The Twin Spires rise above the one mile dirt track the day before horse racing’s greatest moment. Even those who don’t normally follow horse racing, usually know of the Twin Spires, the blanket of roses that brought about the nickname “The Run for the Roses”, Churchill Downs, and The Kentucky Derby… first jewel in racing’s Triple Crown for the three-year old that can rise above the best in a test of speed, stamina, and endurance. The distance of 1 and ¼ mile that begins the quest, takes place tomorrow and since we could all use a little extra, here’s some info to maybe help anyone out there make the right pick. The field contains 20 this year and because of that amount this will be the first part of 4 I will do over the rest of today and tomorrow morning. We’ll start with the inside 5 post positions, where the break from the gate can change the entire day with 20 horses in the race.
Gate 1: West Side Bernie is out of Time Honored and Bernstein. Though neither of these horses have stood out, Bernstein can be traced back to 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed and Time Honored is out of the 1992 champion-two-year-colt and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Gilded Time. The bloodlines are there, but West Side Bernie only has a race record of 7-2-2-1 (starts-wins-place/2nd-show/3rd) with a place being his highest finish in a graded race. West Side Bernie is trained by Kelly Breen and ridden by jockey Stewart Elliott. Though neither of those names are that well known, Stewart Elliott is the jockey that took Smarty Jones to victory in 2004. Look for a good race out of West Side Bernie and a possible top 15, if not a top 10 depending on how the break from the gate goes. Odds are currently 30-1.
Gate 2: Musket Man is out of Fortuesque and Yonaguska. Neither of these horses has stood out at distance races, but Yonaguska won many graded sprint races. Though offspring of Yonaguska have proven able to stretch their speed to distance races, Musket Man is the first graded winner. Musket Man could be a surprise with a race record of 6-5-0-1 including graded races. Musket Man is trained by Derek Ryan and ridden by jockey Eibar Coa. Neither of those names is that well known outside of New York where in 2006 and 2007 jockey Eibar Coa was the top jockey in New York. Though Musket Man has an impressive record, his graded races are G3 and G2 stakes. He’ll probably finish in the top 10 and maybe break the top 5 if he gets a clean break from the gate. Odds are currently 20-1.
Gate 3: Mr. Hot Stuff is out of Sweet Damsel and Tiznow. These are two outstanding horses to have as parents. Tiznow is the 2009 Hall of Fame inductee who was champion-three-year-old and Horse of the Year in 2000. Tiznow is also the only two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Sweet Damsel, though not raced at Tiznow’s level, proved strong over distance too. Bloodlines are there, but Mr. Hot Stuff has a race record of 7-1-0-3 with a third in the Santa Anita Derby being the best test for the Kentucky Derby. Mr. Hot Stuff is trained by Eoin Harty and ridden by jockey John Velazquez. Eoin is just starting to be well known as he made the Kentucky Derby last year with Colonel John and was an assistant trainer to Bob Baffert for 14 years. Jockey John Velazquez is an outstanding jockey with much credit to his name including being elected chairman of the board of directors of the Jockey’s Guild in 2006 and in September 2008 won his 4,000th career victory. He has ridden in the Kentucky Derby 10 times with 2nd in 2001 riding Invisible Ink being his best finish. With all Mr. Hot Stuff has going for him, it would be easy to expect something out of him. However, with his record, unless he comes alive finally expect him to be running toward the back of the pack. Odds are currently 30-1.
Gate 4: Advice is out of Word O’ Wisdom and Chapel Royal. Though great bloodlines at 1 mile or less, the distance needed for the Triple Crown races just isn’t there. Despite that, Advice has won a graded race at 1 and 1/16th miles though it was a G2 and his record isn’t too good either at 6-2-0-2. Advice is trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by jockey Rene Douglas. Though a well known trainer, Todd Pletcher has yet to get a Kentucky Derby winner even when training five horses for the Kentucky Derby. Rene Douglas is a jockey just under the radar. Pletcher will have to continue searching because Advice will be running toward the back of the pack. Odds are currently 30-1.
Gate 5: Hold Me Back is out of Restraint and Giant’s Causeway. Though these are really strong blood lines going back to Storm Cat on Giant’s Causeway side and Unbridled’s Song on Restraint side, most of his siblings have proven to be better on turf than dirt. Hold Me Back has a record of 5-3-1-0, so the dirt doesn’t seem to hold him back much. Trained by Bill Mott and ridden by jockey Kent Desormeaux, Hold Me Back might be a surprise as Kent Desormeaux knows how to ride the Kentucky Derby winning it three times with Real Quiet in 1998, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, and Big Brown last year. Bill Mott is probably best known for training Cigar, but has saddled other horses including two last year in the Kentucky Derby. Look for Hold Me Back to be held back from the win, but to get a solid top 10 finish despite starting to the inside. Odds are currently 15-1.