The Kentucky Derby for 2015 is nearing post time at the annual Churchill Downs event, and to some who are perplexed a concise guide serves them well. While some are predicting it to be a two-horse race between favorites American Pharoah (5-2) and Dortmund (3-1), both trained by Bob Baffert, to others the championship easily could go to a horse of a different color.
Considered the ‘most exciting two minutes in sports,’ the event itself lasts an entire day, which starts at 10:30AM and continues through the post-time of the last race at 8:05PM, and involves a total of almost 200 thoroughbreds. National coverage of the race begins on NBC Sports Channel at noon, and at 4PM switches to NBC. Critics in the past have expressed displeasure over the fact that the network has spent too much time on back stories, and did not offer enough coverage of the races themselves. This year, eight of the races will be televised, and for enthusiasts wishing to spend their Saturday afternoon out and about, there will be realtime streaming broadcasts on NBC Sports Live Extra App.
For those not wishing to make a day of it outside of race 11, which is the 2015 Kentucky Derby race, post-time is scheduled for 6:34PM, and below is a brief guide to the perplexedcontenders and their odds
1. Ocho Ocho Ocho (50-1)
Owned by DP racing and trained by James Cassidy, this long shot is the son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. While he is a considered a great lead runner, his position in the #1 post may mean that Elvis Trujillo, the jockey riding him will need to risk an early break for the lead, a strategy often not advised in this race.
2. Carpe Diem (8-1)
Purchased for $1.6 million, this winner of four out of five career races will ridden by hall of fame jockey John Velazquez, and is likely to be an early pace-setter. However, because this year’s Kentucky Derby consists of early speed, he may end up settling for second. He is owned by Stonestreet Stables, and is one of four horses to be entered by trainer Todd Pletcher, seven time winner of outstanding trainer award.
3. Materiality (12-1)
As Pletcher’s second entry, Materiality is sired by Afleet Alex, who won the 2005 Belmont Stakes, and finished the Kentucky Derby in third place. He was purchased by Alto Racing for $400,000, and is a front-runner like Carpe Diem. It will require two-time Eclipse winning jockey, Javier Castellano an intelligent strategy to prevent him from getting stuck in mid-pack position.
4. Tencendur (30-1)
This New York bred racer made the pick with his performance as a runner-up in early April at the Wood at Aqueduct. While that’s ultimately what landed him a spot in the Derby. He is owned Playbill publisher Philip Birsh, and trained by George Weaver, who along with four other trainers in the race, started out with Hall of Famer, D. Wayne Lukas. Though his early pace performance was what earned him his slot, it is unlikely that jockey Manuel Franco will ride him in early lead in this race.
5. Danzig Moon (30-1)
A one time winner in five races, and recently second in the Keeneland’s Toyota Blue Grass, this Canadian bred horse, owned by John Oxley and trained by Mark Casse, is much talked about in some circles. Though not much of a threat to Carpe Diem, against whom he ran in the Bluegrass and Tampa Bay Derby, he kept mostly to the back up until the far turn, where he passed several horses who started to tire. However, this could mean the extra furlong in the Kentucky Derby could work to his and jockey Julien Laparoux’s favor.
6. Mubtaahij (20-1)
Christophe Soumillon, in his first Kentucky Derby, will be jockeying this Irish bred horse, who himself is running his first U.S. race. Owned by Essafinaat Limited, who purchased him for $600,000, and trained by Michael de Kock, also his first Kentucky Derby race, this import has won four out of five of his last races in England, Dubai, as well as $2 million U.A.E. Derby. His main handicap will come from the fact that the dirt track of Churchill Downs differs from what he is used to, which means he will probably be running in the back of the pack for most of the early part of the race.
7. El Kabeir (30-1)
This Zayat Stable $250,000 purchase has lived up to his name (which mean ‘boss’) in the Aqueduct Derby’s preps, where he won two of them, while finishing second and third in the other two. A four-time Kentucky Derby winner since 2007, Calvin Borel will be riding him for the first time and will need to devise a good closing strategy for this John Terranova II trainee.
8. Dortmund (3-1)
Martin Garcia rides this favorite, who is one of two trained by Bob Baffert. This attractive kid-on-the-block is owned by Kaleem Shah, who’s horse Bayern was the winner of the controversial Breeders’ Cup Classic this past November. He is sired by Big Brown, the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner. A study showed that he has a track record of being an natural early pace setter who does not fall behind easily, which showed in his victories in both the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby, where he outran all the other participants early on.
9. Bolo (30-1)
Bolo, owned by Golden Pegasus Racing, has had a better record on the turf, where he won twice, than on a dirt track where he was no match for Dortmond, which included the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby. Adding to the long odds of him being a contender in the Derby is the fact that he has not had a win since last year. However, if jockey Rafael Bejarano does get him to finish first, it will be a monumental moment for trainer Carla Gaines making the first woman trainer make the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle, and with a horse who hasn’t been to the winner’s circle since last year.
