Who’s my 2018 Kentucky Derby Favorite? I see a Bad Moon a-rising


May 3rd 2018 – Updated May 5th 2018 4:15 PM EST (see bottom of page, U-Oh RAIN!)

All week, friends and co-workers have been asking me: “Mike, who’s your Derby favorite?” This year’s Kentucky Derby is so wide-open that I almost feel like going into hiding. I thought I had this figured out after the San Felipe Stakes, McKinzie or Bolt d’Oro. But McKinzie was taken off the Derby trail due to an injury. The Bolt d’Oro was beaten by Justify in the Santa Anita Derby.

If you read my “Who’s your Daisy in the 2018 Kentucky Derby?” article on US Racing, I don’t feel too confident that I’m your ‘Huckleberry’ this year. There are about 6-7 horses that I think can win it this year.

Folks, I think this is a far better race for 10 cent Superfectas and 50 cent Trifectas than placing big win bets. When I can narrow the potential Derby winner down to two horses like I can most years, I like to make big win bets on my two favorites. For example, Horse A is 3-1 and Horse B is 4-1. I’d take $100 and bet $55 of it on Horse A and $45 on Horse B. The payouts for each would be as follows: Horse A $220 and Horse B $225. So if you can narrow it down to two horses, you can more than double your money (120-125% Return on Investment). The higher the odds for the two favorites, the better the pay out. Last year I tripled my money playing a combination of Always Dreaming and Classic Empire. But this becomes less profitable and inadvisable with a three-horse or more combination.

Still everyone wants to know who I favor the most in this year’s Derby?


If it is a wet race, I like My Boy Jack and Justify as both have proven that run well in the slop. I go into more detail of why I like My Boy Jack in a Derby profile I wrote for US Racing. Update: The weather forecast looks good for Louisville, 5% chance of chance.

If it is a dry race, it becomes more difficult since this field has a lot of fast colts. As I stated earlier, I think there are 6 to 7 horses that can win this year’s Derby on a dry fast track. These colts are: Justify, Magnum Moon, Mendelssohn, Audible, Bolt d’Oro, Vino Rosso and My Boy Jack.

All of these colts have a few things that they can be dinged on when looking for a prototype Derby winner. I will discuss below:

Justify (3/1) – Only one horse since WWII that has won the Kentucky Derby while never facing 10 or more starters in a prep race (American Pharoah in 2015). The largest field Justify has faced has been six. And then the Curse of Apollo to boot: No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Kentucky Derby having not raced as a 2-year-old. Justify is inexperienced, having only 3 career starts, all during his 3-year-old campaign. Plus he has never raced outside the state of California.

Magnum Moon (6/1) – Same as Justify, the Curse of the Apollo works against him. However, he did face 10 starters in the Rebel Stakes. Admittedly, I didn’t think there was a serious Derby contender in the Arkansas Derby when I made my Future Wager picks the week before. I was humbled. The concern with Magnum Moon, is that he has already raced 4 times this year. Was the Arkansas Derby his peak performance? 

Mendelssohn (5/1) – No UAE Derby winner has ever won the Kentucky Derby. Plus, he had to be shipped overseas. I generally like shippers-over to get one more start under their belt on US soil before a big graded stakes race like the Kentucky Derby. But Mendelssohn was able to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf race without a prep race in the US. 

Audible (8/1) – The Florida Derby winner drew an excellent post-position (#5). Five out of the last twenty-five Derby winners started from post #5. The Florida Derby has produced the last two Kentucky Derby winners and three out of the last five. Concerning is that jockey John Velazquez opted for Vino Rosso as his mount in this year’s Derby.

Bolt d’Oro (8/1) – A very talented colt as a 2-year-old. He won the FrontRunners Stakes which has produced three out of the last four Kentucky Derby winners. Expectations were high for this son of Medaglia d’Oro entering 2018. However, he has yet to cross the wire first in his 3-year-old campaign, winning the San Felipe Stakes due to a Stewards Inquiry and disqualification to McKinzie. I sort of get the feeling that he may be this year’s version of Classic Empire. Classic Empire finished 3rd in last year’s Kentucky Derby.

Vino Rosso (12/1) – The Wood Memorial winner. I will admit that I was surprised the John Velazquez chose Vino Rosso over Audible for his Derby mount. Audible is a faster colt by times and Speed Figures. But Johnny V thinks that the son of Curlin, Vino Rosso, will like the added distance better. Since Velazquez won the Derby last year, you’ve got to take note of that.

My Derby Pick (dry, fast track)

When faced with so many unknowns, my feeling that if I am going to put my reputation on the line and get beat, I am going to down with the ship with the fastest colt in the field.

So, I am leaning towards Magnum Moon as my dry, fast track Derby favorite. There is an old saying in basketball, you can’t teach height. Well in horse racing, you can’t teach late speed. In the chart below, Magnum Moon’s final 3 furlong time in the Arkansas Derby was the fastest in this class in the major 9 furlong Derby prep races.


Plus his last furlong in the Arkansas Derby (shown below) was in under 12 seconds (11.99). 11.99!<—- Find me any colt in this field who has run the last furlong that fast. You won’t. And it was a hand ride in the final 1/16th. Note that American Pharoah’s final furlong time in the 2015 Arkansas Derby was 12.58 but he coasted home with an 8 length lead.

And if you watch the race above, Magnum Moon seemed to lug out for no apparent reason coming onto the stretch. Otherwise his final 3 furlong time would have been faster. The shortest distance between point A and point B is a straight line. Jockey Luis Saez is going to have to keep him straight as possible coming onto the stretch. One thing that I liked though, when Quip came up next to him and looked him in the eye, Magnum Moon said it was Go-Time and left the field in the dust. His jockey did nothing. Magnum Moon wants to be first. He has been in 4 career starts.

Another factor I like with Magnum Moon, he has a historically winning post-position, Post #16. Five horses in the last 25 years have won from this post, including his paternal half-brother: Orb (2013), Animal Kingdom (2011); Monarchos (2001); Charismatic (1999); Thunder Gulch (1995).

Overall, this is why I am leaning towards the undefeated Magnum Moon. I see a Bad Moon a-rising, I see trouble on the way…if it rains and the track is slop, My Boy Jack becomes my Derby favorite.

Betting Advice (U-Oh, its raining at Churchill Downs)


The secret of My Boy Jack is out as he was at 5-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby advance and still sitting at 5/1. I have been singing his praises for weeks and my US Racing is getting a ton of views: “If you are looking for a Kentucky Derby sleeper. This is your horse!” https://www.usracing.com/news/kentucky-derby-road-to-the-roses/youre-looking-kentucky-derby-sleeper-horse

Maybe I should keep my mouth shut. That is too short of odds for a colt I identified early on as a “Derby sleeper.” He’s no sleeper now.  I still think My Boy Jack has “Hit the Board” potential but at 5-1 vs 30-1, its not going to make your exotics pay back as well. But now it is a wet race so he shoots up my board.



Overall, I am not betting big on this race as it is too up-in-the air for my tastes and that was before it rained. One thing I have learned over the years is that sometimes better to wait it out for a “lock” further on down the line and then bet big on it.

I will be monitoring the live odds clear up until post-time if I have a change of mind due to how the live odds shake out.There haven’t been much change in the odds. You can check on them by clicking here: https://www.kentuckyderby.com/wager/kentucky-derby-live-odds



  1. Peter Setiawan · May 5, 2018

    I will exacta box. 7,10.


    • Michael J. Cox · May 5, 2018

      I would like this better if the secret of My Boy Jack didn’t get out with 5/1 odds


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