Private clocker Gary Young has been watching horses train in Southern California for 35 years, betting on them, buying them and recommending them to others based both on his keen insight and eyesight.
In all that time, Young has rarely been as mesmerized by a 3-year-old about to run in the Kentucky Derby as he is with American Pharoah, the 5-2 morning line favorite who drew post position 18 in the 141st Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
“Pharoah, Pharoah, Pharoah,” Young repeated via phone from Kentucky when asked which of trainer Bob Baffert’s horses he thought was better, American Pharoah or the undefeated Santa Anita Derby winner, Dortmund, the 3-1 second choice on Mike Battaglia’s well-defined morning line. Dortmund drew post position eight.
“I love Dortmund as a horse,” Young said. “You have to admire his physique and everything else. I could see Baffert running one-two very easily, especially after the draw.
“Some of his key opposition like Carpe Diem didn’t get a good draw (No. 2 post). There was a lot of tension in the air when there were a lot of big names in the (entry) box and there weren’t that many good post positions left.
“But when Pharoah drew 18, that was awfully big. There’s no such thing as cinches, but barring anything unforeseen, this horse is going to be awful tough to beat.”
The last year two horses trained by the same man ran one-two in the Derby was 1948 when Jimmy Jones sent out Citation and Coaltown to run first and second.
In those days, they ran coupled as a wagering entry, a bet on one being a bet on both. They were sent off at 40 cents to the dollar.
While 5-2 on American Pharoah seems an obscenely generous price--a post time number of 8-5 or lower appears more realistic, with 5-2 a likely going-off number for Dortmund--the preponderance of action on the two Baffert trainees should present appealing overlays on the rest of the field for use in exotic wagers.
“Firing Line’s looked terrific here,” Young said of the 12-1 morning line chance who will be ridden by three-time Derby winner Gary Stevens. “The horse looked terrific galloping at Santa Anita every day. Frosted (15-1) looks OK. Bolo (30-1) has looked OK although the jury is still out on whether turf or dirt is his favorite surface.
“But when all’s said and done, the post position draw was the last bridge Baffert had to cross, and he did it. American Pharoah will be very, very, very tough to beat.
“I’ll leave it at that.”
In other Derby news:
If Dortmund wins, it would mark the third time in the last four years the winner of the Santa Anita Derby went on to capture the Run for the Roses, the others being I’ll Have Another in 2012 and eventual Horse of the Year California Chrome in 2014.
If Victor Espinoza wins the Derby on American Pharoah, he would become only the fifth jockey in history to take back-to-back runnings. The others were Isaac Murphy (1890-91), Jimmy Winkfield (1901-02), Ron Turcotte (1972-73) and Eddie Delahoussaye (1982-83).