Anything can happen at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May, and anyone who tells you they know what will happen this Saturday in particular is off their rocker.
There's not a ton of speed in this year's race, with only seven horses ever running Beyer speed figures of 100 or better, and only three of those (Pyro, Gayego, and Big Brown) able to do so more than once.
Yesterday morning, I'd have considered those three horses as the contenders, with Big Brown as the early betting favorite, but the post positions have been announced, and this year, they wreck this thing for the handicappers.
Uh.... So, off my rocker or not, here's what's gonna happen:
BIG BROWN will break from the far outside of the auxiliary gate, and will have a lot of ground to make up to get himself into the good early positioning he seems to like. With nearly all of the early speed in the race breaking from far outside posts, I can't see this thing being won by anyone at the front of the pack early on, unless BB is indeed the second coming of Secretariat that his trainer claims him to be.
BB is a fascinating puzzle, in that he's very lightly raced, but has very real speed, and has won all three of his starts. Will he win? I highly doubt it. He'd turn out to be an incredibly exciting horse to watch if he did, but he'd be overcoming his inexperience and his post position to do so.
I might have liked GAYEGO, but not from the 19 post, sandwiched between BB and RECAPTURETHEGLORY, who has early speed to burn.
PYRO will be the darling of a lot of folks willing to toss out his last race, as he'd been rocking steady until then. But I can't ignore his slow workouts. It could all be an aberration, and he has both the speed and the running style to win it, I just don't think he will.
Two horses I do like:
As a longshot, EIGHT BELLES is a filly with good pedigree and decent speed. She's won her last four starts, and has turned in some lickety-split workouts recently. To win this thing, she'll have to be one tough chick, running with the boys for the first time, overcoming a much bigger crowd than she's ever seen, and running late. I'd love to see her do it. Is that just me wanting to give a girl a chance? Maybe. But at high odds, she's worth a bet to be in the money.
COLONEL JOHN is a solid horse on paper, is breaking from a good middle post, and will surely see his odds drop even lower by post time. He's coming off a couple of wins, has never finished worse than second in six starts, and has very impressive recent workout numbers. If I've got to pick one horse to win it, he's my nag.
There it is, people. Be sure to make your simple syrup early enough to chill it before mixing a tasty Mint Julep. And if your feeling particularly
thirsty gluttonous patriotic, accept this as a challenge.
*The Daily Racing Form, America's Turf Authority since 1894, neither endorses nor is affiliated in any way with the views and ramblings of BK, America's Dirt Authority Since 1968.