Andy Serling has been playing the horses for almost his entire life, and is currently the co-host of NYRA Live. To follow Andy on Twitter, click here.
The loss of Eskendereya to this year's KY Derby is a significant blow not only to the race but to the game in general. I like to see extremely talented horses win big races. I shudder to think of last year's Derby if Mine That Bird hadn't run....and Pioneer of the Nile had won the Derby. We would have had perhaps the slowest Derby ever (I shudder to think of the ensuing mind numbing criticisms of Beyer when he gave the race the 95 it would have deserved) resulting in a storm of ill-informed praise for a relatively subpar horse and field. Had Eskendereya remained sound, we likely would have seen the deserved coronation of a horse considerably better than his crop. But, the field is what it is (one with only three horses to have earned triple digit Beyer speed figures and none of those over 100) and it will still be interesting to see just how fast the pace is and who, if anyone, can survive being even close to it.
To me, Sidney's Candy is the best horse in the race. However, he is also a speed horse, and taking a relatively short price hoping he can successfully rate at 1 1/4 miles is a poor betting proposition. He will be on all my multi-race tickets but I simply cannot fully endorse him to win the race. Lookin at Lucky certainly can win the race but I also have trouble taking a short price on a horse that has never run a particularly fast race, and in relative terms is not necessarily faster than many of his rivals. However, he will get the kind of pace he needs, and it's hard to knock a horse that finds the wire as readily as he seems to. I do not, however, like many people, believe his Rebel was a terrific trouble filled victory. I thought his steady was minor and he was simply the final mover in a race where everyone else probably moved too soon. But, for a first race of the year, and his only start on dirt, it was surely at least a very good effort, and he makes a great deal of sense in this year's Derby. But, should he really be 4:1ish? I don't think so and thus can't endorse him. Then there is the deepest closer, Ice Box, another horse whose overall quality is still very much in question. In his only big win he took advantage of a supersonic pace and still didn't run a particularly " fast " race, so to speak. But, he did run fast enough to win this Derby, and he also looks like a horse who could be improving. Given his likely odds of closer to 10:1, I will hope that the pace collapses and he is the one running strongest at the end. I just don't particularly like anyone else.
Noble's Promise could be an interesting longshot. He has consistently run well prior to his last race and considering his relatively close finishes to Lookin at Lucky, he feels OK at five times the price. However, his last was not good, even with some trouble at the start, and his ability to negotiate the distance is greatly in question (despite his trainer suggesting he could run in the Epsom Derby in five weeks). But, I can't find any other prices I particularly fancy, thus I'll stick with him as a possible use at a price.
I do not like Awesome Act. He looks to me like an overaggressive " puller " that may very well have distance limitations. I don't see him being able to make his effective burst at the most opportune time, and likely will make it prematurely, and get swallowed up even if he should be a contender at some point. However,I could throw a few bucks on him for the BC Mile Turf if someone wants to give me 50:1 right now. As for the filly, Devil May Care, I like her very much as a horse, and perhaps she can win here, but being that she wasn't particularly pointed for this race until a few minutes ago, I have trouble endorsing her. I could probably write more coherently about why she can win this race than not, but I just don't like her chances. One impressive win, in two starts this year, against the distance challenged Amen Hallelujah (and nothing else) does not give me great encouragement for her to negotiate this 20 horse field...regardless of the overall dearth of high level talent.
Having said all that, I kind of want Sidney's Candy to win, because I think if any member of this field has a chance to, at least somewhat, fill the very empty shoes of Eskendereya, it is he.....and when everything is said and done all I really want is the best horse to win this race....and hope that " best horse " is more than just better than his competition on this given day.