Kentucky Derby Context: O Besos

April 19th, 2021 horse racing analyst James Scully attended his first Kentucky Derby in 1981. Along with a brief profile of this year’s contenders, he is providing some historical context.

To make the Kentucky Derby field, O Besos needed a top three finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2). He was the only contestant to make an impact from off the pace in an eight-horse field, rallying well for third.

Greg Foley trains the chestnut colt for Bernard Racing, Tagg Team Racing, and West Point Thoroughbreds, and Marcelino Pedroza will retain the mount in the first leg of the Triple Crown.

O Besos was making only his second stakes attempt in the Louisiana Derby, improving upon a non-threatening fourth in the Feb. 13 Risen Star S. (G2). He stretched out to two turns in the Risen Star after recording his first two wins in sprints at Fair Grounds.

A maiden winner the second time out at Fair Grounds in mid-December, O Besos followed with a convincing victory over entry-level allowance rivals four weeks later.

He left himself plenty to do last time, racing in last down the backstretch of the Louisiana Derby, and just missed second while closing boldly through the stretch, finishing a head back of runner-up Midnight Bourbon, who tracked in second behind the frontrunning winner, Hot Rod Charlie.

O Besos is not attracting much support as a Kentucky Derby win contender, but he merits attention for a possible placing at expected long odds.

In the last decade, longshots Commanding Curve (37-1), Golden Soul (34-1), and Lookin at Lee (33-1) have posted runner-up finishes in the Kentucky Derby after an improved last-out effort in which they came up a little short.

O Besos may appreciate the 1 1/4-mile distance. His dam, Snuggs and Kisses, was a three-time stakes winner at a route, and the Kentucky-bred sophomore is by 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb.

As a juvenile, Orb needed four starts to break his maiden, graduating in a maiden special weight at Aqueduct in late November. After opening his three-year-old season with an entry-level allowance win, the Shug McGaughey-trained colt posted wins in the Fountain of Youth S. (G2) and Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park.

Orb was bet down as the slight 5.40-1 favorite in a 19-horse field, but he broke slowly and raced far back over a sloppy Churchill Downs track.

Nearly 15 lengths behind in 17th with a half-mile remaining, Orb launched an eye-catching rally into the stretch, motoring home to win by a 2 1/2-length margin.

O Besos will try to emulate Orb’s late-running theatrics in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.