2018 Kentucky Derby: Cooper Family Live Draft

It’s Derby Week! And, as usual, the Cooper Family is gearing up for another live draft.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

The Tradition

Welp. Another favorite ended up wearing the roses again in 2017.

The favorite has won every year I’ve posted about it. Granted, I’ve only been documenting things here since 2014, so the streak isn’t long but it’s a streak nonetheless, and three out of the four years was with the 1st overall pick…

  • 2014: California Chrome (Karlie – 1st)
  • 2015: American Pharoah (APC – 3rd)
  • 2016: Nyquist (Mom – 1st)
  • 2017: Always Dreaming (Quinten – 1st)

One could argue that Always Dreaming wasn’t the obvious favorite last year – he didn’t even open with the best odds on race day (Classic Empire was 4-1, while McCraken and Always Dreaming were co-second favorite at 5-1), but by the time betting closed, Always Dreaming had dropped to 9/2, which was ultimately the best. Truth is, if I’d had the top pick last year, I would’ve looked elsewhere, just like both Karlie and Mom did in 2015 when they let American Pharoah fall to me with the 3rd pick.

So sure, the favorite keeps winning, but there’s no telling who the true favorite even is sometimes, and there’s no guarantee the person picking 1st will even take the horse with the best odds. To quote Ned Ryerson: It’s all one big crapshoot anyhoo.

Quinten did take Always Dreaming first overall, and the horse did break well beating everyone inside him to the rail and that’s all she wrote. Well done, Q.

I finished surprisingly well with long shot closer Lookin at Lee finishing 2nd. I added him with my final pick at #18 and got lucky. Dad made the mistake of selecting the #17 horse, Irish War Cry, who finished 10th, which earned Dad the top pick in this year’s draft.

We do this every year, and these annual posts are mostly for my own documentation at this point. Maybe some of you enjoy them. Who knows.

Ok let’s look at this year’s group.

The Horses

Yes, the favorite keeps winning, but this year looks dicier. This year we get to talk about a CURSE!!

The Curse of Apollo.

Every horse in the Kentucky Derby is a 3-year old. It’s a requirement for the race. This means each racehorse has only run handful of competitive races up to this point. Most began racing as 2-year olds, but occasionally there’s a horse or two who arrived late to the track and never ran before turning 3.

In 1882, a horse named Apollo won the Kentucky Derby after only running as a 3-year old. Since then, 61 horses have tried to do the same not a single one of them has won. In 136 years…not a single one.

There have honestly been just a few who even came close. Of those 61 horses, just 3 finished 2nd (most recently – Bodemeister, 2012) and only 1 finished 3rd (Curlin, 2007), and the rest didn’t even make the podium.

So, the Curse of Apollo…is it real? Do you believe in curses? Because it’s about to be seriously tested as two of the top contenders never raced as a 2-year old: Justify (opened as the favorite at 3-1) and Magnum Moon (third favorite at 6-1).

Justify is 3 for 3 in prep races though, most notably a wire-to-wire win in the Santa Anita Derby. Likewise, Magnum Moon is 2 for 2 including a win at the Arkansas Derby.

Other top options include Mendelssohn (5-1) who dominated the UAE Derby by like 19 lengths (!!!), Bolt D’Oro (8-1) who was the closest to taking over Justify down the stretch in the Santa Anita, and Audible (8-1) winner of the Florida Derby, the race that has produced the most Kentucky Derby winners in recent years (last two, and 3 of the last 5). Going back even further, 11 of the last 14 Kentucky Derby winners won either the Arkansas, Florida, or Santa Anita.

And truth is, if that’s as far as you cared to research this thing, I totally get it. Lots of correlation there to bet on already.

But humor me. I’ve got more to say.

When I went back and watched all the major prep races, there was one only one moment that truly blew me away.

It happened in the Louisiana Derby, a race won by Noble Indy, but it wasn’t the winner who impressed me. It was My Boy Jack.

This horse is the ultimate closer, and I admit I’m a sucker for closers. It’s just so much more dramatic, and I think more impressive.

Ok look at this screenshot…

This is the first turn, fresh out of the gate. My Boy Jack is the one in the back just doinking around. He practically trots out of the gate.

Fast forward another half a mile around the far turn and let’s see what’s changed…

Nothing! See that horse head barely peeking into the frame? That’s our boy. This is entering the final turn. The race is over in another quarter mile and he’s barely in the picture!!

But then…

…like a ROCKET. Fwoooosh! Out of nowhere it’s like he’s in fast forward. In one turn he goes from entirely out of the picture to almost neck-and-neck with the leaders. How does he have that much gas in the tank?! I could easily be convinced that Jack is the most fit horse in this race.

Here’s the finishline:

That’s My Boy Jack in the middle of the picture farthest from the rail. A photo finish to show. Just missed it. The rest of the horses are a dozen lengths behind them.

If he had just closed that last little length, managed to find a hole to slip through instead of having to bounce way outside, then My Boy Jack likely comes into this weekend as one of the favorites. Instead he’s opening at a 30-1 underdog.

But do I think he’ll win? Maybe? A lot would have to break his way, but…maybe?

Let’s look at the full gate lineup and see how things look. I liked how I did it last year listing the running-style too, so you’ll see that along with the opening Vegas odds following the position draw Tuesday morning.

  1. Firenze Fire – Closer (50-1)
  2. Free Drop Fire – Closer (30-1)
  3. Promises Fulfilled – Pacesetter (30-1)
  4. Flameaway – Pace/Press (30-1)
  5. Audible – Stalk/Close (8-1)
  6. Good Magic – Stalker (12-1)
  7. Justify – Pacesetter (3-1)
  8. Lone Sailor – Closer (50-1)
  9. Hofburg – Stalk/Close (20-1)
  10. My Boy Jack – Closer (30-1)
  11. Bolt D’Oro – Stalker (8-1)
  12. Enticed – Stalker (30-1)
  13. Bravazo – Presser (50-1)
  14. Mendelssohn – Pace/Press (5-1)
  15. Instilled Regard – Stalk/Close (50-1)
  16. Magnum Moon – Pace/Press (6-1)
  17. Solomini – Stalker (30-1)
  18. Vino Rosso – Stalk/Close (12-1)
  19. Noble Indy – Press/Stalk (30-1)
  20. Combatant – Closer (50-1)

I could make a case for about half of these horses, and if I looked at most of them long enough I could convince myself they’re definitely going to win (see above re: My Boy Jack), but here’s what I see…

First, let’s talk about the early pace.

