If Marfa, the probable favorite for today's 109th running of the Kentucky Derby, was being ridden by Angel Cordero Jr., Bill Hartack or Laffit Pincay Jr., he would be my choice to win the classic.
Those three riders know when and how to intimidate a headstrong horse with strength and vigor. However, Marfa's jockey will be Jorge Velasquez, a finesse rider, and that hurts his chances.
Velasquez was the rider of Alydar when he finished second to Affirmed in all three Triple Crown races in 1978. In at least one of those races, it appeared that Velasquez did not press his mount enough in the run to the wire.
In today's race, Sunny's Halo will have the lead somewhere in the stretch with a cluster of horses closing in on him, including Marfa. At that point, Marfa should do his lugging-in number and I don't believe Velasquez can cope with it.
I like the chances of Caveat, a well-managed colt that appears to be peaking at the right time.
The son of Derby winner Cannonade is trained by Woody Stephens, a positive sign for any horse, and will be ridden by Pincay, who never has won a Derby but made the correct move in the Derby Trial by waiting until the last possible moment to make his winning move.
The way he ran past Total Departure, a solid miler, suggests that the 1 1/4 miles of the Derby will be to his liking.
Moreover, by making that one circling move, it is likely that Caveat will avoid any bottlenecks that develop should Marfa and Velasquez go their separate ways.
Last fall, Caveat was beaten by Deputed Testamony in the Maryland Juvenile Championship after encountering traffic problems. Using that race and Caveat's current condition as the final persuaders, it's Caveat from out of the pack to win in a photo over Sunny's Halo.