The start of the Triple Crown series in the U.S. is approaching, as we are just a month away from the Kentucky Derby taking place at Churchill Downs. The race is one of the big sporting occasions of the year in the U.S. and this year’s race promises to be one of the most unpredictable in recent years.
Strong cases can certainly be made for those at the top of the odds. But, there are more than a few interesting outsiders that have live chances to win the opening Triple Crown race this year. But, which horses could stand a decent chance at a bigger price?
Brad Cox will be looking for a second straight win in the race this year after Mandaloun was awarded the victory 12 months ago after Medina Spirit’s disqualification.
There is so often a horse that comes out of nowhere to have a very realistic chance, and this year’s selection that falls into that bracket is Cyberknife. This three-year-old has picked up two victories from three starts this year, but was written off by many after finishing a distant sixth behind many rivals in the G3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds.
Connections then decided to take a different route, which saw him land in the G1 Arkansas Derby against highly-regarded filly Secret Oath. However, his performance on that day has seen him emerge as a very realistic rival this year to win the Kentucky Derby, as he ran clear of Secret Oath and Barber Road to win a graded race for the first time over 1 1/8 miles.
At the current prices, Morello certainly will be one that stands out. The three-year-old trained by Steven Asmussen is largely a 20/1 chance to win the race at Churchill Downs in May, and will have a golden opportunity to rubber stamp his credentials at one of the biggest prep races before the Triple Crown opener.
He is being pointed towards the direction of the G2 Wood Memorial. While that race has a poor record of producing Derby winners, it would be hard to play down his chances of a big race at Churchill Downs should he win a second straight graded race.
His first success in that company came over a mile in the G3 Gotham, as he beat Dean’s List. It’s hardly Derby-winning form at present, but a clear illustration that he can step up in trip in the Wood Memorial would certainly ensure that he captures the imagination. The connections certainly have to be respected, as Asmussen looks to win the only Triple Crown race that has eluded him to this point.
It has been a memorable 12 months or so for Japanese trainers, as they have enjoyed success at both the Breeders’ Cup and the Dubai World Cup Carnival. However, the attention will soon turn to a historic bid to try and win a first Kentucky Derby.
Koichi Shintani will be their leading hope this year, as the three-year-old has already won enough qualifying points to line up in the Triple Crown opener. His run in the G2 UAE Derby certainly would have made the American trainers stand up and take note, as he looked supremely smart over the 1 3/16 mile distance when holding off Summer Is Tomorrow and Island Falcon.
That was his second run this calendar year after he finished sixth in the Hyacinth Stakes in Tokyo over one mile. The extra distance certainly plays to his strengths, with all three of his victories coming over distances greater than a mile.
If travel isn’t an issue, then the Japanese-trained horse will be one of the horses in the field with the fewest questions to answer regarding the distance. The course at Churchill Downs could play to his strengths for good measure, and at around 33/1, he is an excellent place value in the current market.