HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

April 30, 2007

Street Sense is the best guess to win Derby

By Jesse Menden

To be honest, trying to pick a Kentucky Derby winner is like going to Baskin-Robbins for ice cream. All of the 31 flavors look good, but you’re not just sure which one is the best. It is the same with the Derby, many look good, but only one is the best. It is fun to guess anyway.

If we have learned anything from the recent history of the Derby, it is that the race is a guessing game for the bettors.

Last year, Barbaro expelled one of the few theories that were left, that a horse could not have more than a five-week layoff heading into the race. He did, and won by over six lengths.

Also, there is no definitive prep races that give bettors a clue, either. The last five Derby winners have exited the prep schedule at five different races.

So the best way to attempt this near-impossible, slightly-educated guess, is to just find the best horse that will get a clean trip against the full field of 20 horses.

Let’s take a look at some of the contending horses and begin the guessing.

Circular Quay is one of the best horses in the race. He ranks third on the graded stakes earnings list for a reason. He was the winner of the Louisiana Derby by two lengths, in which he posted one of the top speed figures of any horse slated for the Derby. Also, outside of a grade-3 race in which he had to avoid a fallen jockey, Circular Quay has never finished worse than second. This horse is a big closer. But the question is, can he stay close enough to have a clear path to get it done?

Curlin has emerged late as one of the favorites. This lightly-raced 3-year-old will be making just his fourth start ever Saturday at Churchill Downs. He is a perfect 3-for-3 in his career, including an easy win at the Arkansas Derby April 14, in which he won by 10 lengths. In his three career races, he has won by a combined 28 lengths. The Arkansas Derby was a race he was supposed to win, so can he make the next step up against really good competition? This horse novice thinks he can.

Next up is Dominican. He asserted himself on the Derby radar screen with an impressive win in the Blue Grass over Derby-favorite Street Sense. It was a very gutsy effort and a nice win, but his fuel tank was emptied in that win just three weeks ago. I’m looking elsewhere.

Great Hunter is another horse to be considered. He is 3-for-9 in his career and looked to be a contender, until his effort in the Blue Grass at Keeneland. He brushed the gate at the start and did not get the trip the bettors were looking for.

Despite that, it still would not be out of the realm for this horse to take the Derby. He has a ton of talent, and it appears the Blue Grass was just a chance to run with some competition. He is a serious contender.

Nobiz Like Shobiz is also among the favorites. He is 6-for-6 lifetime in the money, and won four of those races. The most impressive came in the grade-1 Wood Memorial at Aquaduct. The only problem with that race was it was a short field, that wasn’t overwhelmingly full of talent. He is a talented horse, but it would take a very good trip to win it all in the Derby.

Up next is Scat Daddy. This improving horse has won its last two races, the grade-2 Fountain of Youth and grade-1 Florida Derby, both over good competition at Gulfstream Park. He has never posted a triple-digit speed figure, but seems to be headed that way, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he did it Saturday. He is 5-for-8 lifetime, and should be seriously considered.

Stormello raced in both of those races won by Scat Daddy. He is 3-for-9 lifetime, and is very consistent, but it would take a trip of a lifetime for him to win.

Street Sense is one of the top favorites for this year’s Derby. He started out his Derby campaign in convincing fashion, scoring a win by 10 lengths at 15-1 odds in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile (I can’t thank him enough for that win). He won again at the Tampa Bay Derby by a nose over another Derby hopeful, Any Given Saturday. In his last prep, he lost by a nose to Dominican in the Blue Grass. This horse can run any style of race. He can close, stalk the pace, or even win from up front. The loss at Keeneland does not concern me in the slightest, Street Sense is the class of the field.

So there it is, Street Sense is the best horse in the race and should win. But anything can happen when 19 other horses are trying to get ahead of you. My wagers will also heavily emphasize Curlin, and possibly Scat Daddy.