Our top picks for the 2015 Kentucky Derby

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TwinSpires Staff

May 1st, 2015

Who does our team like best in Saturday's Kentucky Derby (G1)? Depends who's answering the question...

James Scully: Dortmund is my pick to win the 2015 Kentucky Derby. Massive in size but nimble and athletic on track, Dortmund has been a horse to watch since his 7 3/4-length allowance romp at Churchill Downs last November. He’s won four straight stakes since, capped by a 4 1/4-length romp in the Santa Anita Derby that netted a 106 BRIS Speed rating, and brings high speed to the 1 1/4-mile classic. By 2008 Derby winner Big Brown, the Bob Baffert-trained colt drew well in post 8 and figures to be up close from the start, possibly showing the way early under Martin Garcia. I like the talented colt’s chances on the front end.

Jennifer Caldwell: No one Derby runner has really stood out to me this year, but I do like Carpe Diem, so therefore he’s my pick to win the 141st Run for the Roses. The Todd Pletcher trainee has made just two starts this season, but romped on each occasion in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Blue Grass S. (G1). He earned a nice 102 BRIS Speed figure as well as a 101 BRIS Late Pace rating for that latter event, and was pulling away in both races in the stretch. Carpe Diem opened at 8-1 on the morning line but was 7-1 in the early wagering on Friday, so he should offer some nice value if he wins.

Vance Hanson: Like many in the racing punditry, I’m siding with Dortmund to remain undefeated through Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Aside from his own barnmate, Derby favorite American Pharoah, he’s the one that’s turned the most heads on the Churchill Downs backside this week. An imposing physical specimen, he drew a perfect position, is versatile in running style, and has the winning experience over the track that I find advantageous. He’s also been more battle-tested than most of the other major contenders, having had to turn back Firing Line on two different occasions over the winter when things weren’t exactly going his way. A son of a Kentucky Derby winner in Big Brown, Dortmund should find the 10th furlong of the Derby within his scope. This might literally be the only opportunity bettors will ever have of getting this talented colt at any kind of price (he’s been the odds-on favorite in his last five starts). American Pharoah might be all that his connections believe him to be, but he’s had to overcome a suspensory injury, wears a special foot plate, and faced no adversity whatsoever in either the Rebel or Arkansas Derby against moderate company. If he, or someone else, extends my streak of losing Kentucky Derby selections to 19, so be it. I’m confident Dortmund will give a great showing.

Kellie Reilly: I wouldn't blame you if you discounted the win chances of Carpe Diem after he drew post 2, or thought I was loyal to the point of folly to stick with him. But at times I've overanalyzed post positions, only to have a horse avert tricky situations and secure better position than envisioned. Admittedly, this is the Derby, where the scramble for position going into the first turn makes the running of the bulls in Pamplona look tame. Yet this son of Giant's Causeway could have the early gears to stake out his ground, and the stamina to drive home from there. Although the Todd Pletcher trainee doesn't have the devastating brilliance of American Pharoah, or the imposing heft of unbeaten Dortmund, I have the sense that the 1 1/4-mile trip is going to bring out the best in him. As much as I respect Pharoah, I'm not sure one can say the same about his effectiveness over the added ground, especially off two cakewalk preps. And Dortmund is arguably the most logical choice, but again, his aura of invincibility could be dispelled in that 10th furlong. To me, Carpe Diem has always shaped up as a horse who would thrive at the American classic distance. Yet he wired his debut at Saratoga sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs, where he showed high speed, resiliency, and power to rebuff a stiff challenge from Ready for Rye -- the eventual Swale (G2) winner. That could be the marker of exceptional talent for Carpe Diem, who has since gone on to spread-eagle the field in the Breeders' Futurity (G1), Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Blue Grass (G1). Even his lone loss in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) was meritorious, for he found himself farther back off the hot pace, and he adapted his running style to roll late for second. Now more seasoned, and likely stronger too, Carpe Diem could benefit from that experience. He might be best suited to the Derby.

Ed DeRosa: One of the reasons I liked Texas Red as  a Kentucky Derby candidate is because I viewed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as the type of race that could indicate classic performance. He was one of the few defections from this year’s Kentucky Derby trail, but the horse who would have been favored in that Breeders’ Cup after defeating Texas Red in the previous race has taken his place. American Pharoah was the best two-year-old last year, and nothing about his three-year-old campaign this year has made me think he’s still not the best of this group. There are the intangibles such as the foot issue and the pedigree questions at 1 1/4 miles that give some people pause, but for me, I’m happy to take the best horse to date in the best race in the world.