Promises Fulfilled and Justify will lead the pack early. Flameaway may be there too, but that name is so dumb it’s hard to think he’ll be relevant. Promises Fulfilled is the fastest sprinter in this race, and with two closers on the inside there’s no reason why he shouldn’t bolt out the gate and establish himself out front. Justify has a little more work to do as does Flameaway, but both should be right there. Promises Fulfilled doesn’t have the stamina to last beyond about the 3/4 mile mark, but Justify will hang around. If Justify is going to win, it’ll have to be wire to wire, and he’s going to have to use a lot of speed early to establish position.

All that to say, Justify is in a great spot at #7. The 5-10 range is the most desirable gate position: close enough to shorten the run, but far enough out that you don’t get pinched on the rail. The big question for me when it comes to Justify is whether having Promises Fulfilled to the inside causes him to overdo it early and then fade late if he wears down? He didn’t have much trouble holding off Bolt D’Oro to go the distance in the Santa Anita, but the horses are stronger, the race is longer and the pace is likely faster. We shall see.

Audible has a really nice position on the inside nestled in among pacesetters and closers. The #5 spot has produced a ton of winners over the years, including Always Dreaming a year ago. Good Magic is another good horse in the same bunch. The Bluegrass Stakes winner has finished top 3 in all of his races, but let’s not pretend Bluegrass is on par with Florida, Arkansas or Santa Anita.

As a stalker, Bolt D’Oro wants to find a comfortable spot in the pack early and slowly creep up as the pace slows down late. I think this setup, with closers on the inside, lets him do exactly that. But he didn’t have the stamina to catch Justify in the Santa Anita, so I don’t expect him to somehow catch him in Kentucky where the race is even longer.

Mendelssohn is in a fine spot at #14, I suppose. This horse is like Bowser in Mario Kart – takes some time to work up to speed, but once he does there’s no stopping him. His cruising speed is a huge advantage in a long race.

I mean, just look at this margin of victory:

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And he was still pulling away. Crazy top speed.

The main issue with Mendelssohn is that the UAE Derby hasn’t really translated to success in Kentucky so he’s sort of a wildcard. Could go great, could totally bomb. Shoot, just last year Thunder Snow won the UAE, then went rogue out the gate and didn’t finish in KY. I like this horse a lot and could honestly see him making a joke out of it, but there’s also quite a bit of risk here.

Magnum Moon got stuck out in the appendage gate, which isn’t ideal for a horse that likes to be out front. Statistically speaking, if you’re going to be out wide, #16 is where you want to be as it’s resulted in the most wins out there, but with Mendelssohn trying to execute the same gameplan from the other side of the gap, it’s going to be a tough go to break the Curse. The biggest race Magnum Moon has won was a slow pace from start to finish, so he’ll have to run much faster and use a lot more energy to get it done here.

That said, if you want to listen to the best race call of the season, watch this starting at the 2:20 mark. Mercy.

Really tough draw for Vino Rosso, winner of the Wood Memorial, at #18. While the 17 gate (Solomini) has never had a winner, number 18 has only had 2. American Pharaoh just did it from there in 2015, but he turned out to be a freak. Vino’s just not a strong enough horse to make the longer trek from what I’ve seen.

Which brings me to the closers. A quarter of the horses in this race are closers and nearly half like to start slow and let the race develop. I’m a little concerned about that. When My Boy Jack finished so strong the Louisiana Derby, he only had to beat 9 other horses, and 7 of them were pacesetters or pressers. Basically the perfect formula for a closer.

Another closer, Lone Sailer was actually the 2nd place horse in that same race, but found a better line. Interesting to note: In the Louisiana Derby, Lone Sailer was #8 and My Boy Jack was #9 just outside him. On Saturday, they’ll be #8 and #10 respectively. We could be in for a similar result. It’s just so much harder to maneuver through 20 horses than it is 10. A long shot, but I won’t be disappointed if I end up with him as a late round pick.

Hofburg is worth mentioning here too. He finished second behind Audible and looked strong in the Florida Derby.  His positioning on the inner half flanked by a couple closers bodes well for finding space to maneuver early.

Beyond that, the rest aren’t worth talking about.

I like…Justify, Mendelssohn, Audible, My Boy Jack, Hofburg, Lone Sailor.

I don’t like…Bolt D’Oro, Magnum Moon, Vino Rosso, Good Magic, Solomini

As always, there’s the chance I’m just making crap up to throw off my family. Reverse psychology.

Works like a charm.

The Family Draft Order

Picks are based on the previous year’s finish. After the first round is over, we snake backwards to the start. With the remaining picks we circle back to the end again. (Additional picks in parentheses.)

  1. Dad (16)
  2. Holly (15)
  3. Karlie (14)
  4. Mom (13)
  5. Anna (12, 20)
  6. APC (11, 19)
  7. Quinten (10, 18)
  8. Jeff (9, 17)

And welcome to the draft, Jeff! My sister’s boyfriend finds himself in the mix this year which we all agree is a very big deal. We’ll honor Jeff’s presence among us by letting him pick dead last. Good luck.

Since my son’s name is Jackson, I really doubt 5 different family members pass up the opportunity to pick My Boy Jack, but If they do, the top 5 horses picked will likely be Justify, Mendelssohn, Magnum Moon, Audible and Bolt D’Oro. Maybe Good Magic. Anna will take Bolt because of her love for its endearing jockey, Victor Espinoza, and when someone inevitably takes Jack, that means I’ll have my pick of whomever is left between Justify, Magnum Moon, Audible or Mendelssohn. My get tells me Audible’s still there.

Hofburg would be a sweet add with #11, but I doubt he’ll make it back around – slim pickings with an 8 person draft! If he is gone, I’ll probably just spring for Lone Sailor and call it a day. If you can’t get the horse you want, at least pick a closer. That’s my new motto.

The Draft (May 5, 8:30AM CST)

Check back in at 8:30AM on Saturday to follow the draft. As always, I’ll be updating it live.

