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Kentucky Derby Choice: Taiba will rise above its inexperience WGN Radio 720


Ah, the tradition of Derby Day in Kentucky. Mint juleps. Decorated hats. A garland of roses to be thrown at the winner. They were all part of the show at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May for decades.

A kind of new tradition has emerged: a feature.

The last three Derbies were not at all ordinary. Maximum Security crossed the border first and was disqualified for interfering in 2019. Thanks to the pandemic, the first Saturday in May became the first Saturday in September 2020. And in 2021, Medina Spirit won the race, coach Bob Buffert was later involved in another drug testing scandal: the horse died in December after training and was then deprived of victory in the Derby earlier this year.

Expect more of an unexpected Saturday at Churchill Downs when the Triple Crown season begins. And that’s why.

– Rule № 1: a horse that starts on a rail cannot win a derby.

There is something in this. No horse won the position of № 1 and did not prevail after Ferdinand in 1986. (No horse has won 1, 2 or 3 and won since Real Quiet in 1998.) This is troubling for horses that have such great movement, more than a dozen other massive animals trying to defeat them before the first turn. Inside-post-drawings horses often have nowhere to run at this point; the rail to their left, the faster horses ahead of them, those who tried and failed to run forward – to their right.

But Mo Donegal won the Wood Memorial from the railroad, releasing the field before the start and then finding better equipment than everyone else. He has to fly at the end.

– Rule № 2: Steve Asmussen cannot win the derby.

The numbers don’t lie: Asmussen sent 23 horses to Derby and never won. No coach has had more starting derbies without a win.

But Epicenter likes a lot, even though it starts with position 3 (see Rule 1). He broke his girlfriend at Churchill Downs, with four wins in his last five fights, and he would have been 5 to 5 if Lecomte’s bets in January had been about 5 feet shorter.

– Rule № 3: No horse with two career starts can win a derby.

If you’re at least 139 years old – we believe that’s not the case – you’ve never seen a horse with two career starts come to the Kentucky Derby and win. The 1883 derby was captured by a horse named Leanat, who, according to legend, took the term “running for roses” too literally because he ate a bunch of roses after the race.

This brings us to Taiba, who in his short career is 2 on 2 and wins the Santa Anita derby. Mike Smith in the saddle deserves attention. There should also be the fact that a few weeks ago Taibu was coached by Buffert. Buffert does not train horses in the Derby unless there is good reason to believe.

– Rule № 4: This year Buffert cannot win the Derby.

Buffert was disqualified from this derby (and in 2023 too) due to drug problems with Medina Spirit. He struggled with this in court, to no avail.

Tim Yaktin enters the story here. Yaktin is a former assistant to Baffert, and it was he who took over the training for Taiba and Messier – two horses with a serious chance of winning the Derby – when Baffert had to step aside.

So, no, Buffert can’t win. But Yaktin can very well.

– Rule № 5: past performances of jockeys in Derby do not matter.

Frankly, this is bullshit. Everyone is learning what all horses have done in their careers. And coaches get a lot of attention for their past successes or lack of success. Jockeys, for whatever reason, are not always included in this formula.

Flavian Pratt will be on board Zandon on Saturday. Pratt has been to Derby four previous times – and has been in the money in three of these cases, including (still under discussion) a victory aboard the Country House in 2019.

Zandon can be very, far away, even at the beginning of this race. Not perfect. But if anyone can figure it out, Pratt can.

– Rule № 6: Ignore the rules this year.

The depth of the contenders this year may be as good as the last. The favorites will probably be Taiba or Epicenter, and at worst the odds at the time of the announcement could be 4-1 or so.

Payouts will be excellent.

Derby on the wire derby are rare; for the last 20 years only Authentic (2020) has succeeded. Most of the winners approach the front relatively early, hang out, then press the gas pedal at the right time.

Monsieur and Mo Donegal will have to dig very deep to do so. The epicenter, if all goes well, will fly. Zandon is late.

But the choice is Taiba.

Inexperience is a factor, yes, but talent is undeniable. Smith is a legend. And Yaktin will reap the benefits of the fact that Baffert is not around.

Taiba, over the Epicenter and Zandon.


Other AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


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