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Kentucky Derby: Ed McNamara’s horse-by-horse analysis

Post position: 14 Trainer: Mark Casse Rider: Julien

Post position: 14
Trainer: Mark Casse
Rider: Julien Leparoux
Record: 7-5-0-1
Last 3: 1-3-1
Odds: 4-1
The 2-year-old champ and morning-line favorite is a temperamental sort bothered by physical problems earlier this year. Foot abscess and back trouble limited him to two preps, and he refused to work out twice. Gritty return in Arkansas Derby restored his reputation after sluggish third at 1-2 in Holy Bull. At his best he could win easily, but as TVG's Scott Hazelton said: "The talent's there, but what's happening between his ears. Where's he at?" Major force if his mind is right. Photo Credit: AP / Mark J. Terrill

Have a look at the horse-by-horse analysis for the top 27 horses who could run in the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

The maximum field size for the 143rd running of the race is 20. The draw will be held Wednesday, May 3, and determines the field and post position.


Trainer: Mark Casse

Rider: Julien Leparoux

Record: 7-5-0-1

Last 3: 1-3-1

The 2-year-old champ and likely favorite is a temperamental sort bothered by physical problems this year. Foot abscess and back trouble limited him to two preps, and he refused to work out once. Gritty return win in Arkansas Derby restored his reputation after sluggish third at 1-2 in Holy Bull. At his best, he could be the one, but as TVG’s Scott Hazelton said: “The talent’s there, but what’s happening between his ears? Where’s he at?” Major force if his mind is right.


Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Rider: John Velazquez

Record: 5-3-1-1

Last three: 1-1-1

He’s 3-for-3 at 3, with a Florida Derby runaway vaulting him to near or the top of most top 10 lists. Has tactical speed and can finish, but unlikely to get a fourth straight perfect trip. Other reasons for skepticism: So many Pletcher horses with this one’s profile were Derby flops, and Florida Derby field was weak. Deep closer Gunnevera was the only other serious threat, and pace setup canceled him. A win by Always Dreaming wouldn’t shock anyone, but I’m not buying in.


Trainer: Graham Motion

Rider: Rajiv Maragh

Record: 5-4-0-0

Last 3: 1-7-1

Went from question mark to a leading contender with Wood Memorial romp. Only dud was a no-show seventh two back in the Fountain of Youth. Closed to win his debut but has been on or near pace since. Maragh got him to settle and fire in the Wood. Distance should be no problem for son of Curlin, sire of last year’s Preakness and Haskell winner, Exaggerator. Motion’s a master who won 2011 Derby with Animal Kingdom in his dirt debut. Give this colt a long look.


Trainer: Antonio Sano

Rider: Javier Castellano

Record: 9-4-2-1

Last 3: 3-1-2

Forgive his third-place finish at even money in the Florida Derby, because this deep closer had no chance to overcome pace setup. Likely solid early fractions at Churchill will work to his advantage, and pathfinder Castellano is one of best riders never to win the Derby. Powerful finisher should be surging at the quarter pole when most will be tiring. Likely overlay shapes up as a must-use in all exotics.


Trainer: Ian Wilkes

Rider: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Record: 5-4-0-1

Last 3: 3-1-1

Was 4-for-4 before ankle strain forced him to miss Tampa Bay Derby, then ran a so-so third in Blue Grass. Wilkes said he needed the race, and Hernandez kept the faith, leaving Girvin to stick with McCraken. Not certain this solid closer classes up, because he’s never won a Grade I. Loves Churchill, though (3-for-3), so he’s a horse for course. Mixed signals, and the two-month layoff is a big concern, but odds will be inviting.


Trainer: Joe Sharp

Rider: Mike Smith

Record: 4-3-1-0

Last 3: 1-1-2

Has the most qualifying points and never has run a bad race. Also never run anywhere but Fair Grounds, and questions remain about the caliber of his opponents in New Orleans. Smith picked up mount when Brian Hernandez Jr. jumped off to stick with McCraken despite his Blue Grass third. Off-pace style should help colt trained by husband of retired star jockey Rosie Napravnik, who rides Girvin in workouts. Questions, but not out of it.


Trainer: John Shirreffs

Rider: Victor Espinoza

Record: 6-4-0-0

Last 3: 1-4-1

Rallied gamely for narrow win in slow Santa Anita Derby (1:51) with fast pace, sluggish finish (last 3 furlongs in 39 1/5). Four of last five Kentucky Derby heroes were based in Southern California, but West Coast crew is unimpressive except for injured former division leader Mastery. Espinoza going for his fourth Derby, and Shireffs won it in 2005 with longshot Giacomo. Don’t think they’ll do it with this guy.


Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Rider: Mario Gutierrez

Record: 8-1-3-1

Last 3: 1-4-2

Was 0-for-7 before his 31-1 Blue Grass shocker, which probably downgrades those he beat more than it flatters him. O’Neill and Gutierrez are two-time Derby winners, including last year with Nyquist, but their third won’t come with this colt.


