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Kentucky Derby News and Notes

Re: Kentucky Derby News and Notes

Horse-by-horse preview and picks
By Patrick Patten

Advice (20-1) – This horse was not on anyone’s radar prior to the Lexington, a race in which he was nearly 16-1. Add in a sprinter pedigree and I have some advice for those thinking about this horse in the top spot: Think again.

Atomic Rain (50-1) – Just got in under the earnings wire.  The horse is trained by Jersey favorite Kelly Breen.  Other than that I’ll take my Mother’s advice, “if you only have something bad to say, don’t say it.” This will definitely be harder to do as the list goes on.

Chocolate Candy (20-1) – A big striding colt who was under the radar out west has been improving in every race, but will he have improved enough?  His first trip over the Churchill strip didn’t prove so hot.  He ran a mile but on a tiring track he got very tired.  With the depth this year, I don’t think it’s wise to take a horse that hasn’t had a perfect prep to the big race.

Desert Party (15-1) – The best horse Godolphin has ever brought over to America, but once again they’ve trained this horse in their races on their soil in hopes of traveling 7,000 miles to run 1.25 miles and walk away with our trophy. It hasn’t happened yet and it’s still very unlikely. He was supposed to win his last race, the UAE Derby, but the speedster Regal Ransom ran them all off their feet. The tactics of the Derby might suit him better, but I’m not sure his preparations will. The No.1 jockey for Godolphin, Frankie Detorri, isn’t making the trip. Will you?

Dunkirk (4-1) - The Derby will be the fourth race of his career. Big Brown won the Derby in his fourth start last year and while both horses are amazing, I think this year’s pool is deeper and doing something unconventional won’t prove wise. This might also turn into the wise-guy horse that gets a lot of buzz only to fizzle come race day.  Garret Gomez, the nation’s No. 1 jockey, decided to stay with Pioneerof the Nile instead of riding this colt. I don’t expect him to finish last by any means, just think this Derby is his.

Flying Private (40-1) –
Derby D Wayne Lukas is a Hall of Fame trainer, but this horse is still eligible for non-winners of one. Meaning, the horse only has a maiden win to his credit, and that was last year.

Friesan Fire (5-1) – All of this horse’s connections have been knocking on the Derby door: Larry Jones, the trainer along with Fox Hill Farms, the owner, have finished second with Eight Belles (2008) and Hard Spun (2007), the sire, AP Indy, is arguably the best stallion standing today, but does not have a Derby winner. Friesan Fire is my pick for the win. He is perfect this year with his preps down in Louisiana and while the five-week break in between races is huge, I have faith in Jones who knows how to prep a winner.

General Quarters (20-1) – Winner of the Blue Grass and Sam F Davis this colt will be the story of the Derby as he is his trainer’s only charge and only chance at racing immortality and he’s not a long shot by any means. He has wins on both synthetic and dirt surfaces, has won near the lead and from behind, and is a useful horse. He also picks up a great jockey in Julien Leparoux. At the right price this horse is worth a look.

Hold Me Back (15-1) – Finished second to General Quarters in the Blue Grass having won the first leg of derby preps in Kentucky, the Lane’s End. This horse has improved greatly this year, but he’s probably a cut below the top horses in this Derby. He’ll be coming from way back Derby day so if you like closers this might be the horse for you, but he won’t be mine.

I Want Revenge (5-2) – A logical favorite come post time this horse was good on the synthetic out west, but was great on the real dirt out east. He cruised to an effortless win in the Gotham and was the best on Wood Memorial day. The horse has shown an ability to rate, come from behind, and win on the lead. There isn’t much more you could ask for. My only concern would be his jockey Joe Talamo, who is a great up and coming young jockey and 2007 Eclipse winning apprentice jockey. There are horses just as good who might have an edge when comparing pilots.

Mine That Bird  (50-1) – Could be the longest shot on the board. If you like that kind of bet, be my guest. This horse hasn’t broken 81 on the Beyers and all his wins were on the Woodbine Polytrack.

