Kentucky Derby 139 Contenders

Kentucky Derby 139 Contenders


Record: 5 3-1-0
Trainer: Kelly Breen
Lifetime Earnings: $407,810
Current Odds: 40/1

Last activity:
Next scheduled start: Kentucky Derby 139

Pros: Spiral stakes winner is two-for-two since switching to the barn of Kelly Breen, who upset the 2011 Belmont Stakes, and Black Onyx has proved to be a versatile sort, winning on dirt, turf and synthetic. Improving colt could sit good trip with his natural speed, possesses a suitable pedigree for distance and there will be worse longshot candidates in Derby field.

Cons: Quality concerns. Looks like a better turf prospect than dirt and hasn't run fast enough to rate as a serious contender.


Record: 7 2-2-2
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Lifetime Earnings: $257,000
Current Odds: 60/1

Last activity: Blue Grass Stakes (3rd)
Next scheduled start: Kentucky Derby 139

Pros: Charming Kitten, a turf stakes winner, rallied to be a close third in Blue Grass and is part of a six-horse Todd Pletcher armada. Horses with turf prowess sometimes take to the main track at Churchill Downs (Animal Kingdom and Barbaro both won Derby; Dullahan and Paddy O'Prado placed in recent years) and Charming Kitten registered a 104 BRIS Late Pace rating while displaying a nice finishing kick last time.

Cons: Arguably a cut below Derby competition. Lack of dirt experience is a major drawback and even his turf/synthetic form isn't that strong.


Record: 6 3-0-1
Trainer: John Terranova II
Lifetime Earnings: $249,800
Current Odds: 50/1

Last activity: Arkansas Derby (4th)
Next scheduled start: Kentucky Derby 139

Pros: Falling Sky will be forwardly-placed and has not run a bad race this year, winning the Sam F. Davis at Tampa before recording a third in the Tampa Bay Derby and a fourth in the Arkansas Derby. He appears to be training forwardly at Churchill Downs for John Terranova.

Cons: Not fast enough on paper, with BRIS Speed ratings of 92-92-91 in last three starts, and colt may want no part of added distance against this competition.


Record: 6 1-3-0
Trainer: Kenny McPeek
Lifetime Earnings: $288,116
Current Odds: 45/1

Last activity: Arkansas Derby (2nd)
Next scheduled start: Kentucky Derby 139

Pros: Frac Daddy is a horse for the course, breaking his maiden by 9 3/4 lengths before just missing in Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs last fall. Gray colt did not come to hand quickly this season for Kenny McPeek, recording unplaced finishing his first two outings, but Arkansas Derby runner-up suggests he's finally headed in the right direction.

Cons: His recent Speed ratings (86-77-92) won't get it done at this level and he was an unthreatening second in a slow race last time. Considering the promise he displayed at two, Frac Daddy has been disappointing this year.


Record: 6 4-1-0
Trainer: Doug O'Neil
Lifetime Earnings: $1,250,000
Current Odds: 8/1

Last activity: April 6th - Santa Anita Derby
Next scheduled start: Kentucky Derby 139

Performed superbly in taking the Santa Anita Derby in highly impressive fashion, defeating favored Flashback by 1 ¼ lengths (pair almost nine clear of the rest) while earning a sparkling 105 Beyer speed figure and becoming a serious Kentucky Derby contender in the process.  Employing a pace-stalking style while busy with Super Ninety Nine, he disposed of that one entering the stretch and then bravely fought off his chief rival the entire length of the lane.  Had been a tad disappointing as the second choice in the San Felipe Stakes, going down by 2 ¼ lengths when fourth to stretch-running Hear the Ghost after pressing a hot pace and weakening in the final sixteenth, providing evidence that his effectiveness would diminish as the distances increase, but put those fears to rest in his most recent victory.  Previously in 2013 had capitalized on a perfect, pace-stalking trip to produce a 1 ½ length score from Den’s Legacy in the moderately-rated (93 Beyer) Sham Stakes-G3. From the first crop of the immensely talented sprinter/miler Into Mischief and owned in a partnership that includes University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, he was arguably the most impressive debut maiden winner in California last summer before being sent to New York for a confrontation with the eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Shanghai Bobby in the Champagne Stakes (ran well when second, beaten five lengths).  Sent on the road again in November, he took the valuable Delta Jackpot Stakes gate-to-wire while earning a decent speed figure, though the race shape (fast early, slow late) created an initial impression that he did not possess an ideal Triple Crown-type profile.  Through maturity, experience, and a morning workout program designed to teach the speedy colt to relax, he now has advanced to the point where he provides his trainer Doug O’Neil a reasonable chance for his second consecutive Kentucky Derby victory.

