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- John Piesen
IF NOT AMERICAN PHAROAH, CARPE DIEM OR DORTMUND, WHO?
Are There Any Legitimate Contenders Behind The Consensus Top Three?
I don't have to tell you that with a day short of two weeks until the Run For The Roses, the consensus is all about American Pharoah, Carpe Diem and Dortmund.
Last Saturday American Pharoah won his fourth straight Graded Stakes as he was literally hand-ridden to a daylight blitz of his opposition in the Arkansas Derby. Carpe Diem, who has returned as a three-year old to easily eclipse both the Tampa bay Derby and Blue Grass Stakes remains on many lists and is considered by many as the colt that could benefit greatly by an American Pharoah, Dortmund speed tussle. And Dortmund gives no quarter to any of his opposition as his undefeated 6 race career indicates.
Would it come as a surprise if any one of them is draped in roses following the May 2nd Kentucky Derby? Of course not!
Could all three of them be upset by any of the other colts that line up against them? Absolutely!
So allowing top billing to remain for the trio let me take a look at a handful of prospects that might be able to pull an upset.
FOUR POTENTIAL UPSETTERS
In 1973 there was a colt by the name of Sham who chased Secretariat doggedly in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and suffered such valiant defeats that by the time he got to the Belmont Stakes his heart was broken and he came undone. I revisit this historical incident because while bettors have seemed to drift away from this son of Line Of David (2010 Arkansas Derby winner who ran in the Kentucky Derby) because he had to travel to Sunland Park to get a confidence building Derby Prep win.
I look at it quite differently. While Firing Line might have drifted a bit from the public's memory I'm certain that Bob Baffert still has a very clear image of Firing Line running with Dortmund right to the wire as the former was beaten just a head each time in the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity (formerly the signature Hollywood Futurity) in late December and in the Grade III Robert Lewis at Santa Anita in early February.
Following those two efforts, in which Firing Line established his bona fides, trainer Simon Callaghan decided that rather than deal with another "heart breaking" loss to Dortmund he sent the colt to Sunland Park for the Sunland Derby and not only got the win but absolutely destroyed his competition with a 14 length victory in 1:47 4/5 for the 9 furlongs while under a strong hand ride.
The colt has continued to train sharply, with his last being a :59 1/5 five furlong work at Santa Anita on April 11.
There is no point going back through recent history to look for the last out Fair Grounds Louisiana Derby runner to win the Kentucky Derby because there isn't one. Undoubtedly, the public will acknowledge the accomplishments of this son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus but will still place him down more than a few notches in the pecking order. That dismissal could prove beneficial to his backers because at best he is likely to be the 5th or 6th favorite at post time.
Despite winning all three of his 2015 Derby preps, detractors will point to each of the races being at Fair Grounds (the Grade II Louisiana Derby was his last) against suspect competition. They will also point to that trio of wins generating slightly sub 100 BRIS Speed Numbers while the Consensus Top 3 have multiple triple digit BRIS Speed Numbers.
That dismissal might be all well and good but any horse that increases his distance in three straight stakes, increases his Speed Number in each and does so with the same tracking/stalking style that has been useful in recent Kentucky Derbies should get respect.
It is also worth noting that while no Fair Grounds runner has won the Derby, in the last 4 Kentucky Derbies there have been nine runners that exited the Louisiana Derby and those nine have produced a pair of seconds, Commanding Curve at 37.8-1 last year and Golden Soul at 34.5-1 in 2013, a pair of thirds, Revolutionary at 6.4-1 in 2013 and Mucho Macho Man at 9.4-1 in 2011 as well as a very competitive tough trip 5th (beaten 3.5 total lengths) by Mylute in 2013.
The Michael Maker trainee could very well pull an upset as that 97 BRIS Speed figure in the Louisiana Derby matches the 98 run by Commanding Curve in his final prep a year ago and the 100 run by Golden Soul in 2013.
There is little question the Michael De Kock trained Irish bred colt can get the mile and a quarter Kentucky Derby distance as he is in fact the only 3-year old entering the race to have raced further than a mile and an eight, doing so with a dominant victory at a mile and 3/16ths in the Group I UAE Derby. That was the colt's 4th win from 5 starts since moving from the synthetic at Newmarket to the Arab Emirates main track.
It will likely be pointed out that the infrequent "Desert to the Derby" maneuver has not met with success over the last quarter century but there haven't been many attempts and in the case of this long-foundationed son of Dubawi it should be pointed out that Mubtaahij's time and speed figure in the UAE Derby was comparable to that run by last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome, who ran second in the prestigious Dubai World Cup over the same surface on that same day.
It should be further noted that the cruising speed tracking style and late kick that serves the Kentucky Derby so well has been consistently exhibited by this colt in his 5 Dubai races.
There always has to be a first (referring to the Desert to the Derby) so why not this guy?
ONE LUCKY DANE
Of course a win by this improving son of Lookin At Lucky who was roughed up twice in the early going of the 2010 Kentucky Derby before settling for 6th would be quite the irony.
Trained by Bob Baffert, are both American Pharoah and Dortmund this colt will be noted but significantly over-looked at the windows. However, in just his second start of 2015 following a break from November until March he was impressive enough in running second behind Dortmund in the Santa Anita Derby that he merits scrutiny.
In the Santa Anita Derby he willingly vied with stable mate Dortmund in the early going, stayed on through 6 furlongs in 1:10 3/5, was passed for second briefly inside the 3/8ths marker but quickly moved back into the second slot and chased the winner to the wire in a respectable 1:49 3/5.
There is no doubt that the 4.5 lengths One Lucky Dane would have to make up on Dortmund if he wants to be on objective even terms with that one in Louisville, but the Run For The Roses would be the third race in the cycle and the back breeding lines scream 1.25 miles. One Lucky Dane's sire Smart Strike traces back through Mr. Prospector and Raise A Native while on the female side, the dam, Private Feeling is a daughter of sire Belong To Me (Danzig-Northern Dancer) while her dam is Regal Feeling (Clever Trick-Icecapade) and that is for most intents and purposes a deeper line than either American Pharoah or Dortmund.
They don't saddle bloodlines on the first Saturday in May, they saddle horses, but foundation like this on a colt that has every reason to step forward sure doesn't hurt.
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