Uncle Mo was the best horse in the 2011 Kentucky Derby field but had to scratch on Friday with a stomach ailment. The 2010, two-year-old champion was my pick to win the Run for the Roses. So quickly I had to scramble around, reorganize things and reassess the field. And here's my analysis!
I am picking the Nick Zito trained, Dialed In. I believe he is now the outstanding colt in the field of 19. Why my obsession with betting on the best? Well, the best horse gives you the best chance to go to the window after the race. I know you cynics are saying, "Beck, that horse will be 3-1. Show some guts!" Well I am showing some guts, because so many things can go wrong in the "Greatest Two Minutes in Sports."
You have to remember the Kentucky Derby is a cavalry charge. It's horse racing's "May Madness." Anything can happen -- and usually does in this race, which some have called an absolute traffic jam. I mean, this race is more crowded than the LIE on a Friday afternoon in July. But this isn't the Hamptons, my friends. This is Louisville where horsepower is the story of the day, not, well -- horsepower!
No race in recent memory fits this description better than the one in 1982 when Eddie Delahoussaye guided Gato Del Sol from the middle of the pack in mid-stretch -- to the front, at the finish line. The Hall of Fame jockey weaved his way through a myriad of horses and proved you somehow can find a foot of space, even when they're only giving you an inch.
Now, back to Derby 137 at Churchill Downs. Dialed In won the Florida Derby. He's 3 for 4 lifetime. He broke his maiden on this track in November of last year -- and don't think that's not big. Plus he might have the best young jockey in the sport in Julien Leparoux. Oh, then there's the Zito factor. He's the Brooklyn-born trainer who has New York etched all over his face and in his gravelly voice. Nick has won this race twice before. And in this year's likely favorite, Dialed In, has a horse with the exact same come from behind running style as his first derby winner, Strike The Gold in 1991.
The negatives on this horse are easy to find. First, he's inexperienced. He only raced once as a two year-old and just three times this year. He has not raced since April 3rd and in that one -- the Florida Derby, won with a woefully slow time. Hey, I like the fact there are negatives. Otherwise, this horse would be an odds-on favorite.
Who can beat him you ask? Who am I throwing into the equation for my exactas and trifectas ? Well, let's start on the rail with Archarcharch. Sounds like he should be from St. Louis with that name. This horse is bred for the 1 1/4 distance and won the Arkansas Derby in his last start. By the way, that race was super fast and has been considered a key derby prep in recent years. But the post position does not help him. Just ask Lookin At Lucky last year. Well, there's always racing luck.
Mucho Macho Man which sounds like a song by the Village People is extremely dangerous. He was the winner of the Risen Star Stakes and is clearly a sentimental choice. He's trained by Kathy Ritvo, who had a heart transplant less than three years ago. She looks to become the first female trainer to win the Kentucky Derby.
A lot of people like Brilliant Speed. I don't! Six of his "in the money" finishes were accomplished on grass or Polytrack. That's a synthetic surface with is far different than the dirt track of Churchill Downs.
Owner Mike Repole, a Queens native and trainer Todd Pletcher still have a horse in the field. Stay Thirsty is not in Uncle Mo's class but perhaps there's something in the stars for this connection. They were banking on this field of contenders saying "Uncle" to Mo's awesome talent. Hopefully for them, Stay Thirsty is a name people will remember for something other than a Dos Equis commercial.
Others in the field who have a chance to win include Midnight Interlude, who is trained by three-time Kentucky Derby Champion, Bob Baffert. And Nehro, who was second in both the Arkansas Derby and the Louisiana Derby. Shackleford, Pants on Fire and Soldat have a puncher's chance. And don't forget that Calvin "Bo-rail" rides Twice the Appeal. It's only fitting because he's won this race twice in a row.
So have you digested all of this. Are you "Dialed In?" I say Nick Zito is! And I believe his mount is ready to blaze a trail in front of the Twin Spires. It's the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday of May -- and I believe Dialed In will be first. So grab a mint julep and your best derby hat -- and saddle up for the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports. And good luck to everyone. Remember, racing luck is everything.