The Morning Line: 138th Kentucky Derby

It’s Wide Open But The Picks Are In

NBC Sports

Est Post Time: 6:24 ET

So the journey to the Kentucky Derby has just about reached the end of the road. The ride has been a joy but it’s not over yet. The only time the Kentucky Derby Trail really ends is after the field crosses the wire and the winner accepts the bed of roses. But who the winner will be remains to be seen. There can be multiple ways to interpret “Wide Open” as the description of a race but when it’s used in 2012 for the 138th Kentucky Derby it’s with very good reason. Before we jump into who The Derby Post is calling a winner, let’s open up the discussion on this year’s field.

Click Here for a complete look at the 138th Kentucky Derby Field, Post Positions and Morning Line Odds 

Wide open was a term that was used in last year’s Kentucky Derby as well but between the two they couldn’t be more opposite. In 2011, the horse with the lowest amount of graded stakes earnings secured a spot with $120,000. In 2012, there is only one horse in the field with graded earnings lower than $250,000. So then what does that tell us about this year’s field? Answer: Very Talented.

It is encouraging to see so many early Kentucky Derby contenders remain solid along the trail. What’s impressive is that the horses that make up the field weren’t just casually prepping, they were racing. Of the horses on almost everyone’s top ten there isn’t a single entry that finished outside of the top 3 in their final Kentucky Derby prep. And of those 10, only 1 finished outside of the top 2. What’s interesting is that Union Rags is that horse but he’s still listed as the 2nd choice on the Morning Line Odds – 3rd Florida Derby. The only reason it is mentioned is because no top 10 horse lost to a longshot or a horse with Kentucky Derby suspicions. What I’m alluding to is that the majority of major preps ended in only one way: derby contenders validated their status.

Who made the top 10? Click Here

Maybe this puts the term “Wide Open” into perspective as it relates to the 2012 Kentucky Derby. There alone are two handfuls that will either continue their winning ways or make the jump from 2nd or 3rd. Adding more intrigue to the race every year is that even though I’ve pointed out a so-called top ten, it doesn’t mean that a surprise isn’t brewing. We’ve already seen a fair amount of Kentucky Derby winners that paid big recently. The lesson is: Don’t sway your bets based on the odds and if you like it, bet it. So who does The Derby Post think is worth putting a little action on?

Number one is that there is a high volume of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile entries in the Kentucky Derby this year. Number two is that I haven’t swayed very far away from my top 2 picks that day. Even before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile I did have a close eye on Creative Cause. I thought about going another direction but I’m sticking with him in the 138th Kentucky Derby.

The only mark against Creative Cause is that he has raced a little erratic down the stretch a few different times. The blinkers were on, then taken off but I’m ruling that element out. What Creative Cause brings to the table is that he has raced in a total of 4 Grade 1 races, the most of any horse in the field. In fact his career debut is the only non-graded stakes race he has ever entered. His main draw is that his performances can’t be denied. In 8 lifetime starts, Creative Cause notched 4 wins, 2nd place twice and 2 thirds. The final factors are that the derby distance of 1 ¼ mile look to be in his wheel house and that he already clipped 100 in the beyer speed department – 102 in his San Felipe victory over Bodemeister.

It’s hard to bet a big race, win and then leave them out next time around. Hansen is a very interesting horse with a very aggressive approach towards winning. He likes to be out front and he likes a fast pace. His Blue Grass Stakes performance concerns me because that approach back fired big time but I’m not ready to layoff completely. I’ve played him lightly in the past and because I like playing on a whim there’s a good chance that this Great White Colt might see a little bit more action from me.

Outside of the horses it’s always a good idea to take a look at the jockey’s that you think are due for a big win. I haven’t made any decisions on how or if I will play them but Julien Leparoux and Mike Smith have got my attention. Julien Leparoux has yet to win the Kentucky Derby but if any year was his best chance, it would be with Union Rags in 2012. An unexpected trip in the Florida Derby left Union Rags in 3rd but I think Leparoux learned a lot in the Florida Derby. A pressing question is about his top beyer rating of only 95. I’m not holding that against him though because I think he’s capable of rating higher than that on Saturday. I’m not saying I’m betting Union Rags for the first time but if his odds only go up there’s a chance that something might get done.

And then there’s the morning line favorite Bodemeister. Speed and more speed is a great way to define this late bloomer. In his last three races he hasn’t posted a beyer speed less than 101 – Impressive. The challenge is that Bode is trying to become the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby without racing at age 2 since Apollo in 1882. To his benefit he’s got a hall of fame trainer and rider in his corner. Bob Baffert lit it up in Hot Springs, Arkansas already this year and he knows his way around the Kentucky Derby – 3 lifetime wins. Mike Smith is a veteran as well who will be riding for his 2nd Kentucky Derby win. I haven’t decided if I can bet this horse or not. I know he’s as strong as any in the field but if the odds remain too low, I’m going to have to pass and hope that he doesn’t wire the field again. Expect him to be in or near the front and in the company of Hansen.

Which brings us to the pace. There’s no way this Kentucky Derby is going to be anything less than aggressive in the front. There will be a horse or two that are going to try to steal this race from on the lead but I’m not biting on that outcome completely. Instead, since I think the thieves won’t shut down easy in the stretch, I conclude that the winner is going to be close to or just off the pace. Horses that stand out as fitting this style of racing are Alpha, Gemologist and Daddy Nose Best. All three horses have great connections and look ready to make a bid.

Finally, there’s nothing like a good name. When it comes to wagering on names it’s likely that it’s personal. Although I’ve never worked behind the bar, I know a few that have. He might not be my top choice but I’ll have to make a family wager on him. I’ll Have Another concluded his Derby Prep season in fashion with a win in the Santa Anita Derby but it’s premature to conclude that he did it because it was last call. Instead, he may prove on Saturday that the cocktail hour was just getting started.

There’s plenty of horses that can win this race so good luck to all of them and their connections. Also, good luck to the fans. If you place a wager, we hope it is a winning one. Enjoy a mint julep, enjoy the races, and enjoy the day because there is nothing like the Kentucky Derby. Cheers

Written by: Little Brink

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