Fans of the American writer and journalist Hunter S Thompson will know the Kentucky Derby as an avaricious free-for all fuelled by unchecked decadence and mint-juleps. Somewhere in the background of his famed article, written in 1970, there was a race going on. He never managed to get around to that part of the story.
Without his mastery of language and capacity for mischief or a benefactor willing to foot the bill, a short and sharp preview of the forthcoming action on the track will have to suffice.
The Kentucky Derby is a grade I stakes for 3-year olds run at Churchill Downs and is itself a short sharp sprint across 10 furlongs of flat dirt.
This year looks set to be a doozie with a field packed full of quality. There is some European interest with the AP O’Brien trained Daddy Long Legs. However O’Brien’s horse been handed the dreaded number one gate. Starting from the inside he will find it difficult not to be squeezed out at the first turn. Although no horse can be discounted, Daddy Long Legs’ current price of 20/1 reflects the difficulty he faces in trying to emerge from the first turn still in the mix.
The general consensus is that with horses of the quality of the favoured trio Union Rags, Bodemeister and Gemologist, this is going to be a quickly run race. If that is to happen then another horse with a slightly more tenuous Irish connection could come in to play.
Named after a mythical Irish fairie, Dullahan even runs for the Donegal Stable and wears the green and gold of Donegal. The stable is located in Iowa and run an Iowa lawyer but any tentative link will do. Being ridden by the three-time Derby winner Kent Desormeaux, Dullahan has an electrifying turn of pace which he has displayed in chasing down the leaders in his last five races. If this race is run quickly then as the front-runners start to slow, Dullahan has the finishing speed to take this race. He also offers better value the the leading trio in the betting.
Another triple Derby winner, Calvin Borel, has to be considered on his ride Take Charge Indy. The colt certainly has the talent but has too often lacked consistency. However with Borel on board he’s worth a small bet at a decent price.
A blanket of roses and a cheque for nearly half a million dollars awaits the winner at the finishing line. Not bad for 120 seconds of running.