Battle of the KY Derby Sires

by Justin Dew

In the red corner, standing 16.1 hands, a son of Johannesburg and the winner of the 2007 Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, the now deceased Scat Daddy.

In the blue corner, standing a number of hands that I wasn’t able to confirm on Wikipedia, a son of Smart Strike, the winner of lots of huge races and two-time Horse of the Year, the amazing Curlin.

Scat Daddy via Coolmore

At Churchill Downs next month, the ‘Battle of the Sires’ will captivate horse racing fans around the world as the main event on a day that also includes an undercard event known at the Kentucky Derby.

Punching it out for Scat Daddy:

Justify– The Kentucky Derby favorite. Undefeated in three lifetime starts. Has run faster than any of his prospective Derby opponents.

Mendelssohn– The UAE Derby winner. A half-brother to the great Beholder. Expected to be among the top three favorites in the Derby wagering.

Flameaway– Your Sam F. Davis Stakes winner and Blue Grass Stakes runner-up. A hard-trier who fires every time.

Combatant- Consistent runner for Steve Asmussen picked up minor checks in both Arkansas Derby and Rebel Stakes.

Curlin via Lanes End

Representing Curlin:

Good Magic– Your 2017 Champion Two-Year Old. Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Blue Grass Stakes.

Vino Rosso– Trained and ridden by last year’s Derby winning team of Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez. Winner of the Wood Memorial.

Solomini– From the owner and trainer who brought us American Pharaoh, he is a recent bridesmaid on the Derby Trail.

Am I a pedigree expert? No, I am not. Thank you for asking. But in a battle of attrition like the Kentucky Derby, which sire do YOU think has the best chance of seeing his offspring, either from the farm or from Horsey Heaven, win the roses?

My money is on Curlin. And in the Kentucky Derby, my money will be on his kids. In one form or another.

Monster horse. Monster price.

How I got 31-1 on star Mendelssohn

By Art Parker

As of today there is only one question remaining in my mind.

Before the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Mendelssohn caught my eye. His pedigree is very impressive. Putting the late Scat Daddy with Leslie’s Lady was a very good idea. As a broodmare, Leslie’s Lady has delivered three Grade One winners counting Mendelssohn. Leslie’s Lady gave us the great champion Beholder, which is enough for any broodmare’s resume. Mendelssohn was sold at Keeneland for the monster price of $3 million, the most expensive yearling in North America in 2016. Before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last year I was anxious to see if the colt could live up to his pedigree and auction price. He did. After the race I was convinced that he would improve greatly with experience.

Mendelssohn’s Breeders’ Cup triumph was on the grass but I saw no reason why he could not be effective on the main track. I couldn’t resist the 31-1 offering in the November Kentucky Derby future pool. I told myself that he is surely better than that monster price, even on the dirt. I was happy to take those odds realizing that I could have a losing ticket if he failed to make it to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Mendelsohhn by Gary TasichI was even happier with my Derby longshot when Mendelssohn embarrassed and obliterated the field in the UAE Derby a few weeks ago. The colt (I presume he was named for the famous German composer, Felix Mendelssohn) covered the 1 3/16th mile distance in track record time at Meydan in 1:55.18 and did it with incredible ease. He won the UAE Derby by more than 18 lengths. It was truly a monster effort.

In the big race for older horses a couple of hours later, Thunder Snow won the Dubai World Cup traveling 1 ¼ miles in 2:01.38. When comparing the sophomore Mendelssohn to his elders in the World Cup his time is very impressive, especially since he could have stopped the clock earlier if he pushed the issue.

Mendelssohn has won three straight races on three different continents and all on a different surface. He is conditioned by one of the finest trainers in the world, Aidan O’Brien.

I like Mendelssohn even though the game will get tougher for him in Louisville. He will meet some very good horses, including the probable Derby favorite, Bob Baffert’s Justify, another son of Scat Daddy.

As of today there is only one question remaining in my mind. Will Mendelssohn ship well? I know he has shown that traveling doesn’t affect his performance. But he has logged a lot of miles for a very young horse, and the trip to the states after going to Dubai may be too much. We will not know about the travel until his trip in the Derby is completed.

I think Mendelssohn is the real deal, potentially a monster horse, and I really like my monster price of 31-1.

Recap of the Big Derby-prep Stakes Action

“and if you refer back to his juvenile form cycle, his third start [off the layoff] was his best.”

by Justin Dew

As a fan of Good Magic, I was happy to see him win and win nicely. He was wide around both turns and outran two horses (Flameaway and Sporting Chance) who I feel had better trips. And while it didn’t appear that Good Magic was getting stronger as the race went on, keep in mind that this was just his second start off a layoff, and if you refer back to his juvenile form cycle, his third start was his best. From a Beyer Speed Figure standpoint, the 95 he earned in the Blue Grass was six points better than he earned in the corresponding race from his juvenile campaign, the Champagne. Additionally, if you compare his career debut and his 2018 debut, he ran seven points better as a three-year-old. So, he ran 82-89-100 to start his career, and 89-95 this year. Might another 11-point Beyer jump be in the cards for his third start of the form cycle? It’s something to think about.

