The Kentucky Derby run on Saturday, May 5, is very open this year. Any one of a dozen horses have strong claims to the $2million prize. When we look for betting tips in the big race at Churchill Downs we can’t help but fancy two veteran riders who have won this a half dozen times between them.
The two in question are Kent Desormeaux, who rides Dullahan, and Calvin Borel on Take Charge Indy. Four of the last five runnings have fallen to these horsemen. With a wealth of experience and prime berths on two of the top form horses it is hard to get away from these wrinkly old men.
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Dullahan won the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes in mid April. It was his best piece of form and shows the horse is a rapid improver. He had front-running Hansen, who was favorite that day, nailed going to the line so the form has a solid feel. You need a horse going into this race on an upward curve. Desormeaux will have a big chance of landing a fourth ‘Run For The Roses’ and he surely would not swap his mount for anything. Expect him to leave his charge late.
Calvin Borel just loves to bag the rail position. His victories have always followed the same pattern. He lets the leaders go off stupidly fast and he sits out the back, and I mean way out the rear. Then he hugs the inner and picks every single one of his rivals off. If you never saw his amazing heroics on Mine That Bird in 2009 then do yourself a favor and watch the re-run. It is one of the most amazing horse races ever run. Subsequent form showed that Borel won that race, not the horse. The horse was not in the first ten best horses in the race, but he won.
When you have seen that kind of confidence and magic from Borel once then you know he has a perfect sense of pace. But in this race alone he has done it three times. They always go off too hard and this wise old man knows how to take advantage of that folly.
This time around Borel has the leg-up on Take Charge Indy. This horse is no “no-hoper longshot” like Mine That Bird was in 2009. This colt won the Florida Derby as his prep race for the Kentucky Derby and has strict form claims. So when you are looking for Kentucky Derby betting tips, it is very hard to ignore the claims of the old guys on their fancied horses. Trainer Pat Byrne is loving the three draw so the jockey can get to his favored rail. There is no doubt Borel will use the exaggerated hold-up tactics that have served him so well in the past. If you bet on Take Charge Indy don’t panic if he is looking tailed off in the early stages – it will be going to plan! Expect to see this horse come up the rail, fast and late.
The winner of last year’s renewal, John Velazquez, has an outside chance of landing a famous double. He is partnered with recent Grade 3 scorer Went The Day Well. Surely major improvement is needed from this horse to figure. That said, he has already shown marked improvement for the switch to the USA and dirt. The horse was in training in England as a two-year-old with trainer Ed McMahon. Then current owners Team Valor got hold of him.
In the UK, the US-bred son of Proud Citizen was runner-up in a couple of moderate-looking maiden races. But he landed a Grade 3 race in March for trainer Graham Motion, who won last year’s Kentucky Derby with Team Valor’s Animal Kingdom.
Went The Day Well is possibly the most intriguing runner in the race. Former handler McMahon felt Team Valor boss Barry Irvine was slating the way the horse was campaigned in the UK in a recent press conference. Irvine is never short of a controversial viewpoint. McMahon will surely be hoping his former inmate flops come Saturday, or the colt will certainly be the one that got away. Unlucky for McMahon, English-born Graham Motion is a trainer of rare talent. Motion will need all of his considerable Midas touch to turn this double-maiden loser on turf in the UK into a Kentucky Derby winner on dirt in the USA.
Aidan O’Brien’s challenge, in the form of USA-bred Daddy Long Legs, was dealt a blow with the dreaded number one inside draw. The problem is the gritty UAE Derby winner needs to be fast away or he will be swallowed up and possibly carved up as the field heads for the inside.
One logical choice would be to miss the break completely and hold hands with Borel out the back. Unfortunately it appears from what connections have said that they will try and get the Daddy Long Legs out quick. Recent history has shown it is near impossible to wire the field and closers have done best, so they are possibly committing suicide with these tactics. Only one horse in the last 49 years has won from that berth. The reason for the horror figures? They all tried the knuckle-head early speed approach. This horse will help set it up for ours.
There are others that must be considered, like Trinniberg, who will be helping to cut out those lightening fractions. Any horse that can win this from the front end is twice as good as he looks. It just is not the way it has been done of late and is a big ask. This horse will help set it up for ours.
Then there are the horses with the best two-year-old form such as Hansen. The owner, one Mr Kendall Hansen, has been shooting his mouth of about how his horse will certainly win. You have to take owners’ comments with a huge pinch of salt, especially when they are sad enough to name a horse after themselves – that is a worry. I mean is that about a big ego or being totally insecure? Either way it’s ugly. Could qualified shrinks please comment below.
Anyway, on the plus side Hansen (the horse not the owner) was a top juvenile. On the minus side he looks held by Dullahan on his most recent run, though improvement could be in the offing. I don’t like the fact he wants to make the pace. However talented he is, it is the hardest way to do it. It is too easy to get those fractions wrong and cut your own throat. Hansen got caught and nailed by Dullahan in Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes with similar tactics and it will be so much tougher here. This horse will help set it up for ours.
Trainer Michael Matz is talking about Union Rags in the same breath as his great champion of half a dozen years ago, Barbaro. That should give his bettors real hope, but he was behind Take Charge Indy in the Florida Derby. However it is this race that is the target and Matz is no putz.
Last and definitely not least is one of the favourites, Bodemeister. When horses win by wide margins they could be anything. Sometime the odds are a little miserly because of it. We are not brave enough to write off the chance of Bodemeister who won the Arkansas Derby, a Grade 1 race, by a fraction less than TEN lengths. Another veteran is in the saddle on this one and despite all his success, Mike Smith must be getting pretty excited about the prospect of riding Bodemeister. Betus Sportsbook is pretty short odds about this one’s chance.
Gemologist is worthy of a good word too. He is unbeaten and most recently landed the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct under jockey Javier Castellano, who has won a Breeders Cup Classic but never a Kentucky Derby. The fact he hails from the yard of Todd Pletcher is another huge bonus to the Tiznow colt’s chances. He could give Pletcher a second victory in the race after Super Saver in 2010.
Well, we do like Dullahan, but unfortunately we can’t back them all. We must be brave and narrow it down to just one of the many possible Kentucky Derby betting tips. There is so much guaranteed speed in the race – Hansen, Trinniberg, Daddy Long Legs – that we will end where we started this preview and go with ‘Mr Churchill Downs’.
That is Calvin Borel and his TAKE CHARGE INDY, who can benefit by sitting well off that certain fast pace. He will be easy to spot early, he will be out the back and glued to the rail. He will be easy to spot late, he will be carving through the field and glued to the rail.
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