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Competitive Field at Derby Led by Hot Brother Derek, Three Bob Baffert Horses

By Yong-yi Zhu
COLUMNIST

The 132nd running of the Kentucky Derby features a packed field — it isn’t like most years, where the winner is anointed before the race begins, even though that pre-race favorite never seems to prevail. Instead, the field has front runners and very likely dark horses. It might even feature the return of one of the most well-known trainers of this era.

This year’s favorite is Brother Derek (5-2), trained by South Californian Dan Hendricks. The horse easily won the last two races coming into the derby, leading wire to wire at the Santa Anita Derby and winning down the stretch at the Santa Catalina. Brother Derek has shown that he can win no matter what the situation — he is both powerful and versatile, and it’s no wonder he will be the frontrunner going into Saturday.

Barbaro (6-1) is undefeated coming into the derby, but his victories have been very close. He needed to get an extra gear at the Holy Bull as well as the Florida Derby, and won’t have as easy of a time fending off these horses. I don’t think he has enough early or late speed to outrace this field.

The third “B” to be a big factor at this race is a perennial fan favorite trainer Bob Baffert. His trio of horses more than makes up for his absence from this race in the past several years. His front-runner, Bob and John (8-1), is probably his weakest horse. Bob and John lacks closing speed, much like a weaker version of Barbaro, and his win at the Wood Memorial was a relatively unconvincing victory.

Sinister Minister (10-1), the second of Baffert’s horses, is the most predictable of the derby contenders. We know that he will charge out in front to take the early lead, but the question is whether he maintain his speed all race long. If he does not get out to a big jump early on, he will slowly fall away. But if he keeps his pace up, he could have a track record.

Rounding out the three, Point Determined (12-1) was second in his last two races coming in to the derby, losing to A.P. Warrior and Brother Derek. He is a real closer, much like Point Given was several years ago.

Lawyer Ron (4-1) will also be a big factor in this race, having won the Arkansas Derby and the Rebel Stakes. He likes to ride the rail early and then pull right into the lead. Though he doesn’t completely overpower the field with outrageous speed, but he just seems to get the job done. Especially if the pace is torrid early on, he has the ability to finish once all the other horses have tired out.

With all these horses it is difficult to decide on one name for the ticket. My pick for the derby would have to be battle-tested Lawyer Ron, with his closing ability, which is always a necessity at the Kentucky Derby. Coming in at 4-1, he would be a better payday than Brother Derek.

My value pick would have to be Point Determined. He comes in at 12-1, but has the capability to run a lot faster than he has in his last two races. He has raced against quality opponents and is experienced, and, even though Brother Derek swept him away at the Santa Anita, if the pace is fast at the start, it’s possible for Point Determined to close strong down the stretch and give Bob Baffert another Kentucky Derby win.