Gun Runner holds off Foreveamo. (Photo by Fair Grounds)

Gun Runner holds off Foreveamo. (Photo by Fair Grounds)

The Kentucky Derby is on May 7 this year. What it means is that the Derby will take place 2 weeks from this Saturday. It’s time to start handicapping the race!

Too early, you say?  I don’t think so. It’s highly likely that the 20 horses listed in the point standings, with the exception of Cupid whom Bob Baffert has already declared from the race, will make it to the starting gate on the First Saturday in May. If 1 or 2 drop off, I’ll make adjustments.

Below, I go through the first 5 horses listed in the point standings. You can view the full list on the Kentucky Derby website.

Gun Runner, 150 points 

The Louisiana Derby winner is 3 out of 4 lifetime. Depending on what speed rating you use, he’s improved in every single one of his races with his Louisiana Derby win being the best race of his life. Jockey Florent Geroux has come into his own this year. Trainer Steve Asmussen is no stranger to Triple Crown races. He’s out of a Giant’s Causeway mare and was sired by Candy Ride. His turn of foot, displayed in the Louisiana Derby, is awfully impressive. Here’s another thing about Gun Runner that has to impress horseplayers:  he’s not afraid to run on the rail. That could pay huge dividends for him in the Kentucky Derby. If Geroux can get Gun Runner to the rail, Gun Runner could save ground. You have make him a contender to wear the roses on May 7.

Nyquist, 130 points

He’s undefeated in 7 lifetime races. Sure, he’s not bred to run 1 1/4 miles. But is any horse nowadays bred for the classic distance?  He’s a big horse sired by Uncle Mo who has more guts than any other three-year-old in the country. He can run on the lead or right off. His cruising speed is fantastic. Plus, he takes cues from the jockey like a veteran. The connections won the Kentucky Derby in 2012 with I’ll Have Another. Like that one, he’s been expertly handled by trainer Doug O’Neil. His professionalism gives jockey Mario Gutierrez a lot of options. I don’t see how you leave him out of the mix.

Exaggerator, 126 points

He’s got enough speed to keep it close. That’s what he did when losing by only 2 3/4 to Danzing Candy in the Grade 2 San Felipe. He showed the ability to explode along the backstretch and then keep going in the Santa Anita Derby. Trainer Keith Desormeaux is new to the Kentucky Derby after Texas Red failed to make it to the starting gate last year. Keith’s brother Kent Desormeaux has won the Kentucky Derby 3 times. Since he was sired by Curlin and is out of Dawn Raid, a Vindication mare, you have to think that this guy will have what it takes on the First Saturday in May.

Outwork, 120 points

His Wood Memorial win was as gutsy as it gets. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Outwork most certainly could improve on Kentucky Derby Day. But the problem is that he’s never rated behind horses. The presence of Danzing Candy, who knows only one way to go, means that Outwork is going to have to really outwork his competition in order to get to the finish line first. To me, he’s a throw out unless the expected pace of the Derby changes from now until May 7.

Brody’s Cause, 114 points

This guy has the connections and pedigree to win the Kentucky Derby. It doesn’t get much better than trainer Dale Romans and jockey Luis Saez. Giant’s Causeway is a monster of a stud horse. But I have issues with Brody’s Cause. I do think he can jump up and get into the trifecta. My problem is that he might be too far back in order to launch a winning bid. He also might be a Keeneland-only horse because that’s where he’s done his best running. Don’t get met wrong. If the race falls apart, he could definitely be this year’s Giacomo. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see Brody’s Cause going off at a Giacomo-like price. As it stands now, I have to play against.

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