The 2015 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Watch Lists

Posted by Jaclyn Harris on Wed, Mar 4, 2015 @ 13:22 PM

It's that time of the year again! Time to begin forecasting not only who will qualify to be in the field of 141st Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks contenders, but also who could win. Horse racing experts are constantly studying three-year-olds racing in the Road to the Derby and Road to the Oaks to see whether or not they have what it takes to win a race of Kentucky Derby caliber.

And since all this forecasting is taking place, it only makes sense for us to begin talking to our own in-house horse racing expert, Loren Hebel-Obsorne, to see who makes it into her top 10.

So without further ado, this are the 2015 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Watch Lists, and be sure to bookmark this page as Loren's top 10 will update weekly!

The 141st Kentucky Derby Watch List

Loren's Final 2015 Kentucky Derby Picks

  1. American Pharoah
  2. Upstart
  3. Dortmund
  4. International Star


TOP 10


American Pharoah

No doubt in my mind that this is the Derby winner. Everything this colt does, he does without effort and with his ears forward.  His gaits are smooth and efficient and he has lovely free shoulders that allow full extension.  He is perfectly conditioned by team Baffert and his hindquarters track right into footprints left by his front feet.  The horse is so happy and content with his job. This horse often reminds me of Barbaro – he’s relaxed but fully cooperative to go to work when he needs to – racing is a game for him and not a battle. I will leave you with a visual of Tom Hanks in the movie “Big” … his character was both stunned and joy-filled to receive a check for working at the toy company.  I think this horse would be asking the same thing the movie’s character did “we get paid for this too?”


Hard for me to put this horse second as I have loved him throughout.  I’ve watched him get stronger and learn a new dimension in every race.  This horse is more battle tested and the question I had to answer was just that.  Who wins – the horse who thinks it’s a game or the horse that thinks it’s a battle.  This may be the year we get an Affirmed/Alydar or a Secretariat/Sham.  I’m even more intrigued that the two strongest contenders may hail from the same Baffert barn.  The lingering quote for me is from jockey of Affirmed, Steve Cauthen who said “Baffert’s Triple Crown may be spoiled by one of his own horses.”  If Dortmund stares them down with his left white eye – that might cause any horse to relinquish a crown.

Carpe Diem

This colt is flawless looking and Pletcher has taken some interesting new tactics with this colt by keeping him at Keeneland for his final preparations.  Pletcher knows his horse and I am guessing to think that his colt is so intense that he wants to keep him away from all the Derby chaos until the very last days.  It’s also hard to put this colt third as good as he is and if a 20-horse field causes my top two to miss a step – this is the colt who will Seize the Day – Derby day!

International Star

This colt and his connections have too much personality to leave him out.  I’m not sure he can hang with the top three but I’m betting that no one (especially owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey) is scared to take them on.  “Star” has done nothing wrong: crisp works and everything on schedule. Churchill Downs training center is home and the media has to make a special trip to see him.  Like is cocky pre-race antics in Risen Star and LA Derby, he will happily pose for as many photos as you like to take.  He will probably have some high odds as all will forget about his gutsy races in New Orleans.  He will complete my superfecta

Keen Ice

If this horse gets in – he’s my long shot closer.  Churchill Downs is his home track and Dale Romans should never be discounted in his back yard either.  I have loved his works in the morning and assistant trainer and rider Tammy Fox has been asking the colt to really gallop out strongly after his works.  He is really fit now and is dragging Tammy around this last few mornings.  He’s definitely a horse that has taken a little more time to mature both physically and mentally but I love the way training and think he might get a piece.


This is another colt who is improving at just the right time.  I believe that the 20-horse field might be his Achilles heel and he may have traffic trouble and I’d love him more if he had more experience.  But, he did overcome traffic to win the Wood and that fearless confidence is just what you need to run in the Derby!


