards to running the colt in the Derby.


Pros - Take away the San Felipe, a race in which he was in all sorts of trouble, and the son of Street Sense sports three wins and a third in four lifetime starts.

Cons - One-dimensional speed horse tired in the stretch of the Blue Grass. Has not progressed in the right direction since winning the Delta Downs Jackpot. Trainer James Cassidy was on the fence about running him in the Derby, but a recent 58 4/5 five-furlong workout has the colt on his way to Kentucky.


Pros - Gives an honest effort every time out. Has the most starts (12) of any Derby contender after California Chrome won last year's race with the most starts in the field (10). Might wind up a millionaire despite winning just one race.

Cons - After losing four stakes races between Nov. 22 and Feb. 22 by a combined 3 1/4 lengths, he has dropped his last two stakes events by a combined 28 3/4 lengths. The Derby will be his third start in six weeks.


Pros - Good enough to give International Star a run for his money in the Louisiana Derby before losing by a neck. His Beyer number has improved in each of his five career starts.

Cons - Dam side of pedigree is all speed. Look for trainer Todd Pletcher to send him to the lead to help stablemate Carpe Diem and hurt Bob Baffert's charges. In short, he might be the sacrificial lamb of the race.


Pros - Bob Baffert has won a Kentucky Derby with a second string (Real Quiet), so all is not lost even, though One Lucky Dane is his third string. Defeated American Pharoah in that colt's debut. Hung on gamely for second behind Dortmund in Santa Anita Derby.

Cons - His lone two wins came gate-to-wire and it is doubtful he will last the 10 furlongs on May 2. In addition, his second in the Santa Anita Derby looked better than it was based on subpar performances by Bolo and Prospect Park.


Pros - New York-bred 3-year-old is improving at just the right time. Huge effort to run second to Frosted in Wood Memorial. Has been wide in almost all his races, so an outside post could work to his benefit come the post-position draw.

Cons - Has been running in the weakest set of prep races in the country. Beyer figure improved 18 points in last race, a number that does not bode well for his chances on the first Saturday in May. The biggest Beyer jump for a Derby winner over the last 20 years was 14. Sports a sprint-oriented pedigree.


Pros - Has made winning moves around the final turn only to get beat by International Star in both LeComte and Risen Star Stakes. Seemingly improved his habit of breaking poorly from the gate with a decent break in the Louisiana Derby.

Cons - Another 3-year-old going backward. Had poorest finish of his career last time out in the Louisiana Derby. Jockey Joe Talamo must time his ride to perfection as War Story has a habit of making an early move only to hang in the stretch.


Pros - Rebounded from poor Tampa Bay Downs effort with a solid second to Carpe Diem in the Blue Grass, running his final eighth of a mile in a quick 12 3/5 seconds, after a 24 3/5 quarter-mile. Sports same sire as Orb, the 2013 Kentucky Derby winner.

Cons - Still eligible for a non-winners of two lifetime allowance. Has raced over one mile just twice in his career, the same number as just one of the last 10 Derby winners.


Pros - Battle-tested with a pair of close defeats to Dortmund, one in which he was bounced around in between Dortmund and Mr. Z. Remove Dortmund from the Robert B. Lewis Stakes and Firing Line would have won his last two starts by a combined 35 1/2 lengths. Does not need to be on the pace to win. Breeding gives mixed signals although his dam side is very much stamina-influenced.

Cons - Failed to defeat Dortmund in two consecutive starts, including the Robert B. Lewis, where he seemed to have put the undefeated star away in the stretch. Only top class horse he's defeated has been Mr. Z. One of many with Storm Cat in his pedigree. Remember, no horse with Storm Cat in his pedigree has won the Derby and that colt hit the breeding shed back in 1988. Still, Storm Cat is multiple generations back in Firing Line's pedigree.


Pros - Moving away from the deep and tiring surface at Gulfstream Park might be the best thing for the son of Lemon Drop Kid. Had won his first three starts with the help of a disqualification in the Fountain of Youth. Three of the last 20 Kentucky Derby winners ran fourth in their final prep.

Cons - Came up empty in the Florida Derby, losing by 21 lengths. Comes to Kentucky with just four lifetime starts, the least of any horse outside of Materiality. Thirty-one horses with four starts have tried the Derby since 1970 with just one victory - Animal Kingdom.


Pros - Stout closer could get a piece of the pie if the pace is extremely quick. Has finished out of the money just once in nine lifetime starts. Consistent ridgling already has won at Churchill Downs

Cons - Ran once against a top colt (American Pharoah) and was blasted by eight lengths. Seems a cut below the higher echelon 3-year-olds. Sold for just $2.500 as a yearling.


Pros - Was the King of Gulfstream Park prior to Florida Derby loss to Materiality. Proved he belongs with this group in 2014 with a third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. His tactical speed should come in handy in the Derby.

Cons - It is never a good sign to have a hiccup or two over the final month before the big race and a recent fever cost the ridgling valuable workout time. He might not be at his best on Derby day after a grueling winter/spring campaign. Failed to win any of his three Grade 1 races.


Pros - Tied with three others for third with the most career victories. A change of running style (from speedball to closer) should enhance his chances for a better finish. Multiple graded stakes-winner defeated International Star in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes as a 2-year-old.

Cons - A questionable 1 1/4-mile pedigree should stifle his chances. Has faced moderate, if not second-rate, competition in 2015, so he will have to step up his game to compete for the top prize.


Pros - Blew away Stanford by 5 3/4 lengths in a listed stakes race at Gulfstream Park, and that colt came within a neck of winning the Louisiana Derby. Materiality then knocked off Upstart in the Florida Derby last time out. One of only two horses in the field with a pair of wins at nine furlongs or more. Beautifully bred to handle the 1 1/4 miles.

