It is hard to pick one winner from a field of 20 horses. I mean, it is real hard when it comes down to it. Based on these young horses past performances and the fact many are still going through growth spurts and learning pains, it's damn near impossible to settle on one. So often in years past, I have an easier time whittling down the list before I can ultimately settle on a winner. Perhaps it is due to my "against the grain" mentality, but I really like finding flaws in a horse as more and more people jump on the bandwagon. And this year I have already reached my tipping point with Orb.
Yes, Orb, the closer who looks and acts and smells (presumably) like a stone cold race horse. I'm tossing him. You are what? That's right -- he's out, Jerry! Why in the hell would you be throwing out the most blue-blooded, consistent closer in the field when he's gobbling up the Churchill Downs track like a fat man at a Cici's pizza buffet, you ask? Let me use as exhibits A, B, C and D the damning quotes from his alleged "supporters";
A) Orb's trainer, Shug McGaughey on his recent stellar workout in company (where do all these nicknames for trainers come from, anyway? Shug, Chip, Rudy...): "He has a tendency to make the lead and then think he's done enough, so we wanted him to finish on by that horse."
B) Orb's jockey, Joel Rosario: "He can get a little nervous in the gate but he's getting better each time." Is this what you want to see from the likely 5-1 2nd choice - "nervous... improvement." If I wanted to bet on a nut-case at the starting gate we should bring back Quality Road or Coronado's Quest (another McGaughey trained horse who couldn't even run in the Derby because he was too flaky - can we see a pattern here?!)
C) Orb's previous jockey John Velazquez: "This horse sucks, I'd rather ride Verrazano so I can actually win the Derby instead of being an also-ran." Okay, Johnny did not actually SAY this, but you know he meant it but just didn't want to hurt the owners feelings.
D) Orb's majority owner Stuart Janney, III (spoken with my bottom jaw pushed out like a Family Guy character): "Is there a horse race this Saturday? I haven't even paid attention since I'm the big-shot chairman of Bessemer Trust Company and the federal stock market is higher than it's ever been. Why wait for two minutes to collect the measly $2 million purse money when I made more than that every second last Friday when the club boys and I were shorting gold. Ha ha ha ha ha ha, now where is my mint julep?"
Okay, so quotes C and D were make-believe, but you get the point. Back to the facts, two of Orb's three Gulfstream Park wins in 2013 were less than spectacular at 9 furlongs posting BRIS speed figures of 89 and 97. His best effort came in the 1 1/16th miles Fountain of Youth where he closed off a blistering early pace (45.2 half mile) en route to passing Violence by a half length while recording his career best speed figure of 102. If he is actually improving from each start as everyone gushes, why did his BRIS # drop 5 points in his last race against better competition as the distance increased? It was a very mediocre time which can be deceiving when a horse wins easily against weak competition, which I believe that was.
Finally, Florida horses have disappointed in Kentucky over the last five years with the exceptions of Ice Box closing in the slop for 2nd in 2010 and Big Brown's PED year of 2008. Personally, I was burned by Dialed In two years ago - another false closer. I'll watch all this money of the so-called experts flow to Orb and follow the true expert (Johnny V.) with my money towards Verrazano. Everyone wants to bet a closer yet fewer true closers win that stalking horses, due to the jostling for position, kick-back, blocked paths, etc. So why accept a closer that is likely to be co-favorite in the 5-1 range when so many others could just as easily run into the exotics? May not happen, but that's how I see it.
Talk Derby to Me,