The Kentucky Derby is Saturday and the Rangers lost Game 1 of the quarterfinals to the Capitals 3-1. Those two things make a perfect storm for an email exchange with WFAN producer Brian Monzo as we head into a wild weekend in sports. So I bothered Monzo for his thoughts on who he likes in this year’s Derby and what happened on Thursday night in Washington.
Keefe: I have been waiting for you to pay the invoice I sent you on the money you owe me for telling me to pick Alpha in the 2012 Kentucky Derby without even a mention of I’ll Have Another, but since that money will never arrive, I have decided to bother you about this year’s Derby instead. But just so you know, my little sister told me to pick I’ll Have Another. My little sister. And here you are, the expert who loves TVG more than hockey missing out on a 15-to-1 horse.
You have been feeding me Derby information for a few days now, but when it comes down to it in a race this unpredictable, it’s all about the name. Right now I can tell you Itsmyluckyday (10-to-1 on Sportsbook) and Will Take Charge (25-to-1 on Sportsbook) are two names that stand out to me.
I know you’re all about Revolutionary (5-to-1 on Sportsbook) because you have been telling me so all week, so tell me why Revolutionary isn’t going to be this year’s Alpha.
Monzo: You bring up some great points. Regarding Alpha, it should be noted that he went out to win the Jim Dandy and the Travers at Saratoga last summer, but yes, he didn’t run well in the Kentucky Derby. Yes, you did approach me before the race and asked about I’ll Have Another. Good job by your little sister.
Anyway, this is a really tough race to handicap. This class of horses is good, not great and trying to find the best of “good” horses is pretty tough. When I look at this race, with these horses, the way I handicap the race is by places the horses where they will go in the race and envision how the race will go.
When all is said and done, I’ve decided to go with Revolutionary as my top pick, with many horses very close.
Revolutionary is trained by Todd Pletcher and is coming off an impressive win in the Louisiana Derby. What I liked about that race was that he came off the pace and fought off a late challenge from Mylute, another horse he’ll face in the Derby. That race showed me that this horse doesn’t back down from challenges and isn’t afraid of other horses. He looked like he was going to get beat and he beared down and held for the win. Some horses will buckle and let another horse take it. He didn’t.
He drew the third post for the Derby, which isn’t great, but not awful. It should allow him to get to a position in the race he’s comfortable with. If he runs to the lead, throw your ticket out. If he stays within five to six lengths of the lead, no matter how quick or slow the pace is, he should find himself in a position to run down the leaders down the stretch. My guess is he goes off at 9-1. (He’s currently 5-to-1 on Sportsbook.)
I also love the fact that he has Calvin Borel on him. Like Borel or not, he’s a big race rider and his history in the Kentucky Derby is solid. His win with Street Sense was one of the best rides in Kentucky Derby history.
Orb is another horse I expect to run well. He closed well in the Florida Derby and will likely be the post time favorite on Saturday. Verrazano, another Pletcher horse, will be going to the lead and even though he’s undefeated, this is a tough race to hold with speed.
Since the two horses you mentioned were Itsmyluckyday and Will Take Charge, I’ll give you my thoughts on them.
I didn’t love how Itsmyluckyday ran in the Florida Derby. It was a slow race and Orb blew right by him.
Will Take Charge has been on my radar since February. His wins in the Smarty Jones and the Rebel really caught my eye. He doesn’t have a ton of speed, but if he can stay four lengths from the lead, I can see him tracking down the leaders in the final 100 yards. He is 3-for-7. He likes to win and I think he’ll go off at 30-1. I’m not making him my top choice, but I will play a small amount on him to win and will have him on many trifecta tickets.
Keefe: You mentioned Orb and how well he did at the Florida Derby and Verrazano and how he’s undefeated. Orb along with Verrazano are currently the two favorites on Sportsbook.
Last year everyone was all over Bodemeister and it was pretty much a given that he would win and it looked like he would before I’ll Have Another came out of nowhere to take the Derby. And last year it was Bodemeister and Union Rags getting all the attention before the Derby and now it seems like Orb and Verrazano should be garnering the same attention with the Derby so close on the calendar.
Why aren’t these two horses getting as much attention despite being the favorites? Why is the class of horses only “good” and not “great?” And what’s the difference between this year’s Derby and last year?
