Kentucky Derby 2015 – Handicapping the Field

With perhaps the best group of horses since Street Sense beat Hard Spun and Curlin in 2007, this year’s Kentucky Derby has not only top end talent, but several interesting longshots.

Let’s take a look at the 141st “Run for the Roses.”

American Pharoah will be a deserving post-time favorite. A winner of four straight, and four of five lifetime, the Bob Baffert-trained, and Victor Espinoza-ridden bay colt has won with increasing ease. He beat Far Right and Mr. Z in the Arkansas Derby by eight lengths after crushing six others at The Rebel Stakes. He has trained exceptionally well leading up to the race.

California-based Dortmund looks to become the third horse in four years to win the prize after training primarily in the Golden State. Dortmund won the Santa Anita Derby by four and one-half lengths making him six for six in his career. Also trained by Baffert, Dortmund has raced as the favorite in all six of his starts.

While trainer Todd Pletcher has not had a ton of luck in the Kentucky Derby, winning just once, he is the best conditioner in the country, and sends out likely third choice Carpe Diem. The chestnut won the Blue Grass Stakes by three lengths over Danzig Moon and crushed a questionable field at the Tampa Bay Derby in March. Carpe Diem is four for five lifetime.

Beyond the three obvious horses, it is worth looking at a handful of other options. Lightly raced Materiality is three for three, trained by Pletcher, ridden by the nation’s top jockey, Javier Castellano, and has improved in every start.

Irish-bred and Dubai-based Mubtaahij ships in from the Middle East having won four straight including an eight-length triumph in the UAE Derby.

Firing Line twice lost by a head against Dortmund and won a second tier Derby prep race in New Mexico by 14 lengths.

International Star has won three in a row in 2015 and gotten better in each start.

Upstart was upset by Materiality in the Florida Derby, but had won two straight before that, and has worked impressively leading up to this race.

Lastly, Frosted was beaten by Upstart in back-to-back races, but went to New York and won the Wood Memorial last month.

Even if you believe American Pharoah is the best horse, you can still win good money by finding a horse with decent odds to bet in an exacta. Using the theory that the prep races in Florida were the strongest this year, we’ll suggest an exacta key with American Pharoah over Materiality, Upstart, and Frosted, and if one of the Sunshine Horses wins, play the trio on top of American Pharoah too.

(Photo credit: Bill Brine (Flickr: Kentucky Derby 2014-0214) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)