Early KY Derby forecast: Toss The Pamplemousse and favor Pioneerof the Nile, Quality Road and Imperial Council

homeOf the 23 colts listed in this year’s second pari-mutuel Kentucky Derby future book pool, the two most likely to win at Churchill Downs on May 2 are Quality Road and Pioneerof the Nile.

Quality Road’s 4-1/4 length win in Gulfstream Park’s Fountain of Youth on Feb. 28 earned him a 113 Beyer Speed Figure, which ties for the highest Beyer with I Want Revenge’s Gotham Stakes performance. Both of these horses sat within a length of the leader then drew off in the stretch, leading some handicappers to believe they ran the same type of race.

But I don’t agree.  

Quality Road stalked the pace in the one mile Fountain of Youth Stakes that was run in a quick 45-2/5 seconds for the half mile and 1:09-2/5 seconds for 6 furlongs. In the March 7 Gotham Stakes, I Want Revenge crawled in comparison.

The 1-1/16th mile Gotham fractions were 48-2/5 seconds for the half and 1:12-3/5 seconds for 6 furlongs. According to my pace numbers, which take track variant into consideration, Quality Road ran 10 lengths faster early than I Want Revenge.

Yes, the Fountain of Youth was run at one turn, while the Gotham Stakes was two turns, but that shouldn’t account for a 10-length pace difference.  

Of course, I Want Revenge finished faster than Quality Road, but he had an almost ideal scenario of an extremely slow early pace with no traffic to fight through. So, since I Want Revenge didn’t exert himself early, he had plenty of punch left for the stretch.

I Want Revenge, who is trained by Jeff Mullins, is obviously talented, but I can virtually guarantee you that this horse won’t experience such a soft pace again until The Belmont Stakes in June. Quality Road was much more impressive, but trainer James Jerkens needs to continue working to harness this contender’s brilliant speed or else he’ll die in the Churchill Downs stretch.

Pioneerof the Nile, trained by Bob Baffert, has never cracked 100 on the Beyer scale, but his stretch kick in the Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7 stamped him as a strong Derby contender. He’s scheduled to run against a small field in the 1-1/16th mile San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday. 

The only knock on Pioneerof the Nile is that he also went slow early in the Lewis Stakes, but he is not a front runner. Rather, this colt sat far off the pace and overcame a troubled trip.

Kentucky Derby pari-mutuel betting is open through Sunday afternoon when the pools close and odds are locked in. This is the second of three Derby pools and Churchill Downs is also offering both Derby exacta betting and Kentucky Oaks wagering this weekend.  

One of this year’s overly-hyped colts who does not look like a strong Derby horse to me is The Pamplemousse. This Julio Canani trainee won 1-1/8 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 28, but was loose on the lead and went six lengths slower than Quality Road through the first six furlongs. The Pamplemousse, who earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure, set an OK pace considering the Sham is two turns, but his finishing time showed that he is not yet Derby material. This horse will need to run much better next time to get my money on Derby Day.

Lastly, Imperial Council moved from eighth place to second in the Gotham Stakes, but didn’t gain any ground on I Want Revenge. However, trainer Shug McGaughey has this colt going in the right direction and his Gotham effort shows that Imperial Council has the ability to run well at the Triple Crown distances.

It is true that any of these colts could get injured at any time and be pulled from the Derby. So getting decent odds to cover the risk is essential.

Anything over 10-to-1 on #17 Pioneerof the Nile seems fair. While I would need 15/1 on both #13 Imperial Council and #18 Quality Road for a bet.

As for The Pamplemousse, throw him out until he shows that he can win while leading on a fast pace that is combined with a strong finishing kick.

4 Responses to “Early KY Derby forecast: Toss The Pamplemousse and favor Pioneerof the Nile, Quality Road and Imperial Council”

  1. dirtyshirt Says:

    I believe you are sadly mistaken about the Pamplemousse. Since being stretched out he’s never been challenged. He’s still getting better, but Solis never touches him. I believe he’ll win the SA Derby by 5.

    Full Disclosure: I have a decent size future bet on him @ 29-1

  2. Amateurcapper Says:

    Interesting post.

    I’d love for you to be right about PIONEEROF THE NILE because that means I cash my future wager on him at 13-1. He’ll surely be 8-1 or less after he wins the San Felipe this weekend. One concern…with his style, post and trip are very important. I’ll pray he draws and runs the Derby like BAFFERT’s REAL QUIET back in 1998.

    QUALITY ROAD was super-impressive in his FOY win. However, I believe that you cannot compare his fractions to what I WANT REVENGE ran going two turns. QR was an “X” factor in the FOY for me and he did what he was capable of. How far does he want to run? He will be ultra-tough in the Florida Derby but now carries a big bullseye on his back off that win.

    I’m not underestimating I WANT REVENGE who can rate and finish. He’s not the “front-runner” you think he is, just the pace of the Gotham was so slow TALAMO found himself pressing the pace. Look back to his Hollywood Futurity 2nd by a nose from off the pace. Also, he was either a bit short in the Robert B. Lewis or he just lost focus after getting the lead in his first race w/ blinkers. His daylight Gotham win certainly flattered PIONEER and PAPA CLEM. What may get him beaten next out is the West-East-West ship for the Gotham, then he will ship East again for the Wood. Too much travel. Mullins was not able to leave him in NY as planned due to his staff not being licensed there.

    As for THE PAMPLEMOUSSE, his breeding may get to him in the Derby. The pace is usually hot if the track is fast. However, as SMARTY JONES did in ’04, he will relish an off track which will offset his breeding. THE P’s fate on any track will depend on what other speed shows up (QR, PAPA CLEM, OLD FASHIONED, SILVER CITY, HELLO BROADWAY, and or FLYING PEGASUS). This weekend will shed more light on the possible pace situation.

  3. EF Says:

    Sorry – I do not get why you say The Pamplemousse was not fast enough in the Sham Stakes He set a new record for that race. 1:47 something. A rather nice time.

  4. maidenking Says:

    He’s definitely a good horse. But the competition will be stiff at Churchill Downs and he’ll likely need to run faster in the stretch in order to win the Kentucky Derby.

    I am not saying that he can’t do it. But unless he improves in the SA Derby, then I’m not going to bet him at Churchill Downs.

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