Kentucky Derby could fall to Irish American challenger Dullahan this year
Dullahan our top pick, Went the Day Well to show, Daddy Longlegs outclassed
This year's Kentucky Derby has strong Irish interest, not least because Aidan O'Brien, Ireland's most successful trainer, is back again to try for the race.
The horse is Daddy Longlegs but his chances, already slim, seemed to evaporate when he drew the dreaded number one hole in the starting gate for Saturday. Colm O'Donoghue rides.
Since the race expanded to 20 runners the inside has not been the place to be as horses head over towards the rail and squeeze those on the fence.
For that reason Daddy Longlegs will find it tough going. Also, he trailed in 12th of 13 at Churchill in last year's Breeders Cup Juvenile. He has won on synthetic dirt since in Dubai but his chances appear to be very slim of springing the upset.
In contrast, Went the Day Well has a definite chance. He was bred by Mayo man Austin Delaney from New York and raced in England the early part of his career.
He is now trained by Englishman Graham Motion and will be ridden by last year's winning rider John Velasquez, who is son-in-law of Irish trainer Leo O'Brien.
Motion also trained Animal Kingdom, the horse Velasquez rode to victory last year and he is also owned by the same winning ownership of Team Valor.
Went the Day Well had a similar campaign to Animal Kingdom and won the Spiral Stakes at Turfway just as that horse did.
However, this year, by unanimous belief, this is a much more competitive and talented field than last year and Went the Day Well will have his work cut out.
The third Irish connection has a real chance. Dullahan, called after a mythic Celtic figure, is owned by Donegal Stables run by Iowa lawyer Jerry Crawford.
He races in the Donegal colors of green and gold but don't expect to see him in the first part of the race as he comes from way behind.
He has a huge shot, especially if, as expected, the race is run at a very rapid pace.
Dullahan has run well over the course, he finished a fast finishing fourth in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile last year. Last time out he came from way back to defeat one of the Derby favorites in Hansen in the Blue Grass at Keenland.
But is he a better horse on synthetic than dirt? That is a big question that will be answered this weekend.
My own belief is that Dullahan can win the race, that the pace will be suicidally fast with so many front runners and that he can come along late and pick up the pieces.
He also has Derby expert Kent Desormeaux in the saddle, bidding for his fourth Run for the Roses winner.
So it is Dullahan for me, win and show, and a show bet on Went the Day Well.
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