PHOTO: Hodges Photography
HOW HE GOT HERE
I’m not sure anyone pictured this son of Orb in the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby after his first two starts in 2020. He debuted in November at Churchill and was slow into stride when racing on a sloppy course. He was last early, but did make up significant ground, passing half of the field to finish 6th beaten 5+ lengths. He shipped to the Fair Grounds to attempt a race on the turf, but the weather transferred that race to the main track. He beat four rivals to break his maiden that day, finishing in front of Unitedandresolute, who has gone on to be stakes placed on the turf.
His three year old campaign started off with a win in a 6 Furlong N2L allowance in New Orleans. He came from off the pace, and powered home as a much the best winner. That effort earned him a spot in the starting gate of the Risen Star Stakes, where he’d be making his first start at two turns and his first start in stakes company. His effort that day wasn’t bad for a horse stretching out from 6 to 9 Furlongs, while also taking a big class hike. He was wide on the turn, which wasn’t best the way to win this meet at the Fair Grounds. He leveled off to finish 4th, beaten 7 and ½ lengths that day.
That effort was good enough for him to earn another shot on the Derby Trail, and he was entered in the Louisiana Derby. For a fifth straight time, he showed considerable improvement, finishing third beaten, 2+ lengths behind Hot Rod Charlie, in one of the faster Derby Preps of the season. He sat back in last place, while the front runners set a moderate pace up front. When they turned for home, Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon were dueling, and he started his run, coming through along the rail. Hot Rod Charlie put away Midnight Bourbon in the stretch. O Besos was never getting to the winner, be he closed well to be third, just missing second place and a guaranteed spot in the Derby by a neck. His 25 Derby Points had him on the bubble, but recent defections have made it likely that he’ll be able to make it into the body of the field.
HOW HE FITS HERE
O Besos is definitely a longshot in this race, however, he’s not impossible and I think he has a better chance than some of the other longer odds horses. From a pedigree standpoint, he’s sired by 2013 Kentucky Derby winner, Orb. With the recent defection of Concert Tour, he is likely to be the only starter in the field to be sired by a Derby winner. His dam is Snuggs and Kisses, who was a 12 time winner, winning on three different surfaces from 7 to 9 Furlongs. She was sired by lightly raced, Soto, who is best known for winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at two and the West Virginia Derby at three. From a pedigree standpoint, I’m not concerned about him getting the distance.
From a pace standpoint, he figures to get a good setup for his late close. The defection of Concert Tour, all but guaranteed him a spot in the gate, but it does take away one of the major pace players in this race. There are still six other dedicated front runners that will have some decisions to make in the first quarter mile. The faster they go in the early stages, the better chance he has to have an impact on this race later on.
HOW IT FIGURES TO GO HERE
I’m expecting his name to be one of the last ones that Larry Collmus and Travis Stone will be calling in the early part of this race. The strategy for this one is no secret, as trainer Gregory Foley said the plan is to lay back and make one big run for home. Since the inception of the Derby Points system in 2013, there was really only one Derby that had a pace meltdown, which was in 2013, and that scenario was aided by Palace Malice unexpectedly winging it on the front add when blinkers were added for that race.
The problem with betting a horse like this in the Derby, is that a deep closer like this often needs to have the perfect trip. Since 2000, only four horses came, Giacomo, Street Sense, Mine That Bird, and Orb rallied from significantly off the early pace to win the Derby. Calvin Borel was a master of saving ground and creating the perfect trip when riding Street Sense and Mine That Bird to victories in 2007 and 2008. Orb was able to close into a hot pace while going wide on the turn and sustaining his bid through the stretch. Giacomo didn’t have a great trip as he was about 4 wide all the way around, but the pace in that race completely melted down, and kept on grinding to win.
If there is a sub 46 opening half mile, his chances will greatly improve, but he’ll need some luck and a skillful ride from Derby rookie, Marcelino Pedroza. If he makes it into the starting gate, he will be the second career Kentucky Derby starter for Foley, saddling Major Fed last year. Foley hasn’t had a ton of experience with graded stakes horses, but he’s won a lot of races at Churchill over the years.
When your friend who only cares about horse racing one day a year calls you up and asks for a longshot to play, I think O Besos makes a lot more sense than most of the other horses that will likely be 20-1 or higher on the morning line. This is horse who has steadily improved while taking on tougher horses and longer distances. Despite not having a graded stakes win on his resume, you could argue that he is starting to peak at the right time. I feel like if he gets a good trip, he makes a lot of sense as an underneath horse to use in the trifectas and superfectas. I will be using him as a C horse in the multi-race exotics, covering him in the event of a pace meltdown, as I think that scenario is far more likely than a gate to wire winner here.
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