What’s the big story? Going into the Kentucky Derby, renowned jockey, Victor Espinoza, will try to capture his second straight run for the roses. This year, Espinoza will ride, American Pharoah, the early favorite to win the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby.
In the days leading up to the race, American Pharoah has seen its odds to win drop as low as 2/1, but by Wednesday evening sat at 9/4 odds to win. The horse will start in the 18th position.
“He’s an amazing horse.” – jockey, Victor Espinoza
“I really don’t know how good he is,” Espinoza told media. “I ride him, but the way he does things so easy, I really don’t know how good he is. He’s an amazing horse. But so far, I never ride him really hard.”
Espinoza won last year at the Kentucky Derby, atop famous horse California Chrome, the winner of the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Espinoza’s first Kentucky Derby win came in 2002 with horse, War Emblem, when he teamed up with trainer Bob Baffert. The two will be a team again in 2015, since Baffert is training American Pharoah. Who are the main challengers? Expected to challenge American Pharoah for the win are Dortmund, at 9/2 odds, and Carpe Diem, at 7/1.
There is a big talent gap between the elite runners and the rest at this year’s Kentucky Derby. In the past decade, the Derby has provided us with two massive upsets with Giacomo (2005) and Mine That Bird (2009). Upsets are great but it is unlikely that it will happen this year. The 2015 class lining up for America’s most popular horse race includes a few horses that have superstar potential.
The favorites this year hail from California. American Pharoah and Dortmund are West Coast-based colts both trained by Bob Baffert and so are the likely favorites when the bell rings and the gates open in Louisville on Saturday.
American Pharoah has won four of five career races. The only loss was in his debut race last August. He won two Grade 1 races in California on his way to earning the Eclipse Award for the best 2-year-old in the country. He won his first race in 2015 over a muddy track by six lengths. In recent times at the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, he made an eight length victory look effortless. The only bad thing is that this colt has never had to overcome adversity. Many think it’s because he is that good, but he will be tested on Saturday and everyone will want to see how he’ll react to a challenge and how Espinoza will ride American Pharoah.
Dortmund is the offspring of the 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown and has won all six of his career starts. In three races this year, he has been on the lead most of the way. He can come off the pace though. He showed amazing resiliency in his 3-year-old debut when he lost the lead in the stretch but fought back to beat future graded stakes winner Firing Line, in the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita. He has run at Churchill Downs before where he won a one mile allowance race last November. The biggest question for the long striding Dortmund: Can he carry his speed the for the whole 1 1/4 mile distance of the Kentucky Derby?
Carpe Diem and Materiality
Carpe Diem and Materiality can be considered a tier below the top two horses but they also have a huge amount of talent. Carpe Diem has won four of five with his lone loss coming in the Grade 1 Breeders Cup Juvenile where he came in second. He won his two starts with ease this year in the Tampa Bay Derby and Bluegrass Stakes. His speed stats are a little below the two favorites but he won’t need to improve by much to be in the mix at the finish and maybe even challenge to either ‘win place or show’.
Materiality has only three career starts but has shown significant improvement in all three races. He capped his three starts with a monster performance in the Grade 1 Florida Derby where he beat graded stakes winner Upstart. All of his races have come as a 3-year-old and he would become the first to win the Derby without a race as a 2-year-old, that’s a record upheld since 1882. His lack of experience might be an issue on Saturday but if you watch his race at the Florida Derby, it wouldn’t be a total shock if he was in the winner’s circle.
There are a lot of other great horses in the mix that have a chance to make an impression, horses that have run against the favourites. Horses like Firing Line, El Kabeir, Frosted and International Star who is the long shot but did have a perfect record in 2015.
The field for the 141st edition of the Kentucky Derby will be drawn on Wednesday. The post-time for the race is Saturday at 6:24 eastern.
Our Bet: Materiality, to win or place. Upstart to show. Odds at 12-1