There is a term in horse racing that descripes horses that appears to have a much better chance of winning a race than what the odds (a function of money bet on a horse) may indicate. That's an overlay. Because of the large size of the Kentucky Derby field and "silly money" bet by people who place their wager based on names, grey horses or who the favorite is, overlays are a rule and not the exceptions in the Kentucky Derby.
I have already made my case for Muskat Man (see below), winner of the gr. 2 Illinois Derby and currently 15-1 at most racebooks. Let's take a look at two more.
Papa Clem won the gr. 2 Arkansas Derby in his last race with a gutsy stretch dual with one-time Derby favorite Old Fashioned, who is out of the Derby. In the race before that, he finished second in the gr. 2 Louisiana Derby March 14 behind Freisan Fire. Still he is hovering around 12-1 in racebooks around the country. Before that he was a close second behind Pioneerof The Nile in the gr. 2 Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita in early February. So he's shown he can compete on even terms with some of the most highly regarded horses in this year's Derby.
Papa Clem's trainer, Gary Stute, may have been looking at the same Derby trends Jennie Rees wrote about today in her column in the Louisville Courier-Journal. By not racing since the 1-1/16 mile Louisiana Derby, Friesan Fire will attempt to become the first horse since at least 1929 (when Churchill Downs began to keep such records) to win the Derby off of a seven week lay-off. He will also try to become the first horse since Middleground in 1950 to win the Derby without a 1-1/8 mile prep race.
Stute sent Papa Clem to Oaklawn Park for the 1-1/8 mile Arkansas and took care of those two nixes while winning the Arkansas Derby to boot. And he acheived a solid 101 beyer speed figure in the process. Add the additional fact that recent Derby winner Afleet Alex and Speedy Jones came out of the Arkansas Derby (a longtime Derby prep anyway) and I think we have an overlay folks. Don't be surprised to see him creep into my trifecta ticket.
Now let's look at Hold Me Back at 15-1 odds. Hold Me Back is by Giant's Causeway who was a star runner in Europe before finishing second to Tiznow in the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2000 and stands at Ashford Stud in Kentucky for $125,000. That means it cost the owner of a mare a sweet $125K for his mare to get a little lovin' and hopefully make a Hold Me Back calibur baby Giant's Causeway.
He is also trained by Bill Mott, the trainer of super star Cigar. While Mott has never won a Derby, that is certainly no reflection on his horsemanship. It is even fewed as a positive by some, because Mott doesn't come to the Derby for the Mint Juleps. He will also be ridden by jockey Kent Desormeaux, winner three Kentucky Derbies with Real Quite in 1998, Fusiachi Pegasus in 2000 and Big Brown last year.
In addition to his well decorated connections, Hold Me Back comes into the Derby with his own credentials having won the gr. 2 Lanes End Stakes at Turfway Park in March and finishing second to General Quarters most recently in the gr. 1 Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland. He likes to come from the clouds having been 11th during the early part of the Lanes End and 9th early in the Bluegrass. That could pose some traffic problems in the crowded Derby, but at 15-1 he's certainly worth a look for those who like longshots or horses that like to make that one big run coming down the long stretch at Churchill Downs.