Digging deep through a competitive field for a Kentucky Derby winner

Three victories in four years. When it comes to picking Kentucky Derby winners, I’ve done pretty well recently. And I intend to deliver again, although I was off last year, taking Dialed In to win instead of Animal Kingdom. But consider that nothing more than a misstep.

This year’s Derby, on May 5, features one of the deepest fields I can remember in a long time. At least 10 of the 20 horses expected to enter the race could win it.

Here’s a breakdown of the probable field:

DADDY NOSE BEST—The Sunland Derby winner gets jockey Garrett Gomez in the saddle after Union Rags landed Julien Leparoux. If you are looking for a live long shot, this is your horse. Play in exotics.

HANSEN—Once considered the cream of this crop, the striking grey colt has done little to impress since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on this same track less than a year ago. He ran a game second in the Blue Grass Stakes but showed he will have trouble keeping the Derby distance.

TRINNIBERG—Your likely pacesetter through the opening half-mile possesses a ton of speed and will attempt to wire the field. That’s not happening.

BODEMEISTER—Heavy chance he goes off as the favorite, and is truly a top contender. History is working against him, though. No horse that didn’t race as a 2-year-old has won the Derby in 130 years.

LIAISON—Wound up a disappointing sixth in the Santa Anita Derby and will go off at big odds. Skip.

TAKE CHARGE INDY—Everyone thinks he will get toward the front early like he did when wiring the Florida Derby field. However, that was the first time he’d been anywhere near the lead in his career. Expect this contender to position himself behind Trinniberg and get in the mix along the rail at the top of the stretch. And with three-time Derby winner Calvin Borel aboard, a win is not out of the question.

DONE TALKING—It’s not often that the winner of a major Derby prep (Illinois Derby) is considered a nonfactor in my book. Welcome to the exclusive club.

DULLAHAN—Romped in the Blue Grass, and is easily the field’s best closer. He can find his way through traffic when needed. He has yet to win on dirt, though, and was only average on this same course in November’s BC Juvenile.

SABERCAT—Improved in the Arkansas Derby after a rough start to his 3-year-old campaign, but was still beaten by nearly 10 lengths. Better times to come.

I’LL HAVE ANOTHER—Won impressively in an all-out duel with Creative Cause in the Santa Anita Derby, but was coming off a long hiatus. This is a horse that I predict will have a letdown in the Derby.

WENT THE DAY WELL—The same team that led Animal Kingdom to a Derby victory last year is back again with this colt. Keep an eye on this late bloomer.

CREATIVE CAUSE—Love. This. Horse. The colt wound up a game second in the Santa Anita Derby and is something special. This is one of two horses I will include in all win-place-show/exotic wagering, and a definite Triple Crown threat.

ROUSING SERMON—The only sermon worth paying attention to on Derby day is at your favorite house of worship.

GEMOLOGIST—I am a sucker for Wood Memorial winners. There must be a therapy group or hotline I can call to deal with this addiction. Prior to Gemologist’s win this year, I have been obsessed with the past three Wood champions. And all three never made it to the Derby starting gate. I’m keeping him off my tickets.

EL PADRINO—This is the most dangerous sleeper in the race. And if the track comes up sloppy, watch out. He broke his maiden by more than 12 lengths over a muddy surface.

PROSPECTIVE—Was a dismal sixth in the Blue Grass. I see nothing but minimal improvement in this company.

UNION RAGS—He should have won the BC Juvenile, but drifted in the stretch before finishing second to Hansen. Had another brutal trip in the Florida Derby, but found a way to get up for third. Trainer Michael Matz has been here before with 2006 Derby winner Barbaro. The second of two horses involved in all my wagering.

DADDY LONG LEGS—Bit of an unknown other than his win in the UAE Derby. Destined to go off at big odds, despite being second in earnings.

ALPHA—He has been all over my radar after rallying for second in the Wood after what might have been the most horrific trip any Derby contender endured coming in. If he’s healthy, he’s a threat.

OPTIMIZER—A brutal ninth-place finish in the Arkansas for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Shouldn’t even be in the mix.


Winner—Union Rags

Second—Creative Cause

Third—Take Charge Indy