Friday, May 13, 2011

The Kentucky Derby

Animal Kingdom 

In the hopes to retain objectivity, I've re-watched Animal Kingdom's trip maybe 15 times (an arduous task when NBC has 2 announcers calling the same race) attempting to find a single knock on his race. I cannot. I'm smitten with Animal Kingdom, and not just entirely because he was my top pick in the Derby. The ease of which he possessed winning, in just his fifth career start on a surface that may not be a favorite of his, off of a 6 week layoff, was marveling.

He received a dazzling ride by John Velazquez; splitting Santiva and Soldat on turn and then correctly deciding to go outside of Mucho Macho Man at the top of the stretch. This wasn't the most closer-friendly race, I don't think many would have been surprised had Shackleford come home the winner when the 1/2 mile time of 48.63 was posted. Actually, the pace was more of the Belmont Stakes, with the field doing their best to click off :12 furlongs, rather than a typical, torrid early paced Kentucky Derby. Along with his pedigree, this bodes quite well for Animal Kingdom's chances in the Belmont should he continue his winning ways in Balitmore.

And as for the Preakness, with perspective starters such as Shackleford, Dance City, and Flashpoint, Animal Kingdom should get a favorable setup up front. I can't see Shackleford getting away with another uncontested slow pace. Animal Kingdom is also a fresh colt, so at this juncture I expect him to win the Preakness.


An admirable second from Nehro despite moving too soon on the final turn and having traveled so wide the entire trip. The inside was not the place to be but he still ran much more than 10 furlongs. Although I do believe that Nakatani moved too soon, he is without blame. Having sensed that the pace was slow, advancing to take the lead, early on the final turn, wasn't a bad move by any means but in hindsight he probably would have been better served waiting just a bit longer. Perhaps he would have had more in the tank late to challenge Animal Kingdom, not that I think Nehro was ever going to beat Animal Kingdom last Saturday.

Nehro continues to impress, especially with such versatility. It's my opinion that he's best making one run, as he demonstrated in Arkansas Derby so I would like to see Zayat and Asmussen point him to the Preakness, with an expected faster pace, rather than the Belmont.

Mucho Macho Man

Mucho Macho Man lacks spark. He'll never take your breath away. But in a crop of 3 three years mired with inconsistency of epic proportion, Mucho Macho Man is dependable as they come and he won't even have his 3 year old birthday until June 15th. His run in the Derby was exactly what is he at this point in this career, solid but not spectalular. Classy but not flashy.

I suppose he'll get a similar trip in the Preakness as to Nehro's trip here - sitting close and pouncing on the pacesetters on the final turn, getting the first run on the closers. As I've maintained the pace is expected to be quicker, so the profile of the Preakness does not suit Mucho Macho Man, as he's best stalking a slow pace such as his race in the Risen Star.


Although Shackleford was able to find himself loose on the lead, setting an incredibly slow pace, (Steven Crist delves into just how unhurried the pace was on his blog) as @ianlozada points out, he was the only top finisher who raced along a somewhat dead rail. I'll go along and hypothesize that both factors canceled themselves out.

Dialed In

As proactive as Corey Nakatani was, reacting to the slow pace, Julien Leparoux was as stubborn. Taking back to last, and racing along the rail no less, Leparoux and Dialed In fell victim to the lazy pace, but this wasn't his only deterrent, as his stretch run was unexcusably flat. His performance did little to change my pre-Derby opinion of him that he is best at a mile. Zito can say whatever he likes how Dialed In will relish the quick turnaround but he and owner Robert LaPenta have 6,100,000 reasons to run him back in the Preakness, none of which are anticipated success. 

{Edit: In a complete flip-flop, I've changed my opinion on Dialed In within the last few days; afterall he was up against the slow pace and got no help from Leparoux. As stated in Crist's article, Dialed In ran his final 2 quarters in 23.19 and 23.76, quite exceptional, especially at 10 furlongs. It's now my thinking that he'll be the main threat to Animal Kingdom in the Preakness.}

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