Pick 1: Dad – Audible

Dad picks the Florida Derby winner with the top pick. I think this is a great pick. Takes guts to pick against the favorite.

Pick 2: Holly – Justify

Who cares about the Curse? No brainer. Great horse. Great position.

Pick 3: Karlie – My Boy Jack

My wife gets her son’s namesake. I still think MBJ may win this race, and clearly everyone else does as his odds have moved from 30-1 to 5-1 in 48 hours.

Pick 4: Mom – Good Magic

A good horse in a nice gate position. He hasn’t really been tested like the other contenders, but not a bad option.

Pick 5: Anna – Bolt D’Oro

Anna gets Victor for the 39th straight year, but this year he’s on a good horse. We all saw this coming.

Pick 6: APC – Mendelssohn

Which means I get Mendelssohn. I was hoping either he or Audible would fall here and he did. After rewatching the UAE I’ve convinced myself Mendelssohn is going to dominate.

Pick 7: Quinten – Lone Sailor

Quinten’s rolling the dice! Wins once and thinks he can just pick any random horse and it’ll all work out. Kidding – we all know I like this horse.

Pick 8: Jeff – Magnum Moon

The Curse and gate position causes the top Road to the Derby point receiver to fall all the way to 8th. You’re welcome, Jeff.

Pick 9: Jeff – Hofburg

Okay, but you didn’t have to go and pick the target of my next pick here!

Pick 10: Quinten – Vino Rosso

The only good horse left.

Pick 11: APC – Free Drop Billy

And, as expected, there’s nobody else I really want available here so I’ll take a closer and hope for the best. Same position I was in last year with Looking at Lee last year, so expect some second place fireworks. I also took a Buzzfeed quiz earlier asking “Which Derby Horse Are You?” and I got FDB.

Pick 12: Anna – Promises Fulfilled

Anna’s going to have a really fun opening minute, but this horse could end up finishing dead last.

Pick 13: Mom – Noble Indy

The last 7 Kentucky Derby winners won their final prep race. Horses that fit that description here: Justify, My Boy Jack, Audible, Magnum Moon, Good Magic, Mendelssohn, Vino Rosso…and Noble Indy.

Pick 14: Karlie – Flameaway

Good luck keeping anything in the tank in the end. A bad horse surrounded by pacesetters.

Pick 15: Holly – Solomini

Gate 17. Good luck, kapeesh?

Pick 16: Dad – Enticed

Better win with Audible, cause…no.

Pick 17: Jeff – Firenze Fire

A closer on the rail? I could see it.

Pick 18: Quinten – Bravazo

I know nothing about this horse and won’t act like I do here.

Pick 19: APC – Combatant

Late pick closer out of Gate 20! Let’s have some fuuuuun!

Pick 20: Anna – Instilled Regard

Currently 99-1. This horse is just happy to be here.

The complete draft results courtesy of self-declared draft emcee, Holly:

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Picks by family member…

  • Dad: Audible, Enticed
  • Holly: Justify, Solomini
  • Karlie: My Boy Jack, Flameaway
  • Mom: Good Magic, Noble Indy
  • Anna: Bolt D’Oro, Promises Fulfilled, Instilled Regard
  • APC: Mendelssohn, Free Drop Billy, Combatant
  • Quinten: Lone Sailor, Vino Rosso, Bravazo
  • Jeff: Magnum Moon, Hofburg, Firenze Fire

The Results (May 5, 5:50PM CST)

Holly wins with Justify! Dad really blew it.

Speaking of blew it Mendlessohn finished 73 1/4 lengths behind Justify, which was good enough for dead last. Followed that up with Free Drop Billy (16th) and Combatant (18th), so I’ll be picking first next year.

Finish:

  1. Holly (Justify)
  2. Mom (Good Magic)
  3. Dad (Audible)
  4. Anna (Instilled Regard)
  5. Karlie (My Boy Jack)
  6. Quinten (Bravazo)
  7. Jeff (Hofburg)
  8. APC (Woof)

Way to go, Hol! Pressures already on for next year’s first pick.

Image source: @BreedersCup on Twitter, accessed at Racing.com.

2016 Kentucky Derby: Cooper Family Live Draft

Yesssssssss.

The most exciting two minutes in sports is back: The Kentucky Derby!!

The Tradition

The Cooper Family has been doing this for years. Each year we study up on the 20 horses running for the roses and make our selections on who we think will win. It’s purely for pride. (Although, I’ve been considering getting some sort of trophy created to pass around to whoever the current champion is…maybe next year.)

I remember making picks with my Dad when I was a kid – but The Draft has really become something larger since around 2002, and every year it seems to gain some momentum. Perhaps it’s due to marriages and our expanding family size. Perhaps it’s because I started doing these annual Live Draft posts in 2014. Perhaps it’s because, for the most part, we’re all living back in the same city again. Hard to say, but there’s good energy here so why not really make a big deal out of it?

But before we get to this year, let’s talk briefly about last year, since, you know, I won.

You know, that whole thing about hindsight being 20/20 is particularly apropos when one of the horses you’re considering drafting becomes the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Last year’s Derby winner, American Pharoah, had the best odds on draft day at 3-1. Sure, there were comparable horses running last year at Churchill Downs – Dortmund (4-1) and Firing Line (7-1) were right there at the finish too – but after AP absolutely obliterated the competition in the sloppy Preakness a few weeks later, it was clear the gap at the top was wider than originally believed. I even wrote, “there’s no true favorite like there has been the past few years,” in this section of last year’s draft post. I was wrong. American Pharoah was clearly a notch above the rest.

And he graciously fell to me at pick #3. Thanks, fam.

Yes, I’m coming off my first ever Cooper Family Kentucky Derby win. It feels good, sure, but it was a gift more than something I earned. My wife scored pick #1 and took Dortmund. My mom took a flier on Carpe Diem with pick #2 which didn’t hit. And the horse of destiny just kinda landed in my lap.

Repeating will be a tall order though, since we decided to draft in reverse order from our previous year’s finish. I have the 7th pick. But more on that in a bit. First, let’s talk about the horses.

Links to the last two Derby drafts…

The Horses

There is a clear favorite this year.

