Ky Derby 141: Who Gets the Lead?
Category : News
Fri 01/05/2015 - 13:55 EDT
Beginning with the 5/2 morning line favorite American Pharoah who has won four of his last five races in gate-to-wire fashion, the race could feature a logjam at the front with Carpe Diem (8/1), Materiality (12/1), Dortmund (3/1), and Firing Line (12/1) all having shown an affinity for racing on or near the early lead. While the Kentucky Derby is usually a race run at a swift early pace, the difference in this year’s Derby is the quality of the likely pace setters. From the speedy group of colts referenced above, only Firing Line lacks a Grade 1 win and was just a head short, in fact, of accomplishing the feat, running just behind Dortmund in the Los Alamitos Futurity as a two year-old.
Favorite likely to take back
So who is the most likely early leader? With American Pharoah showing a slight rating gear while winning the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in his last start and drawing post position 18 (17 after the scratch of Stanford), it seems a safe bet that jockey Victor Espinoza will take back slightly and allow those breaking to his inside to dispute the lead. That leaves Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens, breaking from post ten aboard Firing Line, to evaluate his options. While Stevens is a noted gate rider piloting the filly Winning Colors to a Derby Victory in 1988 and winning the Preakness aboard Oxbow the same way in 2013, he may also want to take advantage of a favorable outside post to track the remaining trio of Carpe Diem, Materiality, and Dortmund.
Stevens has options
In the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes February 7 at Santa Anita, Stevens and Firing Line tracked a front-running Dortmund and appeared to leave that runner behind only to be reengaged in a stretch battle before losing by a head. That effort may be fresh in Stevens’ mind, who may consider turning the tables on Dortmund by forcing him to do the tracking this time around. If that holds true, only a pair of stablemates – Carpe Diem and Materiality from the Todd Pletcher barn – will be left to dispute the lead. In three races, the undefeated Materiality has never been more than 1 ½ lengths off the pace at any point-of-call and should be much quicker than Carpe Diem from the opening bell. On paper, it would seem that Materiality will be the early leader into the first turn with Dortmund and Firing Line close in tow. That will leave Carpe Diem stalking from the rail and American Pharoah tracking from a comfortable, but wide spot. Of course, things can change drastically when the gates open and the 20-horse stampede begins.
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