Twelve Terrific 2015 Kentucky Derby Contenders

Below is a list of my top twelve 2015 Kentucky Derby Contenders.

As of January 11, 2015 (Note: blue bold fonts are linked to race videos or references)

1) Texas Red – Current Vegas Odds: 12-1

5 Starts, 2 Wins, Win Pct: 40%, Graded Stakes Pct: 50%

Best Performance: 11/1/2014 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – 1 1/16 mile race – 1st  1:41:91

Comment: Still my Kentucky Derby favorite due to his impressive closing speed and race style. But the big question, will he be consistent? I trust that the Desormeaux brothers will get the most out of this colt. He ran 6 furlongs today at Santa Anita and turned in a lackluster effort (1:17.8) but this horse is not a speed horse that runs fast out of the gate. He likes competition and he’s a closer who turns it on in the later part of a race. .

Next Race: San Vincente Stakes – February 1st        Texas Red’s Equibase Profile


2) Dortmund – Current Vegas Odds: 7-1

3 Starts, 3 Wins, Win Pct: 100%, Graded Stakes Win Pct: 100%

Best Performance: 12/20/2014 – Los Alamitos Futurity –  1 1/16 mile race – 1st  1:40.86

Comment: Although he demonstrated great fighting spirit and broke a track record in the Los Alamitos Futurity, I expected a more comfortable win against that field. My big question: How will he handle a large field if he doesn’t get a clean trip like he got in the LA Futurity? His size, pedigree (sire Big Brown) and trainer (Bob Baffert) is what had made him Vegas’s favorite but I think 7-1 is too short of odds for him at this point..

Next Race: Robert B. Lewis Stakes – February 7th        Dortmund’s Equibase Profile


3) American Pharoah – Current Vegas Odds: 15-1

3 Starts, 2 Wins, Win Pct: 67%, Graded Stakes Win Pct: 100%

Best Performance: 9/27/2014 – FrontRunner Stakes – 1 1/16 mile race – 1st 1:41.95

Comment: Another one of Bob Baffert’s stable of great horses but he now appears to be his second best horse behind Dortmund. The burning question: How will he bounce back after a layoff due to a foot bruise?

Next Race: Rebel Stakes – March 14th        American Pharoah’s Equibase Profile


4) Firing Line – Current Vegas Odds: 25-1

3 Starts, 1 Win, Win Pct: 33%, Graded Stakes Win Pct: 0%

Best Performance: 12/20/2014 – Los Alamitos Futurity – 1 1/16 mile race – 2nd 1:40.88 (calculated)

Comment: Consider the fact that the Los Alamitos Futurity was just this horse’s third career start and how he battled Dortmund and you can envision a bright future for this colt. His next race in a bigger field will tell us a lot about whether his Los Alamitos Futurity performance was a fluke or not. He has yet to win a graded stakes race but I am betting that he will very soon.

Next Race:  Robert B. Lewis Stakes – February 7th     Firing Line’s Equibase Profile


5) Carpe Diem – Current Vegas Odds: 20-1

3 Starts, 2 Wins, Win Pct: 67%, Graded Stakes Win Pct: 50%

Best Performance: 11/1/2014 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – 1 1/16 mile race – 2nd 1:42.95 (calculated)

Comment: Appears now to be Todd Pletcher’s top Derby contender. That should tell you enough as Pletcher is considered the best trainer in North America. I expect Carpe Diem to move up this list in the future.

Next Race: Unknown        Carpe Diem’s Equibase Profile


6) Mr. Z – Current Vegas Odds: 40-1

8 Starts, 1 Win, Win Pct: 12.5%, Graded Stakes Win Pct: 0%

Best Performance: 12/20/2014 – Los Alamitos Futurity – 1 1/16 mile race – 3rd 1:40.89 (calculated)

Comment: This ranking may be higher than most handicappers would hand out because he has mostly been the bridesmaid and not the bride thus far. However, I expect this D. Wayne Lukas trained colt to be a starter in the Kentucky Derby. He is showing improvement and is very battle-tested and experienced with seven graded stakes races under his belt. He is also the only horse who has competed against Dortmund, Texas Red, Firing Line and Carpe Diem (four out of my top five). And he has usually finished near the front against these horses. So when start stretching out to 1 1/8 mile and longer races, I like a battled tested, experienced horse who has raced against the cream of the crop.

