11.50pm Irish time: gates crash open for the 145th Kentucky Derby! The Run for the Roses is the longest running sporting event in the United States. This years edition appears to be particularly wide open in the absence of recently withdrawn ante-post favourite Omaha Beach.
As a consequence you can make a case for plenty of horses. Bob Baffert remains to have a strong hand, of course. Though, I fancy two horses that seemingly sail a little bit under the radar at the moment.
War Of Will – his stock has significantly fallen since a disappointing effort in the Louisiana Derby. Disappointing only on paper, though. Watch the start of the race and you see how he looses his footing soon after leaving the stalls, pulling a muscle as a result.
That aside, since switched to the dirt, he won three races on the bounce, including two graded contests. He did so in fine style, running away with the races once entering the home straight.
He’s been a high class juvenile on turf last year, runner-up in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes and finishing good fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
If you’re willing to excuse the last run – he was 4/5 favourite, telling something about the expectations for this colt – you’ll see a classy, progressive individual, who’s taken really well to the dirt – and who has, as a little bonus, local form as well as form on a sloppy track.
Drawn right next to the rails can be a struggle, however he has early speed to overcome this task. Obviously, a different question is whether he can make the step up to Grade 1 company and has the stamina to stay the Derby trip.
We’ll find out. Crucially, the talking of the track is he’s flying at the moment, having worked really well leading up to the big race. At a big price he’s a rather easy choice for me today.
Maximum Security – By no means I am an expert if it comes to US racing, nonetheless I struggle to understand why this colt isn’t closer to the top of the market than he is. Sure, he started his career in a cheap claiming race, but ever since winning on debut he’s kicked on to new heights, culminating in the Grade 1 Florida Derby victory.
Unbeaten in four starts, it seems his recent top level success is questioned because Maximum Security lead from the front, setting slow fractions. That certainly is true and will be different today, but on the other hand, simply from a visual perspective, one could hardly been more impressed with the way he put the race to bed in the end.
On the clock he ran the last three furlongs in less than 36 seconds – easily. According to Beyer Speed Ratings, he’s ran twice to a rating o 100 or higher already. Not other horse in this years Kentucky Derby lineup has shown that sort of speed.
Early speed will lead Maximum Security to the front or near to it from a good draw. Once he’s there, how he’ll react being hard pressed, going potentially fast for a long period, over a trip he’s uncertain to stay – we’ll find out turning for home whether he’s a Derby horse.
On the plus side: Maximum Security has shown in the past he doesn’t need to lead, and he has form on a sloppy track as well.
5pts win – Maximum Security @ 9/1 Coral
5pts win – War Of Will @ 20/1 MB