Baffert’s ‘second horse’ a Kentucky Derby betting angle

Profile Picture: James Scully

April 27th, 2015

Bob Baffert has been in this position before, coming to Churchill Downs with both the favorite and another leading Kentucky Derby contender. And his “second horse” has notably outperformed the favorite both times.

Do you know what they say about things happening in threes?

Barring a bad post at Wednesday’s draw, American Pharoah will be the decided favorite in the 141st Kentucky Derby following his awesome workout on Sunday. Stablemate Dortmund, undefeated from six starts, is the likely clear second choice in the wagering.

A couple of articles last weekend focused on trainer Bob Baffert’s strong hand, asking observers to find a comparison to past Kentucky Derbys. Oblivious to Point Given-Congaree phenomenon of 2001, the only mention I saw was Citation and Coaltown in 1948.

I disagree. Baffert was loaded for bear in 2001, with future Hall of Famer Point Given and eventual $3.2 million earner Congaree, a Grade 1 winner from distances of seven furlongs to 1 ¼ miles. Both horses were unbeaten that year, with Point Given dominating the Santa Anita Derby and Congaree romping to a facile Wood Memorial victory over well-regarded Florida Derby hero Monarchos.

Point Given and Congaree were easily the most-accomplished and best-regarded horses entering the 2001 Derby, similar to American Pharoah and Dortmund, but they couldn’t get it done on track.

Point Given wound up weakening to fifth. Congaree did much better after chasing the hot pace, missing second in a tough-luck nose photo where his head was up and Invisible Ink’s down.

Baffert’s perceived “second-stringer” also outperformed his favored stablemate in the 1998 Kentucky Derby.

Indian Charlie brought a lofty reputation to Louisville, Kentucky that year, rolling to convincing wins in all four starts. After a stirring 2 ¼-length Santa Anita Derby victory, he was bet down to 5-2 favoritism on Derby Day.

His stablemate, Real Quiet, concluded his juvenile season with a victory in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity and posted runner-up finishes in the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby in advance of his Derby bid.

He wasn’t the same performer in prep races, but Real Quiet had an experience edge over Indian Charlie, making nine starts as a juvenile. Indian Charlie was supremely talented from the get-go but arguably frail, making only four career starts before the Derby. The favorite exited his third-place Derby finish with an injury and never raced again.

Dortmund is more accomplished than Real Quiet but they have one thing in common – both thrived on racing.

Dortmund and Real Quiet each competed in late November and mid-December before receiving three preps as a three-year-old.

American Pharoah will be making his third start since September on Derby Day. He’s a legitimate threat to keep rolling, but Dortmund’s supporters have reason for optimism.