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TrackNotes: This Year's Derby A Value Proposition

"If the Super Bowl is the ultimate game, how come there is another one next year?" - Duane Thomas, 1972

So here we are, wiseguys, civilians, hot chicks donning architectural and pretty hats. Party people do it all over, I know. And it certainly beats by a long way Tom Brady jerseys on the naugahyde sectional.

A few famous beauties who surprise you (I've learned don't be surprised by the ladies vis a vis the horses) and back up their picks with élan. Good whiskey, great jockeys and the best three-year-old Thoroughbred race horses America has to offer.
Even Lani, shipping in from his home in Japan. Remember, he was bred in Old Kentucky, but he's not a crumb over here: son of Tapit, grandson of Sunday Silence.

Just days ago, I was ambivalent, drifting. Really. Just another installment, number 142, of the Run for the Roses, the ultimate race, the Kentucky Derby. What does it all mean? What is is really worth, doc?

I'd already had feelings for Mohaymen, thrilling in the Fountain of Youth but then regressing in the Florida Derby in what was to be an epic showdown with Derby favorite Nyquist, Nyquist winning big but doing it for the money, I'm such a . . . Mohaymen's fourth that day ultimately had nothing to do with Nyquist.

I really dug Danzing Candy, dazzling, wiring the San Felipe over Saturday foes Mor Spirit and Exaggerator. With the big try, a slip and slide to a 13-length fourth in the Santa Anita Derby slop. Stay with me, please.

Then, serial maiden Creator, powered home in the Arkansas Derby over a horse, Cupid, that I had at least half an eye on, with a name like that. Cupid dropped off the Derby trail with a respiratory obstruction. Watch out in the Preakness. Do you see how we think?

Mor Spirit, Dick Sargent to American Pharoah's Dick York in the Baffert barn, nose-twitched into the new year in the December Los Alamitos Futurity and the February Robert B. Lewis Stakes. Then he was not so great in the San Felipe and SA Derby. Baffert have sumthin' up his sleeve even with no basis of sayin' that? Looks like he had better.

Undefeated (named after Detroit Red Wing Gustav) Nyquist owned by Windsor, Ontario native J. Paul Reddam, we'll talk about later. Is that a Canadian hockey crime?

I should know better with these threes, but I just couldn't find one to strap my bedroll to this spring. I guarantee you I felt flat, no energy, on this race and wondered just how good these horses are, or aren't. Not a good feeling. I needed some spice.

Then, Wednesday, I watched the Derby post position draw from the crowded Alcibiades Room of Churchill Downs and was hooked all over again like a Babe Winkelman muskellunge. In direct contrast to Billy Bass, I learned, this horse racing and this race Saturday really don't get old. The chills up my spine with the video lead-in of 'Pharoah crossing the Belmont wire was a real goose. So is that it? I guess so.

I swear none of this is a hangover from American Pharoah. Fans should know that and horseplayers certainly do. 'Pharoah's not here and did not accomplish everything on the first Saturday in May, 2015. That was only the beginning.

Alas, on the draw show, Laffit Pincay III's first question was "Are any of these capable of the Triple Crown?" Oh, brother. Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey Teflon'd the question in the nicest way. They continued the theme on Thursday's preview show; Moss suggesting as much as a possibility for a Triple Crown this year. Shame, don't pander to the ratings civilians!

Horseplayers look at the Derby as a wagering opportunity. Usually just that. We do like success by a single horse, we really do.

The Kentucky Derby winner usually sculpts a wondrous trip, by necessity, and that's the beauty of this race, the unfairness that it is.

But the whole season matters. 'Pharoah put it all together. And the Derby is the best start for any horse. But win four or five of the biggest races all year and . . .

So, whodoyalike?

Number one, watch the prices and get value. Bet who you like, because there are no tough favorites. I believe there will a lot of value. Nyquist's 3-1 is an indicator of that.

I'm big on Outwork, but please don't tell anyone. He's 15-1 on the morning line from the 15-hole and I like that just fine. I would be greedy at any higher and, well, don't go below that!