This is a total wild card.  This colt has so much talent but I just can’t get my head around how he’s been scheduled.  He’s had so much change – change in scenery, change in his diet, change of training surfaces – not to mention the travel on both airplanes and vans.  I know that European horses are more accustomed to shipping around but I would I just believe this is all too disruptive for a young colt to be able to assimilate and then put in the best effort he needs to beat the likes of Baffert’s duo

Firing Line

The colt was second best to Dortmund in the Bob Lewis but he got a chance to get his confidence back in the Sunland Derby with a record-setting fast romp over the track.  I’ve absolutely got to keep some speed in my top picks, although I think he may fade if he has to try to keep up.


Local connections and the ever present reality of Pletcher’s “other horse in the barn.”  Connections feel strong enough about their chances that they are willing to negotiate a clever sponsorship promoting the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao fight.  All won’t want to be embarrassed so while I know it’s an odd angle to handicap – being an owner myself, we often show how we feel about our horse by our actions and they feel like they may knock out a big run.  This colt may move up in the rankings depending on where he draws his post position.

Danzig Moon

This flashy colt has caught my eye in the morning at Churchill.  He’s been on the muscle and his colt looks like glass. His pedigree alone could win the Derby but his race record is solid – including a closing move in the Bluegrass.  A big striding colt likely needs the distance to get up to a high cruising speed - -if he has a clean trip, I could see him getting a piece of the purse.

Updated: May 1, 2015

Over the last few days of training, my opinion has not changed with regard to American Pharoah and he will be my top selection – I’m predicting a multiple length win.  The one big surprise that totally changed my top three was the appearance of Upstart.  He had to be on the Churchill Downs grounds 72 hours in advance of the draw so I hadn’t had an opportunity to see him until this week.  He has absolutely never looked better and he is relishing the Churchill Downs surface and cooler Kentucky temperatures. Trainer Rick Violette has found his smile again and I think he’s sitting on a huge run.  Upstart is the most battled tested and I perhaps his team will get revenge from the disqualification in the Fountain of Youth.  I’ve loved Dortmund throughout and I still think he gets a majority of the purse but I think Upstart may collar him in the stretch a prevail.  And, I’m sticking with my “Star” from the New Orleans meet.  Carpe Diem’s post I think has cause me to put him out of my superfecta.

What do you think of the top 10? Who would you leave out and who would you add? Share your thoughts with us the comments below!

The 141st Kentucky Oaks Watch List

Loren's Final 2015 Kentucky Oaks Picks

  1. Stellar Wind
  2. Condo Commando
  3. Lovely Maria
  4. Sarah Sis


TOP 10


Stellar Wind

California is loaded with talent and John Sadler send this talented filly in with an undefeated record.  Her style is to rate just off the pace and she has an exceptional turn of foot in the stretch.

Lovely Maria

This filly has gotten better every morning I’ve seen her at Churchill.  Trainer Larry Jones gallops her himself and he just has an odd way of riding that always looks like the filly is running away with him.  When she is collected, she seems to push more off her hind end and travel more balanced.  She almost ran past another Derby worker the other morning so she’s got confidence to spare.    

Condo Commando

Speed, speed speed.  She knows how to win and I may move her higher based on her post position draw. If she gets the trip she wants, she will be hard to catch!

Sarah Sis

Consistent as they make them and I think folks will forget about her brilliant runs against Breeders’ Cup winner Take Charge Brandi.  She will likely have some long odds but I know she will be trying in the stretch.

Include Betty

Owner and former Governor of Kentucky Brereton Jones knows how to win the Kentucky Oaks and this is his other filly to try.  I’m a little concerned with her lack of experience but what she did win – the Fantasy at Oaklawn – was a stare down battle with Oceanwave that she won.  Huge confidence builder and she’s acting like a winner in the Proctor barn with a very diva attitude.

I’m a Chatterbox

Don’t love this filly as much as I did.  She looks a little thin to me which suggests that the stress may be getting to her a bit and she may not be eating as much as trainer Larry Jones would like.  She’s a beautiful moving filly who flicks her toes at the jog.  I’d just like to see her a little more relaxed coming and going to the track in the morning.