Pros: Goldencents will bring top last-race BRIS Speed rating (106) into Derby and has captured three of his last four starts against stakes rivals. Lone setback came when he got caught in a wicked pace duel, but bay colt showed willingness to rate along front end in Santa Anita Derby, a quality that would serve him well at Churchill Downs. Trainer Doug O'Neill brings confidence to the equation, winning last year's Derby with I'll Have Another, and Goldencents could put his speed to good use if able to relax during early stages.

Cons: Speed-favoring Santa Anita strip probably served him well last time and hasn't been facing the stiffest competition, or large fields in California. His breeding (speed on top and bottom of his pedigree) is a potential liability for the Derby distance.


Record: 10 5-2-1
Trainer: Eddie Plesa Jr.
Lifetime Earnings: $825,600
Current Odds: 12/1

Latest activity:  finished 2nd in Florida Derby March. 30. 
Next scheduled start:  Kentucky Derby 130 May 4th. 

Ran well when favored but was simply second best despite a perfect pace-stalking trip to Orb (beaten 2 ¾ lengths) in the Florida Derby March 30.  It was his first start in two months so he may have been a tad short in conditioning, though his work pattern leading up to the race appearedsolid and healthy.  Showed promise during a seven race juvenile campaign but left that form far behind in 2013, winning the one-turn mile Gulfstream Park Derby by nearly seven lengths (solid 95 Beyer speed figure) and then handing juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby his first defeat (by two lengths, pair 11 ½ lengths clear of the rest) in the Holy Bull Stakes, breaking the mile and one-sixteenth track record by a full second with a 104 Beyer figure.  By 2007 Champion older horse Lawyer Ron, he is the second foal of a modest allowance winning Calder-raced mare that was claimed twice during her career for $25,000.  The female family is primarily sprint orientated, though the third dam, the stakes winning Viva Sec, was sired by Triple Crown winner Secretariat.

Pros: Itsmyluckyday opened his three-year-old campaign with a pair of smashing wins, registering BRIS Speed ratings of 111 and 106, and exits respectable runner-up finish to Orb in Florida Derby following a two-month layoff. If he can reproduce his performances from earlier this season, the Eddie Plesa-trained colt should be in the mix, with a big chance to win, in the stretch run of the Derby.

Cons: Sire Lawyer Ron was at his best at 1 1/8 miles and female pedigree offers little encouragement for longer distances. An undistinguished juvenile performer, Itsmyluckyday really took to the Gulfstream oval when making his first two starts this year at shorter distances but his ability to carry that form to Churchill Downs, coupled with the added distance, is a legitimate worry.


Record: 7 3-1-1
Trainer: Kenny McPeak
Lifetime Earnings: $872,091
Current Odds: 18/1

Last activity: Keeneland Blue Grass Stakes (1st)
Next scheduled start: Kentucky Derby 139 May 4th.

Pros: Java's War finished up strongly for second when making first start of year in Tampa Bay Derby and kicked for home impressively in Blue Grass, earning a 110 BRIS Late Pace rating when closing from last to first in final three-eighths of a mile. Julien Leparoux retains mount on dynamic late runner and Kenny McPeek-trained colt could be set for another strong showing in final furlongs of Derby.

Cons: Slow-starting nature -- he practically walked out of the starting gate in both starts this year -- makes for an uphill climb in a 20-horse field, especially given that this year's field isn't loaded with early speed. All his wins have come on either synthetic or turf and supporters must worry that he will be left with too much to do in latter stages.


Record: 6 3-1-0
Trainer: Aiden O'Brien
Lifetime Earnings: $1,278,214
Current Odds: 35/1

Last activity: UAE Derby (1st)
Next scheduled start: Kentucky Derby 139 May 4th.

Pros: Lines of Battle earned Derby berth with a 1 1/2-length victory in 1 3/16-mile U.A.E. Derby and endurance should be no concern. Trainer Aidan O'Brien did not send the right horse over last year (Daddy Long Legs wound up last when eased in the stretch), but this is a much different colt with plenty of stamina in his bloodlines -- dam is a half-sister to Dynaformer (sire of Barbaro) and is a daughter of Arch, the damsire of I'll Have Another. Connections have a much better understanding what to expect this time around.

Cons: Lacks dirt experience and this year's U.A.E. Derby was arguably not a strong race. Since 1937, no horse has won the Derby in only his second start of the year, so Lines of Battle faces an extremely tall task.


