Bram’s Kentucky Derby Take: Asking for Spiritual Guidance

Pop Culture
Mohaymen, above winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes, looks like a great value-betting opportunity in the 2016 Kentucky Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Show me the person who projected Donald Trump to be the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States in 2015. I’d like to ask that person some questions, like: what is the meaning of life? Or more importantly, can you tell me, oh, great oracle, who is going to win the 2016 Kentucky Derby?

This is an almost unbearably deep field, to the point where I’m going to be up front and tell you I have zero confidence that anything I am about to write has any meaningful logic, because this race doesn’t offer any logical conclusions. The sports’ science deniers could use the inability to quantitatively predict this race as proof that the analytics world isn’t the end-all be-all of sports.

I’m not one of those people. All I’m saying is the MIT grads will be stumped over this one. In fact, I bet if you asked them to collectively make their conclusions based on all the information available but not allow them to share results until all are collected, there would be nowhere near any level of consensus. Now, I don’t know any of this for a fact, which makes me think looking at this race and being forced to make a judgment about it has driven me to insane, uninformed conclusions about everything.


Here’s the field for the Kentucky Derby:

1. Trojan Nation: The only redeeming moment for this horse will be spotting Will Ferrell in a USC getup. Getting second in the Wood Memorial Stakes was crazy. Winning this would define insanity.

2. Suddenbreakingnews: So he’s going to let the wave of horses envelop him and after that happens, where is he: 16th, 17th? How many lengths will he have to make up? This is not to suggest he can’t do it; clearly, he can. But that strategy typically works for a horse who consistently wins, and this one doesn’t.

3. Creator: I ask Creator, are thee my divine intervention? He’s constantly getting better. I never like it when the last race looks like the peak race and, like Suddenbreakingnews, appears to enjoy being way off the pace. Put in a better way, I like him to be there in the end more then Suddenbreakingnews.

Mo Tom Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby
Mo Tom training at Churchill Downs. (Eclipse Sportswire)

4. Mo Tom: The finishes don’t tell the story here. Mo Tom might be the second choice had bad trips and poor choices in traffic not kept him from getting to the finish line first. So, he needs to change his luck. And if his trip is the one he’s deserved, he’ll be letting me buy the drinks that night thanks to a 20-1 or better hit.

5. Gun Runner: Which multiple graded stakes-winning horse has less pub then him? No one. I think 10-1 is an incredibly enticing number. His lone poor showing was on a sloppy track. With good conditions and everyone to his left allowing him to be near the front of the pace, watch out.

6. My Man Sam: He has to be in any exotic bet, but his times don’t seem fast enough for a win here. Huge upside, but in this race betting on upside is fool’s gold.

7. Oscar Nominated: Great story; bad investment. The connections ponied up $250,000 to get him in the starting gate. He’s Ishtar. At least he was nominated though.

8. Lani: The winner of the United Arab Emirates Derby in Dubai and all he gets for that is a 30-1 morning line. That’s all I need to know. Have a nice flight back to Japan.

9. Destin: He’s been off for almost two months. Now, the 15-1 price tag on a Todd Pletcher-Javier Castellano horse is enticing. So, he’ll be in my bets, but something tells me he didn’t run again in April for a reason.

10. Whitmore: He’s the classic, really good horse who is not quite good enough to win here. So, it looks like Victor Espinoza’s Triple Crown no hitter is over.

11. Exaggerator: Arguably the best performance in any major 2016 prep race outside of Nyquist blowing out Mohaymen in the Florida Derby was Exaggerator’s romp on a  sloppy track in the Santa Anita Derby. If he wins this, get ready for the Desormeaux brothers world publicity tour.

12. Tom’s Ready: No, he’s not. The stable had to actually announce that they would not scratch him if Mo Tom — their obviously better option — didn’t qualify for the Derby. So, the world thinks he has little to no shot, and I happen to agree here with the world.

Nyquist Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby
Nyquist at Churchill Downs. (Eclipse Sportswire)

13. Nyquist: Honestly, he feels like the worthy successor to American Pharoah. The problem he has, in my opinion, is the field this year is way deeper than in 2015. There is only one occasion where he didn’t pace the field and practically go wire to wire — at Keeneland Race Course in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile last fall — which also happens to be the only time he had a post position outside of the five hole. There, he proved he can rally. I do believe his best bet is to be at or near the front, because if he’s not, maybe he’s out of his comfort zone just enough to open the window for someone else.

14. Mohaymen: This is one of those instances where I really wish there was a way to determine if horses feel and exhibit confidence and whether that confidence can literally be shaken. He’d never lost, then he faced Nyquist and lost big. At 10-1, his price is too good to ignore, because clearly if the Florida Derby was an aberration, he could easily be the favorite.

15. Outwork: The only thing I really like about him is Pletcher and John Velazquez. The distance looks like it’ll be a problem for him. So, if he setting the pace the Derby, I expect him to get passed. If he’s not setting the pace, I expect him to finish 15th.

16. Shagaf: The Wood Memorial exposed him and the jockey change is merely a last-ditch effort to try something that works. It ain’t happening.

Mor Spirit Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby
Mor Spirit at Churchill Downs. (Eclipse Sportswire)

17. Mor Spirit: Here’s a really good horse with a really good jockey in a crappy post. It looks as if he just doesn’t quite have enough, having lost to Danzing Candy and Exaggerator, but I think he’s a factor either way.

18. Majesto: Mohaymen was clearly not his best at Gulftsream, which allowed this guy to steal a distant second at the Florida Derby. That got him enough points to be here. But everyone won’t have an off day on Saturday.

19. Brody’s Cause: He is the race’s biggest wild card. I really don’t like getting behind a horse with major clunkers on his résumé — he was non-competitive in the Tampa Bay Derby. But his last go proved what caliber he is, sweeping around to win the Blue Grass Stakes. I’m interested to see how jockey Luis Saez plays it out of the gate and where he tries to get him placed by the first turn.

20. Danzing Candy: He’s probably the best speed horse compared with Nyquist. But he likes to be a front-runner and that is a tough ask from the outside post. So, where is he when they hit the backstretch and will he have expended too much energy to overcome whatever he decided to do at the start? I trust Mike Smith to do the best he can, but the circumstances seems like they’ll be too much to overcome.

The Pick: I’m not taking Nyquist — and not because I don’t think he’s the best horse — I just don’t think the separation is enough to warrant taking the favorite. Gun Runner, Exaggerator and Mohaymen come with 8-1 or better prices and each of them is capable of winning. My gut says take Mohaymen, because you’ll never get a horse of that caliber for that kind of price, ever.

The Full Milty: trifecta box — Creator, Mo Tom, Gun Runner, Destin, Exaggerator, Nyquist, Mohaymen, Brody’s Cause

$2-million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands
Saturday, Churchill Downs, Race 12, 6:34 p.m. ET
1 1/4 miles, dirt, 3-year-olds








Trojan Nation

Aaron Gryder

Patrick Gallagher

Julie Gilbert and Aaron Sones




Luis Quinonez

Donnie Von Hemel

Samuel Henderson




Ricardo Santana Jr.

Steve Asmussen

WinStar Farm



Mo Tom

Corey Lanerie

Tom Amoss

G M B Racing



Gun Runner

Florent Geroux

Steve Asmussen

Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm



My Man Sam

Irad Ortiz Jr.

Chad Brown

Sheep Pond Partners, Newport Stables and Jay Bligh



Oscar Nominated

Julien Leparoux

Mike Maker

Ken and Sarah Ramsey




Yutaka Take

Mikio Matsunaga

Yoko Maeda




Javier Castellano

Todd Pletcher

Twin Creeks Racing Stables and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners




Victor Espinoza

Ron Moquett

Robert LaPenta, Harry Rosenblum and Southern Springs Stables




Kent Desormeaux

Keith Desormeaux

Big Chief Racing, Head of Plains Partners, Rocker O Ranch, et al.



Tom’s Ready

Brian Hernandez Jr.

Dallas Stewart

G M B Racing




Mario Gutierrez

Doug O’Neill

Reddam Racing




Junior Alvarado

Kiaran McLaughlin

Shadwell Stable




John Velazquez

Todd Pletcher

Repole Stable




Joel Rosario

Chad Brown

Shadwell Stable



Mor Spirit

Gary Stevens

Bob Baffert

Michael Lund Petersen




Emisael Jaramillo

Gustavo Delgado

Grupo 7C Racing Stable



Brody’s Cause

Luis Saez

Dale Romans

Albaugh Family Stable



Danzing Candy

Mike Smith

Clifford W. Sise Jr.

Halo Farms, Bashor, Jim and Dianne Bashor




Cornelio Velasquez

Eric Guillot

McCormick Racing and Southern Equine Stable



Cherry Wine

Robby Albarado

Dale Romans

William Pacella and Frank L. Jones Jr.


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