Let’s put a bow on a memorable 145th Kentucky Derby that saw the first disqualification of the winner in the race’s history. The post-race drama over the past couple of days has been insane, and the recent news that both Country House and Maximum Security will not run in the Preakness Stakes (G1) just made it worse. Regardless, here are my thoughts on the trips and performances of all 19 Kentucky Derby runners, as well as what the future holds for each horse.
1st: Maximum Security – There actually isn’t much to stay about his trip before he caused the interference. He broke well, set fast early fractions before slowing it down, then wired the field without making it look difficult. After I carefully watched this race 100 times, he was the best horse in the field. At a point around mid-stretch, it seemed as though he, War of Will, Code of Honor, and Country House were all head and head, but then Maximum Security out-finished them with a gutty effort. He deserves a ton of credit for his performance.
2nd: Country House – He was clearly second-best, though his sharp improvement was nothing short of amazing. Instead of sitting at the back of the pack, he secured early position around mid-pack, yet was still able to use his normal late-closing move. In mid-stretch, he looked like the winner, regardless of the disqualification, yet he flattened out a bit. Moving forward, if he can sit that sort of trip again, then they’ll have to run a solid race to beat him.
3rd: Code of Honor – Out of every horse, he ended up getting the dream trip. When Maximum Security veered out at the top of the stretch, Code Of Honor had a massive hole to run through on the rail. His ground-saving trip and luck couldn’t have been any better, but he still lacked the late kick needed to finish the job. A slight cut-back in distance might be needed.
4th: Tacitus – Country House sat the trip that we projected Tacitus to get, which is why we thought he’d be dangerous in this race. Instead, he dropped way too far behind and was left with much too much to do turning for home. Despite that, he still closed well down the lane, which showed how gamely he runs and gives you confidence moving forward.
5th: Improbable – Trainer Bob Baffert was not at all happy with the ride on Improbable because his instructions were for Irad Ortiz, Jr., to keep in the clear. Instead, Improbable tucked in behind horses. That being said, he did not have a poor trip; he saved ground most of the way while tracking the top flight in a solid position. Turning for home, he tipped to the outside with a chance, but he lacked enough of a late kick to win. The Preakness’ shorter distance could help.
6th: Game Winner – His was one of the worst trips in the race’s history. After the break, it was clear that it was going to be extremely difficult for Game Winner to win. He broke slowly, got pinched, and was soon running in second-to-last up the backstretch. Then, instead of trying to save ground, he was moved to the far outside, causing him to be widest of all in the entire backstretch, far turn, and stretch. He traveled farther than any horse in the race by a good margin, yet he was still able to come with a decent run, which gives hope for the future.
7th: Master Fencer – The biggest surprise of the race dropped to last early, then came with a late run up the rail, scooting by horses to finish respectably. Credit jockey Julien Leparoux for actually trying to save ground, which gave the horse a shot. His connections have said that he’ll stay in the United States and train for the Belmont Stakes (G1).
8th: War of Will – Breaking from the rail, we thought that this horse would go to the lead. Instead, he rated inside of and behind Maximum Security. You could tell that he wanted to run, though, as he was a handful up the backstretch and nearly clipped heals with the leader a couple of times. Then, of course, the far turn interference happened and he nearly went down. It was a miracle that he was able to keep running after that, and there is no doubt that it hurt his chances of winning.
9th: Plus Que Parfait – He performed better than many thought. His race was fairly uneventful, though, as he sat mid-pack and stayed there for the entire race. Turning for home, he made a nice move up the rail, but he just didn’t have enough of a kick to get home for a bigger piece.
10th: Win Win Win – Much like Tacitus and Game Winner, Win Win Win could not get position early in the race, which left him with too much to do down the lane. He was still able to pass tired horses late with a decent run, which is encouraging for a horse that always seems to try. He might just not be a good enough to win at the elite level when dropping that far out of it.
11th: Cutting Humor – After sitting in mid-pack, he made a move in the far turn before getting pushed wide turning for home. It was over from there, as he couldn’t really muster up much of a rally. It was an uneventful race by any standards.
12th: By My Standards – His race was over out of the gate after he was squeezed and forced toward the back. He was also fairly wide throughout the race, especially when launching his rally, which is why he probably flattened out in a major way down the stretch. He needs more seasoning, and cutting back in distance probably wouldn’t hurt.
13th: Vekoma – It seemed like he wanted to push the pace, but he simply started fading before entering the stretch. He ran like a horse that did not like the surface.
14th: Bodexpress – The maiden tracked the pace for most of the race before a chain reaction from the interference forced him to check before the top of the stretch. There is no way that he was going to win the race, but that bump definitely caused him to lose a few positions. He will be 1/9 if he shows up next in a maiden special weight.
15th: Tax – This horse had some serious steam heading into the race, but he mustered no rally and had no excuse. He saved ground throughout but had no kick whatsoever down the stretch.
16th: Roadster – A wide trip did him no favors, though it was pretty clear that he didn’t have his mind on running regardless of what would have happened with his ride. He was hung extremely wide the entire way around, and in the stretch, he came up with no run at all.
17th: Long Range Toddy – This horse probably took the worst of the interference. It was fairly clear that Long Range Toddy was not going to win the race. However, he was tracking the pace nicely before a chain reaction forced him to take up abruptly. From there, he quit running, and jockey Jon Court took care of him down the stretch.
18th: Spinoff – He pressed the pace early while racing wide but simply had no run when turning for home.
19th Gray Magician – It was said after the race that this horse bled, which likely explains his poor performance. He sat towards the back of the pack to start the race before fading to last.