While Bob Baffert’s charge was clearly ahead of his contemporaries entering last year’s contest, there doesn’t appear to be anything of that calibre in the 2016 renewal, despite the presence of unbeaten Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Nyquist in the field.It seems somewhat counter-intuitive to suggest a horse unbeaten in seven starts still has questions to answer, but in the case of Nyquist, that does appear to be the situation.
Nyquist’s Timeform rating suggests that he is currently the best of this year’s Kentucky Derby line-up, but it is a far from insurmountable standard he sets. A winner of the Florida Derby at Gulfstream on his latest start (beating previously unbeaten Mohaymen), that race wasn’t run in a particularly fast time, for all that Nyquist was comfortably on top at the finish.
Indeed, the biggest knock on Nyquist’s CV is the fact that he hasn’t run fast times in any of his wins, although in a field that are generally below-par both form ratings and speed figure-wise, he does deserve his place at the head of the market. However, a Morning Line quote of 3/1 about Nyquist, in what is an open contest, doesn’t seem to represent great value and it could pay to look elsewhere.
Mohaymen had occupied ante-post favouritism for the race for practically the whole of the winter until he met with defeat at the hands of Nyquist in the aforementioned Florida Derby. A record of five wins from five starts prior to that reversal ensured Mohaymen was sent off market leader for the race, but he underperformed by quite some way, and is better than his fourth-place finish there would have you believe. Whether he can rebound to a level capable of winning a Kentucky Derby, though, has to be something of a doubt.
The most visually impressive prep-race win on the road to Churchill Downs came from Exaggerator, who took the Santa Anita Derby, beating Mor Spirit by six and a quarter lengths. On the face of it, that race looks the best piece of form on offer, however confidence in that performance being repeated has to be tempered somewhat by the race being run on a sloppy track and at a very fast pace, which suited the closing burst of Exaggerator to a tee. Also, Exaggerator had looked far from a world-beater prior to that contest, as a career record of four wins from nine starts would suggest.
Brody’s Cause had been put in his place when third to Nyquist in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and also looked out of sorts when disappointing in the Tampa Bay Derby on his 2016 debut. However, he bounced back to form with an impressive win in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland last time, beating My Man Sam and Cherry Wine convincingly. Another who is best from the off the pace, Brody’s Cause will need a sound gallop to be seen to best effect.
Todd Pletcher’s pair of Destin and Outwork finished 1-2 in the Tampa Bay Derby, and there shouldn’t be much between the pair once more. Outwork actually improved on that form when taking the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct last time, and he could well represent a bit of value at what is likely to be a double-figure price. Danzing Candy and Mor Spirit are closely matched on form, and both could also go well at big odds.
However, the key prep race from a value perspective could well be the Louisiana Derby, run at Fair Grounds in late-March, which was won by Gun Runner from Tom’s Ready. While the first two in that contest are worthy of respect, the one to concentrate on is the fourth-place finisher that day, Mo Tom.
Having had his chance compromised when running into plenty of trouble, Mo Tom would have gone close to winning, and also had a remarkably similar trip in his previous race when second to Gun Runner in the Risen Star Stakes at the same track.
Both those luckless runs led to Mo Tom’s jockey Corey Lanerie suggesting he would be fortunate to keep the ride in the big race, but keep it he has, and there could be plenty more to come from Mo Tom, who simply has had no real chance on his last two starts to show exactly how good he could be.
Currently available at around 25/1, there will be much worse each-way shots than Mo Tom, and he is put up as a sporting selection in what is as trappy a renewal as you are likely to see.
Back Mo Tom each-way in the Kentucky Derby
G3 - The Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Steeple Chase
G2 - Prix Raoul Balliere
G2 - Prix Ariste Hemard
G3 - Victress Stakes
G2 - Premier Trophy