Vekoma winning the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. II) - Keeneland Photo

Vekoma winning the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. II) – Keeneland Photo

Not a lot of love is flowing towards Bluegrass Stakes winner Vekoma and Wood Memorial runner-up Tax. Nobody’s talking about either horse having a shot to win the May 4 Kentucky Derby. That might be an issue because both appear well-suited for decent Derby runs.

First up? Vekoma. After making the case for and against Vekoma to win the Run for the Roses, we’ll turn our attention to the Danny Gargan trainee.

The Derby Case For & Against Vekoma and Tax

Derby Case for and against Vekoma

Making the Kentucky Derby case for Vekoma means coming to grips with, well, the way he runs.

Everybody talks about Vekoma’s stride. It’s not a classic horse’s stride, but it sure helps him motor quickly. He tracked a fast pace set by Somelikeithotbrown in the Bluegrass Stakes and then pulled away for the win. It was impressive for a couple of reasons.

He laid off Somelikeithotbrown before pulling away. Vekoma’s got enough natural speed to take the lead in almost any race he enters. He didn’t. Instead, he relaxed underneath jockey Javier Castellano and then took over when Javier asked him to.

He didn’t just take over, though. He pulled away from the competition. So, even though the naysayers will point to the Keeneland dirt playing fast that day, Vekoma dominated his rivals after running three-quarters in 1:11.55. Those are big time positives for this Candy Ride sired colt, which brings us to another positive, Candy Ride won the 1 ¼ mile Pacific Classic. Although Vekoma is a small horse, he most definitely should get the distance.

The main negative might be the strange stride. Vekoma looked like he could get the lead at the top of the stretch in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes. But in the stretch, he didn’t accelerate until the very end. It could be because he ducked in some in the stretch. He was all over the track in the Bluegrass Stakes. It could be inexperience, or it could be the odd stride naturally floats him left, requiring the jockey to straighten him out.

Whatever it is, unless he learns how to run straight, he’ll have a tough time winning the Derby. Luckily, George Weaver is in his corner. Even if he doesn’t win, his speed means he could have a say in the outcome.

Derby Case for and against Tax

Many horseplayers feel there’s no Kentucky Derby case to be made for the Danny Gargan trained Tax.

Tax is getting no attention. The Arch sired three-year-old has gotten knocked for sitting third behind front runners in the Wood and not holding off Tacitus. Although the statement most definitely holds water, it’s difficult to throw him out just because he couldn’t beat one of the Derby favorites.

Tacitus barely got by him and in the middle of the stretch, the two were on even terms. More importantly, Tacitus had the upper hand because he was to the outside of Tax. If Junior Alvarado had waited a bit longer before starting his run, maybe, he could have boxed in Tacitus. On the other hand, if Alvarado had started his run early, he might have gotten enough distance between himself and Tacitus.

There’s no one way to ride races, and Junior put the horse into a position to win, which makes it a good ride. The thing to really think about is that Tacitus got the same dream trip that Tax got. If you’re willing to bet on Tacitus to win, you must be willing to use Tax in the exotics if not put a small win bet on him at what should be around 30/1 odds.

As far as Vekoma’s concerned, anybody who bets on him to win is rolling the dice. It could pay off, though. Don’t let anyone talk you off Vekoma if you really like him.