The good news for fans of horse racing is that the post position draw didn't royally upend one of the top choices in this deep rendition of the Kentucky Derby. Hansen supporters breathed a huge sigh of relief when their 50-50 shot at drawing the dreaded rail post went in their favor, and the 14 post was announced instead. Favorites Bodemeister and Union Rags also lucked out with post positions that don't appear to put a serious crimp in their respective chances.
Third-choice Gemologist drew a tasty spot in the first auxillary gate position, where he will get a bit of space from the 15 hole to establish position in the early going. Backers of Calvin Borel and Take Charge Indy must be positively giddy about his spot at number three – close to the rail, but not too close. Dullahan also landed in an ideal starting point for his late-running style by drawing the five hole.
So who got compromised by the post position draw? Obviously, Euro-shipper Daddy Long Legs found the worst of it by getting the notoriously difficult rail position, but he was already behind the proverbial eight-ball with his late arrival, considering the tall task of coming overseas for this race. One-time Derby master, D. Wayne Lukas, finds himself almost as unsuitably drawn with Optimizer in the two position, although Optimizer will likely take back anyway, so it may not make much difference. I'll Have Another, who has given a nice appearance on track, will have to overcome the 19 post, as he tries to duplicate or best Nehro's second-place finish in last year's Derby from the same draw.
As for the ten best chances to win, here's how I see it:
Gemologist: I have looked for any number of ways to poke holes in this son of Tiznow, but I haven't found anything to knock me off of him. Perhaps he won't have the stretch punch he needs to come out on top Saturday, but I am staying with him and his continual improvement/fighter mentality.
Daddy Nose Best: His papa finished 18th in the 2007 Derby, but Scat Daddy also ended 2011 as the leading freshman sire, so perhaps the father has found his calling. While Daddy Nose Best has only two Grade 3 victories on his graded stakes resume, he has looked superb on the track, he has tons of foundation with 10 career starts and is coming into this race off two victories in his only starts this year for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Union Rags: If he gets a positive ride and a clean trip, this son of Dixie Union will take plenty of beating. It's just not clear whether the stars will align for him. He's had trouble in the past, and jockey Julien Leparoux will have to massage an advantageous trip from an inside draw.
Bodemeister: This guy freaked in the Arkansas Derby, but so did Curlin and Afleet Alex. Both finished third in the Derby. I have no doubt Bodemeister will have a memorable career, but I'm not convinced one of those memories will be winning the Kentucky Derby, especially if the pace is as hot as expected.
Creative Cause: His history suggests this gray will show up, no matter the circumstances, but his Derby-week schedule has been a bit disconcerting. Trainer Mike Harrington assures everything is fine. Your call.
Take Charge Indy: Pedigree. Borel. Churchill.
Dullahan: His closing kick is undeniable. The query is whether Dullahan has been aided by a synthetic surface, the host of both of his victories. Local trainer Dale Romans has proven he can hit the board in the Derby, but there's still reason to question whether this horse can give Romans the elusive drape of roses.
Alpha: He hasn't gotten much attention lately, but he's given the appearance of a late-running threat since arriving in Louisville. I question his flip-floppy path to the Derby, and the late mount assignment, but he's not out of the question.
Done Talking: His Illinois Derby victory looks like it should've been measured by a sun dial, but he also closed with vigor into a pedestrian pace. The son of Dixie Talking, on paper, looks like a superfecta bottom-feeder, with his late kick.
Sabercat: His sire, Bluegrass Cat, finished second to Barbaro in the 2006 Derby, and his rider, Corey Nakatani, guided Nehro to second in last year's Derby. Steve Asmussen has both of his horses looking well. This is the “other” one and might just surprise at long odds.
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