Eight days out from the big dance, Derby Fever has officially set in in Lexington. Well, at least in my little corner in my cubicle at The Blood-Horse. I've been fortunate to get a few early assignments, including a chat with Bob Baffert on Derby contenders Lookin At Lucky and Conveyance:
These thoughts will likely change multiple times throughout the next week, but I'm ready to offer my early picks. Despite the fact that Californians have a spotty Derby record as a group, I'm opening with Lookin At Lucky and Sidney's Candy. How can you not like Lucky? He has never not tried in a race, and between the Rebel and the Santa Anita Derby, he's the most battle-tested horse on this year's Derby trail. He has a running-style well suited to the Derby, and he seems to want to go the distance. But when it comes down to it, it's the grit and courage he's shown in each race that leaves me stuck on him. With his last Derby win in 2002, Baffert is in the midst of a big comeback after a few dry years. Wouldn't this be the icing on the comeback cake?
Sidney's Candy, on the other hand, has encountered little trouble in his recent races, bouncing right to the lead from the gate and never looking back. The son of Candy Ride is unbeaten in three starts in 2010, and first started turning heads with a win in the seven furlong San Vicente at Santa Anita on Feb. 15. The critics are out there, but Sidney's Candy has silenced every challenge thus far, running away next with the 1 1/16 mile San Felipe, then the 1 1/8 mile Santa Anita Derby over a troubled Lookin At Lucky. While the Derby always presents unique challenges, if there is a front runner who can go wire to wire, this blogger believes it is Sidney's Candy.
Of course, both horses will have to make the synthetic to dirt transition. Lookin At Lucky has already won on dirt, two starts back in the Rebel. Sidney's Candy has never raced outside California.
I leave you with some early Derby and Oaks thoughts from my colleagues Esther Marr and Jason Shandler: