In desperate times, you seek inspiration wherever you can find it.
I took a stroll of the Churchill Downs grounds at about 3:30 in the afternoon on Friday.
Actually, “stroll” isn’t quite how it happened.
With a pinked-out crowd of over 100,000 here for Kentucky Oaks Day, you don’t stroll anywhere, you weave and stop, cut left, cut right, dodge and slip sideways through tight, ever-shifting gaps.
There’s nothing linear about Oaks Day.
So it’s appropriate that there’s nothing linear about my Kentucky Derby superfecta thought process, which began, quite literally, with a look up at the massive, puffy white clouds, which were so stationary as to be tied to a hitching post.
Only the horses were moving quickly.
I’m supposed to pick the top four finishers in today’s 137th Kentucky Derby, and the assignment wasn’t made much easier by the scratch of Uncle Mo, other than to say that I really had no idea what to do with him, anyway.
Here’s a bunch of throwouts for the top spot: Brilliant Speed, Twice the Appeal, Decisive Moment, Comma to the Top, Pants On Fire, Derby Kitten, Twinspired, Master of Hounds, Santiva, Animal Kingdom, Watch Me Go.
We’ll start with the show horse, for which I will go with Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude, who is quickly improving for Bob Baffert.
I hate to do this, but Nick Zito gets his heart broken again, as Dialed In finishes second.
There is so much to like about Dialed In that I nearly talked myself into picking him just by default.
The burst and tenacity he showed in the stretch of the Holy Bull and Florida Derby leads you to believe that all he needs to do is get some kind of decent striking position coming off the turn, and he gets home.
I’d be willing to wager that he’ll encounter enough traffic in a 19-horse field, though, that the early stages of the race will provide some pitfalls that will compromise him later. Barely.
And, man, would that be a tough beat for Nick Zito for the second year in a row.
But I’m going to go with the Steve Asmussen-trained Nehro for the top spot.
It’s a little troubling that he had to beat so many horses to get up for second by a neck to Archarcharch in the Arkansas Derby, but going one race back to the Louisiana Derby, he had an identical result — to Pants On Fire — but remained closer to a slower pace throughout.
I don’t expect there to be much pace today, and he can head over from the 18 post, with Soldat one stall inside of him, and get just behind the front-runners heading into the first turn.
Soldat sort of falls in the same category, and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin isn’t worried about the kickback effect at Churchill, but Nehro has a better distance sire, Mineshaft. Corey Nakatani is 0-for-14 in the Derby, never having finished better than fourth, but that still counts as experience in the race, right?
For the fourth spot, I will feed you some really convoluted logic, as befits my excursion through Churchill.
Think pink, and Blind Luck.
The Alabama winner blazed home from the back of the field in her characteristic move, in her characteristic hot pink silks, to win the La Troienne Friday.
La Troienne’s dam was Helene de Troie. Troy.
Troy native Rusty Brown owns a part of Twice the Appeal.
Twice the Appeal comes in fourth in the Derby.
See, I told you.