2022 Kentucky Derby Interview: Behind the Scenes Q&A With TVG Analyst, Action Network Handicapper Andie Biancone
Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images. Pictured: Action Network handicapper and TVG analyst Andie Biancone with Sole Volante, who finished 11th in the 2020 Kentucky Derby. Biancone is co-owner of the horse.
Assistant trainer. Exercise ride. Television analyst. Action Network freelance writer. Oh, and co-owner of a horse who ran in the 2020 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Andie Biancone has been covering the Derby trail for the Action Network, plus giving her insight as a regular TVG on-air analyst from the paddock and behind the scenes on race days at Gulfstream Park and Keeneland Race Course.
A special victory for Jockey @Luissaezpty in the G1 @MakersMark Mile Stakes! Get immediate reactions with @andie_biancone on Shirl's Speights' performance @KeenelandRacing:@TMStallions pic.twitter.com/4d7lwBkFdH
— TVG (@TVG) April 15, 2022
Biancone, who heads to the training facility before the sun rises to work and train horses with her father, Patrick Biancone, has first-hand knowledge and information tied to North American thoroughbred racing. So, I thought I’d sit down with Andie to get some more insight ahead of this weekend’s Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby.
So, let’s see what Biancone said and what kind of behind-the-scenes thoughts she has leading up to the “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” coming up at Churchill Downs.
Q&A With Andie Biancone
Pond: “You’re co-owner of Sole Volante, who finished 11th in the 2020 Kentucky Derby. What was the experience like having a horse saddled and running in arguably the biggest race in the world?”
Biancone: “It was a COVID-19 Derby, so we ran in the fall, which was kind of unfortunate for us, because you have all these horse set to run and ready to peak in the spring. And then all of a sudden there was a huge halt in everything. So get the horse to cool down, then get them re-peak in the fall was difficult.
“However, saddling a horse in the Derby was incredible, but also nauseating and insane. I barely remember the paddock. My dad was unable to be there because he was battling kidney cancer, so it was kind of bittersweet to be there without him. The energy is crazy, though. Even without a crowd, it was probably the most nerve-racking experience of my life and wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
— TVG (@TVG) April 23, 2022
Pond: “Being an assistant trainer and exercise rider for your father’s stable, as well as working as an on-site analyst for TVG, you’ve seen a lot of these horses up close. Which Derby entrants have caught your eye from both a ‘looks’ and/or training perspective leading up to the race?”
Biancone: “Yeah, I’ve had the opportunity to see some of these horses during the winter, especially at Gulfstream Park. The ones that stood out to me a lot… I remember from Day 1 that Charge It has always been a standout. I remember seeing him in the paddock on his debut and thinking, ‘Wow. This is the (trainer Todd) Pletcher Derby horse. He just stood out physically among any group of horses. He’s just an amazing animal.
“Epicenter has always been caught my eye. Just watching him from his previous races on the Derby trail. He’s just an incredible looking horse. He’s a physically, very dominating type. Zandon is also another horse who caught my eye as well when he ran Blue Grass. He looks very European in comparison to the other horses. Everyone else is more ‘American’ built; really muscular.
“And Zandon is a very lean, lanky kind of build, but he’s absolutely incredible and built like a cross-country runner. I think that is going to be extremely helpful in the Derby.”
Pond: “As a new fan or longtime Derby bettor, what should everyone be looking for as these horses are being saddled or warming up on the track? What should bettors (and you, or course) focus in on, especially when it comes to positive signs aka ‘green flag’ or ‘red flags’ ahead of the big race?”
Biancone: “You want to see horses who have good energy, who look happy and have ears forward, have extension in their walk, but aren’t nervous. You don’t want to see a nervous horse. Ones that are covered in white sweat. And the Derby is different. None of these horse have experience running with such a high volume of people around… like 200,000 people. They feel that pressure.
“So, not only is the Derby just a huge test for horses in terms of their running abilities. It’s a test just as a whole. To have the ability to not choke under pressure and handle that immense weight. And it’s a lot to ask of a horse and only a true champion can handle that kind of pressure.
“I love watching horses warm up. I think it’s a huge part, a huge tool to see who is going to run big. When horse leaves the pony and jumps right on the bridle and take off… that’s a great sign. You want to really keep an eye on that Saturday since there’s a huge potential the track could be sloppy.
“Some of those horses are going to get out there, feel that slop and not take to it, while others are going to love the puddles. Those are really important things to look for when you’re making those last-minute decisions before you run to the betting window.”
Pond: “Finally, we’ve been pretty on point and in agreement with our picks leading up to the Kentucky Derby. So, are we on the same contender in the final race of this long road to the Kentucky Derby?
Here’s a hint… Mine starts with a ‘Z’.”
Biancone: “Oh, it’s so difficult. I think is such an even field, but Zandon is one to really watch and he’s my top pick. He really impressed me the way he won the Blue Grass. The way he galloped out (after crossing the finish line)… (jockey Flavien) Prat could barely pull him up.
“I was riding the pony for TVG that day doing post-race interviews and had the opportunity to interview Flavien (check out Andie’s interview at the 4:20 mark in the tweet below) after the race. And Zandon was not tired at all. That’s a great sign and it showed the Blue Grass didn’t take anything out of him. And surely, he’s gained a lot of confidence after that win.
— Andie Biancone 🐴 (@andie_biancone) April 10, 2022
“Charge It is another one to watch. If he can handle the pressure and stepped up since the Florida Derby. He’s clearly full of try and shown a bit of versatility in the past where he has that speed to get out of the gate and get a good position.
“This could really set up well for a closer like Zandon. You know Epicenter is going to go to the front and you know Zozos is going to put pressure on him, so this could set up really nicely for a closer. Even for a horse like Tiz the Bomb. I know he seems like turf and Tapeta horse on his form, which is true.
“However, a sloppy Churchill Downs track. That’s something ‘turfy’ kinda horses really like. If a turf horse is to like any dirt surface out there, it’s the Churchill Downs dirt course on Kentucky Derby day because they make it lightning fast especially if it’s sloppy. I don’t think he will win, but he’s someone to use underneath at a price.”
2022 Kentucky Derby Odds
|4||Summer Is Tomorrow||30-1|
|9||Tiz The Bomb||30-1|
|11||Pioneer Of Medina||30-1|