10. Firing Line (12-1)
Owned by Arnold Zetcher and trained by Simon Gallagher, Firing Line doubled his purchase price of $240,000 last year by being a serious contender in each of his races. He won his last race in New Mexico’s Sunland Derby by a gawking 12 lengths, and his only losses combined to measure less than one full length. Adding to the excitement will be three-time Kentucky Derby winner Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who will be riding him in this race.
11. Stanford (30-1)
Stone Street Stables, who also owns Carpe Diem, is partners with Michael Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor in this $550,000 purchase. As Pletcher’s entry number three in the race, like the other two, Stanford appears to be a front runner, but for his purchase price he has yet to show the ability to display the same speed early on like as the other pace-setters. Florent Geroux, his jockey, will be riding him in his first Kentucky Derby run.
12. International Star (20-1)
Ken Ramsey, native of Kentucky has always dreamed of winning a Kentucky Derby, and though he did not succeed with his home-state bred Kitten’s Joy, the fact that his $85,000 purchased New York bred contender had won all three Derby Preps this year at Louisiana’s Fair Grounds, makes things look promising. International Star’s habit and ability of running down horses late in the game will provide much excitement, though there is also the chance of this strategy falling apart. International Star is trained by Mike Maker and will be ridden by Miguel Mena.
13. Itsaknockout (30-1)
Owned by Starlight Racing, and the number four entry of trainer Todd Pletcher, this horse caused quite a media stir when in February, he was given a win at the Gulfstream Park’s Besilu Stable Fountain of Youth through disqualification. Other than that, he has always seemed content to run mid-pack. It will require much effort from jockey Luis Saez to ride him to first place.
14. Keen Ice (50-1)
This long shot, owned by Donegal Racing and trained by Dale Romans of Louisville, has yet to finish in front the other Kentucky Derby horses against whom he has run. Although his lineage includes two-time Horse of the Year and 2007 third place Derby finisher, Curlin, Keen Ice has not finished higher than third since September. Lacking the early speed of the other horses, three time Kentucky Derby winning jockey, Kent Desormeaux has a daunting task ahead of him.
15. Frosted (15-1)
Jockey Joel Rosario will ride this colt, who is owned by the Godolphin Racing group, which is operated by Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Frosted has shown a lot of promise since his win by two lengths the Wood Memorial early April. Though it is likely that he will start near the back, he can easily make a late push near the end for a Kentucky Derby win.
16. War Story (50-1)
Jockey Joe Talamo is slated to ride his first Kentucky Derby since 2009, when the favorite at the time I Want Revenge, was scratched from the race. Though this long-shot has had a habit not getting off to a good start coming out of the gate, riding this colt who owned by partners Loooch Racing Stables, Glenn Ellis, and Christopher Dunn should be an exciting challenge.
17. Mr. Z (50-1)
This long-shot is the Zayat Stables’ second entry into the race and, with 12 races under his belt, has had more experience than the other horses on the field. However, this Wayne Lukas trainee has had only one win, and his other runs have for the most part, have resulted in upsets. With his ability to set an early pace, Ramon Vazquez can potentially help him pose a challenge to the favorite American Pharoah.
18. American Pharoah (5-2)
As Zayat Stables’ third entrant, and trainer Bob Baffert’s second into the Kentucky Derby, this favorite, who won his last race by eight lengths, has in fact never won a race by less than three. Victor Espinoza, who with California Chrome, won both the Derby and Preakness, taking two out of the three Triple Crown races, will apparently only face two challenges, that is coming out of post 18 and against other speed racers.
19. Upstart (15-1)
This colt, who was purchased by Ralph Evans as a yearling in New York before partnering up with Winstar Farm, could show some promise when Jose Ortiz takes the saddle in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. He had lost his last two races in upsets, one of them being the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth, where he was controversially disqualified in favor of Itsaknockout. This is the second straight year trainer Rick Violette will bring a New York-bred horse to the Derby.
20. Far Right (30-1)
This colt was purchased for $2,500 before being privately sold to owner Harry Rosenblum, who in turn sold an interest to Robert Lapenta. Not an overall fast runner, he in fact lost in the past to Kentucky Derby favorite American Pharoah by eight lengths. Far Right, however, has been known to find openings in the rail and used these instances to his advantage, where only once in his career did he finish lower than third. On one occasion, this $600,000 purse thoroughbred lived up to his name, by going far to the outside on the far right in one of his races. Far Right is trained Ron Moquett and will be ridden by jockey Mike Smith.
Two horses, Tale of Verve, and Frammento are also entered into the race and will run in case any of the Kentucky Derby runners are scratched before Friday on 9AM. While the above list may serve as a post-time guide to those who are perplexed about the 2015 Kentucky Derby, contrary to some experts, this may not necessarily be a two-horse race. The fact that this competition will be run by a number of speed pacers, as well as some who can come up from behind, positioning and opportunities at a given split of a second could determine the overall outcome of the race.
By Bill Ades