Mr. Hot Stuff (30-1) – A full brother to last year’s West Coast hope Colonel John, Mr Hot Stuff took a little while to show his stuff, breaking his maiden on try No. 5. He is a closer who had the pace set up for him a couple times, but who has gotten to the finish line first only 1 time.  Not a terrible horse to put in the 3rd or 4th hole at a price, but not one you want to put your mortgage on.

Musket Man (20-1) – The winningest horse you’ve never heard of. He’s 5 of 6 lifetime with wins in the Tampa Bay Derby and Illinois Derby, but I doubt he makes a lot of top five lists. Those two derbies just aren’t the glamorous ones, but he is a horse to keep an eye on Derby week. Any buzz surrounding him should be taken seriously as he has faced some good sized fields and has encountered some trouble (wide trips).

Nowhere To Hide (50-1) – The NFL just had it’s draft and Mr. Irrelevant was Ryan Succop.  Nowhere To Hide got into the Derby around 8am Wednesday morning - they draw entries at noon. They should probably just send this horse to Disney Land now. OK, try and say something nice…. Next!

Papa Clem (20-1) – Has finished second to two horses I really like: Pioneerof the Nile and Friesan Fire. It’s hard to imagine him turning the tables on both of them in a big spot.

Pioneerof the Nile (4-1) – Everyone will complain that this is a turf/synthetic horse. Bill Mott on the East Coast is a smart trainer who told the owners pretty much just that. But horses grow up and change and if Bob Baffert says he’s good to go, he’s good to go. His first work over the Churchill strip really turned some heads and it’s hard to go against a horse who got the top jockey, Gomez, and who is riding a four-race win streak.

Regal Ransom (30-1) – The “other” Godolphin horse, who led gate to wire in the UAE Derby, needs the lead. The Derby is probably the hardest race to get it. I don’t think he’s the next coming of War Emblem, so let’s move on.

Summer Bird (50-1) –
There’s in over your head and there’s drowning - this horse might split the difference.

West Side Bernie (30-1)
– If you’re looking for a closer this might be the horse for you.  He was terrible in the Lane’s End but that was on polytrack and prior to that I’m not sure the surface or the race ever suited him. I think you saw the real Bernie in the Wood, and he was four wide and driving at the finish line. Trained by Jersey fave Kelly Breen, I think he’d add value to any ticket.

Race day advice: I don’t think you can bet this Derby wrong. What I mean by that is that whatever horse you put up top (sans the biggest bombs like Flying Private) will have a good story angle and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed by any bet. I’m no chalk player by any means, but this race does look chalky to me.

I’ll be using Pioneerof the Nile, Friesan Fire, and I Want Revenge on top of those plus West Side Bernie, Square Eddie, Musket Man and General Quarters.

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Re: Kentucky Derby News and Notes

Kentucky Derby post draw: Big Four faves have no excuses

No more waiting; the field finally is set for Kentucky Derby 135. Despite the fact that there have been many defections for one reason or another, it's doubtful that field size would be less than the 20-horse limit, race day scratches notwithstanding.

At Wednesday's post draw, Wood Memorial winner and early line favorite I Want Revenge drew a perfect post in slip number 13. None of the Big Four, including Dunkirk, Friesan Fire and Pioneer of The Nile, were compromised with their position having drawn posts 15, 6 and 16, respectively.

No. 1 – West Side Bernie (30-1): A good wide-trip third in the Holy Bull, a dull return to the synthetics, then a strong-rally placing behind I Want Revenge in the Wood Memorial. He, too, has proven "faster" on conventional dirt, but has required time to rebound from top efforts and his Wood was a career top. Connections must be concerned, scheduling a final short work to keep whatever energy may be left in the tank. A nice colt that appears heading the wrong way and the rail draw certainly didn't help.

