They don’t call the Kentucky Derby the “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” for no reason.

A field of the best 20 three-year old thoroughbreds in the world run a fast mile and a quarter on dirt in the American heartland every first Saturday in May since 1875.

It is also the first leg of the legendary Triple Crown, so the stakes are obviously very high. And, for many amateur horse handicappers like myself, goose bumps are a yearly ritual during the legendary horse race.

This year, in this 141st version, the talent level seems even more extraordinary, making it quite hard to commit to a top 3.

But, here goes:

1st – “American Pharoah”

Ordinarily, I am not one to go with the overwhelming “favorite” of any given event.  I use my own judgment and gut based on the stats available to me.

Yet, after watching the way this horse routed its competition during the prep races leading up to the Derby, along with a favorable 18th post position and background, it’s my favorite too.

What really impressed me most was his win at the Rebel Stakes on March 14.  It showed me something special about this horse.

Apparently, the horse was shipped in from California and had not raced in 5 months due to an injury.  On a sloppy track, he led the pack from the wire with a slight lead.  But, when they round the turn for the finish, the jockey asks the horse for more (without a whip) and then American Pharoah explodes, leaving everyone else in the dust:

The horse proved he was legit about a month later at the Arkansas Derby when he poured it on after the bend and won in similar fashion:

Could this horse pull a “Secretariat” and possibly break the fastest record with perfect track conditions tomorrow?

Take another look at how Secretariat did it back in 1973:


American Pharoah’s owner, Ahmed Zayat said in March, “(This horse) has brilliant speed, he’s bred to go the distance, (and) he’s not one-dimensional, I assure you of that. He can sit if he needs to, but he’s just brilliantly fast. It’s a ‘come and get me’ kind of thing.”

Other assets include Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, and the jockey Victor Espinoza, who guided “War Emblem” to victory in the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 2002.

Finally, this horse has good pedigree.  His sire is “Pioneer of the Nile”, who finished second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby and he inherited speed from his mare, Littleprincessemma.

2nd – “Dortmund”

Another Bob Baffert horse and who has been undefeated during his prep races (6-0).  He looked mightily impressive, leading almost all the races wire to wire in a dominant fashion.

In 2014, he was also undefeated and established himself as one of the best juveniles in California.

Also, this horse posted 8th from the inside, has an experienced jockey in Martin Garcia who rode “Lookin at Lucky” to win the 2010 Preakness Stakes.  The horse also has a winning pedigree – sired by champion Big Brown, the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness star.


This was one of the first horses I scoped out and it never left my mind.

I was taken by the way it won the Wood Memorial, coming from behind on the outside from the back of the pack and with tremendous speed (and without a whip).  He has the white face mask on:

This horse also has a nice outside position for the Derby, his jockey Joel Rosario won the Kentucky Derby in 2013 aboard “Orb”, and he is a blue blood Tapit colt.

If this horse doesn’t place in the top 3 in the Derby, I have a feeling he’ll do well at the other Triple Crown races.

Other Contenders:

Carpe Diem” – If it wasn’t for its unfortunate post position of #2 on the inside, I would put this horse in my top 3.  He seems to have tremendous speed and won his debut.  His jockey, John Velazquez, is also very competent having won the 2011 Kentucky Derby aboard “Animal Kingdom”.  Todd Pletcher is also the trainer and the horse is the son of English/Irish champion and leading international sire “Giant’s Causeway”.  So, distance is not a problem for this horse.  If he could somehow get off well from that post, he could win.

“Mubtaahij” – This international horse’s impressive performance on March 28 at the United Arab Emirates Derby made him a legitimate contender to upset the favorites.  He won by 8 lengths at that race with a seemingly flip of the switch from the Jockey. And, that track was dirt like Churchill Downs.

His trainer is Mike de Kock, who has won internationally around the world, so helping the horse to adjust to Ky shouldn’t be a problem.  We’ll just have to see how he does.

“International Star” – This horse is owned by Kentuckians Ken and Sarah Ramsey. He has some pedigree by “Fusaichi Pegasus”, who capped a five-race winning streak in the 2000 Kentucky Derby.  The horse also has been really impressive on dirt having won 4 of 5 prep races. It would be a great story, for locals to get it done.  And, a story of comeback for the Peruvian jockey, Miguel Mena, who battled alcohol after very early success in his career.  Also, he has a favorable 12th post position and a nice 20-1 odds, for a middle of the road pick.

“Materiality” – Has the dreaded “Curse of Apollo” struck down this horse before he even got started?  He didn’t race as a 2 yr old, so some experts say he’s out since no horse has won the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old since “Apollo” in 1882.  But, that dreaded post inside does hurt his chances.  He is a Todd Pletcher trained colt and does have speed which makes me think that in other Triple Crown races with more favorable posts, we may see something special from this horse.  But, he should still be kept on the radar for this one.

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