After picking my jaw up off the ground after watching that pink saddle towel splash by me last year in Louisville, I did learn one thing.
And that's to never say never.
The goal here is to separate the Kentucky Derby pretenders from the contenders, but in a 20-horse field of chaos with an off track expected, is there really any division at all?
As a horseplayer, you have to take a stand. You're either for - or against - horses, favorites and longshots alike. Unless, of course, you're willing to hit the "all" button.
Sidney's Candy: This high flying son of Candy Ride had racing enthusiasts talking Derby last August at Del Mar when he broke his maiden in a runaway.
Benched the rest of the season, he resurfaced in late December at Santa Anita. Following a disappointing fourth-place finish in an allowance dash, there were reservations about his ability to be a top-flight racehorse, but those doubts were soon doused.
He rattled off three consecutive graded stakes scores over the Santa Anita Pro Ride surface, all in gate-to-wire fashion. He may be a "speed" horse, but he rates kindly, and has galloped out like he can handle additional ground.
Jockey Joe Talamo's Derby dreams were dashed the morning of the race last year when the likely favorite I Want Revenge was scratched. Perhaps he has karma on his side this time around.
Lookin at Lucky: Questions swirled around the 2-year-old champ early this spring, but he calmed any fears with a resilient score in the G2 Rebel at Oaklawn.
He endured a horrible trip in the G1 Santa Anita Derby, but gutted out a third place finish. Garrett Gomez thought Victor Espinoza compromised his position on purpose during the race, and he did not hide his displeasure. Neither did Bob Baffert's wife Jill.
Many observers called "Go Go" out for putting the prized sophomore in a bad spot. Gomez did not take to the criticism lightly, and he's been riding like a man possessed ever since. He's going to have to work some magic from the compromised rail post, but if any horse and jockey can get it done, it's this pair, and the trainer knows a thing or two about winning a Derby, or three.
Paddy O'Prado: Productive on turf late in his 2-year-old season, this son of El Prado continued to mow the lawn early in his sophomore campaign.
Off a late closing third in a maiden special weight race at Gulfstream in his first start of the season, he appeared ambitiously placed when entered back in the G3 Palm Beach. He flashed improved speed in that nine furlong turf tilt, and darted away to a visually impressive score.
He has yet to prove he can handle dirt, but he absolutely loved getting his feet wet in what was a visually impressive work earlier in the week. If the track comes up sloppy, he deserves a very strong look.
Devil May Care: In recent years, fillies have more than held their own against the boys on the big stage.
This gal has had her ups and downs, but she showed off her immense talent in the G2 Bonnie Miss, winning despite herself, and she ran faster than Ice Box did in upsetting the G1 Florida Derby the same day. The addition of blinkers can only help the cause.
Mission Impazible: Of the three Todd Pletcher-trained males, this guy may have the most upside. He took a solid step forward in his G2 Louisiana Derby win, and has continued to progress nicely in his training.
Ice Box: The G1 Florida Derby was a weak prep, and I don't think he can sustain his run over 10 furlongs.
Noble's Promise: As we've seen with Derby winners like Smarty Jones, you can't put too much stock in pedigree, but I just can't see a horse by Cuvee out of a Clever Trick mare winning a battle of wills. Can you say Gayego?
Conveyance: He's speedy and talented, but the pressure will be on from the word go. Baffert hopes to get "Lucky" with another horse, and this guy's early speed plays a big part in potentially making that happen.
Awesome Act: I just don't get the infatuation with this guy. He defeated a less-than-stellar group in the G3 Gotham (Illinois Derby runner-up Ywanna Twist was second in that race) and although he had early trouble in the G1 Wood, he still got spanked by Eskenderaya and nipped by Jackson Bend for the place spot.
Dublin: Word on the street is he has a breathing problem. I don't think that will go over too well over 10 furlongs of mud.
In my gimmicks
Super Saver: He has to be tight as a drum off decent runs at Tampa and Oaklawn and maybe he's ready to peak. You can't ignore the Calvin (Borel) factor at Churchill Downs. The guy carries a magic wand.
Stately Victor: A lot of people were shocked by his G1 Blue Grass win, but I wasn't. Go back and watch the replay of his race prior over the Gulfstream grass. He had trouble, and was finishing like a train late over an ultra-firm course that favored speed. It looks like he may have turned the corner, and if the race falls apart ...
American Lion: Yet another with speed, he needs to find a way to avoid dueling out in order to be a factor in the deep stretch.
Can't see how
Line of David, Dean's Kitten, Make Music For Me, Discreetly Mine, Backtalk and Homeboykris.