Sire: Smarty Jones
Dam: Apasionata Sonat (Affirmed)
Trainer: Thomas Amoss
Jockey: Miguel Mena
Career record: 7-4-0-1
Running style: Closer / Mid-pack
Backtalk was pretty close to the lead in both of his last races but I think it's safe to say that was due to the very slow pace in each event. The expected quick pace of the Derby should ensure that this colt is well back of the leaders heading into the first turn.
How he got to the Derby: Backtalk won the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs and the Grade 2 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga as a juvenile. A third place finish in the Grade 3 Illinois Derby gave him enough earnings to squeeze into the field following the defections of Eskendereya, Endorsement, Rule, and Interactif.
What has to happen for him to win: Backtalk has never run a "big" race in his career, his speed and pace figures aren't something that you jump up and take notice of. So like every long shot in this race, he's going to need to step up and run the race of his life. A big positive on Backtalk's side is that he's won twice over the Churchill Downs surface as a juvenile. He broke his maiden in the five furlong Maiden Special Weight race on June 11th, and then won the Grade 3 Bashford Manner at six furlongs on July 3rd.
The official morning line has Backtalk at 50/1 while I have him a little higher on my line at 60/1. Either way, he's a long shot to win. His off the pace style fits in nicely with this field, and perhaps he just loves to run at Churchill Downs (he's also run well on off-tracks). On the other hand, he's never come close to beating the top contenders in this race in any previous attempt. It's also a little discouraging to note that his only win this year came as he wore down Royal Express during the entire length of the stretch at Delta Downs. You'd like to see a future Derby winner be a little more impressive against that level of competition.
Key Race: Grade 2 Illinois Derby (3rd)
The pace for the Illinois Derby was very slow on the front end (:49+ for four and 1:13+ for six), which probably hindered Backtalk from putting in a nice, long late run to the front. This colt, however, was well back of the second place horse, Yawanna Twist, so it's not like Backtalk was anywhere near competing with the top two.
Backtalk will get more to run at in the Derby but you have to wonder, if he was 11 ¼ lengths back of Yawanna Twist, how far back would he have been if some of the top horses in the Derby had been in this race?