Ok, so the gauntlet has been thrown to Exaggerator, sorry Desormeaux bros! I'm going big this year by tossing the clear 2nd choice in the wagering, a closing son of Curlin, coming off the most visually impressive win by any sophomore, recently bought into for a small fortune by one of the sharpest young eyes in the game Sol Kumin, and whose breeding rights purchased by the Roman fortress of WinStar Farm. Have I lost my freaking mind? Perhaps it was the 2nd mint julep during my Thursday "sampling" session.
Call me crazy, but the best Exaggerator will be on my tickets is 4th. Here are a few specific reasons for the knock...
1) Trainer Keith Desormeaux has stated that his charge better be last early or Kent will get an ear full. With so many other talented "dead closers," he is guaranteed to see massive traffic Saturday, unlike the 7 strung out opponents he faced in the Santa Anita Derby. After being more of a stalker type going shorter distances, they've taken back the last couple races and they have been pleased with the results. Previously, the trainer had stated he runs more like a sprinting miler, so he obviously has acknowledged concerns about the 10 furlong distance being from a Vindication mare. One easy win on the slop against overmatched foes and the tune has changed for many, but not me!
2) S-L-O-W finishing times for a closer! Yes, the absolute times have been a notch better than other preps, as they always are with the Santa Anita strip. He was even passed back by Mor Spirit (another toss horse) in the San Felipe which is never a good sign. But consider his last furlong of SA Derby went an average :13 2/5. It was the slop, you say? Well 2 races back when he finished 3rd, his final 2.5 furlongs went in :32 1/5. EACH of these finishing times are slower than Brody's Cause, Creator, Suddenbreakingnews, Whitmore, Mo Tom (even with the severe checking) and Majesto. Plus, many of these other horses are used to running in larger fields and have dealt with the traffic. 8-1 versus 20-1 or more on the others? I'll pass.
3) His only 2 victories post sprinting as a juvenile were on SEALED, muddy tracks. Even if Louisville gets some rain on Derby Day, the track will likely be harrowed and a traditional surface. Sealed tracks are night and day different and some horses do not respond. To borrow a line from Seinfeld, "His father was a mudder.... His mother was a mudder!" Unless you plan on performing a rain dance come Saturday, he may regress on the dirt. Finally, Brody's Cause outfinished him for 3rd in BC Juvenile last year at a comparable class level and may be sitting on a better race.
Having said that, if Nyquist, Exaggerator and Mor Spirit all finish in the superfecta, not only will I have blown a small fortune of my own, but I'll apologize to all Californians then leave Twitter and my blog until next March. And ya'll know how much I like to #DerbyTalk. The loser leave town match is on!!!
Happy Oaks day to all! Better use Oaklawn's Fantasy Stakes runner-up Taxable (another Tapit for Steve Asmussen) and I'm pulling with my heart for Rachel's daughter Rachel Valentina for Stonestreet Farm. But remember, small wagers only today so we can back up the van for our Derby score!
Best of luck to all!