Anything can happen at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May, so anyone who tells you they know what will happen this Saturday is off their nut.
Official post positions have been announced, and this year, they won't much dissuade anyone from picking whomever they liked before the draw. Parimutuel-wise, this thing is a four-horse race, with I WANT REVENGE installed as the early favorite.
But there is real depth this year in the tier of horses just below the top four, and that is where betting bargains — and the possible winner — can be found and money made at longer odds.
Uh.... So, off my nut or not, here's what I think:I don't see this year's race setting up in a particular way — as can happen when there are a few early rabbits in the field, or especially good or bad post positions for the favorites — just a tangle of talented colts in the middle of the field as they hit the first turn.
Below are the four horses who are well-deserved favorites and who have a clear and legitimate shot to win:
I'm torn. I WANT REVENGE is trained by a doping scumbag, which makes it difficult to determine whether he's a burgeoning superhorse (his come-from-behind win in the Wood Memorial was a thing of beauty) and Triple Crown threat, or just another juicer. He has arguably the best speed in the race, is a gamer who has never been out of the money, and turned in a lickety-split workout Tuesday. I like this horse a lot. But I don't feel good about it.
PIONEEROF THE NILE cannot be blamed for the design abomination of colors that are his owner's silks. He'll be ridden by one of the best jockeys in the business, runs beautifully, and likes to win. Still, he's been running on a synthetic surface, not real dirt, like at Churchill Downs, and doesn't necessarily have the speed to keep up in this race.
FRIESAN'S FIRE is running well, has speed, is improving, can stalk the lead from mid-pack, and likes running in the slop. To win this thing, he'll have to gut it out at a longer distance than he's seen, but if it rains as much as is predicted in the next few days, this is your horse — and mine.
DUNKIRK has speed, excellent pedigree, a winning trainer, a winning jockey, and looks to be peaking at just the right time. But he has raced only three times, so who knows what we'll get. My grandmother, who always bet the gray horse, will surely be watching Dunkirk closely on the big TV in the sky, and I cannot discount Grandmom's chances.
In addition to those four, there are a few second-tier hopefuls worth a close look. If you want to bet a longshot to be in the money, all those under 25– 30–1 have a chance. No horse with odds longer than that has a shot in hell. Of the rest, the ones I like are MUSKET MAN (if you're a fan of the stout, this nag drinks a Guinness a day with his feed), CHOCOLATE CANDY, PAPA CLEM, and GENERAL QUARTERS.
My superfecta, based on current weather forecasts:
- FRIESAN'S FIRE
- MUSKET MAN
- I WANT REVENGE
- CHOCOLATE CANDY
There it is, people. Be a damn nice payout if it hits.
Watch it for yourself, Saturday @ 6:00 PM EDT on NBC. And remember: Make your simple syrup early enough to chill it before mixing those Mint Juleps.
He showed us. And mercy, but what a race.
*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.