Thoughts on Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager
Installed at 3-5 on the morning line, the mutuel field (“all others”) will be a deserving odds-on favorite when the betting closes -- 22 weeks remain until the first Saturday in May and only one of the 23 listed horses from Pool 1 last year (Ride on Curlin) made the Kentucky Derby field. However, the potential remains for excellent value on the individual interests and that’s the appealing factor of future-book wagering.
I’ll provide an analysis of the 23 individual interests below.
1) American Pharoah – The lowest-priced individual (15-1) following dominant wins in the FrontRunner and Del Mar Futurity, he was forced to miss the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile due to a foot issue and there’s been no public announcement, just conflicting reports, surrounding the severity of the injury. Health concerns are a negative.
2) Blofeld – Unbeaten in three starts, including a pair of Grade 2 events around one turn, he’s bred to handle longer distances but it was disappointing to see him missing from Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile Remsen. Remains a promising colt for Todd Pletcher entering 2015.
3) Calculator – Scratched from the Juvenile due to a lingering foot injury, he returned to the worktab with a couple of recent breezes and could still make the December 20 Los Alamitos Futurity (formerly CashCall). Late runner is winless from four starts, and bred for speed on top (by In Summation), but his form is improving.
4) Carpe Diem – Juvenile runner-up is one of seven horses at 20-1 on the morning line but I’ll be surprised if he’s not the lowest-priced individual in the end. Son of Giant’s Causeway looks like the complete package at this stage based upon form and pedigree. Powerfully-built youngster displayed good speed winning his first two starts, earning a 100 BRIS Speed rating while romping in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity, and showed his versatility, as well as plenty of determination, rallying to grab second in the final strides last time.
5) Classy Class – Exits a convincing debut win sprinting at Belmont Park on October 25, but can’t get too excited given the 90 BRIS Speed rating he earned. We’ll find out more in Saturday’s Remsen at Aqueduct.
6) Competitive Edge – Flashed excellent talent at Saratoga, winning both starts, including the Hopeful, in a landslide but underwent surgery afterward and has not returned to the worktab. From the first crop of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, he could be any kind if he makes it back, at the same level, in plenty of time, but that’s a big “if.”
7) Daredevil – Won his first two starts impressively on wet tracks but flopped when stretching out to two turns in the Juvenile at Santa Anita. Won’t be surprised to see the More Than Ready colt come back strong in an early-season prep race, but his propensity for longer distances next spring is a legitimate concern.
8) Dortmund – Drew off nicely to win career debut on November 2 and three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert could have big plans for his future. Big Brown colt is entered on Saturday’s undercard at Churchill Downs, a one-turn, one-mile allowance test, and will receive support in Pool 1 if he continues to impress in that spot.
9) Eagle – Looks ready for his stakes bow, winning two of his first three starts, but his BRIS Speed numbers leave a lot to be desired. He’s entered in Saturday’s Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs.
10) El Kabeir – Did not run back to his maiden win, a 10-length romp at Saratoga, in his last two stakes attempts, but both came on wet tracks. Need to see more in Saturday’s Kentucky Jockey Club to have any faith.
11) Frosted – Well-bred colt (by Tapit and out of a half-sister to champion Midshipman) broke through with an eye-catching maiden win in his third start and can continue to enhance his stock with a good showing in Saturday’s Remsen. He’s intriguing.
12) I Spent It – Exited a last-place showing in the Champagne with an injury and trainer Tony Dutrow hopes to have him back in time to make the Kentucky Derby trail.
13) Imperia – Can envision playing him in Saturday’s Kentucky Jockey Club and Pool 1 if he handles dirt as expected. Opened career with two strong showings on turf but lost all chance when experiencing a rough trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. By Medaglia d’Oro, he’s out of a dam who was a Grade 1 winner on dirt and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff – no pedigree concerns surrounding surface switch.
14) Lord Nelson – Bred to run longer but his best races have come sprinting so far. Outlook changes if he runs big, as the likely favorite, in Saturday’s Kentucky Jockey Club.
15) Lucky Player – Won a Churchill Downs stakes two back but was never a factor finishing 10th in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Hasn’t run fast, from a Speed figure perspective, in any of his five outings but he’ll get the opportunity to show more in Saturday’s Kentucky Jockey Club.
16) Mr. Z – Won’t lack seasoning if he makes Kentucky Derby field – he’s run seven times already this year – and showed fine class finishing second in four graded stakes, including a nose runner-up in the recent Delta Jackpot. Sire Malibu Moon was responsible for Kentucky Derby winner Orb and colt is in good hands with four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas. Can’t dismiss his chances.
17) Ocho Ocho Ocho – Unbeaten in three starts, speedy colt proved ultra-game defeating Mr. Z in Delta Jackpot and has earned century-topping BRIS Speed ratings in his last two starts. But distance concerns linger going forward. He’s by Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, so the pedigree looks good on paper, but Street Sense is also the sire of Sweet Reason, a 3yo filly who has won five times at a mile or less but is zero-for-three at longer distances. Ocho Ocho Ocho similarly doesn’t look like the type, in my estimation, who will be well-suited by added ground next spring.
18) Ostrolenka – He’s run well in two starts at a mile versus New York-bred rivals and is a promising sort for unheralded freshman sire Musket Man. We’ll get a better gauge on his abilities in Saturday’s Remsen.
19) Punctuate – He won his lone appearance at 6 ½ furlongs in eye-catching fashion, rallying from 12th to win going away at Santa Anita in late September, and the Distorted Humor colt must be considered a promising prospect for Baffert if he can stay healthy. He’s been missing from the worktab the last few weeks.
20) Texas Red – Won’t get too excited about his flashy 6 ½-length win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – his previous form was completely overshadowed as everything fell perfectly into place – and Texas Red must prove it wasn’t a fluke going forward. But he still deserves serious respect based upon that top-class performance and possesses plenty of pedigree for longer distances.
21) The Great War – Irish invader turned in a solid effort for fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and remained in the U.S. with new trainer Wesley Ward. A winner in three of eight starts, the well-bred War Front colt (dam is closely related to Departing) is an interesting longshot for Pool 1.
22) Unblunted – Last-out maiden winner hasn’t run fast in his two starts and looks bred for speed on both sides of his pedigree.
23) Upstart – New York-bred colt opened his racing career with a pair of nice wins over restricted rivals and showed good class versus Grade 1 rivals when second in the Champagne and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His BRIS Speed, Early Pace and Late Pace numbers are among the best in Pool 1 and we can count on further improvement given that he’s a son of the A.P. Indy sire Flatter. And he’s out of a mare by Belmont Stakes hero Touch Gold. Hope to see his odds drift upward from 20-1 on the morning line.
Outlook: Saturday’s Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs and Remsen at Aqueduct are obviously important for a number of horses in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. I don’t need to see Imperia (Kentucky Jockey Club) or Frosted (Remsen) win, but a solid showing will guarantee a wager in Pool 1.
Count me as a fan of Upstart at this stage – he’s my strongest opinion in Pool 1 -- and I’ll look to make a smaller play on The Great War and possibly Dortmund if he runs well on Saturday.