Gormley (outside) edges American Anthem in the Sham Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita – © Benoit Photo
Although recent additions of the Kentucky Derby have been rather predictable (the top four betting choices ran 1-2-3-4 last year!), the Derby remains a race where longshots tend to thrive. Even when the favorite prevails, it’s not uncommon to see unexpected horses finish second, third, or fourth—remember Golden Soul finishing second at 34-1 in 2013, or Commanding Curve finishing second at 37-1 the following year?
With this in mind, here are three colts that I believe have a chance to outrun their odds in the Derby…
It seems hard to believe that a two-time Grade 1 winner could be considered a Kentucky Derby longshot, but I get the feeling that Gormley will be overlooked at around 15-1 or higher. While it’s true that he didn’t finish fast at all in the Santa Anita Derby (clocking the slowest time in some 60 years while running the final three furlongs in just under :39.74), I have long had the feeling that there is much more to this colt than meets the eye. Trained by John Shirreffs, who isn’t known for winning with first-time starters, Gormley cruised to an upset win in his debut last September and then dominated the FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) in gate-to-wire fashion. He’s since embarked on a “lose one, win one” pattern that has seen him sandwich wins in the Sham Stakes and Santa Anita Derby in between losses in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and San Felipe, but his Santa Anita Derby win—where he successfully rated off the pace for the first time—was a big step in the rank direction.
Gormley’s BRIS speed figures also paint an interesting picture. He has paired up triple-digit E1 and E2 pace figures in three different races (the Juvenile, the Sham, and the Santa Anita Derby), something no other Derby contender can claim. For good measure, he also posted a fourth triple-digit E2 figure in the San Felipe—this horse has some serious speed.
In terms of overall BRIS speed figures, Gormley’s career-best 102 from the Sham Stakes stacks up well against his Derby rivals; the highest figure earned by any horse in the field is J Boys Echo’s 104 from the Gotham Stakes. But Gormley’s most interesting figure might be his 99 from the Santa Anita Derby. Even though the race came back slow on the Beyer speed figure scale (just an 88), BRIS gave the race a higher figure than the Arkansas Derby (96).
Shirreffs has been putting a lot of effort into getting Gormley to relax during morning training, and it certainly paid off in the Santa Anita Derby. Gormley might not win the Kentucky Derby, or even hit the board, but I do believe he’ll go off at a much higher price than he should.
Could a 0-for-10 maiden have an impact on the Kentucky Derby? Although he isn’t officially in the Top 20 yet, I would be very interested in playing Sonneteer if he draws into the Derby. With the exception of his debut last July, Sonneteer has never finished out of the superfecta while competing against the likes of Royal Mo, Term of Art, So Conflated, Reach the World in California maiden races. However, it’s his last two starts that have been particularly noteworthy. Shipping across the country to Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, Sonneteer closed strongly to finish second in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) and fourth in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I), beaten just two lengths on each occasion while earning career-best BRIS speed figures of 93 and 94.
In the Arkansas Derby, Sonneteer trailed the field by a dozen lengths early on, but wound up running the final three furlongs in a terrific :36.48 seconds. For that effort, he earned a BRIS Late Pace figure of 109, one of the highest in the prospective Derby field. If Sonneteer makes the cut, he strikes me as the type of horse that could settle at the back of the pack and make one late run to finish in the superfecta.
Although he was unraced as a two-year-old and will thus be battling the “Apollo Curse,” Patch has improved rapidly since his January 15th debut and most recently finished second in the Louisiana Derby, beaten just 1 ¼ lengths. He did get a nice ground-saving trip that day, but his 98 BRIS speed figure is quite respectable and was only a slight decrease from the eye-catching 101 he received in his February 18th maiden win going a mile at Gulfstream.
With an exceptional pedigree (both his sire and broodmare sire won the Belmont Stakes), Patch is a colt that should have no trouble with the distance of the Kentucky Derby. Better still, since he has yet to win a graded stakes race, he’ll surely offer attractive odds in the 20-1 to 30-1 range, making him a candidate to include in the trifecta or superfecta.
Free past performances for all of the prospective Kentucky Derby contenders are available on the Brisnet website. If you plan on betting the Kentucky Derby, check out TwinSpires.com, the official betting partner of the Kentucky Derby.
Now it’s your turn! Are there any longshots that you have your eye on in the Kentucky Derby?
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