Cons - Will be the 11th horse since 1970 to race in the Derby with just three career starts with Big Brown the only winner. Has raced on the lead (or a length behind) in all three starts, so he will be forced to either run in traffic or sit off the pace for the first time in his life. Did not race at as a 2-year-old and no horse outside of Apollo in 1882 has won the Kentucky Derby without a start as a 2.


Pros - Has the type of push-button acceleration a typical Kentucky Derby winner possesses. Dominated his opponents in Dubai, winning four of five races, including an eight-length score in the UAE Derby. Has already posted a pair of victories at the about 1 3/16-mile distance. The last 12 Kentucky Derby winners all have had Turn-To somewhere in their pedigree and Mubtaahij's male and female lines both trace back to Turn-To.

Cons - Horses based outside the United States have yet to win the Kentucky Derby. Mubtaahij has excelled racing on the inside in most of his races, switching to the two- or three-path to gain the lead. He may not have that type of trip in the bulky field of the Derby.


Pros - Had a viable excuse (breathing issues) for his fourth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth and rebounded strongly with an easy victory in the Wood Memorial, coming off the pace to win by two lengths. Frosted ran his final three furlongs in a brisk 36 2/5 seconds while getting his final eighth in 12 2/5 seconds. Bred to enjoy the extra furlong of the Kentucky Derby, but don't forget, many of the gray sons of Tapit are not as effective at 10 furlongs

Cons - Was prepped hard to win the Wood Memorial last time out and might not have enough second off the throat surgery. None of the last 15 Derby winners finished out of the money in the penultimate outing before the Derby. Frosted ran fourth two starts back in the Fountain of Youth. His dam, Fast Cookie, earned over $500,000. The last time a Derby winner's dam earned over $300,000 was back in 1989. As is the case with Tencendur, Frosted's Beyer speed figure jumped up 18 points in the Wood from his prior effort.


Pros - As dominant as any top-class 3-year-old has been at this time of the year in decades. American Pharoah won his last four starts by a combined 22 1/4 lengths with distances ranging from seven furlongs to 1 1/8 miles. Showed he can rate as he sat behind the cheap speed in the Arkansas Derby.

Cons - The Derby will be the first time in 2015 he will be facing top-notch competition and he might have to adjust his running style because he is not bred to shine at 1 1/4 miles. Is one of two horses in the field not to have Turn-To somewhere in his pedigree (El Kabeir is the other). He also sports Storm Cat as his dam's grandsire and his tail-female line is extremely speed- oriented.


Pros - Sports wins at three different tracks, including one each at Keeneland and Tampa Bay Downs, where he won the Blue Grass Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby, respectively. Only loss came in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, a race he rallied from next-to-last to finish second, overtaking Upstart by a nose in the final stride. That effort showed he does not need to be near the pace to fire his best shot.

Cons - Carpe Diem is considered slow by Beyer figures as he is the lone horse among the expected top-five favorites not to have posted a triple-digit Beyer. Has yet to tackle the "big boys" this year, so his class will be tested in the Derby. The chestnut colt also could be the horse most affected by the Storm Cat jinx with the former Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up so close up in his pedigree. Storm Cat is Carpe Diem's grandsire.


Pros - Comes into the Derby undefeated in six career starts. Has improved his margin of victory in all three starts this year. Could very well be the gamest horse in the field. Refuses to lose even when all hope is lost, as witnessed by his masterful comeback on the rail in the Robert B. Lewis. Owns the largest margin of victory of any horse in the field at Churchill Downs with a 7 3/4- length score in an allowance race back in late November. Only horse in the field with three triple Beyer numbers as a 3-year-old.

Cons - Massive frame might cause trouble if bad trip ensues in 20-horse field. Even though many feel Dortmund can rate, he is the only colt, outside of Stanford, to be on the lead after the first quarter-mile in each of his last two races. Moreover, he is by far the quickest horse out of the gate as evidenced by his 22 2/5- and 23-second first quarters in the Santa Anita Derby and San Felipe Stakes, respectively. If Dortmund fails to rate, he will find himself on the lead and just one horse in the last 27 years has won the Derby gate-to-wire. Another colt that might be consumed by the Storm Cat jinx.


Pros - Became just the fourth horse to sweep the Louisiana 3-year-old preps with victories in the LeComte, Risen Star and Louisiana Derby. His Beyer speed numbers have improved in each of his last five races. Very versatile with wins on dirt, turf and synthetics. Ran his final furlong in under 13 seconds in the Louisiana Derby after a 23 4/5 quarter-mile. If the early speed does not hold up, International Star is the most imposing closer in the field.

Cons - His three Louisiana margins of victory shrunk with ease successive win. Not considered quick enough based on his Beyer figures as he has failed to break the 100-point mark. Has not tackled the toughest 3-year-olds, beating the likes of Stanford and War Story, two horses that will be among the longest shots on the board come May 2.


1) Mubtaahij - Arrived in the United States, will train on Poly

2) Firing Line - Working as strong as ever since Sunland Derby

3) Dortmund - Lost favoritism only because of American Pharoah

4) American Pharoah - Ability to run alongside others in question

5) Carpe Diem - Blue Grass Beyer number should have been higher

6) Materiality - Super work at Palm Beach on April 11

7) International Star - Louisiana winners rarely repeat at CD

8) Danzig Moon - The top upset special in the Kentucky Derby

9) Frosted - Looked great in Wood, but beat Tencendur by only two

10) Far Right - A top finish is dependant on a fast early pace

11) Upstart - Not a good sign missing a workout with a fever

12) Bolo - Prefers turf, but is best of the rest of the field

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