Next Race: Smarty Jones Stakes – January 19th        Mr. Z’s Equibase Profile


7) Frosted – Current Vegas Odds: 35-1

4 Starts, 1 Win, Win Pct: 25%, Graded Stakes Win Pct: 0%

Best Performance: 11/29/2014 – Remsen Stakes – 1 1/8 mile race – 2nd 1:51.14 (calculated)

Comment: Frosted has yet to win a graded stakes race but I liked his run in the Remsen. I think he likes distance and has a good pedigree. His sire Tapit has produced some good offspring in last year’s crop: Tonalist, Untappable and Tapiture.

Next Race: Holy Bull Stakes – January 24th        Frosted’s Equibase Profile


8)  El Kabeir – Current Vegas Odds: 20-1

6 Starts, 3 Wins, Win Pct: 50%, Graded Stakes Win Pct: 50%

Best Performance: 11/29/2014 – Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes – 1 1/16 mile race – 1st 1:44.82

Comment:  He has won his last two starts in graded stakes races (Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and Jerome Stakes). Many consider him the best East Coast horse. Might have distance limitations.

Next Race: Withers Stakes – February 7th       El Kabeir’s Equibase Profile


9) Upstart – Current Vegas Odds: 40-1

4 Starts, 2 Wins, Win Pct: 50%, Graded Stakes Win Pct: 0%

Best Performance: 11/1/2014 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – 1 1/16 mile race – 3rd 1:42.96 (calculated)

Comment: Proven that he is fast but has yet to win a graded stakes race. All eyes will be on the Holy Bull Stakes where he is rumored to be an entry along with Frosted.

Next Race: Holy Bull Stakes – January 24th        Upstart’s Equibase Profile

10) Eagle – Current Vegas Odds: 60-1

4 Starts, 2 Wins, Win Pct: 50%, Graded Stakes Win Pct: 50%

Best Performance: 11/29/2014 – Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes – 1 1/16 mile race –  3rd 1:44.96 (calculated)

Comment: I think this horse likes distance and I was impressed with his closing speed in the Kentucky Jockey Club race. At 60-1 odds, for the price of a 16 ounce soft drink with sales tax, you can place a $2 bet on him to win the Kentucky Derby that would pay back $120. I need to drink less soft drinks anyway.

Next Race: Lecomte Stakes – January 17th        Eagle’s Equibase Profile


11) Imperia –  Current Vegas Odds: 35-1

4 Starts, 1 Win, Win Pct: 25%, Graded Stakes Win Pct: 33%

Best Performance: 11/29/2014 – Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes – 1 1/16 mile race –  2nd 1:44.84 (calculated)

Comment: His first three races were on grass and then he was switched to dirt where lost by a head to El Kabeir in the Kentucky Jockey Club stakes (posting a 94 Beyer Speed Figure). Has been working out at Palm Meadows Training Center.

Next Race: Risen Star Stakes – February 21st        Imperia’s Equibase Profile


12) Daredevil – Current Vegas Odds: 40-1

3 Starts, 2 Wins, Win Pct: 67%, Graded Stakes Win Pct: 50%

Best Performance: 10/4/2014 – Champagne Stakes – 1 mile race – 1st 1:36.62 (wet, sloppy track)

Comment: One of the fastest horses in Todd Pletcher’s stable but had a disappointing performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Did he develop health issues as some have speculated the way he dropped anchor in that race? No recent workouts have been reported and he has yet to run a race longer than a mile. That is why he plummets way down my list.

Next Race: Unknown        Daredevil’s Equibase Profile


Others horses to keep an eye on: Leave the Light On (75/1 Odds), Ocho Ocho Ocho (45/1 Odds), Calculator (50/1), Nasa (125/1 Odds), Blofeld (30/1 Odds) and Punctuate (30/1 Odds)

To see the full list of Wynn Las Vegas’ 2015 Kentucky Derby Odds, click HERE

This list will undoubtedly change over the next few months with new horses making the list and others dropping off due to performance reasons or the development of health issues. Most Kentucky Derby winners will have raced in 3-4 races by this date and pay close attention to any horse who goes on a winning streak at tracks like Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park, Oaklawn Park and Aqueduct. These tracks offer the most potential points for entry into the Kentucky Derby, so the top trainers bring their best horses to tracks.

Probably about five or six horses will end up being entered into the Kentucky Derby but this list serves as a good barometer to gauge the new horses who seemingly come out of the woodworks every year and turn in great performances.

—Michael 

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