LOUISVILLE, Ky. – One of the oldest sayings in horse racing is, "Pace makes the race."
It's certainly true now. Pace will make – or break – the Kentucky Derby Saturday.
The Derby is the hardest race to handicap in America – a massive field of horses going farther than they've ever gone, and at a young age. But the 138th running basically boils down to this: Do you believe the pace will be fast enough to cook the most talented horse in the field or not?
I'm wagering not. Which means I'm going with the favorite, Bodemeister.
He will be forwardly placed in the race – but if he is too close to what figures to be a blistering pace set by speedball Trinniberg, he will probably be cooked in the long stretch of this 1-¼-mile test. The bet here is that Bodemeister, ridden by patient pace judge Mike Smith, will be able to relax and resist chasing Trinniberg through the first ¾-of-a-mile. I also believe Hansen, another key horse with plenty of speed, will refrain from engaging in a speed duel.
If Trinniberg runs a 45-second half mile and those two are close on his heels, you can probably count on the speed horses dying and a closer picking up the pieces as the race falls apart in the stretch.
I anticipate Trinniberg hitting a genetic and conditioning wall at the top of the stretch, with the stalkers taking over from there. They'll have to beat back the challenge of the closers, but it can and will be done.
My order of finish:
1. Bodemeister: Best horse. If he gets a good trip and his lack of seasoning (four career starts, unraced as a 2-year-old) does not factor in, he's the winner.
2. Take Charge Indy: Comes out of the No. 3 post and is set up for a rail trip under the savant of the Churchill Downs rail, Calvin Borel.
3. Hansen: Fast and gritty, he will not be passed willingly in the stretch.
4. Union Rags: Has looked spectacular training at Churchill, but he's a huge colt, not the most nimble animal and with a tendency to find traffic. And no race has more traffic than this.
Go to the windows, but go with caution – I rarely get the Derby right. You have been warned.
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