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Bee handicapper weighs in on Kentucky Derby outlook

Got Derby fever yet? Exacta Kenny does. With the Run for the Roses less than three weeks away and all 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

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1. American Pharoah

(Jockey: Victor Espinoza; Trainer: Bob Baffert): There’s a slight change in the top of the high five this week after American Pharoah’s dazzling victory in the

Arkansas Derby

. Yes, the field was suspect, but you will never see a horse win a race more easily. He showed me exactly what I wanted to see: sat a beautiful trip stalking a fast pace, then drew off down the stretch while never being asked for run. The pure talent was on display, and he should only get better with just two races this year. With so many quality colts expected to run, I think we’re in store for a special Derby.



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2. Dortmund

(Martin Garcia; Baffert): Man, it must be good being Bob Baffert these days. I’d like to ask him how much he’s gonna spend on his exacta box in the Derby. Or, perhaps, which horse he’s going to key on top of his superfecta. I’m guessing even Bob doesn’t want to make that choice ... yet. With a 6-for-6 career record and a blowout win in the Santa Anita Derby, it’s hard to find any holes in Dortmund’s game. But looking at the charts, I noticed his

Santa Anita Derby

was more than a second slower than California Chrome’s

winning effort

in the same race last year.



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3. Carpe Diem

(John Velazquez; Todd Pletcher): I’m starting to like this colt more and more. Like American Pharoah, the Derby will be his third race of the year, so he should be primed for a top effort. And on Saturday, a horse named Divining Rod was impressive in romping home to victory in the

Lexington Stakes

at Keeneland, giving himself enough points to enter the Derby. He’s unlikely to run, but why do I bring it up? Carpe Diem blasted Divining Rod by more than seven lengths in his first race of 2015, the

Tampa Bay Derby

.



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4. Firing Line

(Gary Stevens; Simon Callaghan): My current value play for the Derby had a five-furlong workout at Santa Anita over the weekend, and it appears all systems are go for the colt that’s given Dortmund

everything he could handle

in two races. I’m hoping this horse will get lost in the betting shuffle.



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5. Upstart

(Jose Ortiz; Rick Violette Jr.): Comes out of a successful three-race run in Florida, and I still think he possesses some upside despite the controversial loss to Materiality in the

Florida Derby

. If there’s a suffocating speed duel in the Derby, this colt could benefit being in the second flight of horses.



Break the curse?

I’m impressed with Materiality; how could you not be after this colt won the Florida Derby in just his third career start? The problem I have here is history. And it’s a biggie: Materiality is trying to become the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old since Apollo won in 1882. 1882! The talent and breeding scream serious Derby contender, but that’s a longer curse than even the Cubs are dealing with.

Off the Derby trail

With no more prep races, it should be a relatively quiet week on the Derby front as connections continue to finalize training and travel plans for the top 3-year-olds in the country. However, there’s an unraced 3-year-old that will provide the racing community plenty of buzz on Friday as Cozmic One makes his long-anticipated debut at Santa Anita. Cozmic One will be the first offspring of the legendary mare Zenyatta to reach the starting gate. He’s scheduled to go in Race 2 at a mile, and if he’s anything like his mom, he’ll be steamrolling home from dead last. Excited to see this one go.

Make a day of it

With less than three weeks to go, start making plans! The best part of Derby Day is having fun with friends and dreaming of the big score. With huge betting pools, it’s fun to risk a little to win a lot. Have people over to your house for a Derby party, or if you’d rather head out for fun, 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.

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