Saturday's Kentucky Derby is either: A) The big jump toward stardom for Nyquist, or B) As wide-open a Derby as anyone could possibly imagine.
And even if it's "A" and Nyquist continues his undefeated string at Churchill Downs, how to sort out who might finish second, third and fourth in the Run for the Roses?
Getting that right can pay off big time. American Pharoah, at least to me, looked like a lock to win last year's Derby. But a $1 superfecta ticket still paid $634.10 -- just enough to send the winner to the IRS window.
I could be wrong. Frequently have been. The Derby is an easy place to be wrong. But I'll take Nyquist. Why? Because no one has beaten him yet and none of his rivals has yet shown anything better. Granted, only four of the 19 have ever lined up against Nyquist. But those four include then-undefeated Fountain of Youth winner Mohaymen, eventual Santa Anita Derby winner Exaggerator and Blue Grass winner Brody's Cause. Nyquist beat them all.
Here's something else: There is not a lot of speed in this field, at least in terms of "need the lead" types. Only Outwork, breaking from the No. 15 gate, and Danzing Candy, starting No. 20, totally fit that profile. Nyquist should be able to get a decent stalking spot from the "lucky 13" gate where jockey Mario Gutierrez can assess the pace and adjust accordingly. Nyquist has won on the lead, from a stalking spot and from far back.
Can an Uncle Mo colt go 1 1/4 miles? It's a question for all of them, but Nyquist was drawing off after 1 1/8 miles in the Florida Derby.
Now, who fills out the trifecta and superfecta? Here are my stabs. And I admit they are stabs. Honestly, you can make a case for ANY of the 20 starters to crack the top four.
-- Gun Runner. His only loss came in the slop. The layoff since winning the Louisiana Derby is a big question mark but trainer Steve Asmussen isn't going into the Hall of Fame this summer because he's a dummy. He should be close to the lead.
-- Creator. He came from the clouds to win the Arkansas Derby and seems to be hitting his stride. And, gee -- Asmussen will saddle him, too. Could pick up some pieces if the early pace is too hot.
-- Exaggerator. He ran with Nyquist in California and dominated the Santa Anita Derby, albeit in the slop. Hard to tell how good he is but he could be very good.
-- Danzing Candy. He was very good in the San Felipe and probably didn't like the slop in the Santa Anita Derby. He's used to running on the lead so the first time under the wire will be critical for jockey Mike Smith out of the No. 20 post. I can see him shooting to the lead and holding on for third or fourth.
So maybe you just want to have a little fun, maybe with a 10-cent tri or super box? Here are some possibilities:
-- The all-Uncle Mo trifecta. The freshman sire produced Mo Tom, Nyquist and Outwork. That would not be an impossible outcome and, heck, Galileo sired the first three finishers in this week's Oaks prep at Chester in England.
-- The all-weird trifecta. Lani, trained in Japan and a winner in Dubai, has never raced in the United States. Oscar Nominated makes his first start on real dirt and owner Ken Ramsey paid $200,000 to supplement him to the Derby. Trojan Nation has never won a race in six tries. Exaggerator's jockey, Kent Desormeaux, has won the Kentucky Derby three times but his trainer, Kent's brother Keith Desormeaux, saddles his first Derby starter.
Whatever you do, have fun and don't bet more than you're willing to lose. Remember the quote from the guy ahead of me in line decades ago at Cahokia Downs in East St. Louis, Ill.:
"Gee, I hope I break even today. I need the money."