2012 Kentucky Derby Contenders, Borderline Horses, and Throwouts – Part X

Here are the final five analysis of Kentucky Derby 138 probable starters from AGameofSkill.com. As always, the Wynn Future Book Odds (from 4/16/12) are listed next to the horse.

 

PPs Ill Have Another

2012 copyright Brisnet.com and Equibase

I’LL HAVE ANOTHER (16/1, # 12 on Money List)

This son of Flower Alley has done little wrong for owner J. Paul Reddam, who has owned such top horses as Wilko, Red Rocks and Square Eddie. After scoring an easy win in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, he followed that up with a game win over top California horse Creative Cause in the G1 Santa Anita Derby. He gutted out a nose victory after a tough final stretch duel. That is not the type of prep you want to see going into the Derby, in this handicapper’s view. There is nothing wrong with a tough race, but I believe there is a good chance that I’ll Have Another will regress off that Santa Anita Derby victory.

Two other things I don’t particularly like about this colt. In the Robert B. Lewis win, which was visually impressive, he switched back to the wrong lead at the 1/16th pole. Let me assure you that is not a positive sign. It is often the sign of a horse with a physical ailment.

In addition, there are several horses in this year’s field that have a similar running style. I believe he would need a perfect trip to overcome the pace scenario and outfinish those rivals.

I’ll Have Another will be ridden by jockey Mario Gutierrez, a very talented rider who made his mark at Hastings Park in Vancouver, Canada but has never ridden in the Kentucky Derby.

Status: Borderline Horse for the Exotics.

 

PPs of Gemologist

2012 copyright Brisnet.com and Equibase

GEMOLOGIST (7/1, # 7 on Money List)

Last year in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club, Gemologist overcame a tough outside post with the short run to the first turn, and a three-wide trip on every turn, to claim a gutsy win in the prestigious fall meet stakes.

After the win, trainer Todd Pletcher said he was envisioning a two-prep plan next year, reminiscent of Super Saver.

“We’ll give him a little bit of a break off that, and I’ll get with Elliott[Walden], and we’ll come up with a game plan,” Pletcher said. “I’d say we’d try to follow a similar path — hopefully two starts before the big race, if things go well.”

Everything has gone according to plans this year. His first start off the year with an impressive win at Gulfstream Park with the short field spread out behind him. He followed that up with another impressive win, this time in the G1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. A lot of people talk about runner-up Alpha’s troubled trip around the first turn, but Gemologist didn’t exactly have a clean trip either. He was involved in the “five way crush of horses” as Tom Durkin called it.  In fact, the race around the first turn was the type one often sees in the Kentucky Derby each year. Gemologist’s tactical speed and button-push acceleration helped avoid major trouble around the first turn. In the process he was used up some to maintain a good position behind a quick pace once they cleared the first turn.  In the stretch run I believe Gemologist starting loafing a bit. Once he saw Alpha range up on him, he pulled away from that rival nearing the wire. They could have gone around the track a second time and Alpha never would have caught Gemologist.

His victory in the Wood was his fourth career win over as many different racetracks. He now returns to Churchill Downs where he is undefeated in two career starts.

Gemologist has improved with each career start, and as a son of superstar Tiznow, the distance of the Kentucky Derby is not a question.

Status: Contender

 

2012 copyright Brisnet.com and Equibase

OPTIMIZER (85/1, # 21 on Money List)

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is back in the Kentucky Derby, this time with longshot Optimizer who gets in at the last minute due to the defection of another longshot, Mark Valeski.

This turf specialist has a main track dirt record that reads like this: 6-0-1-0 (six starts, zero wins, 1 place, zero show). His lone good effort on the dirt was a fast-closing 2nd to miler Secret Circle in the G2 Rebel Stakes. For that “visually impressive” late run, he earned an 88 Late Pace figure. That might win you an allowance race on the undercard, such as  a “non-winners of two life” which this son of English Channel is eligible for.

Status: Throwout

 

2012 copyright Brisnet.com and Equibase

SABERCAT (35/1, # 8 on Money List)

The only thing this colt from the Steve Asmussen barn has going for him is his closing running style. Kentucky Derby 138 figures to feature a fast pace and that will benefit the closers. Sabercat was crushed by Bodemeister in the G1 Arkansas Derby and he couldn’t even pass miler Secret Circle in the final furlong, as that rival was staggering down the stretch run at Oaklawn Park. Secret Circle’s best lifetime BRIS Speed Rating is a 94, and to say that “doesn’t cut it” would be an understatement.

Sabercat is 2-0-0-1 at Churchill Downs.

Status: Throwout

 

PPs Union Rags

2012 copyright Brisnet.com and Equibase

UNION RAGS (9/2, # 3 on Money List)

Despite his troubled third in the G1 Florida Derby, Union Rags remains the horse to beat in Kentucky Derby 138. The son of Dixie Union has never run a bad race for trainer Michael Matz of Barbaro fame. His two huge wins in graded stakes in New York last year made him the strong favorite in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Breaking from the ten hole that day, he suffered a wide trip and just could not catch the loose leader, Hansen, in the stretch run. This has turned out to be the strongest running of the BC Juvenile in its history, with no less than 9 horses coming back to eventually win stakes races.

The hype continued into his three year old season when he scored a smashing win in the G2 Fountain Of Youth Stakes, but Union Rags had a perfect trip and set up that day. That was not the case in the FL Derby when he raced throughout in traffic and was shuffled back heading into the far turn. When he finally got clear, he could not run down the top two finishers, including wire-to-wire winner Take Charge Indy.

In his two starts this year, he has earned triple digit speed figures and 113 and 115 BRIS Late Pace Ratings, respectively, which are monster numbers.

Since arriving in Louisville, he has been working exceptionally well. He appears to be on top of his game and another typical, strong effort should be expected. It doesn’t hurt that top jockey Julien Leparoux, who has been on fire this year, is anxious to made amends for the last race.

Status: Contender

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is an 18-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. Rich was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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