Podcaster Predicts the Winner of This Year’s Running of the Roses
The 148th Kentucky Derby will take place Saturday, as the world’s most famous horse race tries to erase the stains of last year’s controversy. On his podcast this week, Mike Francesa, a confessed Derby fanatic, had plenty of race insights to share with his guest, handicapper Brad Thomas.
There are a lot of contenders in this year’s run to the roses at Churchill Downs. But Francesa likes one horse in particular.
“I think, although not the most talented horse, this race might set up very well for the trainer (Chad Brown) and the characteristics of Zandon,” said Francesa. Thomas agreed, saying that Zandon is indeed the horse to beat because of Brown’s brilliant horsemanship and race management.
“Brown is great at getting horses to close,” said Francesa. “His horses always pack a punch.”
He says that Zandon, “is a natural closer,” and that Brown’s horses, “always have it for the last furlong.”
“Just like you can count on (Shug) McGaughey to pack a wallop with a horse that naturally wants to run in the final stages, same thing with Chad Brown, his horses are going to pack a wallop down the stretch.”
Francesca says Zandon has characteristics that will benefit him at the Derby. Most races, he says, play to horse with natural speed and athleticism. Not so at the Derby.
“Because the Derby is overcrowded and the Derby is forced speed, and it is forced stalking, and it is forced action in the first six furlongs,” he said. “And it does not play to a horse’s advantage unless he’s in a race without a lot of speed. This race, as we mentioned has a lot of speed which will open it up for a lot of horses like Zandon.”
Both Francesa and Thomas pick Zandon to win this year’s Derby. But it’s not just horses that dominate the storylines in Louisville.
Francesa says infamous trainer Bob Baffert, who fell from grace after Medina Spirit’s drug disqualification at the 2021 Derby, still casts a long shadow across the event.
“The idea that Baffert’s not here is ridiculous,” said Francesa. “Baffert has two horses in this race trained by another trainer, in Tim Yakteen. Baffert was training the two horses a month ago. So they are here really, under Baffert’s tutelage even though Baffert isn’t here.”
Those horses, Taiba and Messier, will essentially attempt o win the race by proxy for Baffert, who is often called one of the best trainers in horse racing history.
There’s also a personal storyline — and heartache — for Francesa at the Derby this year.
He makes no secret that he’d hoped to have a horse running this year. He’s the co-owner of High Oaks, who was injured after a hard fall at the Fountain of Youth Stakes in March.
“The Derby was our plan for a year, we got a very tough break, luckily the horse did not get killed that day. Ironically, there were horses in that race who are here (at the Derby.)”
High Oak continues his recovery, and Francesa hopes to have him saddled up for next year’s race. In the meantime, Francesa and Thomas will wait to see if their pick – Zandon – can step into the winner’s circle at the 2022 Kentucky Derby.
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