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2014 Kentucky Derby Staff Picks

It's time for the Derby Day Staff Picks! Guaranteed (not guaranteed) to make you money (no money).

Michael Heiman

Analysis and picks from some of our writers for today's card at Churchill Downs:

Siva's #3 Rose

Churchill Distaff Turf Mile

Overall:  Hard to ignore Center Court since she's 3/3 on the Churchill turf.  I'd probably be more inclined to bet others to win, though.

Value:  Miz Ida has 2 wins on Churchill's turf course, and figures to be able to pass tiring rivals late. A return to her Mint Julep win here from 2013 would see her run well in this race.

Humana Distaff

Overall:  Although I think she's better at Keeneland/synthetic races, her second in the Winning Colors would see her run well if Judy the Beauty can keep her consistency on the dirt.  She ought to have enough pace to run at in here.

Value:  Speedinthruthecity is 2/2 at Churchill, though this is a stiffer test today.  She is also 2/2 this year, which means that she likes to win.  She seems to have found a winning touch since Derby Day last year where she won on the undercard, as she's 4/5 in the past year.

American Turf

Overall:  Sometimes speed carries well in this race historically.  Why not go with Chad Brown and Storming Inti to steal away around 4-1 odds?  No one else consistently shows early pace on the lawn.  Maybe he can go gate-to-wire?

Value:  Big Bazinga is a stone-dead closer, yes, but his turf start almost saw him win from far back at a shorter distance than this race.  Maybe an extra furlong (8.5 in the American Turf vs. 7.5 in his Feb. 22nd start at Gulfstream) will help him fire late.

Churchill Downs

Overall:  I'm not sure he's as good as he was entering this race as he was in 2013, but you can't dismiss a horse that's 4/4 at the track (including last year's running of the Churchill Downs). Delaunay is my win play unless he's the favorite.

Value:  Should there be an epic meltdown, there are worse choices than Capo Bastone to pick it up late in the stretch.  He won the Kings Bishop similarly.  His Derby Trial from last year could see him get a significant piece of this race.

Woodford Reserve Turf Classic

Overall:  Wise Dan doesn't lose at Churchill on turf.  He's only lost once on turf ever, and I don't see Get Stormy, Gio Ponti, or Sidney's Candy in here today.  Don't over think this race.  Also, if he wins, I have 8 pick threes live from Oaks Day into the Derby with longshots, so there's that.

Value:  Should Wise Dan lose, Guys Reward has ran well at Churchill Downs in the past.  His best days might be behind him, but he does have 5 of his 8 wins on the surface.  Another one to possibly consider is Moro Tap as an uber-bomb to get a piece in exotics.  Closers are more likely to pick up the pieces than anyone is to catch Wise Dan, really.

Kentucky Derby:

Overall:  If he breaks cleanly, California Chrome is probably the stand out in here.  I'm not so sure his post position helps him, as the 5 post sometimes sees trouble in the Derby.  He could also pull a Point Given (2001's Derby favorite that later won the Preakness and Belmont) and be off his game in this one.  If he's at his best, the others would have to run out of their minds to beat him.  He won't be a win play, unless he floats to 9/2 or above, but he's the most consistent of the bunch.

Value:  I have live doubles to 12, 14, 16, 18, 19 and 20 thanks to Untapable winning the Oaks.  If Wise Dan wins the Woodford, I have the same six horses from my doubles plus 6 and 15 in pick threes.  It's ridiculously wide open this year, even for Derby standards.  If I have to take a stand with one of them to win, I'd lean towards Dance With Fate.  Sure, Two Step Salsa was more of a 7-8 furlong type as a runner, but Saint Ballado horses (his grandsire) sometimes get the 10 furlong distance just fine.  I'll forgive his Santa Anita efforts on tracks that probably didn't favor his running style.  This might be the year that a Blue Grass winner breaks the 23 year drought of the Blue Grass-Derby double (Strike the Gold in '91 was the last to win both).

TF Tribe

Distaff Turf Mile-

Pick- 9-Centre Court
Price- 7- Ready Signal

I't hard to get away from Centre Court in this spot, She's got an outside draw to avoid traffic, she's got some pace to run into, and she looks to improve while shortening back to a mile. But Ready Signal looks like she can make some noise. In her last two, she closed into a relatively slow pace and on a turf course that wasn't necessarily the kindest to closers at Gulfstream. And both times she got there for the win.

Humana Distaff-

Pick- 3-Judy the Beauty
Price- 7- Speedinthruthecity

Judy is the best in every possible way in this race. The only thing she doesn't have is a head start. But Speedinthruthecity is undefeated at 7f on dirt, seems to like Churchill, and is third off the layoff. But this is probably a no-play for me.