Nyquist has never lost a race – a perfect 7-0 in races leading up Derby. When betting lines were first posted earlier this week, he was 3-1. He’s named after a hockey player, Detroit Red Wings’ right winger Gustav Nyquit. Amazingly, I know more about the horse than I do the man.  The next closest line is, Exaggerator, winner of the Santa Anita Derby, opening at 8-1.

But weirder things have happened than a clear cut favorite finishing in the middle of the pack. Look no further than 1994 when Holy Bull – the Horse of the Year that year – entered the Derby as the clear favorite, but sloppy track conditions and a poor break cost him. He ended 12th out of 14 horses. See? Anything is possible.

Like listen to this argument: Nyquist ran the San Vicente Stakes in California on February 15, then the Florida Derby on April 2, and now is headed to Kentucky a month later. Traveling can certainly wear down a horse. Plus, only one of the entrants has ever run a 1 1/4 mile race before, so who knows which of these horses has the stamina to go that extra 1/8 of a mile. And all it takes is a hesitation out the gate, or getting pinched around a turn.

See? Wide open. (Yeah right.)

If that happens, the number of challengers appears deep with a whopping 13 horses in the 10- to 20-1 range: CreatorGun Runner and Mohaymen opened at 10-1; Brody’s Cause and Mor Spirit at 12-1; Destin opened at 15-1, as did the two speedy pace horses, Outwork and Danzing Candy.

Oh! And you can’t ever count out Victor Espinoza these days. Jockey of the past two Derby winners. He’s riding Whitmore (20-1) this year – expect that line to drop as we approach post time.

So if you’ve got, say, the 7th pick in the draft, and you’re certainly not going to end up with Nyquist, there are guaranteed to be horses out there that have a shot. The full list by position as of this post:

  1. Trojan Nation 50-1
  2. Suddenbreakingnews 20-1
  3. Creator 10-1
  4. Mo Tom 20-1
  5. Gun Runner 10-1
  6. My Man Sam 20-1
  7. Oscar Nominated 50-1
  8. Lani 30-1
  9. Destin 15-1
  10. Whitmore 20-1
  11. Exaggerator 8-1
  12. Tom’s Ready 30-1
  13. Nyquist 3-1
  14. Mohaymen 10-1
  15. Outwork 15-1
  16. Shagaf 20-1
  17. Mor Spirit 12-1
  18. Majesto 30-1
  19. Brody’s Cause 12-1
  20. Danzing Candy 15-1
  21. Laoban (Alternate) 50-1
  22. Cherry Wine (Alternate) 30-1

Click here for the complete list of horses, post positions and betting odds.

Here’s what jumps out initially…

Both of those speedsters are interesting options. Outwork is coming out of post position 15 and Danzing Candy out of position 20. The way the gate is constructed, those are terrific spots for speedy horses. There are 14 slots in the main gate, and an appendage is attached housing positions 15-20.

Here’s a photo…

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See what I’m saying? You can see what can happen out of the gate – the 14, 15 and 20 horses have the most room to work with and establish position.

If you’re a pace horse, this is helpful to quickly get out ahead of the pack. And the two fastest horses in this race are on both ends of the attachment. Outwork and Danzing Candy have every opportunity to get a good jump and pace the pack. If that happens, this has the makings of a very very fast race.

Now, some people don’t believe post numbers matter in the slightest. The best horses get the best jumps get the best race posturing get the better finishes. And I agree with that for the most part, but at the same time, certain positions can certainly help. And when a race has been happening for 141 years, certain trends begin to develop.

The inside numbers (posts 1-5) have the shortest distance to run because they have the inside track, sure. But they’re also the most likely to get pinched against the rail. Generally, if a horse is on the inside, they want to be in spots 1, 2 or 5. Spots 3 & 4 are the most likely to get pinched and effectively eliminated in the first quarter mile.

Good news for Gun Runner. Bad news for Creator.

The outside numbers (posts 13-20) have a longer distance so a slight disadvantage. However, if they can get a good break, they typically have more room to work with and are rarely eliminated over the first quarter mile. Nyquist got a bit of a disadvantage being in #13, but not much. If you’re in the outside third, 13 and 16 (Shagaf) have produced the most winners.

The only gate to never produce a winner? 17.

Sorry, Mor Spirit.

The ideal positions are somewhere in the middle, in the 5-12 range. Posts 8 (Lani) and 10 (Whitmore) have the best winning percentages among the middle numbers.

Whoops. Really got into post positioning for a moment there. In the end, we don’t really know anything at all. It’s all one big crapshoot. Pick the best horses and hope for the best – that’s always the better shot. If Mor Spirit is still available late in the draft, am I still picking him over Trojan Nation or Oscar Nominated? Absolutely.

Most of what I just wrote was an attempt to make my family members gain some level of interest in horses I don’t want in hopes they pick them before it gets to me…OR WAS IT?! What if this entire post is a ploy to sucker my family into picking the chumps again this year?! Hmmm. Just doing my own jockeying for position here.

The Family Draft Order

In past years, we’ve picked numbers out of a hat and made it completely random. That’s just no fun for those who end up with the last pick and have no shot at picking California Chrome, American Pharoah or Nyquist. My dad definitely has the most wins in our family, but most (all?) have come due to lucking into a high pick and selecting the favorite: Orb in 2013. Big Brown in 2008. War Emblem in 2002. Pretty sure he won all of those and had a top 2 pick every time. I’m sure it was very rewarding to defeat his offspring on the regular.

So this year, we’ve adjusted the rules. From now on, we’ll be selecting in the order we finished the previous year! That way the loser from the year before has first dibs at the favorite next year. From there, it snakes back to the first pick. Any leftover picks then jump to the final picker and go in reverse order. This year there are 20 horses, so the picking order looks like this:

  • Mom – 1 & 14
  • Holly – 2, 13 & 20
  • Quinten – 3, 12 & 19
  • Anna – 4, 11 & 18
  • Karlie – 5, 10 & 17
  • Dad – 6, 9 & 16
  • Adam – 7, 8 & 15

I have picks 7, 8 and 15. Woof. The price of success, I suppose.

