Just as the focus will be on Manny Paciquiao and Floyd Mayweather Saturday night, the showdown between American Pharoah and Dortmound will be the focus during the day in the Kentucky Derby. However there are undercard fights to be fought and there are 18 other horses running. This is also the part of the race where you can find great value, which is also the best part of betting the Derby. So let’s look at three horses start with.
Upstart – (15-1) Trainer: Richard Violette / Jockey Jose L. Ortiz
(Pedigree) Sire – Flatter / Dam – Party Silks (Touch Gold)
The horse Materiality beat to win the Florida Derby was Upstart. That effort helped legitimize Materiality status because Upstart is more a seasoned professional than a young three-year-old. He is out of the strong dirt sire Flatter and from the dam Party Silks who comes from the sire line of Touch Gold. The NY bred is trained by Richard Violette. Upstart was not always a ‘wise guy’ value play. In fact he came out of a solid two-year-old season as one of the Derby’s top contenders. He held up to that label by running big in the Holy Bull Stakes, winning by over five lengths. However, Upstart has shown a pattern of running a good race followed by a bad one. He sandwiched a flat third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile between a crisp second in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes and the aforementioned Holy Bull Stakes. He then followed up his disappointing loss to Itsaknockout in the Fountain of Youth with a nice effort running second in the Florida Derby. To quantify that inconsistency here is how the speed figures played out starting with the Champagne: 102, 92, 106, 95, and 108. It is this inconsistency that may turn bettors off at the windows yet should guarantee good odds to backers of this horse.
Frosted – (15-1) Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin / Jockey: Joel Rosario
(Pedigree) Sire – Pulpit / Dam – Fast Cookie (Deputy Minister)
If there is a legitimate value play going into the Derby with more upside that question marks it is Frosted. After getting second as the favorite in the Holy Bull Stakes, trainer Kiaren McLauglin decided to put blinkers on him so he would run keener and more up with the pace. The first race with the blinkers was two races back in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. For the most part this worked great. For three quarters of the race Frosted was upfront near the lead, and looked very good as they hit the turn for home. However soon after that Frosted tired badly to finish forth. After the race McLaughlin found the reason was due to a flipped pallet, which obstructed his breathing. Frosted was then given a procedure known as a ‘Llewellyn’. From there he was training back in New York and getting ready for the Wood Memorial. In that race everything came together despite racing four-wide on both turns. So easy was the effort from Frosted that even down the stretch when he had to get by the leader Tencedur to take the lead, jockey Joel Rosario never needed to go to the whip.With seven races under his belt, the Godolphin owned son of Pulpit is now may be peaking into form at just the right time.
War Story – (50-1) Trainer: Thomas Amoss / Jockey: Joe Talamo
Pedigree – Sire: Northern Afleet / Dam: Belle Waiting (Pulpit)
When a trainer decides to make an equipment change it is usually in their best interest to pick a race where the stakes are low. It is never I really a great idea to pick a race like the Kentucky Derby to start experimenting. That rule may be true for most but for a trainer like Thomas Amoss – who wins races at such a high percentage, he not only gets a pass but that move will also get a second look over here.
Certainly from his past performances there is nothing that stands out for War Story. But if your looking for a big price these is not going to be anything that jumps off the page. His campaign to get into the Derby was more workmanlike than extraordinary. He got second in the G3 LeComte, second in the G2 Risen Star and third in the G2 Louisiana Derby.
Nonetheless when trainer Thomas Amoss met with the owners, they felt that War Story’s running style and the speed of the race may play into his hand. In an interview with the Bloodhorse, Amoss explains the reasoning.
“I think the mile and a quarter distance is a question mark for everyone. War Story likes to finish up at the end of a race. So were hoping that the extra distance, is something that benefits him and hurts others.”
The move to take the blinkers off is to further reiterate the strategy for War Story to relax early and come off the pace to hit the board. So at 50-1 in the morning line, I’m willing to take a chance on that happening.