Record: 9 2-3-2
Trainer: Tom Amoss
Lifetime Earnings: $417,695
Current Odds: 45/1

Last activity: Louisiana Derby (2nd)
Next scheduled start: Kentucky Derby 139 May 4th.

Pros: Mylute offered a big late run to finish a neck second to Revolutionary in Louisiana Derby and brings a favorable Speed rating pattern into the Run for the Roses, with increasing numbers in every start since his maiden win (87-90-91-94-95-105). Gray colt is based at Churchill Downs and shows several quick works in preparation. He adds the services of Rosie Napravnik and could prove to be a serious stretch-running threat.

Cons: Mylute has run well at two turns but 1 1/4 miles could be a different ballgame considering his pedigree looks better suited toward middle distances (out of a Valid Expectations mare). Received an ideal set-up last time, with blistering early fractions to set up his late move, but his prior performances offer little encouragement for winning races at this level.


Record: 5 1-2-0
Trainer: Chad Brown
Lifetime Earnings: $300,240
Current Odds: 9/1

Last activity: Wood Memorial (2nd)
Next scheduled start: Kentucky Derby 139 May 4th.

Though he has won only once in his five race career, the Chad Brown-trained colt figures to be something of a buzz horse approaching the Kentucky Derby following an eye-opening runner-up effort (beaten less than a length) to Verrazano in the Wood Memorial, rallying into the teeth of slow fractions to be going best at the wire and then galloping out far in front past the clubhouse turn.  His performance in the Wood, gives every indication that the Derby’s 10 furlong distance is just what he wants, and if his form cycle continues to mirror his juvenile campaign, his next start should be his best.  Had been somewhat disappointing in his 2013 bow in the Rebel Stakes, winding up a close fifth, beaten less than two lengths, behind shocking 135-1 winner Ive Struck a Nerve.  While better was expected (he was the 3/2 favorite) he had excuses; he broke slowly and was pinched back to trail early and then made an extended run very wide from the half mile pole to the wire, finishing with interest.  The son of Tapit had progressed dramatically in three starts as a 2-year-old, winding up a well-beaten fifth in his sprint debut but then breaking his maiden by more than nine lengths when stretching out to a one-turn mile at Aqueduct in early November.  Then, in the nine furlong Remsen, he launched an extended rally from the half mile pole to the wire but fell a nose short to Overanalyze.  Though his female family in the first two generations is somewhat soft in the stamina department, this stretch-running colt clearly has the style and stamina to be effective at a classic distance.

Pros: Normandy Invasion concluded 2012 on an extremely positive note, just missing by a nose to Overanalyze when making his first start against winners in the Remsen, but  returned this year with a disappointing fifth in the Risen Star after a tardy start. He put that performance behind him in the Wood Memorial, overcoming a slow pace to rally boldly into contention in the latter stages, and should be set for another strong showing following the runner-up effort. Son of Tapit rates as a major player for up-and-coming trainer Chad Brown.

Cons: Owns only a maiden special weight victory and Giacomo, a 50-1 upsetter in 2005, is the only Derby winner since 1960 that failed to finish first in every previous start against winners. Must rely on his sire for stamina because he comes from a speed-oriented mare and late runner could have to navigate through plenty of traffic for the first time in his career.


Record: 7 4-0-1
Trainer: Claude "Shug" McCaughey III
Lifetime Earnings: $921,060
Current Odds: 5/1

Latest activity:  won Florida Derby March 30. 
Next scheduled start:  Kentucky Derby May 4. 

Pros: Orb possesses ideal pedigree and powerful turn of foot for the 1 1/4-mile race. A winner of four straight, including victories over outstanding competition in the Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth, the colt can adapt to any pace scenario and will be tough to beat if he keeps moving forward for trainer Shug McGaughey. Runs from off pace but isn't a one-dimensional closer; could be well-situated near midpack for the run down the backstretch.

Cons: Is he fast enough? His BRIS Speed rating profile is unflattering, failing to register a triple-digit number in the Florida Derby (97) as well as an 89 and 86 in his last four starts (102 from Fountain of Youth is lone respectable figure). Jockey John Velazquez chose Verrazano over Orb and the Derby isn't a forte for his Hall of Fame conditioner (zero-for-six).


