Early stages of Kentucky Derby should be interesting with speed drawn outside

Profile Picture: James Scully

May 4th, 2016

The biggest twist in Wednesday’s Kentucky Derby post draw came when expected pacemaker Danzing Candy drew post 20. Thoughts of the Santa Anita Derby (G1), when the speedy colt ran off in the opening furlongs, immediately flashed through my mind because Mike Smith will be hustling his mount from the break in an attempt to clear rivals and avoid getting caught wide into the first turn.

And Danzing Candy won’t be the only horse showing speed. Outwork has been a confirmed front-runner in all four career starts, forcing the action from the start of the Wood Memorial (G1) before prevailing by a nose, and the improving Uncle Mo colt figures to be flash forward from post 15.

Nyquist has been installed as the 3-1 choice, with Exaggerator next on the morning line at 8-1 and a trio of horses at 10-1, and the early tactics for the heavy favorite from post 13 will be key to how the race develops. Connections were probably happy to draw outside – the undefeated juvenile champion rallied to capture the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) from post 14 -- but Nyquist also possesses high speed and trainer Doug O’Neill expected to be in the first flight without of preponderance of early runners entered.

Will Nyquist allow the horses to his outside (Danzing Candy and Outwork) to cross over in front of him? Or does he get caught dueling up front as the field passes the stands for the first time?

Post 5 wasn’t ideal for Gun Runner, who could use his natural speed to avoid getting shuffled back entering the first turn, but I don’t expect to see him contesting the pace. He needs to establish early positioning just behind the front-runners but Gun Runner could force the outside speed to go faster than preferred.

The post draw should help the late runners, a contingent of about 10 horses who have been facing the prospect of moderate fractions up front. There’s still no guarantee the pace will be too taxing, and troubled trips remain likely as horses get stopped in traffic while attempting to rally, but the pace scenario could change significantly with the speed outside.

Trojan Nation, Suddenbreakingnews, Creator and Mo Tom drew the inside the four posts, respectively, but they were going to take back regardless and now have the opportunity to save ground in the early stages. And they could be joined toward the back of the pack by My Man Sam (post 6), Lani (8), Whitmore (10), Exaggerator (11), Tom’s Ready (12), Majesto (18) and Brody’s Cause (19).

That’s a lot of closers in a 20-horse field.

I spoke to clocker Gary Young Wednesday morning about Kentucky Derby contenders in a special edition of Turf Talk and here are his thoughts: