Thursday, May 1, 2008

Derby Picks

I had been leaning toward Cool Coal Man as the horse. I like his pedigree and that he is probably fresher than most of the other colts. I am throwing out his Blue Grass appearance for the same reason I throw out Pyro's performance (later). I think he is ready to make a real move forward. I just don't think it will be enough to overcome a tough post and some even tougher competition on Saturday, so I've decided against him as my choice to win. I know he's been in post one several times before and it has not been an insurmountable problem for him, however, this is the Derby and the slightest hesitation and there's a stampede in front of him. He also has to stand in the gate longer than anyone but Z Humor. That doesn't bode well for either horse. As a final reason I don't like that he is a little slight of flesh. I almost prefer a smaller horse to a large horse in the Derby, but there is a big difference between small and light. For these reasons I'll keep any bets on Cool Coal Man limited to my exotics with perhaps a small bet as long shot. He's a nice colt and I look for him to improve throughout the year.

The connections of Big Brown are brimming over with confidence. I don't buy into it. Not that I don't think he has the talent. I just don't think that he can win with just three starts and, at least up until now, a one dimensional style. No doubt he's talented but Curlin couldn't win with three starts and I don't think he's a Curlin. Coupled with the outside post I think it's too much to overcome. Obviously what speed there is in the race is on his inside and he's going to want the lead. It's not only a long journey to the finish line, from out there it's along way to the rail! If he doesn't make the lead I give him little to no chance to win. If he makes the lead - he most likely will - I don't think he'll be able to to just make his own pace. I think he'll just have to expend too much too early to be there at the end. If you have to ask a horse to learn too much at once you're doomed. The Derby is the most difficult race situation a horse will ever face and he'll likely need to learn a few new tricks to get to the wire first. I'm throwing him out.

For the winner I had to decide between two: Pyro and Colonel John. I think they both have all the tools: pedigree, experience, agility, tactical speed and the ability to finish well. I was a bit concerned when I read Colonel John was tentative in his first experience at Churchill. But those concerns were put to rest with his final work. Many seemed concerned that he went too fast in that last work. It never bothered me. Good horses work fast. Anyone who has seen him run and has seen his stride would have expected him to cover ground quickly. The only question was if he was going to take to dirt. If he did I fully expected him to move forward on it.

Pyro has exhibited everything one would want in a Derby favorite. He had some top level performances at two against the best of his crop. He moved forward at three, making all the dances on his card. In those races he demonstrated his mental and physical abilities. Obviously the only knock is The Blue Grass. I am going to throw that race out. I think it's much easier for a horse to go from synthetic to dirt than the other way around. If they can grab on the synthetic surface it would seem probable they would get even better traction on the dirt. But the other way around? - maybe not. The only intangible I am not throwing out about that race is the psychological effect. If we take Pyro's history at face value one would have to conclude that he will come back to fight gallantly. But he never finished that far up the track. Will it have an effect on Pyro? Will it have an effect on Bridgmohan's confidence in Pyro? I think the answer to both of these questions is probably not; but they are questions remaining to be answered. For that reason I am going with Colonel John to win, Pyro to place. Rounding out the trifecta I'm going with Big Truck. I like how he's been working. He has also shown resilience of mind and ability to adapt. I'll leave Cool Coal man in for the super.

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