So who am I targeting with pick 7? Who knows. I’ll end up with whoever is left off the top of my board, and – as any good NFL general manager will say – I’ll take the best player available. I’m hoping someone in the Creator-Gun Runner-Mohaymen tier falls to me, but that feels like a stretch. Exaggerator and Nyqvist will be long gone. My sister, Anna, is a sucker for Victor Espinoza so Whitmore probably won’t be there either.

So that leaves…who? Destin? Brody’s Cause? Blegh. No thank you. The reality is I’ll end up with two also-rans who may or may not have lead hooves. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong.

I’m most likely to pick two horses whose names are the most fun to root for, so HERE WE GO, SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS! What a name.

The Draft

**The Draft is happening Saturday morning. Check back then for updates as the picks come in.**

Pick 1: Nyquist (Mom)

Mom picks the favorite right out the gate. No messing around here.

Pick 2: Exaggerator (Holly)

And Hol follows up with the obvious followup. Who saw this coming? (Everyone.)

Pick 3: Creator (Quinten)

For some reason Creator isn’t getting any love for coming into the derby with such solid odds. Quinten has a good horse here, but it’s not the route I would’ve gone.

Pick 4: Whitmore (Anna)

In a completely unsurprising move, Anna takes her boy, Victor Espinoza.

Pick 5: Gun Runner (Karlie)

Amazing that Mohaymen and Gun Runner are still on the board at this point. They were #’s 2 and 3 on my draft board. Karlie gets a terrific horse at number 5.

Pick 6: Mohaymen (Dad)

And Dad somehow gets an unbelievable pick at #6 overall.

Pick 7: SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (APC)

This just in: all the good horses are gone. If I could trade back and acquire more picks, I would, but I’m not sure that’s allowed. So I’ll go with the best name in the race here, just like I said I would.

Pick 8: Outwork (APC)

If you read everything up to this point, you know I liked the pace horses, Outwork and Danzing Candy, so I’ll take the one closer on the inside. Hoping DC falls to me at #15. Doubtful.

Pick 9: Mor Spirit (Dad)

No horse has ever won from the 17 gate, but Dad appears hopeful. “Maybe this is the year!” That’s the Spirit. Although, he did win Jimmy Fallon’s Puppy Predictor this year.

Pick 10: Destin (Karlie)

Solid gate positioning. Best available. Good pick here.

Pick 11: Brody’s Cause (Anna)

Terrible name. Best odds out there. Does anyone know what his Cause is?

Pick 12: My Man Sam (Quinten)

Has “dark horse” written all over it. Solid positioning and underrated. Dad makes the following joke: “Used to be Sam I Am before he was sold into slavery.” Wonderful. Everyone loves a good slavery joke…

Pick 13: Mo Tom (Holly)

The first of the two Toms is finally off the board. Won’t be missed. Should finish last.

Pick 14: Danzing Candy (Mom)

Love this pick. Danzing was one of the favorites a month or so ago, but slid in April and then got shoved to the #20 gate. But he’s got the speed to pull it off.

Pick 15: Shagaf (APC)

So I’ll take Shagaf, because, I have no idea.

Pick 16: Lani (Dad)

Dad takes the other grey horse in the mix. Lani is a guy’s name, supposedly. And he’s from Japan, so who knows what we’ve got here. “Could be the steal of the draft” in a prime post position.

Pick 17: Oscar Nominated (Karlie)

Terrible horse. But whatever, all the remaining horses stink, so might as well grab the one with the best starting position. Karlie finishes with Gun Runner, Destin and Oscar Nominated. That’s a good group.

Pick 18: Majesto (Anna)

Majesto is the horse I know the least about because he’s really not worth my time.

Pick 19: Trojan Nation (Quinten)

Q takes the inside rail. Too bad the Nation is going to get bumped early by…SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS.

Pick 20: Tom’s Ready (Holly)

And Holly picks up the pieces and adds the other Tom. She ends up with Exaggerator and the Toms. Sounds like an up and coming garage band. Dibs band name.

So here’s where the draft left us…

  • Mom: Nyquist, Danzing Candy
  • Holly: Exaggerator and the Toms
  • Quinten: Creator, My Man Sam, Trojan Nation
  • Anna: Whitmore, Brody’s Cause, Majesto
  • Karlie: Gun Runner, Destin, Oscar Nominated
  • Dad: Mohaymen, Mor Spirit, Lani
  • APC: Suddenbreakingnews, Outwork, Shagaf

Well…the good news is I’ll get an early pick in 2017.

Immediate takeaways – Mom’s draft was obviously strong with Nyquist, but adding Danzing Candy is a strong pick at #14 overall. Dad and Karlie had fantastic drafts for the picks they had. Anna’s way too sentimental to ever actually win this thing.

I think Danzing Candy and Outwork get out to the front from the outside, but fade late from giving too much to claim the pace. I really like Suddenbreakingnews and My Man Sam emerging from the rail horses as contenders, but getting worn out trying to keep up with Gun Runner and Nyquist, who should fall in behind the pace, boxing out Exaggerator. Mohaymen ought to just pace behind Nyquist and hope to have more left in the tank down the stretch. I anticipate a fast race where only the strongest survive.

If I’m picking a superfecta, I’m going with Nyquist, Gun Runner, Mohaymen, Outwork.

The Results

And Nyquist takes it.

The race played out almost exactly like everyone expected – Dancing Candy paced the group but faded late, Nyquist and Gun Runner hanging just off the pace kicked it into gear around the far turn. Exaggerator held back and got caught up in the middle until a hole opened up late and he scampered to a strong second place finish. Gun Runner barely hung on for third in a photo alongside Mohaymen and Suddenbreakingnews.

It’s fitting that Mom would win on Mother’s Day weekend. She picked the obvious favorite and he pulled through with ease.

So that means our family standings for this year’s Kentucky Derby look like this…

  1. Mom (Nyquist)
  2. Holly (Exaggerator)
  3. Karlie (Gun Runner)
  4. Dad (Mohaymen)
  5. APC (Suddenbreakingnews)
  6. Anna (Brody’s Cause, 7th)
  7. Quinten (My Man Sam, 11th)

Dad finished with 3 horses in the top 10 – Mohaymen, Lani (9th) and Mor Spirit (10th). Along with Gun Runner, Karlie also did well with Destin (6th). Anna’s horses struggled – Whitmore was the last to finish, and Majesto was second to last. Holly did well with Exaggerator, but the Toms were respectable too finishing 8th (Mo) and 12th (‘s Ready).

