Last Saturday was the final big prep day for theDerby. There was a horse in the Blue Grass that I particularly liked named Dullahan. I had many reasons to think this guy could win the Blue Grass, most of all because he had won a grade one race over the Keeneland polytrack surface as a two year old and looked very impressive doing it.
This guy was bet almost in half at post time so I played him in the exotics with the other runner I liked, Holy Candy. As I watched the race, I had a hard time figuring out which horse was which. After the horses crossed the wire I went back to my seat and told my friend Ed, “Boy, Dulahan didn’t run a step.” He promptly said to me, “That horse won the race, you dumb****.” Someday, maybe Keeneland will come out of the dark ages and color the saddle towels so you can actually tell where each horse is in a race. As it turned out, I had lost him mid-race and started watching a different horse (easy to do when they all look the same), but that is a topic we can discuss on another day.
The subject is simple – what do we do with Dullahan in the Kentucky Derby? I will try to offer an unbiased but helpful opinion of how this guy will run the first Saturday in May.
Here are the plusses for this guy: With front runners such as Bodemeister, Take Charge Indy and Hanson as well as pressers (Gemologist, Creative Cause, I’ll Have Another, Secret Circle, Went the Day Well, Hero of Order and maybe even Union Rags), the race may set up for a runner to come from far back and win the race. Dullahan certainly has as good a stretch punch as any runner in the race. His trainer, Dale Romans, is solid and had a Triple Crown race winner last year in Shackleford.Jockey,KentDesourmeaux, has won the Kentucky Derby three times with Real Quiet, Fusaichi Pegasis and Big Brown. The pedigree is certainly a plus, being out of a Smart Strike mare and sired by Even the Score. (He is a half-brother to Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird). He has a solid foundation as a two year old with six starts, was given the time to blossom, and is still a relatively fresh horse.
In addition, HRTV had trainer Dale Romans on and he sounded very confident. (Most trainers do.) One thing he said that I did take note of was how well he thought Dullahan ran in the Breeders Cup Juvenile (obviously a key race to find this year’sDerbywinner). “The track was really speed-favoring that day, and he had quite a troubled trip.” When I heard that, my first thought was that maybe I had found myDerbyhorse.
My second thought was……………speed bias track on Breeders Cup day. Hmmmmmmm. What about Drosselmeyer, who came from the weeds to win the Breeders Cup Classic? How about Caleb’s Posse who was way back early in the mile? Amazombie was six lengths behind at the quarter and three others won from well behind that day. Churchill was not a speed bias track on Breeders Cup Day for sure.
So with that in mind, I still went to my computer to watch the Breeders Cup Juvenile again. Dullahan had only minor trouble at the break and minimal traffic throughout the race. He ran ok at best, but those are two year olds who can get better, right? Absolutely; however several things bother me about Dullahan for the Kentucky Derby : First, he has three races over the Churchill Downs surface and none of them have been any good. In fact, he was soundly beaten in maiden races byDerbyhopefuls, Daddy Nose Best and Sabercat. He has never shown any ability to run on any dirt track in an afternoon race anywhere in the country. He truly looks like a polytrack/grass specialist. Second, this horse pulls up immediately after he crosses the wire as if he is being protected for some reason. MaybeKentis just beingKent, trying to save this guy or maybe the horse isn’t all that sound.
Finally, there will be comparisons to last year’sDerbywinner, Animal Kingdom, and 2009 winner, Mine That Bird. Rightfully so; however, Animal Kingdom came off synthetic and grass races and won the Run for the Roses. Two big differences are that Animal Kingdom didn’t have three negative races run on the dirt, and the field seemed a lot less talented than this bunch of titans. Then there is Mine That Bird. This runner not only caught a soft group but he got an off track and one of the greatest rides of all at Churchill Downs by great rider, Calvin Borel. In addition, if my memory is correct, Mine That Bird never ran another big race the rest of his career.
What to do??? Unless we see a muddy or sloppy track, I am going to use Dullahan in my exotics but not as the key. His style is one that really makes me want to use him. There will be a strong pace in this race, and this year’sDerbycould easily be won by a deep closer. However, Dullahan’s dirt races show me nothing and he just may be a synthetic and grass specialist. So, in the end, I’ll keep looking for this years’ winner and, one way or another, keep a close watch on the rest of the talented Dullahan’s career.