Algorithms Is Now Leading On Road To Kentucky Derby

A week ago readers of this corner read about Algorithms, an unbeaten star on the road to Kentucky Derby 138 for an ownership group with strong Louisville connections.

Just a week later, there is strong evidence that Algorithms is the leader on that road with fewer than 90 days remaining until the first Saturday in May.

The 2012 Kentucky Derby Future Wager opens its three-day run on Friday and oddsmaker Mike Battaglia, the man who has set the morning line odds for the Kentucky Derby since the late 1970s, has installed Algorithms as the favored individual horse in the bet’s field of 24 wagering interests.

Algorithms won for the third time in as many races with a flash romp over a sloppy track in the Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 29 at Florida’s Gulfstream Park.

In doing so the son of Bernardini handed reigning 2-year-old champion Hansen the first loss of his four-race career and he racked up a flashy Beyer Speed Figure of 105 for his effort.

Now Battaglia has installed Algorithms as an 8-1 risk for the opening pool of the Kentucky Derby Future bet.

The actual 9-5 Future Wager favorite will be the mutuel field, which includes all 3-year-olds other than the 23 other individual horses in the pool.

“All others” has been favored in the opening pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager in each opening pool since the pari-mutuel future bet was created in 1999.

But the status as favored individual horse in the bet should have Algorithms owners beaming.

The colt runs for Starlight Partners, an ownership group headed by Louisville native Jack Wolf.  Starlight also includes Louisville attorney and civic leader Ed Glasscock and his son, Clint.

The journey to Louisville is arduous and there is an extraordinarily long way to go before the winner reaches the finish line in the early evening of Saturday, May 5 at Churchill Downs.  But one could not fault the partners for being very excited.

Algorithms must prove his worthiness for a Kentucky Derby bid on the track, but the backers of most of the other 3-year-old Thoroughbreds who are working out journeys for the Derby and its demanding mile and a quarter distance would like to be sitting where Wolf and the Glasscocks are now.

The victory in the Holy Bull was a star-making performance by Algorithms, who has won his three races at distances ranging from five furlongs to the Holy Bull’s one-turn mile.

Pletcher Has Four

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who has four of the individual horses listed among the Future Wager’s 24 betting interests in his barn, confirmed over the weekend that Algorithms’ next start would come in Gulfstream’s $400,000 Fountain of Youth on Feb. 26.  That 1 1/16-mile race, the track’s major prep for the $1 million Florida Derby on March 31, will be Algorithms’ first major test at a two-turn distance.

The Fountain of Youth looms as a quality check in many ways for Algorithms, as he is expected to face both Hansen, who will try to rebound from his loss in the Holy Bull, and Union Rags, whose narrow loss to Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall at Churchill Downs was the only setback of his 2-year-old campaign.

Debut For ‘Rags’

Union Rags, trained by Michael Matz of Barbaro fame, is scheduled to make his 2012 debut in that race.

Only two of the horses in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager are slated to run this weekend.  One, the Bob Baffert-trained Fed Biz, was entered in a Santa Anita allowance race on Feb. 9.

Another Derby Win?

Kaleem Shah’s son of Giant’s Causeway is coming off his first win in two races, but is well regarded by his trainer, who has won the Kentucky Derby three times.

The other is Ever So Lucky, the runner-up in last fall’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs who is set to run in the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream.

Augustin Stable’s son of Indian Charlie dazzled in his racing debut last fall at Churchill Downs and finished his brief 2-year-old campaign with his good finish behind unbeaten Gemologist.

Many observers are suspect of the offspring of the late Indian Charlie at the Derby’s 1¼-mile distance, but the colt is trained by steeplechase legend and Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard.

If Ever So Lucky makes it to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, one can bet that Sheppard will have him fit enough to run the Derby distance.

In fact, Sheppard will have him fit enough to run 2¼ miles.

The only question – and one that must be answered by all members of the expected 20-horse field in Derby 138 – is whether Ever So Lucky would be fast enough to get the job done.

Each horse mentioned in these lines is among the 298 horses nominated to the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown, which also includes the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

The nominations were released to the public last weekend and the nomination total is up more than nine percent from 2011.

A Triple Crown?

A jump of 10 percent in any category for most any business is reason to cheer these days.

The hope here is that the rise in nominations, combined with strong results in recent Thoroughbred sales and improvement in national wagering figures, can be taken as signs that the worst of the recent woes of the racing and breeding industries is in the rear-view mirror.

But there’s nothing that gets people more excited about racing than a terrific winner and a great story in the Kentucky Derby, and the hope of the end of a Triple Crown drought that now covers 33 years since Affirmed last won the three race series in 1978.

So let’s keep our fingers crossed.