Commentary

Handicapping the Derby field

Updated: April 30, 2009, 5:47 PM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to ESPN.com

The Derby post-position draw is a little older than old school; it's like before technology, with wooden boxes and sheets of paper and nameplates and hooks holding sway.

There's a double-type-draw before positions are registered.

This one was seemingly from Central Casting, with the horses with rail appeal and curb appeal, the best of the group, going before the wishful runners.

No gate spots look like trouble spots, outside of Musket Man looking at an avalanche from 2, with the favorite picking lucky number 13.

The morning-line-maker broke the field into two parts: four stars, 16 others.

This is a look at the field inside out: best qualities before the semicolons, reasons to worry after.

Every handicapper should have reasons for doing things, even if they're wrong.

1. West Side Bernie: Well-groomed, can close; 21 would be a better post.

2. Musket Man: Has won five at four tracks; sorry gate reservation.

3. Mr. Hot Stuff: Has great personality; maiden winner.

4. Advice: Patient; too patient.

5. Hold Me Back: Only 15-1, opening; obliterated on dirt.

6. Friesan Fire: Three wins in a row, all improving Beyers; inflated off-track number, off seven weeks.

7. Papa Clem: Oaklawn history hot, one of the better double-digit moon-shots; hasn't beaten celebrities.

8. Mine That Bird: Photographs well; N-Mex to here.

9. Join in the Dance: Quick, has lost to some good ones; maiden winner has been a favorite only once.

10. Regal Ransom: One of two rockets, recently beat 15-1 opening line Desert Party; the lead can get old fast.

11. Chocolate Candy: Always closes from middle, another solid double-digit morning-line horse; never been dirty.

12. General Quarters: He's beaten a couple of shorter morning-line prices, legit sleeper and exotic filler; looks like some others.

13. I Want Revenge: Highest Beyer, gutsy rider; wild rider, has beaten beans.

14. Atomic Rain: Has three seconds; one second was an allowance.

15. Dunkirk: Ran with Quality Road, improving; track history consists of only three chapters, though.

16. Pioneerof the Nile: Model runner, looks great; new surface makes it a big gamble.

17. Summer Bird: Closes; from out behind barn.

18. Nowhere to Hide: Zito; some handicappers have won more this year.

19. Desert Party: Sheik; best stateside Beyer routine.

20. Flying Private: One for ten; what do you punks mean, you've never heard of Mr. Lukas?

Picks

1. Pioneerof the Nile
2. Dunkirk
3. I Want Revenge
4. Chocolate Candy/General Quarters

Saver

I Want Revenge over: Papa Clem, Regal Ransom, Chocolate Candy, General Quarters, Desert Party.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.