Quinten will get the first overall pick next year. His horses were not great on paper, nor in the Derby. He finished 11th (My Man Sam), 13th (Creator) and 16th (Trojan Nation).

I did as well as I could. Suddenbreakingnews (5th) was the best finishing horse remaining when it got to me. That at least counts for something. Outwork was a long shot if he could keep up with the heavy hitters, and was sitting pretty going into the last quarter mile but faded significantly down the stretch, as many predicted he would. He finished 14th.

Shagaf…did not finish.

Photo creds: CNN accessed here; Insider Louisville accessed here.

2015 Kentucky Derby: Cooper Family Live Draft

It’s Derby Day. Cooper Family, unite!

The Tradition

This is one of the most exciting days of the year in my family, and it centers around an event that not one of us pays attention to the other 364 days of the year. Maybe there’s a tiny bit of research that takes place in the week leading up, but ultimately it’s a fun tradition based on…well, based on tradition, I guess.

There have been highlights – Thunder Gulch in 1994, Smarty Jones in 2004. War Emblem in 2002. There have been heartbreaks too – namely the death of the filly, Eight Belles, in 2008.

Last year, Karlie was the winner by selecting California Chrome with the first overall pick. It’s always disappointing when there’s such a clear favorite. The whole thing boils down to a randomly selected number out of a hat. Karlie landed #1, so she won it all.

No. I’m not bitter.

That said, I proposed a new idea for future years. Starting in 2016, we’re going to base our pick selections on the results of the previous year’s race. Last will pick first and vice versa. It’s too late to do it that way this year – as one of the worst finishers in 2014, of course I’d like to pick earlier.

In the spirit of fairness, we’re going to start that in 2016 based on 2015 results.

This is a great year to do it too because there’s no true favorite like there has been the past few years. Last year, California Chrome was a no brainer. This year there are multiple options. American Pharaoh has the best current odds at 3-1. But Dortmund (4-1), Firing Line (8-1), Carpe Diem (7-1) are all perfectly viable first picks and horse like Mubtaahij (12-1), Frosted (9-1) and Materiality (14-1) are not dumb first round picks either. Everyone will get a contender this year.

Here’s the complete list of horses and live odds here: 2015 Kentucky Derby Odds.

Those odds will likely change significantly between now and this afternoon’s race too – any of these horses could be considered favorites by the time the horses are in the gate.

The field is wide open, and for the first time in a few years, it’s actually anybody’s race. Which makes for way more trash talking and a lot more drama.

The decision was also made to give the last four picks to those who have the worst opening round picks. So whoever gets picks #7, #6, #5, and #4 will have picks #15, #16, #17, and #18, respectively.

For more on the Tradition, check out last year’s post.

The Family Draft Order

This picture was just texted in from The Judges. The draft order is set.

IMG_22881

  1. Karlie (my wife) – Picks 1 & 14. Last year’s winner gets first pick again in 2015.
  2. Janice (my mom) – Picks 2 & 13.
  3. APC – Picks 3 & 12. Love this spot, I’ll tell you why.
  4. Greg (my dad) – Picks 4, 11 & 18. Good luck with Frammento.
  5. Anna (my sister, youngest) – Picks 5, 10 & 17.
  6. Holly (my sister, younger) –  Picks 6, 9 & 16.
  7. Quniten (bro-in-law, holly’s husband) – Picks 7, 8 & 15. Bummer, dude.

I’m crazy about the #3 pick. The pressure of choosing incorrectly on the #1 overall pick is a real one. Karlie has all the options available and no excuse for picking wrong, plus, by the time the draft comes back around to her next pick, the potential winners are probably gone. She’ll only really have one horse in the race. All your eggs are in one basket, as they say.

With pick #3 I also get #12 which means I’m guaranteed to get one of the top options in the race along with one of my favorite dark horse options: Horses like Upstart (21-1), Danzig Moon (20-1), Ocho Ocho Ocho (24-1), Bolo (36-1) or Mr. Z (30-1) all have a shot at landing at #12. I truly believe there are 12 horses that could win this year.

The #18 pick is mostly worthless. Let’s be honest, we’re all excited to make fun of my dad getting stuck with Frammento (99-1). Anna’s burn is the best thus far: “So is Frammento a Shetland pony or what?”

The Draft

LIVE NOW: The draft is taking place at 2:00 PM CST. Check back if you want to follow along, I’ll be posting riveting live updates.

And here come the picks…

Pick #1: Dortmund (Karlie) 

All the pre-draft talk was that Karlie was going to take Firing Line out of the gate. In a last minute change of heart, Dortmund was the pick instead – and a better one, in my opinion.

Pick #2: Carpe Diem (Janice)

Wouldn’t have been my top pick, but It’s not a bad one. Seize the day, Mom.

Pick #3: American Pharaoh (APC)

Shocked that the favorite slid to this spot, and I’m thrilled about it. I was prepared to have to choose between Carpe Diem and Firing Line here, but Mom’s pick bailed me out.

Pick #4: Firing Line (Greg)

This was an unfortunate spot to pick. It was pretty clear that these four horses were going to drop first. I anticipated Carpe Diem being the last one left. I think Firing Line is the better option.

Pick #5: Frosted (Anna)

The logical choice. Best available. The Cooper consensus is that Frosted is the ugliest horse. Exhibit A:

IMG_9433

Pick #6: Upstart (Holly)

This is a reach, but I really like this horse. I was actually targeting Upstart for my #12 pick. But hey, if you like a horse with the #6, you might as well pull the trigger, amiright?

Pick #7: Danzing Moon (Quinten)

I would’ve gone with Mubtaahij here. Or Materiality, but its hard to pass on such a lovely name like Danzing. I assumed that selecting Danzing Moon meant he would pick one of those two with his next choice…

Pick #8: Tencendur (Quinten)

…nope. This is a terrible choice. As of this moment, Tencendur is currently going at 53-1. One of the worst in the race. It’s like Quinten is trying to lose.

Pick #9: Materiality (Holly)

Somehow, someway, Materiality and Mubtaahij are still available here. Materiality is the pick.

