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2014 Kentucky Derby Contenders: Intense Holiday

Our look at the contenders for the 2014 Kentucky Derby turns to Risen Star winner Intense Holiday.

Matthew Stockman

Intense Holiday


Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Owner: Starlight Racing
Jockey: John Velazquez
Sire: Harlan's Holiday
Dam: Intensify (Unbridled's Song)
Lifetime Record: 8-2-1-1
Lifetime Earnings: $551,900

Future Wager Odds: Pool 1 - 4/5 (Field); Pool 2 - 69/1; Pool 3 - 22/1; Pool 4 - 20/1

Notable Races: G2-Louisiana Derby (2nd); G2-Risen Star (1st); G2-Holy Bull (3rd); G2-Remsen (4th); G2-Nashua (4th); G1-Champagne (5th)

The Good

At a minimum, you can't say this colt doesn't have a sizable foundation of races under him. While eight starts coming into the Derby doesn't seem like a ton, in this day and age of running horses as little as possible before a big race, Intense Holiday is a regular road warrior. If I hadn't known better, I'd swear this colt was trained by D. Wayne Lukas.

Intense Holiday is a grinder in every sense of the word; he can put forth enough effort to stay in touch in the early stages, and his late kick is effective but not powerful visually or on paper. What this colt has displayed over the past nine months is an ability to churn out quarter after quarter after quarter. If the pace is slow in front of him, he's probably not going to pick up many pieces in the stretch. If he gets something to run at - and I would think (at a minimum) he'll get at least a decent pace - then his chances greatly improve.

The (maybe) Bad

Despite the fact that Vicar's in Trouble was left all alone on the lead, I thought Intense Holiday was way too close to the pace when he ran second in the Louisiana Derby. Sure, he broke his maiden in gate-to-wire fashion but, for the most part, this colt really hasn't displayed much of a desire to run with the leaders through the first half mile. Recognizing this colt's grinding style, I would expect the tactics in Kentucky to resemble his Risen Star effort. If that doesn't happen - if Intense Holiday runs up near the leaders in the early stages at Churchill - I think he'll have little to no shot at victory.

Final Thoughts

I've written this before but I'll write it again: I really like the way this colt's style and recent development fits into this year's Derby. I think he'll get plenty of pace in front of him at Churchill and, if Mike Smith Johnny V. is able to keep him out of any trouble through the first three-quarters of a mile, I like his chances of picking up some pieces during the long final stretch run.

Intense Holiday is certainly not without warts on his resume, but even his "worst" races saw him grind his way to a respectable finish. Additionally, I like the way Intense Holiday took a step forward in his development this spring, as opposed to simply plateauing after his juvenile campaign. It's a guess as to whether he has another "step up" left in his but I'm willing to take a shot on a colt that might be available at juicy odds by post time of the Derby.