No. 2 - Musket Man (20-1): There might be better colts in Derby 135 but not many that are better managed: A less than perfect trip third in the Sam F. Davis is the only blemish in a six-race career. After rebounding to win the Tampa Derby, he shipped to Hawthorne and became a man with a comprehensive Illinois Derby score. But that career-best effort sets him up for a regression. Churchill training indicates that might be the case.

No. 3 - Mr. Hot Stuff (30-1): Altered course, weaving his way through traffic when third in the Santa Anita Derby, galloping out strongly past the wire. Has two nine-furlong routes under his belt, is bred for the distance and had crisp work Monday at his Santa Anita base. With Corey Nakatani opting for Square Eddie, a last-minute defection, colt picks up hot-riding Johnny Velazquez, indicating that it might be better to be lucky than good. Live exotics price play.

No. 4 - Advice (30-1): His work on Monday convinced his connections to make a run for the roses. The Chapel Royal colt has had a career mixed with immaturity and bad luck but put it together in a big way to win the Lexington, coming from last of 11 after early trouble. Has earned his way into the field but doesn't appear fast enough and is another deep closer in what might be a moderately paced event.

No. 5 - Hold Me Back (15-1): Impossible to knock in two starts this year.
Colt overcame a quirky Turfway Polytrack to win the Lane's End coming from last then was an excellent second after General Quarters got the drop on him in the Blue Grass. Nagging flaw was a horrible outing in last year's Remsen, his only dirt start. Sunday workout showed ability to handle the surface while maintaining his freshness and strength. Exotics player.

No. 6 - Friesan Fire (5-1): The negatives are a seven-week layoff and no races beyond a mile and a sixteenth. Trainer Larry Jones had Hard Spun ready off a six-week respite and has a good history in this race, the Eight Belles tragedy notwithstanding. The other issue is that his best performance figure came on a sloppy track he obviously loved. Jones took a page from his own playbook, working his fresh colt five furlongs in :57 4/5. In the fray throughout, he's a difficult read at relatively short odds.

No. 7 - Papa Clem (20-1): Another "new horse" with the shift from synthetics to dirt. After catching Louisiana Derby slop, he shipped to Hot Springs and won the Arkansas Derby with a career best effort. But that performance could take its toll if a recent disappointing workout is any measure. The Kentucky Derby leaves little margin for error. Possibly worth a flyer, but needing twice the early-line odds.

No. 8 - Mine That Bird (50-1): A bargain basement yearling, he's been from one barn to the next but accomplished enough to be voted 2008 Canadian juvenile champion. Had a workmanlike five-furlong work with a good gallop-out, but when given an opportunity beneath Richard Mandella's shedrow proved that he wasn't really a prime-time player. After SoCal sojourn, was winless in two starts at Sunland Park. Way over his head here.

No. 9 - Join In The Dance (50-1): Apparent one-dimensional speedster is nonetheless pretty game. The trick is knowing how well he'll class up. Held extremely well making two-turn debut in his first start over Tampa's demanding surface, missing by a neck to win-machine Musket Man. Showing speed in the Blue Grass but tiring on Polytrack is mulligan material. Even with different owners, his best utility, as far as trainer Pletcher is concerned, would be to insure an honest pace for Advice and Dunkirk.

No. 10 - Regal Ransom (30-1): The speedy member of the Godolphin duo arguably possesses stoutest pedigree among Derby 135's 20 starters. Has a juvenile foundation, is tactical - as opposed to run-off speed - and has a partner (Alan Garcia) with a deserved reputation for effectiveness with his type. With Join In The Dance to his immediate inside, a stalking posture appears more likely than a front running gambit.

11-CHOCOLATE CANDY (20-1): Loves the game, as his winning record attests, and his trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, should already be in the Hall of Fame. Of course, this colt has never seen dirt. The good news is that if handicappers must guess how his form will translate from the synthetics, winning bettors would be well compensated compared to, say, high profile conqueror Pioneer of The Nile. Suffered through very difficult trip when second in Santa Anita Derby, and probably was a short horse, too. Expect him to be at tops, indicating a superfecta finish is possible, and at generous odds.

