These three horses have earned their respect, they have earned their way to the top, but just because they are on top of a bunch of lists does not make them a lock. Everyone knows that there is no such thing as a lock in racing, unless your watching Zenyatta. Everyone also knows that there is one race, where the word, lock shouldn't even be brought up, and that would be the ever so daunting Kentucky Derby.
No matter how talented, no matter how powerful, to win against a field of twenty of America's finest three year olds, one has to not only be talented, but lucky as well. Because of this, the Derby is a prime opportunity, to beat the favorites. That is where the Derby Dark Horses come to play. Now you are asking yourself, what the heck is a "Derby Dark Horse?" Well, they are those horses that have the talent, but maybe do not shine as brightly as the stars whose light shines so brightly, it blinds fans to their presence. This year, I have two Derby Dark Horses, the little engine that could, Jackson Bend, and Illinois Derby winner American Lion.
I know American Lion just won his last race, a race which dispelled any notion that he may be a lesser horse over dirt, but, there are those who still have their doubts. I personally think the Derby is a perfect race for him to strut his stuff. His pedigree screams CLASSIC and it screams DIRT, so it is no surprise to me, why he gave less than his best when running over the brown turf, Pro-Ride, at Santa Anita. When switched to the Hawthorn dirt, American Lion proved exactly why he was so highly regarded at the beginning of the season. He battled back with Gotham runner up, Yawanna Twist, then seemed to get a second wind in the final seconds of the race.In the Derby, he will be one of the pace pressers. He possesses an abundance of speed, but unlike some in the Derby, he has proven that he will rate. This allows him to be within striking distance of the leaders, but not to close to a, likely, very quick pace. American Lion has also shown that he is not one that likes to be passed once he makes the lead. He and Yawanna Twist were eye to eye for most of the Hawthorn stretch, before American Lion found that other gear that allowed him to shake loose of Yawanna Twist. Add all this together and you have a horse that has a very good shot of upsetting the big three.
In previous posts I have discussed, why exactly I feel Jackson Bend would be capable of pulling an upset. To keep it short, I will summarize what I have said previously. For one, his trainer is know as the Giant Killer. Nick Zito has taken down the likes of Big Brown and Smarty Jones, both times, ending dreams of a Triple Crown. Calvin Borel, could also end up being the jockey for Jackson Bend, should he choose him over the highly touted Super Saver. If Borel should choose Jackson Bend, the gutsy little colt would have the master of Churchill Downs and Nick Zito, in his corner. Remember, it was just last year when Calvin rode the little plain brown gelding, Mine That Bird to a 50-1 upset in the Derby.
Jackson Bend himself, is not half bad. In eight starts he has four wins and four seconds. This year he has played the bridesmaid in all three of his starts, being beaten by the brilliant Winslow Homer and the powerful Eskendereya. If there is a horse that deserves to win the Kentucky Derby it is him. He goes out on the track and give 110% every single time. If there is a horse capable of grinding it out against the big boys and taking advantage of others bad luck, it is Jackson Bend.
So there you go, my Derby Dark horses. Those with all the talent in the world, but who garner no respect. That lack of respect could prove costly to those who doubt these two talented colt come Derby Day.