Here’s the individual ballots.
I want to thank the Derby Dozen panelists for lending their thoughts and wisdom.
As for my top pick, it WAS Black Onyx. Why Black Onyx? I could give a reasoned analysis involving form cycles, pace scenario, running style, pedigree, track biases, etc., but those are just meaningless details at this point. You could effectively make an argument for, or against, any of the 20 horses entered in the race; which leads me to quote the legendary Billy Goldman, “Nobody knows anything.” Meaning, until the race is run, all we have are opinions, be they educated and rational or not (by the way, Billy was specifically referring to Hollywood’s ability to predict box office success, but it applies to horse racing quite nicely).
The true inspiration for selecting Black Onyx occurred several weeks ago at approximately 6:30 am on a routine weekday while sitting on the can (where I typically do my best thinking). Mulling over the Derby hopefuls in my mind and feeling somewhat glum by a lack of enthusiasm for any particular contender. Not a single horse appeared to have any greater chance to win than any of the others.
That’s when it hit me. A little voice in my head whispered, “Why not Black Onyx?” Hmmm . . . . , Black Onyx? Sure, sure . . . . why not Black Onyx I thought to myself. He gutted me in a turf allowance at Gulfstream when I had the top four finishers in my trifecta, all except the winner Black Onyx. Having learned a lesson, I make a few bucks off him in the Spiral, but wasn’t awestruck by the performance.
I went back and watched his races again. He wasn’t flashy and imposing like Animal Kingdom whose last-to-first romp in the 2011 Spiral marked him an obvious Derby play. In contrast, Black Onyx’s win in the Spiral was uneventful; you could even describe it as somewhat business-like. But that’s what I liked most as I reviewed his other races; there was a distinctive “professionalism” about him. He always broke well from the gate and liked to be forwardly placed, but never rank and uncontrollable. He knew how to win (being 3 for 5 lifetime) and didn’t need to bring his track with him (wins over dirt, turf, and synthetic at 3 different tracks). Moving to Kelly Breen’s barn and training at Palm Meadows instead of on Gulfstream Park’s main track caused noticeable improvement. And he’s by a grade 1 winning sire at 10 furlongs (Rock Hard Ten). He just might be a diamond in the rough.
But there I go trying to make his case. I won’t bullshit you, what convinced me was that little voice in my head. Much like Tom Selleck’s character in Magnum P.I., I’ve learned over the years to heed that voice. Sure that little voice will occasionally tell me to crack a bag of Funyuns for an afternoon snack, but when it comes to horses, it demands my attention.
And if it were not for that little voice whispering “Black Onyx,” then which horse do I like to win? None of them; and by that I mean, any of them.
But then Wednesday’s post-position draw happened . . . and Black Onyx drew the 1 hole. In 20-horse Derby fields, it’s nearly impossible to win from post position 1; at least it hasn’t happened yet. The reason is a matter of geometry as the horses from outside posts must angle over from the starting gate in a mad dash to the first turn. Invariably, horses drawn to the inside, unless they engage in an all-out sprint to the gate, get crushed by this wall of charging horseflesh. As Rob (aka Amatuercapper) told me via email, Black Onyx figures to get the Lookin At Lucky nightmare trip, except he isn’t as good. Contender ArchArchArch had the same bad trip in 2011 and came out of it with an injury.
He’s 50-1 and will need a miracle to win. It could happen because anything can happen. But only fools and zealots bet on miracles.
So what’s “plan B”?
Well, this morning I patiently waited for that little voice and . . . crickets.
Here’s the dozen:
The WirePlayers blog is fueled by Liege waffles, Ardbeg, and 50 cent Pick 4s. But it’s these fine individuals who provide the brain power behind the Derby Dozen:
Brian Zipse from Horse Racing Nation
Rob from Amateurcapper
Geno from EquiSpace
Tony Bada Bing from A Leg Up