Uncle Mo’s failure at the Wood Memorial last month has thrown field wide open for this year’s Kentucky Derby, going to post this Saturday. Todd Pletcher’s horse remains the favorite for the Derby at time of writing but the gastric illness that laid Mo low at Aqueduct makes you wonder just what was wrong with him then and if he’s got any better since. At the price he’s going off it’s just very, very hard to see value in backing him.
It’s not been a good week for horses’ health as Toby’s Corner, the horse that did win the Wood Memorial earlier this year, has been scratched from the Derby and sent for bone scan after looking uncomfortable while being ridden out. That makes Nick Zito’s Dialled In and Uncle Mo the joint favorites when they Run for the Roses.
Zito is a Hall of Fame trainer who’s won the Derby twice and Dialled In proved his credentials when he beat a strong field in the Florida Derby. But it’s hard always to back a favorite unless he’s frighteningly good, and Dialled In doesn’t inspire that level of awe.
There’s also the question of the weather. It turned up mud at Kentucky last year and if it’s as bad again a horse that needs a fast track, like Bob Baffart’s Midnight Interlude, is in trouble. Soldat is the best mudlark of the field and the more it rains the more his connections will like it. If the rain doesn’t come, though, he could do as poorly as he did at Florida and that was very poor indeed.
The most interesting intangible of this year’s Kentucky Derby is the presence of Master of Hounds, trained by supreme Irish trainer Aiden O’Brien. The Irish love horses and Aiden O’Brien is something of a national hero there. He’s also very shrewd and very successful. Master of Hounds was poor at a Breeders Cup race at Churchill Downs last year but O’Brien isn’t flying the horse over to Kentucky just to listen to bluegrass music. Master of Hounds is a tempting each way prospect at a big price.
But it’s too big an ask for him to win it. Looking at all the intangibles, and searching for a horse with a quality trainer, a good jockey and a horse that can run in mud if it rains, there’s a lot of value in Stay Thirsty, Uncle Mo’s stablemate at Todd Pletcher’s yard. He’s my pick for the 137th Kentucky Derby.
Kentucky Derby Picks:
- Stay Thirsty
- Dialled In
- Master of Hounds