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Kentucky Confidential

Profile: Pants on Fire

Pants On Fire training at Churchill Downs. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Pants On Fire did not look like a serious Kentucky Derby contender until his final prep race when he gamely held back Nehro and Mucho Macho Man to win the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby by a neck.

The Louisiana Derby was Pants On Fire’s seventh consecutive two-turn race, so he should have a good foundation for the mile-and-a-quarter Kentucky Derby.

While Pants On Fire is battle tested, he lost most of those battles. The horses who finished in front of him in a three-race stretch from December through January — Rescind the Trade, Monzon, J J’s Lucky Train and Wilkinson — are good horses but not first-tier 3-year-olds, and Pants On Fire had clean trips in those races.

In the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes on February 19, Pants On Fire did not show his customary early speed. He got caught wide on both turns and was ineffective coming from off the pace.

In the Louisiana Derby he tracked a 99-to-1 shot while in the clear. That was the easy part. In the stretch he fended off a bid from Mucho Macho Man to his outside and then Nehro to his inside. Pants On Fire ran his final three furlongs in 37.90 seconds, not a great finishing time, but this effort still represented huge improvement.

If Pants On Fire can repeat or build on that effort, then he is going to outrun his odds in the Kentucky Derby. Most people will be betting that the Pants On Fire we saw in his first seven career races will return in Louisville.

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Author PhotoAn award winning newspaper journalist from Chicago’s south side, Pete Denk moved to Lexington, Kentucky, in 2005. He wrote for Thoroughbred Times for five years, as a staff reporter and later as sales editor. Denk headed up the Times’ auction coverage for three years. Still based in horse country, he now works as a freelance journalist and consultant. More by  ›