12-GENERAL QUARTERS (20-1): Gray Cinderella colt is versatile, showing a liking for Tampa Bay, Churchill, and even Keeneland’s Polytrack, winning on the early pace or stalking just off it. The negative is that he’s a bit in-and-out, and this looks like an out spot. Hasn’t been breaking stopwatches since returning to his Churchill base and loses Eibar Coa to Musket Man. Not yet an elite three year old, his running style places him in a vice between the speed and the ralliers.

13-I WANT REVENGE (3-1): Turns out he’s a wonderful dirt horse. Classy, brave and athletic, no Derby-135 entrant has a better rapport with his rider than this colt has with the young, talented, cocky wise-beyond-years Joe Talamo. Between Animal Planet, his cucumber-cool Wood Memorial, and avoiding an Alysheba-like calamity to win a So Cal event last week, the racing gods just might be conspiring here. Churchill gallops indicate there might be more where that Gotham and Wood came from. Deserving favorite.

14-ATOMIC RAIN (50-1): Never lived up to the early season promise he demonstrated at Gulfstream Park. He’s never been a serious threat anytime he faced accomplished three-year-old competition, and got into the race due to all the last-minute defections. Had a Monmouth Park blowout before boarding a van for the 13-hour ride to Louisville, where he and partner Joe Bravo at best figure to get hot and dirty.

15-DUNKIRK (4-1): Apollo, 1882, and that’s a whole lot of history. Historical trends have been falling by the wayside recently but there’s a good reason why this one has lasted. But this colt cannot be eliminated on those grounds. True, he’s done a lot of developing in a short time. But his performance figures have increased with distance and experience. Todd Pletcher said that the long, lean individual is typical of the better Unbridled’s Songs, and has put on weight since the Florida Derby. Five weeks should be enough to refill the tank. Major player

16-PIONEEROF THE NILE (4-1): Undefeated for newly elected Hall of Famer Bob Baffert but, as everyone knows, 0-for-0 on dirt. The Pro Ride horses have been running well on dirt all spring and observers have been impressed with how comfortable this colt is on the Churchill surface. But how he handles it Saturday is a complete guess. His high cruising speed suits the anticipated race shape and he wants to compete and to beat you. My guess is that he’ll transition to dirt. Now he needs to prove it. Value at 6-1 plus.

17-SUMMER BIRD (50-1): An interesting newcomer with less seasoning than Dunkirk, also making career start number four. This guy debuted even later, following his Mar. 1 sprint debut loss with a good win going long, then was a slow-start, wide-rally, strong-finish third in the Arkansas Derby. Even a money finish would be too much to expect but the race could provide an excellent educational foundation. Belmont, maybe?

18-NOWHERE TO HIDE (50-1):
If a Kentucky Derby was held without Nick Zito, would the sky fall? Might never get an answer to that question. This is a nice colt who at present is not ready for something like this. But apparently the owners of My Meadowbrook Farm have dreamt about running in the Derby and will get their wish Saturday afternoon. Shaun Bridgmohan gets the last-minute assignment.

19-DESERT PARTY (15-1): The perceived stronger half of the Dubai pair was compromised by a moderate pace and a quality loose stablemate which kept him from sweeping the Dubai triple crown. A graded stakes win as a Saratoga juvenile speaks to his class and foundation and both Dubai runners appear to be thriving at the Downs. Owns enough pedigree and positional speed for the trip and is partnered with future Hall of Famer Ramon Dominguez. Wide draw hurts.

Since stretching back out as a three-year-old, Fusaichi Pegasus colt has come to hand for four-time Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas. Following a good second in the Lane’s End, he suffered through a difficult Arkansas Derby trip. Finished well in his final Derby work at Churchill with a good gallop-out beneath new rider Robby Albarado. The post is a killer and he’s in deep water with these.

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