Pick #10: Mubtaahij (Anna)

And there’s the other right choice, in my opinion. I would’ve taken “Mubby” at #6, yet somehow Anna gets him at #10 instead. Amazing draft for Anna to this point.

Pick #11: Itsaknockout (Greg)

Pretty awesome name, and appropriately timed in light of the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight. Was really happy Dad took Itsa here. I had two horses I was targeting for my #12 pick. Upstart and….

Pick #12: Ocho Ocho Ocho (APC)

Here’s what I think will happen in the race this year: two horses will jump out to pace the pack: American Pharaoh from the outside and Ocho Ocho Ocho from the inside. They’re the two speed horses. I don’t think 888 will hold on, but he might!

Pick #13: Bolo (Janice)

Who is left at this point?

Pick #14: Far Right (Karlie)

“I’ll take Far Right because the jockey looks so nice.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 3.00.01 PMFair enough.

Pick #15: Frammento (Quinten)

Quinten’s just being a nice guy at this point. First Tencendur and now Frammento? He must have all the faith in the world in Danzing Moon, because these two are mostly worthless.

Pick #16: Keen Ice (Holly)

Cool name. Bad horse. But the best one left.

Pick #17: War Story (Anna)

Jimmy Fallon’s Kentucky Derby Puppy Predictor is all you need to watch when it comes to this dog.

Pick #18: Frammento Mr. Z (Greg)

I was prepared to make a “Mr. Irrelevant” comment here, but it’s Mr. Z instead. Surprising to see a 31-1 be the last pick. Really didn’t see Quinten’s earlier pick coming, so somehow Dad gets a somewhat relevant house in the end.

So here’s how things ended up…

  • Karlie: Dortmund & Far Right
  • Janice: Carpe Diem & Bolo
  • APC: American Pharaoh & Ocho Ocho Ocho
  • Greg: Firing Line, Itsaknockout & Mr. Z
  • Anna: Frosted, Mubtaahij & War Story
  • Holly: Upstart, Materiality & Keen Ice
  • Quinten: Danzing Moon, Tencendur & Frammento

There you go. Assuming the favorites – and by that I mean Dortmund and American Pharaoh – do not win, I think Anna and Holly had the strongest drafts. I think Frosted, Mubtaahij, Upstart and Materiality are all potential winners if the race falls the right way out the gate.

I anticipate the pace to be fast, which is why I’m very happy to have the two horses I do. But like I said at the top – this year, it’s anybody’s race. Shoot, even Danzing Moon stands a chance to win.

As of this writing we are 2 hours, 4 minutes and 51 seconds away from race time. Race is at 5:44 PM CST on NBC.

The Results

That’s a winner, folks! American Pharaoh for the win!

It was a great race actually. Dortmund broke quick out of the gate and led Firing Line and American Pharaoh through the halfway point. Firing Line managed to overtake Dortmund there, but rounding the home stretch, American Pharaoh put on the afterburners around the outside and came away with the victory.

All three horses were neck and neck for the majority of the stretch run. Firing Line retook the lead for a moment, but it turned out to be too soon. American Pharaoh was strong enough to take it back.

Very fun race as all five top picks were in the mix for the majority of the race. Ultimately, Carpe Diem faded, but it truly felt like anyone’s race. Very fun year.

In my years of drafting horses with my family I’m fairly certain this is my only win. Most years I never have a chance since the winning horse is gone by the time I pick.

Here is how we ended up ranked…

  1. APC – American Pharaoh
  2. Greg – Firing Line
  3. Karlie – Dortmund
  4. Anna – Frosted
  5. Quinten – Danzig Moon
  6. Holly – Materiality
  7. Janice – Carpe Diem (10th)

Looks like I’ll be picking last in 2016, but that’s alright. I’m going to enjoy my year on the champs podium.

-apc.

Photo cred: accessed here.

2014 Kentucky Derby Cooper Family Live Draft

THE TRADITION

I think it all started 20 years ago.

The earliest memory I have of the Kentucky Derby is 1994. I was 8 years old, and I remember my dad making a big deal out of some horse called “Holy Bull” that was supposed to be the favorite that year. Holy Bull had won nearly every race to that point, and he entered the race at 2-1 odds – he was a certainty to win the Run for the Roses.

He finished embarrassingly in 12th place.

The next year, 1995, was probably the year that cemented the Kentucky Derby as a pseudo-holiday in the Cooper Family. That year, there wasn’t a “Holy Bull” type of favorite. Instead there were a handful of potential contenders, one of which was Thunder Gulch. I’m not sure if we picked horses or not in 1995, but as the horses turned the corner into the home stretch, I remember freaking out that Thunder Gulch was in the lead and pulling away.

“…and it’s THUNDER GULCH!!”

It was the last 10 seconds of the fastest two minutes in sports, the part when the announcer went crazy over Thunder Gulch, that’s probably what launched this Cooper Family tradition. Those two horses – Holy Bull and Thunder Gulch – have continued to live on in our family as staples for trash talking to this day.

“You’re picking California Chrome at number 1 overall? Mistake. He’s guaranteed to be the new Holy Bull.”

“I’m going with We Miss Artie. Can’t wait to hear his name being screamed as he pulls away down the final furlong like…Thunder Gulch!!”

These days, most of us don’t even realize the Kentucky Derby is coming up until it’s practically the day of the race. And then we frantically throw our names in a hat to determine the picking order, find the list of contenders, and make our choices with little or no information about any of the horses, jockeys, past races, owners or trainers. All we really see is the name, the odds, the gate position, and maybe a single sentence blurb in the newspaper or kentuckyderby.com.

If I’m totally honest, it’s a complete joke, really. We don’t really care about horse racing. But trash talking seems to be a family love language, so it’s one of my favorite events of the year. Don’t be fooled by my opinions, picks or comments in this blog. I know nothing about horse racing. But I know a lot about trivial trash talking.

THE FAMILY DRAFT ORDER

All the horses are picked each year, so the selecting simply cycles back through in reverse order to the beginning. Names are then re-picked to pick the remaining horses left after the first cycle through the picking order. Typically there are only a couple of these left, and they’re always the “also-rans” and it has no impact on the picking.

