Kentucky Derby oddsmakers are confused. And when handicappers are uncertain, they often go with marquee trainers.
But this time it's a mirage. Trainer Bob Baffert won't win his fourth Derby on Saturday even though Bodemeister opened as a lukewarm 4-1 favorite. He may get a piece of the final three, but no colt in more than 12 decades has smelled the roses that didn't race as a 2-year-old.
It won't be Union Rags, either. The long-expected Derby favorite hasn't repeated his stellar 2-year-old season. Nor will it be Hansen, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, or Dullahan, ridden by former Maryland superstar jockey Kent Desormeaux.
No, Creative Cause will win the Derby, with Gemologist second and Bodemeister third. The wise-guy wager is Maryland's Done Talking at an amazing 50-1.
It's not a strong Derby field. A handful are capable of winning America's biggest race, but the abundance of early speed likely will burn out several contenders and set up perfectly for that classic Derby winner of recent years -- a horse that lays fourth to seventh entering the stretch.
That's Creative Cause. He has no Derby connections, no bloodline to back, no trainer or jockey to hedge on for the pick. But he's the kind of certified stretch runner that finds success at Churchill Downs.
Creative Cause lost the Santa Anita Derby by a nose after a valiant late run between horses. He won the San Felipe Stakes and regularly fared well on the tough California circuit. At 12-1 in the Derby, Creative Cause is an exciting medium long shot.
Gemologist showed grit in winning the Wood Memorial by a neck despite a three-wide trip. After four straight easy victories, it was compelling to see the colt dig in. That will be necessary in a 20-horse field filled with blocked lanes, bouncing turns and unlucky moments.
But Gemologist will be compromised by an expected quick opening pace. He needs to be in the front and may be come the final turn, but Gemologist won't be able to repel Creative Cause in the final eighth mile.
Bodemeister earned favorite status after pulling away late in the Arkansas Derby for a 9?-length victory. He has alternated wins and second-place finishes in four career starts, but he's green and just not ready for the top level even if Baffert has him peaking. Bodemeister needs more seasoning before he can lay claim to being the best 3-year-old colt in the country. The Derby just comes too soon in his development.
Done Talking is an intriguing long shot. Like Creative Cause, he stalks the leaders before running late. The Laurel-based colt won the Illinois Derby when he passed eight rivals in the final quarter mile. But he starts so slowly that passing 15 horses in the last half mile of the Derby will be nearly impossible. Still, 50-1 merits a $2 saver.
It looks like a nice field of colts, just not a memorable group. Maybe one will stand out Saturday. Maybe not.