Dale Romans doesn’t send this one out during the special Derby/Oaks training time but you won’t miss her when she does train as she makes a real presence.  She’s thriving from the activity


Trainer Bob Baffert’s wife Jill named this one for her long eyelashes but this filly has really improved since arriving at Churchill.  She looks to have gained some muscle and weight and appears to like the Churchill Downs track surface.  A very fit filly who is barely breathing hard at the end of her gallops.  


While this filly also hasn’t captured the big prep win – she loves Churchill and Wayne Catalano is really happy with her.  He’s the kind of trainer who doesn’t say much but his body language tells me more than the horse in this case – there’s a spring in his step too!

Forever Unbridled

Her mother Lemons’ Forever won the Kentucky Oaks as a long shot for trainer Dallas Stewart and this filly may be coming into the race in just the same fashion.  She will be a longshot as she really hasn’t won a prep.  All said, Dallas has her looking fabulous – shiney coat and happy just bouncing along in her training.  I will likely move her up for nostalgia as I won lots of money the year her mother won!

Updated: May 1, 2015

“Update: It’s Oaks Day – a beautiful “chamber of commerce” type weather or 72 degrees and sunny.  The track is rated fast and we will be in the PINK! I have studied the Oaks contenders again carefully and for the most part, I’m staying with my top choices.  I’ve moved Condo Commando up one spot as I think this fast track will really help her and make her hard to catch.  Stellar Wind will have to have on her running shoes and quick turn of foot but I think she catches her before the wire.  Here’s the official top four picks for my superfecta:

A Word From Loren Hebel-Osborne

"Primarily a physicality handicapper, my comments often includes analogies for human attributes.  I carefully study the body language of the horse to give me clues about predicting a winning outcome.

Observations are made in the walk-over, paddock, warm up, body of race, final 1/16th, gallop out, winner’s circle, and even in the careful scrutiny of still photography of any of these horses in training or racing.  Body language can cover a myriad of details such as ears and activity, tail position, head carriage and focus, facial expression, stride, focus, sweat patterns, and the interaction of the horse and its handlers." - Loren 

Learn more about Loren and her
expertise here>>

View the Road to the Kentucky Derby & Kentucky Oaks Standings>>

Start Your 2016 Kentucky Derby Experience!

Don't miss your chance to see the "Run for the Roses" LIVE at Churchill Downs® next May for the 2016 Kentucky Derby!

Official Ticket Packages include tickets to both the 2016 Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks, exclusive entry to an in-track hospitality venue complete with open beer, wine and soft drinks, Derby Experiences Hospitality Kentucky Derbyand complimentary gourmet fare, access to celebrity jockey meet-and-greets, and much more!

Not to mention, tickets to official Kentucky Derby parties such as the Fillies & Lilies Party and the Winner's Party are also available. In fact, you can even opt for a "party package" which includes the amenities of an Official Ticket Package combined with Derby party access.

Get more information on Official Ticket Packages and to build your perfect Kentucky Derby experience today, get in touch with Derby Experiences! Call 1-888-384-7088 to speak to a representative or visit Derby Experiences' website to view package options now!


Join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #DerbyVIP and #KyDerby!

Image copyrights belong to QuintEvents. 

Topics: Kentucky Derby

Subscribe to Our Blog

About the Bloggers

Kristen Doolan

Kristen Doolan was born and raised a Florida State Seminole. Making her way from Florida to North Carolina, Kristen achieved her B.S. in Business Administration, Marketing at The University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is an avid traveler, college football addict, beach bum and loves spending time with her family and friends. 


Jazzy Morgan

Jazzy Morgan is originally from London, England and a die-hard Manchester United Fan. She grew up in Connecticut and made the move down south in 2011 where she attended Winthrop University and received her B.S. in Family & Consumer Sciences and a minor in Marketing. Jazzy enjoys traveling, working out, reading her monthly Vogue & Cosmo and keeping up with fashion trends.


Evan Chronis

Evan Chronis was born in Omaha, Nebraska but has made his home in south Charlotte for almost two decades. A Tar Heel born and bred, Evan received his B.A in Media and Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill. He is an avid Boston sports fan thanks to his family’s New England roots, and a fanboy of Wes Anderson films.