Monzo: That’s the thing though and the beauty of the Derby. A horse at 9-to-2 or 5-to-1 could be the favorite. There are now 19 horses in the race with Black Onyx scratching out on Friday morning. I’d say 14 of the 19 have a shot to win. It’s mostly about having the best trip and not being the best horse to win. Last year Bodemeister was the best horse to run, as was Went The Day Well. I’ll Have Another had a perfect trip and was able to catch Bodemeister late.
Orb is a good horse and has won 4-of 7, but I worry that his last race was too slow. He has a good closing kick and should be there when the dust settles, but I will put on my exotics tickets, not as a winner.
Verrazano is a speed horse who has run really well. He is undefeated, going 4-for-4, but running a 1 1/4 miles is a tough thing to do, especially running to the lead. Bodemeister ran as good as anyone on the lead, but couldn’t hold it. I don’t think Verrazano will win, but has a good shot of holding onto a top four spot, which is why I’m leaving him on my superfecta tickets.
There isn’t one horse that is that much better then the rest of the field. Also, not of these horses has run an epic eye opening race. Some very good races (Revolutionary in the Withers, Orb in the Florida Derby, Verrazano in the Wood), but none were extraordinary.
I’m not sure there’s much of a difference from last year. One thing that’s different if Bob Baffert, who trained Bodemeister and is a legendary trainer has no horses in the race. Todd Pletcher has five horses in the race, which is pretty crazy.
Will Take Charge is my value horse. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas with veteran jockey Jon Court on the mount, Will Take Charge has the winning instinct to pull off an upset here. He won the Rebel in March and Smarty Jones in January, as well as his maiden race in October at Keeneland. To me, the win in the Rebel showed this horse’s ability to have enough left in the tank late to chase down leaders. I don’t think he has the talent to come back from 16 lengths to win, but if he can stay four to five lengths wide throughout the race and can find a way to be two lengths off with 200 yards to go, he’ll have a fighting chance. He should carry a huge price tag too, maybe close to 30-to-1, which is a huge value play.
Revolutionary is my top pick, however. I just think the race will open up for him late. Book it.
Keefe: OK, I’m booking it. Let’s hope this goes better than it did a year ago. Now let’s talk about what happened on Thursday night in Washington.
Some people stupidly want to blame Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers’ Game 1 loss, which to me is as ridiculous as it has been to blame any loss on him during his tenure with the Rangers. I blame the Rangers’ inability to score and their lack of discipline.
The Rangers entered the series with two goals: 1. Contain Alexander Ovechkin and 2. Limit the Capitals power-play opportunities. In Game 1, Ovechkin tied the game at 1 and the Rangers took six penalties against the Capitals, including a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty just 34 seconds into the game. So much for accomplishing those two goals. And on top of those problems, I’m not sure what Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi were doing on the Capitals’ second goal when they let a full-ice pass split them for a Marcus Johansson breakaway goal.
I picked the Rangers in 5 and that pick is as good as done because after what we saw in Game 1 this Capitals team is much different than the team the Rangers narrowly beat in seven games a year ago and it’s barely the same Capitals team we saw last against the Rangers on March 24. The Rangers aren’t going to win four games in a row, so I’m OK with my pick being wrong. Let’s just hope they can win four games at all.
Monzo: Blaming Lundqvist is stupid. Like I said on Twitter, if he was the Penguins goalie they would go 82-0 and sweep every playoff series. He gets little goal support in the playoffs.
I took the Rangers in 5 as well and I’m content with that not happening now. I actually took some good things from the game. Carl Hagelin looked good and Chris Kreider looked good and Steve Eminger actually played physical.
I also think Ryane Clowe was missed because of the space he creates in the offensive zone. I think even the great Brian Boyle could be an asset here with his big body. And I noticed the Rangers often pass way too much, but when they shoot, they miss the net. (Brad Richards!) The Rangers need to fire more shots on Braden Holtby. He gives up a ton of rebounds and if they crash the net, they should be able to bang a few pucks in.
They need to improve on hitting the net and crashing the net. They also need to stay disciplined and not take penalties. They PK is good enough to hold off the Caps, but they can’t be giving the Caps six power players a game.
Rangers in 6.