Record: 7 4-0-1
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Lifetime Earnings: $958,381
Current Odds: 18/1

Last activity: Arkansas Derby (1st)
Next scheduled start: Kentucky Derby 139 May 4th

Disappointed when unable to do no better than fifth (beaten just over four lengths) in Gotham Stakes behind Vyjack in his sophomore debut after having won three of five starts during his juvenile campaign, which culminated in a game win over Normandy Invasion in the nine furlong Remsen Stakes.  In the Gotham, he was within striking distance range to the head of the lane but lacked any real energy when set down and went one-paced to the wire in a race that earned an average speed figure.  He may have been a tad short in for his first start in 2013 but runners from this barn rarely are lacking in fitness.  The son of Dixie Union showed precocity when winning his debut over five furlongs in early August at Saratoga on the front end but rallied from off the pace to capture the subsequent Futurity Stakes at Belmont Park in late September.  A half-brother to Matron Stakes winner Meadow Breeze, this Todd Pletcher-trained colt is bred much.

Pros: Two-for-two at 1 1/8 miles, Overanalyze will be among the most accomplished horses in Derby field with stakes victories in the Arkansas Derby, Remsen and Futurity, posting BRIS Speed ratings as high as 104. He didn't run well when making first appearance this year in Gotham, falling out favor with most analysts, but rebounded nicely to post 4 1/4-length score in Arkansas Derby and that could be an indication of better things to come. Todd Pletcher colt figures to be overlooked in wagering and rates as a sleeper with further improvement.

Cons: Inconsistent performer benefited from slowly run race in final prep and has never been able to string together two wins. He didn't run well in lone appearance at Churchill Downs last fall when finishing a well-beaten third as the favorite in the Iroquois Stakes.


Record: 9 2-1-1
Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas
Lifetime Earnings: $383,500
Current Odds: 25/1

Last activity: Arkansas Derby (5th)
Next scheduled start: Kentucky Derby 139 May 4th. 

Pros: Oxbow will show speed and could be the pacesetter in the Derby. Grade 3 winner just missed in the Risen Star and Rebel following wide trips, but draw a line through his Arkansas Derby last out; the colt broke a step slowly and resented the kickback when racing at the back of the pack during the early stages. Potent combination with D. Wayne Lukas/Gary Stevens -- they've won a total of seven Derbys, including two together with horses who possessed tactical foot (Winning Colors and Thunder Gulch). Stevens will look to slow down the pace up front and Oxbow is a threat to steal it.

Cons: Oxbow surged to a narrow lead in the stretch of the Risen Star and Rebel but was caught late both times; you don't see that happening in previous starts for most Derby winners. Athletic colt possesses a royal pedigree but performs like he may prefer less ground than the Derby distance.


Record: 6 1-3-1
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Lifetime Earnings: $271,135
Current Odds: 20/1

Last activity: Blue Grass Stakes (2nd)
Next scheduled start: Kentucky Derby 139 May 4th

Pros: Palace Malice returned from a lengthy layoff with a couple of solid showings this year, including a close third in the Risen Star, before losing all chance due to an extremely rough trip in the Louisiana Derby. Rebounded nicely in the Blue Grass off a two-week rest for Todd Pletcher, striking the front between calls before being nailed by a head on the wire. He's a hard-trying colt with plenty of stamina in his bloodlines and a favorable running style for the Derby. Expect him to race up close, in the first flight behind early leaders, before offering his move.

Cons: Only a maiden winner and arguably his best race this year came on synthetics which, coupled with his breeding, could possibly indicate that he has a future on turf. His BRIS Speed ratings have also decreased in each of his last four starts, never a positive sign for a Derby contender.


Record: 6 3-1-2
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Lifetime Earnings: $788,600
Current Odds: 7/1

Latest activity:  won Louisiana Derby March 30.
Next scheduled start:  Kentucky Derby May 4. 

Has developed rapidly since his eye-opening (and highly-rated) maiden performance in late December with a pair of visually pleasing victories in pivotal Kentucky Derby prep races, most recently overcoming an extremely wide trip to prevail in the Louisiana Derby (by a neck from Mylute) while gamely holding sway and then galloping out powerfully past the wire.  He was equally impressive in his victory in the Withers S.-G2 over the Aqueduct inner track course Feb. 2, overcoming a nightmarish trip by rallying through traffic late to win by a neck.  He was sired by a speed-oriented champion two-year so this colt’s ability to get a Classic distance might have been questioned, but those fears have been put to rest.  The colt’s dam, A. P. Indy’s high class daughter Runup the Colors, was a winner of the 10 furlong Alabama Stakes during her marvelous racing career; the colt’s second dam is by Hoist the Flag, the third dam is by the French stayer Herbager, and it’s the family of Horse of the Year Mineshaft.