Okay. Time to introduce the family members and the picking order…

Picks 1 & 18: Karlie, my wife
Picks 2 & 17: Grandpa Jack, my mom’s dad
Picks 3 & 16: Holly, my younger sister
Picks 4 & 15: Quinten, my brother-in-law
Picks 5 & 14: Aunt Virginia, my mom’s older sister
Picks 6 & 13: APC
Picks 7 & 12: Anna, my youngest sister
Picks 8 & 11 & 19: Janice, my mom*
Picks 9 & 10: Greg, my dad

* – Randomly selected as the recipient of the final Pick 19.

I’m not thrilled about my picking placement this year. Barring a bizarre selection by those before me, the 6th pick takes me out of the running for one of the favorites (California Chrome, Wicked Strong, Danza, Intense Holiday).

However, the bright side is that the difference between pick 6 and 13 isn’t very different – I’ll end up with two horses with odds between 15-1 and 20-1 probably – which means I’ll have two good-not-great horses running this year. Unlike Karlie or Grandpa who will be putting all their stake in their first pick, I at least will end up with another horse who isn’t a guaranteed also-ran.

Assuming things fall as I’d expect them to fall, here’s who I’m targeting going into the draft…

Pick #6 Targets: Samraat, Wildcat Red, Ride on Curlin.

Pick #13 Targets: Medal Count, Dance with Fate, General A Rod, Vicar’s in Trouble.

…but who knows what will happen before me, and who knows if I’ll have a last minute change of heart when my pick comes up.

Okay, let’s to this. Commencing draft in 3…2…1….

THE DRAFT

Pick #1: California Chrome (Karlie)

The obvious first pick overall coming in at 2-1 odds. The clear favorite. Possibly another Holy Bull? Hope so. Otherwise this is a snoozer Derby Draft. Also, I have Paul Simon stuck in my head.

Pick #2: Chitzu (Grandpa Jack)

I could feel a wild card pick coming here, and I wasn’t disappointed. From everything I’ve read about Chitzu (which is tons) he sounds like a real loser. Grandpa takes a gamble. A pick of the heart.

Pick #3: Wicked Strong (Holly)

This is the horse I actually think will win. Tough position coming out of the farthest gate from the rail. Also, killer uniform with the diagonal red stripe across the chest.

Pick #4: Danza (Q)

Named after Tony Danza. No thanks. He’s starting right next to California Chrome out of the gate too, which makes me think one of the two will take the edge and the other will get pinned. Plus…Danza.

Pick #5: Candy Boy (Aunt VA)

Worst named horse ever. This could’ve fallen to #13 and I wouldn’t have picked him. Glad to get him off the list of names I have to stare at.

Pick #6: Samraat (APC)

My pick is still Samraat even though Intense Holiday fell to me.  The name means “emperor” in Sanskrit, so basically the rest of the horses have no chance. Honestly, I just like Samraat picking up the space after Kodachrome and Tony Danza take too much time jockeying against each other to the inside.

Pick #7: Wildcat Red (Anna)

I might have picked this horse, but my sister is a student at K-State right now, so I had a feeling she wanted it the pick after mine. You can have it Anna.

Pick #8: Intense Holiday (Mom)

What a miracle that a horse with 9-1 odds fell all the way to #8. However, he’s going to be starting out of Gate 17, and no horse has ever won the Derby from that position.

Pick #9: Tapiture (Dad)

Dumb name, but awesome uniforms: maroon with a white circle. So fresh.

Pick #10: General A Rod (Dad)

Some people are picking A-Rod to win the whole thing, but that seems like a dream to me. Clearly, my dad has been researching the “expert picks” and bought into the hype. Could’ve had two way better horses with his back-to-back picks than the two he ended up with, in my opinion.

Pick #11: Vicar’s In Trouble (Mom)

I really wanted Vicar’s. He’s a pace horse. With the scratch of two horses, they’ve shifted back starting gates one position outward. With two complete clods in the next two positions (Uncle Sigh & Harry’s Holiday), I think he’ll have a seamless break and pace the group. Maybe with no early competition he can hold the pace the whole way?

Pick #12: Vinceremos (Anna)

Terrible pick, but Anna is a sucker for Spanish names.

Pick #13: Medal Count (APC)

It was between Medal Count, Dance with Fate and Ride On Curlin here. But I can’t stand Calvin Borel, who is super whiney and obnoxious and is riding Ride On Curlin. And Medal Count is wearing my favorite number, 14, so duh.

Pick #14: Uncle Sigh (Aunt VA)

Should get pinched between California Chrome/Danza on one side and Vicar’s In Trouble on the other. With no speed, he has no chance.

Pick #15: We Miss Artie (Q)

Goofy name. Lovable, yet no shot at the Roses.

Pick #16: Dance With Fate (Holly)

This is a great pick here. Would’ve been fine with DWF instead of Medal Count. I think Holly had the best pair of horses this year for sure.

Pick #17: Ride On Curlin (Grandpa Jack)

You can have Calvin Borel, Grandpa. Also, your pick #17 was better than your pick #2.

Pick #18: Commanding Curve (Karlie) 

Better than Harry’s Holiday. Picking up the spoils, but having California Chrome is enough clout in this race to still be the favorite to win this year.

Pick #19: Harry’s Holiday

See “Uncle Sigh” only waaay worse.

The picks are in! The 140th Kentucky Derby runs at 5:24 PM CST on NBC. Check back later for the update with the results!

Here we go Samraat & Medal Count. Do it good fellas.

THE RESULTS: COMING SOON

UPDATE: Well. It was a snoozer of a Derby after all, and California Chrome won by a significant margin in the end. Sigh. So the winner this year was Karlie.

In more surprising news, however, Karlie’s backup horse, Commanding Curve, finished strong and passed both Danza (3rd) and Wicked Strong (4th) in the final stretch and ended second.

My horses…did okay, I guess.

Samraat looked strong and was positioned well entering the stretch – he was neck and neck with California Chrome – but couldn’t maintain the pace. He finished 5th.

Medal Count finished 8th. About as good as I could’ve picked with the options available to me.

But ultimately, the contest was over the moment Karlie’s name was drawn for the #1 pick. California Chrome looked as strong as he could’ve…could he win the Triple Crown?!

-apc.