Derby Q & A with Jerry Bailey
Two-time Kentucky Derby winner and ABC/ESPN horse racing analyst Jerry Bailey responds to the questions left by readers leading up to the 132nd Kentucky Derby.
Q: Jerry do you think that the west coast surfaces are more speed favored then eastern tracks say like Keeneland and Churchill Downs because i always have trouble gauging the times and comparing them so i could make my best decision on the race because the Kentucky tracks seem a little heavier.
Bailey: Yes, the California tracks are much quicker and speed conducive than eastern tracks as a rule.
Q: What do you think of Barbaro's chances in the Derby? I am a little concerned about his first 3 races being on Turf and only 2 on dirt. Being the phenomenal Turf rider that you were, your input means a lot to me. Does he look more like a turf horse to you? Does he have enough seasoning on dirt for the grueling Derby?
Bailey: I like him a lot, I'm just worried that he won't like the dirt in his face. If he overcomes that, he has a great chance.
Q: In a race such as this one, with a large field and a great deal of early speed, would you prefer to be on a stalker type chasing the first flight, or a closer who does his best running at the end?
Bailey: Always a stalker.
Q: You have been known to be very anayltical on your racing. Was there one race where you thought that you did too much studying and it cost you?
Bailey: I'm sure there several times when I overthought races. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, but for the most part, I felt being prepared was an edge.
Q: Does a horse realize the accomplishment of winning a race? I mean, does he know he has won? And, how are winners treated after a race? I'm sure they don't have a bottle of champaign poured over their head. So how are they celebrated?
Bailey: Yes, horses do know when they win, and all that I have been around are treated very well after a race (even the losers). A warm bath, a rubdown, then a hot meal. Sounds good eh?
Q: How close do you think Sinister Minister will run compared to the opening fractions of Spanish Chestnut last year? And if you do think it will be very close, do you think the race will fall apart like it did last year, or will the jocks be a little smarter this year?
Bailey: I think the jockeys will be very aware of the pace this year, and if anything it might be a little slower than some anticipate.
Q: Assuming your mount is average coming out of the gate, would you rather draw one of the very inside posts (No. 1 through No. 5) or one of the very outside positions (No. 16 thru No. 20)?
Bailey: I personally would take the 5. Saving ground to me is important.
Q: With a need to lead speedster like Sinister Minister likely on the engine from the start, what would your plans be if you were on one of the other so-called speed horses such as Lawyer Ron or Brother Derek?
Bailey: I would let Sinister Minister go. I don't think he can carry his speed here at the Downs like he did at Keeneland. Then I would just stalk.
Q: I know that the Churchill surface is very unique and sometimes hard on the horses. Is is better to look for a horse to breeze over the surface or a horse that is working out on a different surface leading up to the Derby?
Bailey: It doesn't matter where they breeze. Either they like it or they don't.
Q: When you were riding in a race, could you tell how fast your horse, or the race, was going? I see so many races where the leaders go out in 21, 44 and then just collapse coming home. Shouldn't a jockey know what times they are sending the horse out in, so they can have a chance to win?
Bailey: We jockeys can tell about how fast we are going in general. But sometimes you either can't slow them down, or you can't change a horse's style. In a lot of cases, just because you slow a horse down in the early part of a race, it doesn't mean you are going to get a huge finish from him at the end.
Q: Can you envision a scenario where Sinister Minister would be on the lead alone? The other speed types have to know they are commiting Derby suicide if they try to go with him.
Bailey: Yes I actually think that Sharp Humor will sit back a bit and let Sinister Minister have the lead for a while. But I don't think it will help him all that much.
Q: I know you rode Private Vow. What are your opinions of him? It seems his progression from two to three hasn't been what was expected by many, but do you see his progression in the last month enough to get him in the top 5 of the derby. Also keep being candid & sincere you are a breath of fresh air as a tv analyst. I like how you are truthful & answer the questions asked to you & don't beat around the bush. Thanks, Jeff
Bailey: Private Vow had some setbacks of some sort early this spring. Those setbacks caused him to alter is schedule. Although his race in the Rebel was a disappointment, his race in the Arkansas Derby was a big improvement. So yes, I think he can make the top 5 in the Derby.
