One Kentucky Derby Contender Towers Over the Rest

John Sadler knew all along he had a good thing in his barn. He had plunked down a big slug of his clients’ cash -- $650,000 -- on the colt when he was just an unnamed yearling in an auction ring, and dreams of getting him to the Kentucky Derby quickly filled his head.

That Sadler, seemingly oddly, started Rock Your World on grass, rather than on dirt, has an explanation: Being based in Southern California, he had no desire to immediately throw the horse into races against the army of blue-bloods that roll out of the powerful Bob Baffert barn. That’s like playing the University of Alabama football team every Saturday, he quipped in a recent interview. “I don’t think you want to do that.”

One Kentucky Derby Contender Towers Over the Rest

Turf would prove a gentler starting point, and after Rock Your World reeled off impressive back-to-back victories, Sadler took his big shot, switching him over to dirt for the Santa Anita Derby. As luck would have it, the Baffert brigade was reeling a bit by then. And neither of his two starters managed to put up much of a fight against Rock Your World, who rolled to an easy 4 1/4 length victory that stamped him a top Kentucky Derby contender.

Sadler’s gambit had paid off.

I’m betting -- at odds of 5-1 or so -- that it does so again in Louisville this weekend. Rock Your World has all the tools: He’s a big, athletic colt with a beautiful stride that rhythmically gobbles up ground.

He corners like a Porsche, which allows him to spurt away from his rivals on the turns. And the added distance of the Derby shouldn’t be a problem. Sadler told me this week that he’s always felt that, given the horse’s imposing size, he’d run better as the races got longer.

Yes, he’s light on experience and, yes, he acts a little green and goofy at times, but he’s just a better athlete than the rest of these horses. If he can settle down early in the race and not get into an energy-sapping tug of war with his jockey, he will find himself draped in a bed of roses shortly after 7 p.m. on Saturday.

(David Papadopoulos, a senior editor at Bloomberg News, is a voter in the thoroughbred industry’s Eclipse Awards. He has been publishing his Triple Crown picks for the past decade. He used to publicly disclose the ROI on his picks but then those returns started to slip markedly and he lost interest in doing that. He swears, though, that anyone who has followed his betting advice is still up money.)

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