For Immediate Release April 11, 2016
Unbeaten juvenile champion Nyquist received 11 of 13 first-place votes to strengthen his claim as the heavy favorite in the latest Ultimate Kentucky Derby Poll presented by Brisnet.com. But beyond that, our ace panel of professional handicappers and noted turf journalists and analysts had markedly different takes on last Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass, Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby.
Exaggerator, the romping Santa Anita Derby winner over favored Mor Spirit, and rallying Blue Grass victor Brody’s Cause both moved up 10 spots. Exaggerator, the most visually impressive in exploding to the lead after being almost 20 lengths back halfway through the race, now is No. 4. Brody’s Cause, making amends for his terrible showing in the Tampa Bay Derby in his first start of the year, now is No. 6.
“Nyquist had a very good day Saturday, and he obviously wasn't running,” said pollster Michael Beychok, the 2012 National Handicapping Championship winner and Eclipse Award winner as Handicapper of the Year. “He was flattered by the win by Exaggerator, and with no overwhelming performance from other preps, his firm hold on the top of my Derby poll got stronger.”
Outwork, who nipped 81-1 maiden Trojan Nation in New York’s Wood Memorial, jumped five spots to seventh. With defeats to Danzing Candy and Mor Spirit by Exaggerator, Cupid crept up from No. 6 to 3 in the week in which he’ll be favored in the last major Kentucky Derby prep, Saturday’s Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.
“Nyquist will enter the Kentucky Derby as an undefeated Breeders' Cup winning champion and logical favorite,” said noted handicapper, analyst and horse owner Jeff Siegel. “If he has a weakness, I haven't seen it. Cupid will have one more chance to produce a favorable impression on Saturday in Arkansas. He’s clearly Bob Baffert's best Derby hope this year, though his late-developing stablemate, American Freedom, may be the one they'll be talking about in a month or two.”
The Ultimate Kentucky Derby poll appears every Monday morning at horseracingradio.net, the website of Eclipse Award-winning Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN), which is partnering with Brisnet.com, the official data source of the Kentucky Derby, to produce the rankings. HRRN is covering Saturday’s Arkansas Derby and Keeneland’s Lexington Stakes, the final races offering qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.
The weekend showed the strength of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile won by Nyquist at Keeneland, with Brody’s Cause third and Exaggerator fourth. HRRN president Mike Penna also alluded to Brody’s Cause and Outwork finishing the Tampa Bay Derby behind victorious Destin, ranked No. 9 in this week’s poll.
“Brody's Cause proved he belongs in the discussion as one of the top Derby contenders,” Penna said. “After seeing Brody and Outwork win major preps this weekend after racing in the Tampa Bay Derby, the better question to ask may be, ‘How good is Destin?’”
Other pollsters’ views:
NTRA’s Jim Mulvihill: “The hardest part this week was leaving off horses that no longer have any chance of earning enough points for the Derby. We could still have as many as four from the Arkansas Derby jump into the top 20 — if longshots are first and second and Dazzling Gem and Whitmore are third and fourth — which would push some quality contenders out of the gate. Right now you need a whopping 40 points to feel confident that you're in.”
Brisnet.com’s James Scully: “Brody’s Cause looked good winning Blue Grass and brings a nice late kick to a speed-laden Kentucky Derby. But the 94 Brisnet.com Speed he registered is not good. He remains a possible exotics player but he's never run fast enough to be considered a serious win contender. Exaggerator turned in the best performance by a wide margin in Saturday's races.”
Agreed Brisnet.com’s Ed DeRosa: “I did figure the Santa Anita Derby to have the biggest say on who would be behind Nyquist. And while I was wrong about who that horse would be, I was right about the race. Danzing Candy was No. 2 coming in, but it's Exaggerator going out following his dominant move to blow the doors off the field. It was an eye-catching run, and while there's reason for pause — the wet track, the dud last time, etc.— it looked good enough on a horse who won't be the favorite at Churchill Downs to get excited about him as a wagering prospect. I moved Santa Anita Derby runner-up Mor Spirit up as well. I wasn't a fan of his coming into the race, and I'm still a little trepidatious. But in terms of how he's coming into the Derby, he might be worth 15-to-1 considering he'll still be running when others have stopped. I only want the winners out of the Wood Memorial and Blue Grass. Outwork is fine, and Brody's Cause might be getting good again, but none of the horses behind them get the blood pumping.”
HRRN’s Acacia Courtney: “I was really impressed by Outwork's win in the Wood Memorial, and the kind of grit he showed to hold on at the finish line. But, he was almost beaten by an 81-1 shot maiden…. I was a big fan of
Exaggerator at the start of the Derby trail, but some of his performances along the way left me with questions, and the same goes for Brody's Cause. Seeing Exaggerator back to his winning ways definitely made him a contender again, but there are still reservations for those big closers in the Kentucky Derby.”
Racing analyst Caton Bredar: “Outwork survived a brutally fierce pace on seemingly the best part of a tough track and gets points moving toward Louisville. He’s moving in the right direction. On the other hand, he barely outlasted a maiden in a race that essentially fell completely apart. Once again, I refuse to put a maiden on the list of top contenders, even if he has enough points to make the field (which he does). At Santa Anita, I don’t know that we learned much about Mor Spirit, who continues to find many excuses but certainly has the right connections and potential… Brody’s Cause (and Cherry Wine for that matter) is better than I originally gave him credit for. That said, it was an exceptionally lackluster bunch in which the favorite (Zulu) never even was a factor. They all have work to do to catch the front runners.”
Concluded Gary Palmisano Jr. of Churchill Downs and TwinSpires.com: “So difficult. I was once against Nyquist, but the rest of the group is just brutal.”
The Ultimate Kentucky Derby Poll presented by Brisnet.com is overseen by Jennie Rees, a five-time Eclipse Award-winning turf writer who provides comments on the consensus top 20 at horseracingradio.net. Other Ultimate Kentucky Derby pollsters are HRRN analyst and former trainer Jude Feld; reigning NHC Tour winner Jonathon Kinchen; and Steve Byk, host of the popular weekday racing show At the Races with Steve Byk.
About HRRN
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About Brisnet.com
Brisnet.com is the official data source of the Kentucky Derby, TwinSpires.com, and Churchill Downs Inc.’s family of racetracks. Founded in 1971 by Richard “Dick” Broadbent III as Bloodstock Research Information Services, Brisnet.com was the first large-scale website to offer past performances online when it launched in 1996. Acquired by CDI in 1996, Brisnet.com is a leading provider of horse racing information. Follow Brisnet.com on Twitter @Brisnet.
About Jennie Rees
Jennie Rees, a five-time Eclipse Award winner and 2014 inductee into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor, covered racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal for 32 years before leaving newspaper journalism to specialize in horse-racing communications, advocacy and fan education. Follow her on Twitter @TracksideJennie and at “Trackside Jennie” on Facebook.