Q: Which tracks, where Derby prep races are held, compare favorably to Churchill Downs when the track conditions are fast and when the track conditions are wet? For example, is a fast Churchill Downs racing condition comparable to a fast Santa Anita track?
Bailey: There is no track that really compares to Churchill Downs, if there were, everybody would prep there.
Q: If you were going to ride Brother Derek in the Derby, how would you ride him? Would you go for the duel with Baffert's "runaway train" Sinister Minister or stalk? Do you wish you were riding him? By the way, I think you have made a wonderful transition into announcing and you are doing a great job!
Bailey: If I were riding brother Derek, I would try and get him to relax a bit, but I would not fight him. I am sure Alex Solis has that in mind as well.
Q: Can Sinister Minister grab the lead and stay in front to win the Kentucky Derby?
Bailey: That's pretty unlikely
Q: Everywhere I look I am reading more and more about how fast the early Derby pace is going to be. Do you agree? And did you ever race in the Derby when there was pre-race hype such as this that turned out to be nothing more than hype?
Bailey: I agree that there will be plenty of pace; there are not only several speed horses, but also, several quality pace pressers as well. Of course, there have been Derbys in which the speed hype was there, but failed to materialize, but that is usually due to bad breaks from the speed horses at the start.
Q: If you could be on any horse for this years derby who would it be?
Bailey: I would pick Lawyer Ron to be my Derby mount if I had any horse to choose.
Q: Hey Jerry, it's not going to be the same without you in the Derby. I was wondering if you think Point Determined and Flashy Bull have a shot to win the Derby with so much speed in it?
A: Point Determined has an outside chance, but I can't see Flashy Bull.
Q: How much does the Churchill Downs crowd take out of a horse? Does going through a scene like the Breeders' Cup Juvenile help a horse deal with the throngs of onlookers at the Derby? Would blinkers help a horse to remain focused and not be distracted?
Bailey: The pomp and circumstance of the Derby can rattle some horses to no end. Some horses take those things better than others. There is no other day in racing that can prepare a horse for the craziness that they will experience on Derby day. Blinkers only help a horse focus on the track.
Q: Do you see short or deep closers having a shot in the Derby? And who ?
Bailey: I see the mid-pack kind of horse doing the best this year. Horses like Barbaro, Sweetnorthernsaint or Lawyer Ron. These horses have been speed horses that have learned to rate a bit, and if ridden correctly, should have perfect types of trips. Horses like Point Determined and Bob and John will have to get very lucky trips.
Q: Will Brother Derek's outside post compromise his chances?
Bailey: As long as he isn't left behind the gate, his post won't hurt him much. What will be his undoing will be his inability to relax.
Q: With all the expected speed in this years race, which of the true closers do you see flying at the end? Jazil, Storm Treasure, Cause to Believe, or Steppenwolfer?
Bailey: Of the ones you mentioned, Storm Treasure and Steppinwolfer have the best chance.
Q: Just how scary is it going into that first turn in the Derby with 20 horses banging into each other? I am surprised year after year that there isn't a major spill.
Bailey: It's not so much scary as it is frustrating, but the jockeys expect it. The reason there are not more spills, is that the very best jockeys in the world are riding and know how to avoid falling in that type if situation.
Q: Don't you think a field of 20 horses is rather overwhelming?
Bailey: Dick, yes I think 20 horses is too much. I think that it keeps the best horse from winning in many cases, but that's the way it is.
Q: With Lawyer Ron, is it more of an issue that his final times are slow, or his apparent aggressiveness and inability to rate?
Bailey: I think that Lawyer Ron's less-than-stellar finishing times have been due to being too aggressive early in his races. In the Rebel stakes, John McKee took him back several lengths from the lead and he finished well. That's how he will be most effective in the Derby.
Q: With all the projected speed in this years Derby, is there a chance that too many jockeys will try to rate and the pace will not be as expected? If so, who would benefit the most?
Bailey: The two main speed horses are Sinister Minister, and Sharp Humor, and both have stated that they will try for the lead, so no I don't think they will rate their horses.
Kentucky Derby television coverage begins Saturday, May 6 at 5 p.m. ET on NBC Sports.