As with most all of the prep races, they started fast and crawled home in the Wood Memorial but between his win there and a good second in the Tampa Bay Derby, he's all the heart you want and will go eye-to-eye with any. From 15, he'll need to show more tactic, with seasoned veteran Johnny Velasquez aboard. Like Humphrey Bogart, I see him rolling the balls and finding his spot.

My only problem with Outwork is trainer Todd Pletcher. He's fantastic on the come with the two-year-olds, but win the big with the threes? Not so much. Go Johnny!

Nyquist? At 3-1, he's really a coolish favorite. From 13, he'll have nobody-in-particular Tom's Ready to his left and Mohaymen to his right. What will Junior Alvarado do with Mohaymen? He'll send at least a little, but so will Mario Gutierrez with Nyquist.

Nyquist won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile after falling six and eight lengths behind, but generally he's been on the lead in his seven (no losses) wins.

The murmur about him is the distance. He went nine furlongs in winning the Florida Derby, but against who? He's out of Uncle Mo, who scratched from his Derby. 'Mo is out of Indian Charlie, nice horse, but not a distance paragon. On that basis . . . not me.

You'll hear a lot about Exaggerator. His only success of any kind has been in slop or mud. Not this weekend. Hope he takes a lot of money.

I like Mohaymen. BUT. He'll have to run to his visually impressive Fountain of Youth and improve on the 95 Beyer Speed Figure plateau. He's had great workouts, they say he's on the muscle, I like his professionalism, he's 10-1 morning line. Pray for 10-1 and go. I will.

I LOVE Danzing Candy. Except for the slop in the Santa Anita Derby, he's been truly dominant. He beat Mor Spirit and Exaggerator handily in the San Felipe. The 20-hole will be really tough - how much energy to get to the leaders as he likes? I'll trust Mike Smith, but this guy will have to show a new dimension. Danzing will be a riddle. But I think he's got the guts.

Creator is a curiosity, we think. He's always in the money and on the Beyer upswing in a very good way. 10-1, probably higher. I'm game. But did he capitalize in Arkansas off a poor performance from Cupid? Tell that to everyone you know and be quiet about what you do. Do you hear me?

The dance team, in no particular order: Outwork, Creator, Mohaymen, Mor Spirit, Danzing Candy.

Take a $2 flyer please: Lani, Destin, Whitmore.

By The Color Of Their Coat
There will be four grays in the race. The girls I know seem to really dig the grays. Creator (3 with a red mane!), Lani (8), Destin (9) and Mohaymen (14).

Cool, and if you keep watching them run, they get grayer and then white.

Sing A Sad Song
There's bad news and only slightly better news.

Songbird, the best horse in the land, is out of the Kentucky Oaks.

She spiked a fever a few weeks back and with the antibiotic regimen she needed, it interrupted her training enough to knock her off the dais. You know, they probably could have run her. But hooray for doing the right thing.

Now, the Friday Oaks becomes a very interesting race. Your molls will be Cathryn Sophia (distance?) and 7-2 ML favorite Rachel's Valentina, daughter of Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d'Oro) and Bernardini (A.P. Indy). And if you don't know how much I love all of those horses, you haven't been here before.

Go ahead and ogle those, as we all will. But watch out for Go Maggie Go, Lewis Bay, Land Over Sea, Mo d'Amour, and Weep No More. Told ya, wide open. We'll see Songbird at her next concert, but this is a highly bettable race.

On The Tee And Vee
It's just to my likin'. Marathon-ish.

On Friday, NBC Sports Network goes all Oaks from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nice. Post for the Oaks is 4:49 central, so you might want to add that 15- or 30-minute extension.

On Saturday, NBC Sports Network will start at 11 a.m. and go until 3 p.m. Then, the big NBC 5 takes over at 3 through the Derby and aftermath at 6:15 p.m. Hope that the hockey game does not go over after 3, but if it does, toggle with NBC Sports Network.


Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.

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