Pros: It's not always pretty but Revolutionary gets the job done. And the winner's circle is a very possible destination on Derby Day if he has his head on straight. Overcame a nightmarish journey to capture the Withers two back, but prefer to focus on his maiden and Louisiana Derby victories where he earned BRIS Speed ratings of 105 and 103. Those numbers are extremely formidable this year and the addition of three-time Derby winner Calvin Borel could help him break better in the main event. Love the mix of speed and stamina in his pedigree and the talent is there.

Cons: Bad behavior could cost him. Revolutionary has lacked focus, breaking poorly and running in spots both times this year, and he faces a 20-horse field and the need to keep himself together in the saddling ring and post parade before a 150,000+ crowd. He's got the potential to win a number of major races, but his immaturity and tendency for slow starts, which creates concerns for possible traffic problems, are drawbacks. Javier Castellano opted to ride Normandy Invasion over him.


Record: 7 3-1-0
Trainer: D.Wayne Lukas
Lifetime Earnings: $545,371
Current Odds: 20/1

Latest activity: Rebel Stakes (1st)
Next Scheduled start:  Kentucky Derby 139 May 4th.

Talented but inconsistent colt returned to winning form with a solid victory over stablemate Oxbow in the Rebel Stakes, responding in the final furlong to be up in time by a head while earning a 95 Beyer figure that might be a few points short of an accurate evaluation.  Previously had been no factor when unplaced in the Southwest Stakes over a sloppy track he may not have cared for, but earlier had won the Smarty Jones Stakes over a fast Oaklawn Park main track in January.  Clearly has the bloodlines to be top class,  having been produced by $2.4 earner and multiple Gr. 1 winner Take Charge Lady,  she the dam of last year’s Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy.  Likely to be seen next in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keneeland, where he broke his maiden impressively last fall, this son of Unbridled’s Song has three poor runs from seven starts but three quality wins as well.  While perhaps not one to trust, he certainly has the potential to be a player in Triple Crown events and should benefit as the distances increase.

Pros: Will Take Charge is a well-built colt who eats up a lot of ground with his massive strides and he jumped forward with a nice win in the March 16 Rebel, netting a career-best 101 Speed rating. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is a four-time Derby winner and is excited about his charge's potential at longer distances; he's a closer to consider at expected long odds.

Cons: Unlike every Derby winner of modern times, Will Take Charge has never raced at 1 1/8 miles and his inconsistent form, as well as a dislike for wet tracks, raises legitimate questions. A seven-week freshening is typically less-than-ideal and certainly isn't the modus operandi for Lukas, who likes to run his horses and could wheel Titletown Five back off a one-week rest if he wins Saturday.


Record: 4 4-0-0
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Lifetime Earnings: $861,300
Current Odds: 9/2

Last activity: Wood Memorial (1st)
Next scheduled start: Kentucky Derby 139 May 4th

Pros: Verrazano stretched his undefeated mark to four with a gritty Wood Memorial win, fending off serious challenges from quality foes in a potential key Derby prep, and talented colt defeated the eventual Blue Grass winner when capturing the Tampa Bay Derby two back. Last two weren't flashy but comfortable wins nonetheless as Todd Pletcher laid the groundwork for a peak performance on Derby Day. Verrazano should be in prime position turning for home with his cruising speed and won't be easy to run down if he gets the trip.

Cons: Distance limitations? Questions surround his effectiveness at 1 1/4 miles -- Verrazano is by speed sire More Than Ready and brilliantly captured his first two starts at one turn by a combined 24 lengths. His last two at a route weren't as impressive (Speed ratings decreased to a 100 for both Wood and Tampa Bay Derby) and he would be the first unraced two-year-old to win Derby in more than 100 years.


Record: 5 4-0-1
Trainer: Rudy Rodriguez
Lifetime Earnings: $542,200
Current Odds: 14/1

Last activity: Wood Memorial (3rd)
Next scheduled start: Kentucky Derby 139 May 4th.

Pros: After winning his first three starts in front-running fashion, Vyjack displayed a new dimension when rallying to capture the Gotham in an outstanding effort. He continued to perform admirably while sustaining first setback in deep Wood Memorial, exiting his close third with a minor throat infection, and appears back on track physically. Gutsy gelding has outrun his pedigree so far and his form/BRIS numbers is easy to admire; if he can get himself in position, Vyjack will battle to the wire.

Cons: The 1 1/4-mile trip looms a major obstacle. His pedigree is definitely slanted toward shorter distances and a recent infirmity raises red flags for any Derby contender. Vyjack also will be making his first start outside the friendly confines of Aqueduct.