Trainer: Dale Romans

Rider: Luis Saez

Record: 6-2-1-1

Last 3: 4-1-3

Was a bad-trip fourth in Blue Grass after perfect-trip Gotham win on Aqueduct’s inner track. Can’t see him making any impact on Derby Day.


Trainer: Chad Brown

Rider: Joel Rosario

Brown is among the world’s best trainers, with his reputation resting mainly on turf runners. He’s never been a factor in the Triple Crown, although expect that to happen in the near future. This distance-challenged colt looks like a closing sprinter, so Brown’s breakthrough won’t happen with him. He’s winless at 3 and 0-for-3 around two turns, with his longest win by a nose in a one-turn mile.


Trainer: Saaed bin Suroor

Rider: Christophe Soumillon

Record: 8-4-2-0

Last 3: 1-1-1

No winner of the United Emirates Derby ever made a splash in Louisville on the first Saturday in May. It won’t happen this year, either.


Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Rider: Jose Ortiz

Record: 6-3-1-0

Last 3: 5-1-2

His 4½-length win in Tampa Bay’s Sam Davis put him on everybody’s watch list. His lifeless fifth in the Blue Grass made almost everyone cross him off. Never beaten a top horse and can’t see him jumping up here. I’m throwing him out.


Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Rider: Florent Geroux

Record: 6-2-1-1

Last 3: 1-7-1

Like 2009 Derby shocker Mine That Bird, he won New Mexico’s Sunland Park Derby, but that’s where the similarities will end.


Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer

Rider: Flavien Prat

Record: 4-2-1-1

Last 3: 2-1-3

Didn’t debut until Jan. 21, and no Derby winner since Apollo in 1882 didn’t run as a 2-year-old. Eventually, that streak will end, but picking exactly when deserves monstrous odds. On the plus side, he never has been out of the money and held gamely for second in the Santa Anita Derby after dueling through quick fractions. For stabbers and dreamers.


Trainer: Mark Casse

Rider: Jose Lezcano

Record: 10-1-4-2

Last 3: 2-2-3

Was a never-close second or third in last three, all graded stakes, and has earned $382,548 despite only one win. A victory is out of the question, but in best-case scenario he might plod up for fourth.


Trainer: Mike Maker

Rider: Channing Hill

Record: 6-3-1-0

Last 3: 1-1-1

$51 winner of synthetic Turfway’s Spiral Stakes was supplemented for $200,000 because he wasn’t nominated to the Triple Crown. Looks like a silly gamble, because he was a distant fifth in his only start on conventional dirt.


Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Rider: TBA

Record: 3-1-2-0

Last 3: 2-1-2

Was a strong second despite trouble in Louisiana Derby in only his third start. One of Pletcher’s legion of promising 3-year-olds, but 1 1/4 miles seems too far, too soon.


Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Rider: Richard Santana Jr.

Record: 6-1-3-1

Last 3: 6-3-2

Middle-moved before backing up to sixth in Arkansas Derby, and was second twice and third in previous three, all stakes. OK, but he’s winless beyond 6 1/2 furlongs and lost four in a row. Pass.

The following horses will draw into the field only if any of the previous 20 are withdrawn.


Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Rider: Corey Lanerie

Record: 9-2-2-2

Last 3: 3-6-3

Deep closer needs a pace meltdown to have any hope of hitting board, but if fractions are hot, he has some good closing figures. Winless past 7 furlongs, which doesn’t inspire confidence.


Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

Rider: Kent Desormeaux

Record: 10-0-4-2

Last 3: 4-2-2

Maiden’s career highlight was finishing second by a nose at 112-1 odds in Rebel at Oaklawn. If he’s 80-1 in the Derby, I’d still consider him an underlay.


Trainer: John Shirreffs

Rider: Gary Stevens

Record: 6-2-2-1

Last 3: 3-9-1

Speedy type has run only one bad race but looks like a pace casualty. Tired late at 1 1/16 and 1 1/8 miles, and 10 furlongs is not what he wants.


Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Rider: TBA

Record: 5-1-2-2

Last 3: 3-3-1

Couldn’t beat weaker fields at Fair Grounds. Only win was wire to wire, and that won’t happen in Louisville. A throwout.


Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Jockey: TBA

Record: 5-2-1-0

Last 3: 5-2-1

Fifth as favorite in substandard Santa Anita Derby and hasn’t won beyond 7 furlongs. Won’t be factor if he draws in, which is most unlikely.


Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: TBA

Record: 5-2-1-1

Last 3: 3-1-2

Hasn’t run since finishing third in Dubai’s United Emirates Derby in late March. Could develop down the road but would be up against it on Derby Day.


Trainer: Ron Moquett

Jockey: TBA

Record: 6-1-3-0

Last 3: 9-4-2

Lost his last five and winless beyond 6 furlongs. No chance.

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