American Turf-

Pick- 5-Global View
Price- 2-Chief Barker

Global View (GALILEO!!!!) has the 1st time Gary Stevens angle working for him, which is only slightly weaker than the 2nd time Stevens angle. But this colt should look to revert back to his good form moving back onto the grass, as it was clear that he didn't like the poly in the Transylvania. Chief Barker is intriguing too. I hear he's basically trained by Wes Ward, so that's a plus. But if he likes the firm going, watch out.

Churchill Downs-

Pick- 11-Shakin It Up
Price- 8-Falling Sky

Tough race here. With some pace up front, but not too much, the speed might hold on. But Shakin It Up looks like he's in top shape with that really nice 5f work and his best running coming at 7f, in my opinion. But if the speed does hold, I think Falling Sky might be there at the wire. While he was his best at Gulfstream on that extremely biased surface, he still showed the ability to just keep running despite what was going on behind him. Tough, tough race for me to get a really good read on.

The Woodford

Pick- 1-Wise Dan
Price- (Does it matter?) 9-Skyring

Um, its Dan. So just cash your ticket. This is a pretty soft field outside of Boisterous, and he's not even in the same universe as Dan.  But I'm looking for the 9 to be unhurried up front and maybe grab a piece of it at the wire.

The Derby

Pick- 5-California Chrome

I think Chrome will be 8/ or 9/5 in the gate, so every other horse will be a big price. But Candy Boy is the price that really intrigues me. I won't talk this race to death though, many smarter ones have already done that. Good luck!

JP Fanshawe

Race 6-The Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes

Top:  9-Centre Court
Also:  3-Miz Ida

9-Centre Court has three wins in three starts over this turf course and appears the class of the field. She hasn't won as a favorite since last July, but her best Turf speed is easily fastest in this group and she had a sharp work coming in. 3-Miz Ida has the best Late pace figures in this group.  She hasn't raced in five months but has decent enough work tabs for me to include her.  Centre Court is not so dominant, however, that I won't include the 1-Tapicat, the 8-Effie Trinket and the 7-Ready Signal in a Pick 3 starting here.

Race 7-The Humana Distaff Stakes

Top: 3-Judy The Beauty
Also: 1-Street Girl

3-Judy The Beauty has never been off the board in her career and has four of the top 6 recent speed figs in this group. She looks much the best. 1-Street Girl is second in Late Pace figures and trainer Eddie Keneally has won 37 percent of 42 starts when moving a horse from all-weather to dirt. 5-Scherzinger and 8-Midnight Lucky also intrigue.

Race 8-The American Turf Stakes

Top: 2-Chief Barker
Also: 3-Quotient

2-Chief Barker has been away for six months, but he has a sizable class advantage.  Two solid works suggest he may be ready to return and trainer Larry Rivelli is 24 percent when 90+ days away and 27 percent when sending a horse out for the first time.  This race should go fast with the 6, 8,9, and 10 potentially going for the lead, which sets up nicely for 3-Quotient, who steps up in class but has improved position in all three of his races. Jockey Espionoza wins 33 percent of the time when riding for trainer John Sadler.  Don't forget 5-Global View, and 11-Woodfield Springs.

Race 9-The Churchill Downs Stakes

Top:  11-Shakin It Up
Also:  9-Central Banker

10-Delaunay has four wins in four starts at Churchill, but carrying that frontrunning speed over an extra furlong here has me looking at the 11-Shakin It Up, who enters off of double bullet works, for Bob Baffert who is 30 percent when shipping, and 34 percent when wheeling back a beaten favorite.  He is also tops in average late pace.  9-Central Banker enters second off the layoff , gets a little class relief, and worked a bullet of his own on a big worktab.  He also has win over this course.  I can 2-Clearly Now, 4-Sahara Sky, and 7-River Bear getting into exotics.

Race 10-The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes

Top:  1-Wise Dan
Also:  8-Finnegans Wake

Can 1-Wise Dan be beaten here?  Probably not.  8-Finnegans Wake has some sneaky good turf form if you look back to last summer and a mild step forward here might mean he hits the board.  7-Boisterous has some hidden class stasis coming out of that last allowance race.  3-Guys Reward has been in the money nine-of-11 times at Churchill, three times winning at a higher class level than today.

Race 11-The Kentucky Derby

Top:  15-Tapiture
Also:  16-Intense Holiday, 19-Ride On Curlin, 17-Commanding Curve

In the Derby always favor horses I think will have something left for the last 1/8 of a mile.  And 15-Tapiture just kept sneaking into my numbers.  I wish he had one of the 10 best speed figs from his last five starts (usually a Derby necessity), but I think he can sit in the second pack and come home strong.  I like his string of route races, as well.  16-Intense Holiday  also has a strong base and has improved position three of the four times he has seen pace.  19-Ride On Curlin also may appreciate a hot pace, but will certainly be overbet because of the Borel factor.  17-Commanding Curve has the best lengths gained from second call to finish combined in last five.   4-Danza and 12-Dance with Fate have the best closing figures and may figure in exotics.
Good Luck to everyone, and let's enjoy the sunshine, and the whiskey and have everyone finish safely!