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2009 Run for the Roses Betting Prep

2009 Kentucky Derby Preview

And then there were 7…

We watched the final weekend of major Kentucky Derby preps, as they ran four Graded Stakes, led by Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita.While we still have the Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derbies to be run on April 11 followed by the Lexington Stakes on April 18 and the Derby Trial on the 25th, this year’s Derby cast has no heavily favored 3-year-old like last year’s Big Brown, but rather a closely bunched group of seven possible candidates that can win the “Run for the Roses,” on the first Saturday of May.


Quality Road established himself as the current Kentucky Derby favorite after sweeping Florida’s two biggest preps, the Fountain of Youth (G II) and the Florida Derby (G I). This son of Elusive Quality has now won 3 of his 4 lifetime starts, including 2-for-2 since adding Lasix. He’s won at 1 1/8 miles, just a 1/8 of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby’s 1 ¼ rout, when defeating Dunkirk in the Florida Derby. Trained by Jimmy Jerkins, his usual trip is to lead the second pack of horses, stalking just behind the leaders, which offers great tactical speed to jockey for position in a field of 20 runners in the Derby.

Dunkirk made headlines before he ever stepped on to the race track, when the son of Grade One winning parents, sire Unbridled’s Song and dam Secret Status, sold for $3.7 million as a yearling at the Keeneland sale. This Todd Pletcher trainee did not race as a 2-year-old, but opened his career with back-to-back victories at Gulfstream Park by a combined 10 ½ lengths. He was handed his first loss last Saturday by Quality Road in the Florida Derby (Grade I), when they finished 1st and 2nd drawing six lengths clear of show finisher, There Goes JoJo, who will also break from the Churchill Downs starting gate on May 2. Dunkirk has two knocks against him, as he’s a deep closer that may encounter traffic in a full field on Derby day and that he’s light on career earnings and may not make the final cut of 20 Derby starters, even though he’s clearly one of the top 8 contenders.

Friesian Fire was last seen winning the Louisiana Derby (Grade II) by an impressive 7 ¼ lengths over Papa Clem, who had been running behind some of the best horses on the West Coast. He’s done most of his winning at the Fair Grounds in Louisiana, so he’s stayed under the radar, even while winning 4 of his 7 career starts. Son of A.P. Indy, who won the Belmont Stakes at 1 ½ miles, should have no trouble handling the extended distance on Derby Saturday.

I Want Revenge is the “wise guys” horse. While he’s never missed the board in his 8 lifetime starts (8 Starts, 3 Wins, 1 Place, 4 Shows), he’s now an unbeaten 2-for-2 since moving from the Polytrack to a dirt surface, which he’ll also find at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Derby. In those two dirt efforts, he won on Aqueduct’s inner-dirt surface when stealing the Gotham Stakes (Grade III) by 8 ½ lengths and returned with an impressive win on the Aqueduct main track in last Saturday’s Wood Memorial (Grade I). In that Wood, he lunged in the air while breaking out of the starting gate to trail the field by several lengths, only encounter traffic on the final turn and eventually exploding to a 1 ½ length victory over West Side Bernie.Kentucky Derby Betting This son of Stephan Got Even, a son of A.P. Indy, lost twice to Pioneer of the Nile by less than a combined 2 lengths, but that came in Southern California on the Polytrack.

Pioneer of the Nile had won only 1 of 4 career races before he was switched to the barn of Bob Baffert . Since the switch, this son of Belmont winner, Empire Maker, has been a perfect 4-for-4, including wins in the Santa Anita Derby (Grade I), Cash Call Stakes (Grade I ) and Robert B. Lewis Handicap (Grade II). He’s now won 5-of-8 races and has the ability to stalk the leaders or to make a late closing rush. However, all of his races have come on the artificial Polytrack and he’s never seen the dirt. While he’s handled a 1 1/8 miles in the Santa Anita Derby, how he’ll handle the dirt on Churchill’s main track is a gamble for his backers.

Old Fashioned is trained by Larry Jones, whose name isn’t well known outside the racing industry, but might be after this year’s Kentucky Derby because he trains two of the 3-year-olds on this list (the other is Friesian Fire). While the two horses have different ownership, Old Fashioned is known for his early foot and will be the fastest horse out of the Derby gate. The son of Unbridled’s Song is bred to handle races beyond a mile, but his running style may say otherwise. He opened his career to win 4 straight races, including a wire-to-wire victory in the Remsen (Grade II) at Aqueduct, winning the 1 1/8 mile race by more than 7 lengths. He’s now 4-for-5 lifetime after being upset by a 50-1 Win Willie in the Rebel Stakes (Grade II) at Oaklawn Park on March 14. Biggest questions are the distance and his ability to settle down early in the race.

Musket Man has been facing easier competition then most of the names on this list, but has done everything asked of him. To this point, he’s won 5 of 6 career races, including the Tampa Bay Derby (Grade III) and Illinois Derby (Grade II) in his last start. This late closing son of Yonaguska was a steal at $15,000 as a yearling in the Keeneland Sale and his connections have already been awarded with two Graded Stakes victories and almost $600,000 in earnings. If the pace is brisk and breaks down late in the race, he might step up in class once again and continue to surprise his backers.

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Carlo Campanella is a professional sports and horse racing analyst who currently provides sports info, game analysis and Guaranteed Winners on all major sporting events.  His nickname is “The Iron Horse,” due to his selective and extremely solid sports selections.


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  1. With Quality Road and Old Fashioned out of the Derby, I see I Want Revenge as the odds on favorite, although he is not my particular choice. Pioneer of the Nile will be another contender who may end up as the favorite by post time.