After reading numerous articles and reflecting on the Derby post positions assigned about 24 hours ago, the thought is that Carpe Diem (2), Materiality (3) and Upstart (19) were the top contenders most negatively impacted by their respective posts. Carpe Diem and Materiality - both pressers - will now likely be forced to use more energy sprinting clear from the gates to hold their position into the first turn. Not ideal for reserving energy for that demanding 10th furlong when several closers will be picking up the pieces. Upstart is perhaps more of a stalker than a speed/presser, but especially in this year's Derby edition a large percentage of the field will want to be laying 3rd - 6th. Translation, Jose Ortiz will have a hard time not being at least 4 wide going into that first turn, losing precious ground for a horse who has had issues closing out races near the finish. Dortmund had a dream draw at #8 and Ken Ramsey was jubilant when International Star was assigned pill 12. American Pharoah is parked wide in the 18 stall, however many winners (Big Brown #20, Animal Kingdom #16, I'll Have Another #19, Orb #16) have managed to overcome their outside post over the last decade and surely his camp would prefer being a few spots wide with the best horse as opposed to breaking slow and getting a ton of dirt kickback in his face for the first time. Great horses can overcome wide trips.
The horse I'm not able to shake today for whatever reason is El Kabeir (lucky #7) at a juicy 30-1. And it has nothing to do with his jockey Calvin Bo-rel, who will likely be reserved early with the son of Scat Daddy before making a move on the far turn, either on the rail or splitting horses into the stretch. It started with seeing his two published workouts since his April 4th Wood Memorial, the latter of which was a blistering :46.4 seconds for four panels at Belmont Park. You can't compare times at different venues, but that's zooming for a closer, which would typically work in slow licks such as Far Right (:49.0) and International Star (50.4). El Kabeir is coming out of a belated 3rd place effort by five lengths in the Wood Memorial that was won in impressive fashion by Frosted (Tapit sired). The pace over said Aqueduct's main track (as opposed to inner winterized track that El Kabeir had won twice over) that day was painfully slow with splits of :49, 1:13.2 and 1:37.3, so I can forgive his non-threatening third. If you're looking for a historical angle, like Secretariat did in 1973, El Kabeir both won his 3YO debut race and Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct prior to his third in the Wood... hhhmmmmm.
Recall that in 1998 when all eyes were on Baffert's big horse and 5/2 favorite Indian Charlie, his unheralded stablemate sshhh - Real Quiet paid $19 to win (from the #2 hole, mind you) while 'Charlie tired late to finish 3rd. Not only that, but Real Quiet would go on to be the narrowest loser of a Triple Crown by a whisker to Victory Gallop. So it is not unprecedented for Ahmed Zayat's "B" horse El Kabeir to steal Pharoah's thunder come Saturday. Other respected handicapper friends of mine are touting Danzig Moon and Far Right as closers to use in the bottom of your exotic tickets. These two also stand at 30-1 on the morning line and should only drift higher without the Calvin Borel money flowing to them. Good luck in building your tickets. Let's hit a big one, even if/when Pharoah hits the line first!