Nyquist KY Derby 2016I also happen to think Jose Ortiz may have moved a few seconds too soon, and perhaps could have given Good Magic a chance to finish a little stronger with better timing. It’s not going to surprise me at all if we ultimately see Good Magic make a nice life for himself at a mile, but for now, we can still give him the benefit of the doubt based on what he’s done in his five-race career.

Flameaway is just a hard-knocking fighter and he’ll get nothing but respect from me. I don’t think 10 furlongs is in his wheelhouse, but if More Than Ready can run 4th in the Kentucky Derby, so can this guy. As for Free Drop Billy, let’s see how he trains at Churchill Downs. I suppose one can make a case that he could clunk up in the Derby.

It looks like Justify is headed for something around 3-1 in the Kentucky Derby. Maybe even lower. I don’t really have anything meaningful to add about the Santa Anita Derby. Justify is good. If you want to take low odds on a son of Scat Daddy going 10 furlongs, be my guest. I may even join you to some degree.

Without going back and looking at the charts for every New York Derby prep to be run over the last decade, my general sense is that winter/spring racing in New York attracts the horses that aren’t good enough to compete elsewhere. Enticed lost at Gulfstream, then won at Aqueduct and was favored in the Wood. Vino Rosso lost twice in Florida, and then came to New York and won. And a maiden winner from California, Restoring Hope, came to the Wood and ran 3rd. So, I’m just not impressed by anything out of the Wood. I highly doubt I’ll use any of them in the Kentucky Derby.

With the Arkansas Derby still to be run, I’m feeling like the list of horses who can be labeled as prime Kentucky Derby win candidates is taking a more firm shape. Same for the longshots to watch:

Prime Win Candidates: Justify, Bolt d’Oro, Audible, Good Magic

Top Longshots: Hofburg, Runaway Ghost

Logical horses that I don’t particularly like: Mendelssohn, Magnum Moon, Enticed, Vino Rosso

Who’s a 2018 Kentucky Derby Contender According to Dew

Obviously I still think he is a major threat to win the Kentucky Derby, but I am far less excited about betting on him than I was previously.

by Justin Dew

Even though there are still four hugely important Kentucky Derby prep races to be run, I have already made some key decisions about my Derby Day wagering. That’s not to say I can’t go back and change my mind later. It’s possible that the upcoming prep races will change everything. But things are definitely starting to take shape.

Gulfstream Park horse toteThere is a 0% chance that Mendelssohn makes a prominent appearance on my tickets. I don’t care that he is related to Beholder, nor do I care that he allegedly earned a huge Beyer Speed Figure in winning the UAE Derby. That racetrack was a conveyor belt, and that race had to take a lot out of him. I think he will be over-bet based on the margin of victory and the track record time. If he is a freak of nature and runs huge in Louisville, then I will tip my cap and tear up my tickets. I am definitely glad that he is coming to America, and there is no doubt that he is a very exciting racehorse. I’ll even go a step further and say that I’d like to see the Coolmore people win the Kentucky Derby someday. But Mendelssohn is a bet against for me.

How much did we really learn about Audible from his Florida Derby win? I had him ranked very high before the race, and he certainly did not disappoint. But with the insane early pace, and with Catholic Boy apparently bleeding, he almost had no choice but to win. I am clearly not going to fault him for winning, but we can expect to see much lower odds in the Kentucky Derby based on how visually impressive he was in the Florida Derby. Obviously I still think he is a major threat to win the Kentucky Derby, but I am far less excited about betting on him than I was previously.

And speaking of the Florida Derby, if Hofburg runs in the Kentucky Derby, I have a strange feeling he is going to become the wiseguy horse. Everyone will start talking about how he will love a mile and a quarter and is just learning what the racing game is all about, and how Bill Mott is the greatest trainer in history and blah blah blah. But just like Audible, Hofburg benefited from the blazing early fractions and passed a bunch of horses that were stopping and/or bleeding. I actually thought Mississippi ran a fantastic race, but I don’t think he will have enough points to make the Kentucky Derby starting gate. It sounds like Promises Fulfilled will continue on to Louisville, where I see him finishing somewhere between ninth and 16th.

Perhaps the most significant Kentucky Derby development this weekend was the announcement that McKinzie is injured and will miss his start in the Santa Anita Derby. I’ll have more to say about him later this week, but suffice it to say I was looking forward to betting against him in Kentucky also.

There are a few horses who have already made their final prep that I would like to discuss. Noble Indy doesn’t do it for me, and based on what I’m reading he doesn’t do it for many other people either. I have a feeling Jon Velazquez will end up on Audible instead of this guy. Bravazo is interesting to me. Let’s see how he trains at Churchill Downs. And Runaway Ghost didn’t look like a horse who will have trouble with the Derby distance when he won at Sunland. I can see him closing late for a big piece of the Derby pie.

handicappers Dew Justin Rich NilsenLots to look forward to this weekend. It seems as if the Blue Grass Stakes is shaping up as an absolute battle. And it will feature the horse who I think is the most likely winner of the Kentucky Derby.

 

— Editor’s Note: I got to know Justin Dew (left) when he was the official blogger for the very official Kentucky Derby website.  He’s an amazing father and fantastic gambler.  Just ask him.  He’ll tell you.  Welcome aboard, Justin!