The 2015 Kentucky Derby is still over four months away and attempting any form of prediction is like driving into a brick wall. While I am not predicting the winner, I will be providing my top-5 contenders for the 2015 Kentucky Derby at the end of each month leading up the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.”
Each horse worth its weight still has at least two preps before the first Saturday in May. But looking at the horses today could provide a level of insight into the not so distant future. Let’s take a look at my top-5 January contenders for the 2015 Kentucky Derby.
Sire – Pioneerof The Nile
Dam – Littleprincessemma
Career – 3-2-0-0
Latest Start – Won Front Runner (G1)
American Pharoah is a little piece of unique. He goes out and finishes a fading fifth by almost 10 lengths and is rewarded with a start in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity. Baffert must have known something as American Pharoah broke to the lead and never looked back under the guiding touch of Victor Espinoza. At the end he won by a clearing four and three-quarter lengths. He returned in his third lifetime start to win the Grade 1 Front Runner over Calculator and Texas Red. He was ridden out to a three and a quarter length win.
Unfortunately he was scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with a reported deep bruise but is returning to racing soon enough. Texas Red returned to crush in the BC Juvenile and Calculator dominated the Sham by five lengths. Assuming health and a step up in maturity, he is a force to be reckoned with. Of course, there are unknowns heading into his first 2015 start but until proven wrong he stays on top.
Sire – Afleet Alex
Dam – Ramatuelle
Career – 5-2-1-1
Latest Start – Won Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1)
It took Texas Red three tries to break his maiden which happened at Del Mar in August. Quickly hustled directly into Grade 1 competition against the formidable two-year-old American Pharoah and Calculator. He represented well coming home third but four lengths behind the winner. Then it happened.
On the 1st of November he entered the starting gate of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He trailed the entire race which was no shock given the running style and battle up front. In the far turn he wound up and closed with a fury that no horse in the field could touch. He won the Juvenile by six and a half lengths. He returns this weekend and he will find out if the BC was a fluke. However, Upstart’s dominating win in the Holy Bull did nothing to discount Texas Red.
Sire – Flatter
Dam – Party Silks
Career – 5-3-1-1
Latest Start – Won Holy Bull (G2)
2014 saw Upstart step up each and every start in both competition and distance. He began his career dominating a MSW at Saratoga winning by over five lengths. He came back and took the six and a half furlong Funny Cide while popping a 106 speed figure. Entered the slop to run the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont where he came in a solid second. Ended 2014 with a third behind an otherworldly stretch run of Texas Red in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Upstart made his 2015 debut at Gulfstream in the Grade 2 Holy Bull where he flat out crushed the field winning by five and a half lengths. He looked fuller than the last time we saw him. Watch out.
Sire – In Summation
Dam – Back To Basics
Career – 5-1-2-1
Latest Start – Won Sham (G3)
Calculator faced stiff competition in his 2014 campaign after going winless in two tries to break his maiden at Del Mar. He faced Grade 1 competition in the Del Mar Futurity and the Front Runner. In both those races he came up short to American Pharoah. He was forced to miss the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Los Alamitos Futurity due to a foot injury and illness respectfully. He returned to racing in the Grade 3 Sham on January 10th and took control at the quarter pole while pulling away to a four and a quarter length score. It is easy to forget this is his first win but the future is bright for the former bridesmaid.
Sire – Scat Daddy
Dam – Great Venue
Career – 6-3-1-1
Latest Start – Won Jerome (G3)
El Kabeir started out with an impressive 10 length score in a maiden special weight to break his maiden. He was quickly rushed into the Grade 1 Champagne where he tired to finish 17 lengths behind the winner. He returned in the Nashua and managed to finish second but still five lengths back. He came back in form to end 2014 with a valiant victory over Imperia in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. In his last start, the first as a three-year-old, he took control in the Grade 3 Jerome while scoring a career best 95 Beyer Speed Figure. I still worry about his ability to get the distance in the classic races.