Got Derby fever yet? Exacta Kenny does. With the Run for the Roses less than a month away and most of the major preps done, The Bee’s handicapper will check in each Tuesday leading up to the big race. His selections for Oaks and Derby Day will appear in The Bee on May 1 and online at www.fresnobee.com.
The high five
(Jockey: Martin Garcia; Trainer: Bob Baffert): I’ll be the first to admit I lost some of the mortgage trying to beat the monster 3-year-old this past weekend in theSanta Anita Derby
. Lesson learned. The undefeated colt is tough as nails and also sports a win at Churchill Downs as a 2-year-old. Bet against on May 2 at your own peril. I’ll be using, just not sure in what slot yet.
•2. American Pharoah
(Victor Espinoza; Baffert): I was impressed with this son of Pioneerof the Nilelast fall
as I tend to get enamored with classy speed horses. Still needs to prove it as a 3-year-old with just one race under his belt this winter (an easy romp in the slop
), so all eyes will be on him Saturday in the Arkansas Derby. Can Espinoza win the Derby two years in a row afterlast year’s triumph
with California Chrome?
(Jose Ortiz; Rick Violette Jr.): This colt has done things the right way since he debuted with a win atSaratoga
last summer. After a solid third in theBreeders Cup Juvenile
, he’s had an eventful winter at Gulfstream Park with awin
andtwo controversial seconds
, which included adisqualification
. Not a fan at all of the jockey, but I respect what he’s riding.
•4. Carpe Diem
(John Velazquez; Todd Pletcher): Speaking of jockeys, there’s no one I’d rather have riding my Derby horse than Johnny V. He’s got some options on which mount to take this year, and I’m guessing he sticks here. I hope so, as this son of Giant’s Causeway just demolished a weak field in theBlue Grass Stakes
and seems like his third race of the year in Louisville could be his best yet.
•5. Firing Line
(Gary Stevens; Simon Callaghan): Wenttoe-to-toe
with Dortmund twice this winter but came up afew whiskers short
both times. No shame in that as he was game in both efforts. He then ducked the big hoss to get the Derby points he needed by crushing in theSunland Derby
in late March. This talented colt will be fresh and I have a hunch he could be the value play come Derby Day.
When I say sleeper, I don’t mean under the radar. I say sleeper because I was half-asleep after waking up at 6 a.m. to watch the Dubai World Cup races a few weeks ago. It was worth it, however, to see the performance of Mubtaahij, who throttled nine foes in the UAE Derby and punched his ticket to Churchill Downs. Visually, it was pure demolition, and though I’m not sure how his form halfway across the world will translate on the big American stage, I doubt I’ll be tossing this horse completely off my tickets. Pay attention during the days leading up to the race to see how he’s settled in at Churchill. I’m sure he’ll arrive early.
Make a day of it
The best part of Derby Day is gathering with friends, dressing up, picking out some hunch plays and making some group wagers together. With huge betting pools, it’s fun to risk a little to win a lot. If you aren’t in the mood to throw a Derby party at home, there’s a couple options around Fresno that are great spots to hang out and play. We’ll have more details the week before the big race.