#1 Hoppertunity (KY) – Even though he lost in his comeback race, I thought he ran really well. It was only seven furlongs, and he got behind to far early on to make up the ground on a track that is hard to make a closing run on. Ever since his victory in the Rebel I’ve been high on this horse, and I believe Baffert only ships horses when he’s highly confident they can get the job done. He was my Kentucky Derby pick before he scratched…so why not take a shot with him in the Clark?
#4 Departing (KY) – Lets be honest…2014 really hasn’t been the kind of year we all had in mind for Departing. After winning several smaller Derby’s in the 2013 we expected Departing to have a big year, but he’s won only one race (an optional clamier) in five starts. The good news is he’s been close to winning a Grade 1 and Grade 2, so there is some hope. Can’t make him my top selection based off his near misses as the favorite, but he should have every chance to get that elusive Grade 1 victory.
#6 Protonico (KY) – He’ll be characterized as the “other Pletcher” but this horse has been quietly good all year long. He’s coming into this one off a lifetime best speed number over the slop when he won the Discovery Handicap, and he’s won three of five starts since moving to the Pletcher barn. Will be a much higher price that Constitution and looks to have better form at the moment.
#7 Constitution (KY) – There is no doubting that last time out was disappointing for Constitution, but I think its a great sign that Pletcher is showing faith in him by putting him in this race. Pletcher wouldn’t show up with him here if something was wrong, so maybe he just needed that race last time out. We’ve seen what type of class he has when he’s right. I expect him to get on the front end and put in an improved effort.
#2 Prayer for Relief (KY) – This guy is the definition of a “War Horse.” In seemingly every big race Prayer for Relief shows up. He’s coming off a loss in the Breeders Cup Classic where he never was any kind of factor, but before that race he’s had a season where he’s been a factor in most of his races. The problem…he hasn’t gotten to the winners circle yet. I expect more of the same today for a horse that that has almost two million dollars in earnings!
#9 Pick of the Litter (KY) – Broke through last time out at Keeneland with a big Grade 2 victory in the Fayette so this is now the logical next step for him. He defeated a quality horse in Departing in that race, but was defeated soundly by Departing two races back over this surface. Certainly belongs in this spot, but don’t see him winning.
#5 Easter Gift (KY) – Had two really poor efforts this year before earning a nice allowance victory last time out. Last year he finished third in this race, getting defeated by two monsters. There aren’t any monsters in here today, and he could be rounding back into form. Wouldn’t completely toss him…
#3 Knights Nation (KY) – Not too many throw outs in this race…Knights Nation did put up a big effort last time, but all of his form before that shows he doesn’t have much of a shot. However, in his two tries on the dirt he’s won and finished third so he’s not the worst “throw out” I’ve ever seen.
#8 Looking Cool (KY) – Claimed last time out for 40k, but does have some back class that might help him out in here. Certainly not a bad horse, but a Grade 1 horse? I don’t think so.