Bob Clancy's selections for the Kentucky Derby Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville:
Post time: 6:30 p.m.; TV: NBC; Distance: 11/4 miles; Purse: $2 million
FROSTED (15-1) won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in a very professional manner, steadily improving his position despite running a bit wide. He surged past Tencendur in the stretch for a 2-length victory and appeared to have plenty left while galloping out. Kiaran McLaughlin, one of the sharpest trainers in America, made several changes before that race after the son of Tapit inexplicably hit a wall at the top of the stretch in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. There was a minor throat procedure done in his stall, an adjustment to blinkers, the move back to New York for his final Derby prep and the switch to Joel Rosario, a jockey who is at his best when the stakes are the highest. Two recent workouts at Palm Meadows, his Florida base, indicate he is ready to take another step forward in the greatest race of all. With so many front-runners in the field of 20, there is no question the winner will come from off the pace. The tactical speed possessed by this colt (No. 15) is clearly a major asset. Post 14 (after the scratch of Stanford) is an ideal starting point with a long run to the first turn. Rosario, who rode Orb to Derby glory two years ago, will likely position him in the middle of the pack through the early stages. When the serious running begins, look for another strong move from a horse that has finished no worse than second in six of seven starts.
AMERICAN PHAROAH (5-2) has done absolutely nothing wrong this year, jogging to victory in two starts at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. Some observers are already comparing the 2-year-old champion of 2014 to Seattle Slew. Whoa! He will undoubtedly be prominent from the start, but he has yet to face competition of this caliber. Trainer Bob Baffert has won the Derby three times and jockey Victor Espinoza twice (including last year with California Chrome). These two were together in the winner's circle back in 2002 with War Emblem. There is so much to like about this horse. On Tuesday, he breezed 5 furlongs at Churchill in 582/5 seconds. Logical favorite turns for home with the lead, but the distance could be a problem. Of course, they're all running 10 furlongs for the first time.
DORTMUND (3-1) is undefeated in six career starts, including a 73/4-length victory at Churchill in November. Led wire to wire in the Santa Anita Derby, his fourth win at that track, but the son of 2008 Derby/Preakness winner Big Brown ran the final eighth in only 13 seconds. Cause for concern? Probably not, though distance is still the question with the second half of Baffert's 1-2 punch.
CARPE DIEM (8-1) looks like he can run all day, pulling away through the stretch in all four of his victories. The No. 2 post, however, is bound to hurt his chances. But the jockey-trainer combo of John Velazquez and Todd Pletcher is one of the best in the business, so the son of Giant's Causeway cannot be dismissed. If the Blue Grass winner comes through the first turn unscathed, he could be tough to beat.
FIRING LINE (12-1) gave Dortmund all he could handle twice in California, losing by a head each time, before winning the Sunland Derby by 14 lengths. All-time great Gary Stevens, 52, is back in the saddle. The three-time winner of the world's most prestigious race helps make this colt very playable.
Contact Bob Clancy at email@example.com.