BOZICH | Why your horse will -- or will not -- win the 2016 Kentucky Derby
Which horse is most likely to follow American Pharoah as the winner of the Kentucky Derby? Making a case for -- and against -- all of the Derby contenders.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – This column isn't meant for serious horseplayers. Serious horseplayers know that I picked Dortmund to beat American Pharoah in the 2015 Kentucky Derby.
This column is intended to help anybody headed for a Derby party this week that isn’t certain if A. Orb; B. California Chrome; C. American Pharoah or D. Nyquist will be the favorite in Saturday's race.
Prepare to carry on like Andy Beyer and dazzle your friends with knowledge of why all 20 Derby contenders can or cannot win the race at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
(Just in case you were not certain, the answer is D. The others were the last three Derby winners.)
1. GUN RUNNER
CAN: Derby points leader. Hall of Fame trainer (Steve Asmussen). Louisiana Derby winner. Backside buzz horse. Looks like he walked out of the catalog of the Keeneland September yearling sale.
CAN’T: Put your binoculars away. You won’t find a Grade I stakes win on his record. Asmussen’s horse delivered one blah race, and I’ll bet $2 you can guess the name of the track in the 40208 Zip Code.
CAN: Seven races. Seven wins, including one at nine furlongs At four tracks. In three states. Yes, he ships like a champ. Take another look at his career racing record. He's been behind once in the stretch -- by a head in his first start.
CAN'T: Why was he based at Keeneland instead of Churchill Downs until Saturday? Why did his speed figure decline at the Florida Derby? Why would you think the wise guys would not take shots at the likely favorite?
Can: Made a thunderous move to win the Santa Anita Derby on a sloppy track. He's the only horse with four straight Equibase Speed Figure performances of 100 or more. His jockey, Kent Desormeaux, has won three Derbies. Son of Curlin, two-time Horse of the Year.
Can't: With about a half-mile to run, he was 16 lengths back in Santa Anita Derby. I'm no Nick Zito, but I wouldn't advise trying to make up 16 lengths and passing 19 horses Saturday.
Can: He's the son of the hottest young sire around -- Uncle Mo -- and he's shown it by winning three of four career starts, including the Wood Memorial April 16.
Can't: I'm not a New York basher, but the last horse to win the Derby after running in the Wood Memorial was Funny Cide in 2003. And this colt labored to beat an 81-1 maiden to win at Aqueduct.
5. BRODY'S CAUSE
Can: Trainer Dale Romans has never been more upbeat about one of his Derby colts -- and if you watch the replay of Brody's Cause making up a 10-length deficit in considerable traffic to win the Blue Grass Stakes, you'll know why.
Can't: Before the Blue Grass, the colt lost back-to-back starts, including a 12-length paddling in the Tampa Derby.
Can: Sizzled down the stretch to win the Arkansas Derby, the prep race that launched American Pharoah to his 2015 Triple Crown.
Can't: Asmussen and WinStar Farm had to send this son of Tapit to the track six times before he finally won. That does not scream American Pharoah II.
Can: Settling in nicely after winning the UAE Derby.
Can't: Nobody has used the UAE Derby as a successful prep race here.
8. MOR SPIRIT
Can: Seven starts, nothing worse than a second with three wins. Trained by Bob Baffert. The Bob Baffert. Ridden by Gary Stevens. The Gary Stevens.
Can't: There's more than an "e" missing from his resume -- especially that 6 ½ length defeat in the Santa Anita Derby last time out.
Can: Won four straight Grade II stakes after breaking his maiden and delivered a sharp work for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin at Churchill Downs last week.
Can't: Went backwards in the Florida Derby stretch, finishing fourth, beaten 8 ¼ lengths. McLaughlin suggested his colt raced wide and didn't like the track. Great horses don't need the perfect trip or track. Charlie Whittingham told me that.
10. DANZING CANDY
Can: His trainer, Cliff Sise Jr., is unbeaten in the Kentucky Derby.
Can't: His trainer, Cliff Sise Jr., is winless in the Kentucky Derby.
Can: Arrived off back to back victories.
Can't: Those victories came at Tampa Downs and the colt has not raced since March 16.
Can: The most popular first letter in the name of Derby winners is "S" (19 times).
Can't: The Derby winner has never been an 18-letter, run-on word -- and if you're betting that a gelding with losses in three of his last four starts will be the first, that's between you and your bookmaker.
13. OSCAR NOMINATED
Can: Showed the ability to close by rallying from fifth to first to win the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park April 16.
Can't: Even Jennifer Lawrence knows this colt was not being nominated for Derby winner by running for $50,000 in his two starts before the Spiral.
Can: Splendidly bred son of Bernadini out of an Unbridled's Song mare with killer looks.
Can't: The Derby is a race, not a beauty contest.
Can: He's finished no worse than third in his last three starts.
Can’t: He hasn't won any of them while fading to the wire.
16. TOM'S READY
Can: Solid runner-up to Gun Runner in the Louisiana Derby, trained by Dallas Stewart, who also developed the horses that finished second in 2013 and 2014.
Can't: He's owned by Tom Benson, whose NFL Saints finished 7-9 and NBA Pelicans finished 30-52 last season. Next stakes win will be his first stakes win.
17. MY MAN SAM
Can: If you like Brody's Cause, you like this colt because you'll get a much better price on a horse that finished less than two lengths behind the winner in the Blue Grass.
Can't: He's never won a graded stakes race -- emphasis on never.
Can't: If they'd named him after a college football team, it would Rutgers.
19. TROJAN NATION
Can: Serious horses only, please. This dude is winless.
Can't: See above. Did I say winless?
20. MO TOM
Can: You tell me.
Can’t: I’m waiting.
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