Derby contender: Awesome Act


Strengths: Overcame traffic issues to win the Gotham, showing that he's tractable enough to find running room -- a plus considering what he'll be up against on Derby Day. His running style suits the race, which will have several speed horses who could set the race up for a closer. The Derby will be his third start off the layoff, and that many times is the best effort of a horse's form cycle, especially coming off a regression in his second start back.

Weaknesses: He was greatly aided by a perfect setup in the Gotham, when swift fractions and the race flow (there was a multi-horse duel in front of him) worked to his advantage. His Beyer Speed Figure was decent (98), but he'll need to run better than that to win the Derby. There has to be some concern whether he's capable of that because he's not likely to get a much better setup in the Derby than he did in the Gotham. The distance is also a concern, and it's worth noting that the 1 1/8-mile Wood was the farthest he's raced, finishing almost 10 lengths behind Eskendereya, who was ruled out with an injury before the draw.

Strategy: With a fast, contested pace likely, he should take back off the leaders and try to make a late run. He's a proven closer, and since he should have the race flow in his favor, it makes sense to capitalize on it. If he races too far back, he'll spot position to the stalkers and midpack runners, but if there are blinding fractions, he'll be better off than those runners, who could be pace victims themselves.

Value: Awesome Act's regression in the Wood took the bloom off the rose a bit after some people read too much into his perfect-trip Gotham win. But that should only mean a square price considering that he should fall into a nice race setup, assuming a clean trip. Any proven stalker/closer should be strongly considered in the Derby, and he does have a decent late kick.

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