By BILLY REED | WAVE 3 News
I have reached that dreaded point in the Kentucky Derby selection process where I’m in danger of being overcome by paralysis by analysis, also known as data overload.
My biggest fear is overlooking a horse simply because nobody on the backstretch at Churchill Downs seems to be talking about him. But maybe they’re overlooking something important that will be painfully obvious after the race.
As the wise guys on the backstretch see it, the following six horses have no chance to win the 145th Kentucky Derby.
However, that’s not the danger with these horses. The danger is that one will get up for second or third to blow up everybody’s exactas and trifectas.
GRAY MAGICIAN – He has only one victory in eight career starts, but finished second in the UAE Derby on March 30. His jockey, Drayden Van Dyke, has a great name for a Renaissance painter, but nobody knows if he can ride worth a lick.
MASTER FENCER – This is the horse from Japan who didn’t even dominate his competition in the Land of the Rising Sun. Nobody knows trainer Koichi Tsunoda, but jockey Julien Laperoux knows Churchill Downs and the Derby.
The Japanese-bred colt might be the favorite in Tokyo, considering how obsessive the Japanese are about just about everything, but he’ll go off at huge odds in the Derby.
PLUS QUE PARFAIT – The horse’s name is more interesting than his record. He has won only two of seven career races, but one was the UAE Derby. In a rather amazing reversal of form, he went from 13th in the Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 16 at the Fairgrounds in New Orleans to first in the UAE Derby on March 30 in Dubai.
VEKOMA – The winner of the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland may be the most curious mystery of all. He’s only lost once in four starts, and the Derby contender Win Win Win was 3 ¼ behind at the Blue Grass finish. Moreover, he’s trained by Louisville resident George Weaver and ridden by the talented Javier Castellano.
Yet absolutely nobody was touting him in the days leading up to the Derby. One owner said it was probably because his past performances indicated he didn’t have enough speed to be in the hunt when the Derby field turns for home.
TAX – Trained by Derby rookie Danny Gargan and ridden by Junior Alvarado, he ran a very touch second to Tacitus in the Wood Memorial. That would make you think that if a bettor likes Tacitus, he also will like Tax.
But that’s not the case. Even though Tacitus seems to have been anointed as the horse most likely to keep trainer Bob Baffert’s horses – Improbable, Game Winner, and Roadster – from finishing 1-2-3 in the Derby, nobody has been touting Tax, maybe because breeder Claiborne Farm thought so little of him that it ran him in two claiming races when he was a 2-year-old.
BODEXPRESS – He was ignored all week because he was only first on the also-eligible list until favored Omaha Beach was scratched Wednesday evening.
He still is looking for his first career victory. However, by finishing second in the Florida Derby at odds of $71.50 to $1, he got enough points to get into the Derby mix.
Of the six, I give Tax and Vekoma chances to at least hit the board. I especially liked Tax’s race in the Wood and believe he may be the best value in the field.
But I can promise you this: If Master Fencer wins, the payoffs will be so huge that it might affect our trade agreements with Japan.