Arkansas Derby & Blue Grass Stakes preview

by TCI 5 years ago

Jon & Joel recap last weekend’s Wood Memorial (G1) & Santa Anita Derby (G1) and talk about each race’s effect on the TCI Top 10. They also break down Saturday’s final round of major Kentucky Derby preps – the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) and $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes (G1) and tell you what to watch for.

Watch it. Comment.

TCI Top 10

Rank Name Bris Comments
1 Revolutionary 105 Handled business in La. Derby, but will he regress or move forward now after the big effort off an 8-week layoff?
2 Verrazano 104 Wood played into his hands and he did what he had to do while never being asked for his best; Your Derby favorite.
3 Orb 102 Impressive progression this winter in Florida, and feeling is that he has another forward step in him; Great Derby profile.
4 Oxbow 101 Bad luck again drawing the 10-hole in Ark. Derby, but it’s about time he shows he can overcome it and finish on top.
5 Normandy Invasion 104 Will be this year’s wise-guy horse in the Derby after impressive sub-12 final 1/8th and big gallop out in Wood.
6 Goldencents 106 Big win in SA Derby; Could be the pacesetter in a relatively pace-less KY Derby, but distance concerns still loom.
7 Itsmyluckyday 111 Couldn’t capitalize on a perfect trip in FL Derby, as late kick was clearly less explosive; Peaked too soon?
8 Vyjack 100 Has never run a bad race, including in the Wood where he bled through his Lasix according to his owner.
9 War Academy 99 Should get the pace to set up his closing punch in Saturday’s Ark. Derby; Must prove he’s ready for the big stage.
10 Will Take Charge 101 Big colt seems like one who could’ve benefited from more experience, but instead, he skipped a final prep.

OFF: Flashback, Mylute
through 4/11/2013


  • JR

    Hi Joel,
    I totally agree about NI. I read at Bloodhorse that Castellano decided to ride NI in the derby, wow, interesting that he said the same thing I was thinking, had there been more real estate he felt he could have overtaken Verrazano.

    You know Joel, we watch all these prep races, we analyze everything, we come up with our top five, ten, or Haskins derby dozen. Then we wait for that morning line draw and based on that we could be back at square one, depending on who gets what. It won’t be the first time I’ve thrown my pencil up in the air, and say “now what am I going to do”. You were just talking about Oxbow today, and his draw.

    In reality, we don’t know how these horses will react in a field of 20, everyone trying to get into position before the first turn. Look what happened to Union Rags last year, I just wanted to cry, and Alpha, if ever there was a horse bred for the distance and he finished what 11th? .

    If I may use, an over used saying “at the end of the day” the derby is one big, exciting, CRAPSHOOT, as George C. Scott playing Patton said about war, Oh God, how I love it so.

    Well my friend, whilst I await the results of Saturday, I think we could be in for some surprises one by the name of War Academy.
    Take Care,

    Kind Regards,

    • Joel Cunningham

      JR, the draw for the Derby has burned me multiple times…it’s a scary thing and the bottom line is that you need luck and good fortune no matter where you draw, although bad luck is obviously more likely if you are breaking from a place like the rail.

      In 2010, I thought Big Brown was without question the best horse, but when he drew the 20-hole I wondered if he ran the risk of breaking outward towards the roar of the crowd (which is a very valid concern), as well as being hung wide due to others inside of him race-riding him early into the first turn, etc… it bothered me enough that I didn’t exclusively play him on top, and in fast, even tried to beat him in a large part of my wagering. Well, we all know how that story ended…

      Fast-forward two years later when Lookin At Lucky drew the rail in 2010… part of me disregarded the rail draw because I thought he could overcome it (he had some tactical speed compared to the horses who drew to his immediate outside in the gate). So I stuck with my Lookin At Lucky wagers because I really felt he was best. Well, we all know how that ended too…

      So, the bottom line is the draw will likely have an affect most years, and there are certain spots like the rail that are very daunting…but in the end you really need good fortune no matter where your “key” horse has drawn. One thing Big Brown had was tremendous speed, obviously, and that’s why I tend to favor horses that possess similar qualities for a race like the Derby where you need that as a weapon to be tactical..the likelihood that the winner of the race will get free sailing in a 20-horse field probably isn’t great, and much of the time you will need to make multiple runs at key times in the race to be in the right position to win in the stretch. You mentioned Oxbow…one reason I like him as a Derby contender is that he is one of a small group of colts that possesses that natural speed and tactical quality, and that’s invaluable and a very attractive weapon to have in a trouble-filled race like the Derby IMO.

  • joe polander

    Hi Joel – After watching the AK Derby and Blue Grass, I’ve got my Derby contenders list to a top 7. Oxbow dissapointed in the AK Derby, he looks to be a cut below the top contenders. Sorry to see War Academy pulled up, and seemingly injured in AK Derby. Overanalyze and Javas War Both really stepped up. Here’s my top 7 going into the Derby. #1 – Orb ( Versatile closer that has beaten top flight competition. He will be rested, and should relish 1 1/4, gets familiar jockey Joel Rosario. #2 Verrazano ( Derby Fav. Undefeated ) #3 Revolutionary ( Dynamite closer, finds a way to win, all heart, will love the 1 1/4).
    #4 Gov. Charlie ( This is not a missprint. I like his tactical speed in a Derby that like you said lacks a speedball, he should be able to lay close the whole way, my Derby longshot, Baffert will have him ready) #5 Overanalyze ( He’s Back !, dominated AK derby field, gets R. Bejarano) #6 N. Invasion ( Gets J. Castellano, should love the 1 1/4, almost got to Verrazano in Wood) #7 Javas War ( will have to pass alot of horses in the Derby that may lack a pace, but he should be flying late) Cant’t wait to see your top 10 Joel. Wouldn’t you agree that since the Derby lacks true speed horses that if Gov. Charlie breaks clean that he could be in the first flight of horses, sitting a stalking pace, from there Joel , it comes down to whether he is good enough to run with them and have something left at the top of the stretch which he would need to hit the board because the Derby seems to be loaded with Several dynamite closers, led by Orb IMO.

    • Joel Cunningham

      Hey Joe!

      The Ark Derby was certainly bizarre this year. Unlike recent years, I don’t think it was a strong prep and do not see it making an impact on this year’s Derby. Hopefully, War Academy is indeed ok and can try top races again in the near future. As for Oxbow, he just seemed completely flat…that wasn’t him…I would theorize that a hard campaign has finally gotten to him and perhaps he bounced. Remember, he ran winning races in his last 3 starts, and his numbers reflect that across the board. I still think he has some quality and won’t rule him out just yet if he’s looking and training well at Churchill.

      I like your group and logic as it comes to the contenders. I am a huge Baffert fan, but I can’t get on board with Govenor Charlie yet for the Derby. He’s one who needs to make me believe he even has another big forward move in him based on the way he looks and trains at Churchill. There usually is a horse like him every year that makes the right impression at Churchill leading up to the race, so we’ll see. Like you mentioned, there isn’t shaping up to have a ton of speed in this year’s Derby, and Java’s War, Palace Malice, Overanalyze and Frac Daddy sure don’t add much to the pace picture after this weekend.

Take our site on the go!
Scan with your smart phone.