For all the fans of the “Curse of Apollo” breaker Justify, I am already calling the 143rd Preakness Stakes another victory for the Bob Baffert-trained colt. Looking over the rumored entries, I see no colt that poses a serious threat. Currently, the list of rumored entries include:
Good Magic – Kentucky Derby Runner-Up Bravazo – 6th in the Kentucky Derby Lone Sailor – 8th in the Kentucky Derby Quip – Arkansas Derby Runner-Up Tenfold – 5th in the Arkansas Derby Givemeaminit – 3rd in the Pat Day Mile Sporting Chance – 4th in the Pat Day Mile Diamond King – Federico Tesio Stakes Winner
Justify has proven that he can win on a dry, fast track and in the slop. Four career starts, all earning 100+ Beyer Speed Figures. He was awarded a 103 Beyer Speed Figure for the Kentucky Derby. Below are the only 3-year-olds with a 100+ Beyer Speed Figures in races longer than one mile.
Justify – 107 – Santa Anita Derby – 9 furlongs Mendelssohn – 106 – UAE Derby – 1900 Meters Justify – 103 – Kentucky Derby – 10 furlongs Bolt d’Oro – 102 – Santa Anita Derby – 9 furlong McKinzie – 101 – San Felipe Staaks – 8 1/2 furlongss Bolt d’Oro – 101 – San Felipe Stakes – 8 1/2 furlongs
I will be monitoring the Preakness Stakes news and rumored entries closely in preparation for a preview of the race which is just 12 days away. But right now, I’d give Justify early 4/5 odds as the race favorite. A victory in the Preakness Stakes will give the sport what has needed the past couple of years, a Triple Crown contender entering the Belmont Stakes. A victory at Belmont seems to be a much taller task against a colt such as the Todd Pletcher-trained colt Vino Rosso who will be rested up for the last leg of the Triple Crown. Pletcher has won the Belmont Stakes three times (2007, 2013, 2017) vs Bob Baffert’s two (2001, 2015).
I am forever grateful that the Curse of Apollo was finally broken in my, our, lifetime. I thought it was in huge danger and I happy it has ended. The 2018 Kentucky Derby was exciting but…I really wish it was broken on a dry, fast track. My race favorite Magnum Moon, whose paternal brother Orb, who won in the sloppy 2013 Kentucky Derby, did not take well to the slop and finished 19th. My wet track favorite, My Boy Jack, did better finishing 5th. Good thing that through future wagers, I still came out ahead $180 this Derby.
Wet races are the great equalizer. Justify is a great 3-year-old who had experience racing on an off-track before and benefited from an inside post-position. However, how will he fare on a dry, fast track at Pimlico? I think pretty well. but I doubt that he will be my early favorite for the Belmont Stakes. I will have to research this but when was the last time a Kentucky Derby winner who who in sloppy track conditions went on to won the Triple Crown?
Just a warning. Although there was a 90% chance of rain on Thursday in Louisville, Kentucky, today there was supposed to be a 5% chance today. However, it is raining now at Churchill Downs.
The best horses in the slop: My Boy Jack, Justify and Audible. Stay tuned! I will be updating this blog clear up until post-time. But my gut feeling is to pass on betting on this year’s Kentucky Derby because there will be better races to bet on in the future.
Magnom Moon’s paternal half-brother Orb won the 2013 Kentucky Derby from the same #16 post in the 2013 Kentucky Derby
I am backing off due to the unpredictability of a wet race. So I cancelled all previous bets. But I placed a 50 cent boxed Trifecta with four horses: 5, 7, 10, 16 that cost $12. I made it twice. $24 total. There will be better races to bet on in the future. Just enjoy the chaos and unpredictability of this year’s Derby.
I am also taking $50. Betting $33 on My Boy jack and $17 on Magnum Moon. Expected Payout about $230 plus.
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.
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)
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.
Below are the entries, post-positions, jockey assignments and morning line odds for the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby. The race will be aired live on NBC this coming Saturday around 5:45 PM CST.
As I have said in previous blogs, I think this is going to be one of the most exciting Derby’s we have seen in a long while.
2018 Kentucky Derby Starting Field
1) Firenze Fire (50/1) – The Jerome Stakes winner (shown below). His career best Beyer Speed Figure of 90 was accomplished as a 2-year-old in the Champagne Stakes. He will be one of the longershots in the field but has a very underrated jockey in Paco Lopez.
Career: 9 Starts 4-1-0-3Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1 Last 3 starts: 2nd–>4th->4th Sire: Poseiden’s Warrior Trainer: Jason Servis (2004 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer) Jockey: Paco Lopez Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.59 (estimated) – 2018 Wood Memorial Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2017 Champagne Stakes
2) Free Drop Billy(30/1) – The Dale Romans-trained Breeders’s Futurity winner. He had a disappointing 9th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race. He has been consistent but unspectacular since. Not a huge threat to win in this field.
Career: 8 Starts 2-3-2-0Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1 Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>3rd Sire: Union Rags(Finished 7th in the 2012 Kentucky Derby) Trainer: Dale Romans Jockey: Robby Albarado Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.70 (estimated) – 2018 Blue Grass Stakes Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2018 Holy Bull Stakes
3) Promises Fulfilled(30/1) – The Fountain of Youth Stakes winner led 6 furlongs in the Florida Derby but faded down the stretch with a 9th place finish. Not a good sign when you are jumping up from 9 furlongs to 10.
Career: 5 Starts 3-0-1-0Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0 Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>9th Sire: Shackleford (Finished 4th in the 2011 Kentucky Derby) Trainer: Dale Romans Jockey: Corie Lanerie Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:55.12 (estimated) – 2018 Florida Derby Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2018 Fountain of Youth Stakes
4) Flameaway(30/1) – The Sam F. Davis winner at Tampa Bay Downs. He finished 2nd in the Blue Grass Stakes (shown below).
Career: 9 Starts 5-2-0-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0 Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd—>2nd Sire: Scat Daddy Trainer: Mark Casse Jockey: Jose Lezcano Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.42 (estimated) – 2018 Blue Grass Stakes Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2018 Blue Grass Stakes
5)Audible(8/1) – Last year, the Florida Derby winner who was trained by Todd Pletcher–Always Dreaming–went on to win the Kentucky Derby. Can lightning strike twice? Apparently last year’s Always Dreaming rider doesn’t think so as John Velazquez has chosen to ride Vino Rosso on Derby Day.
Career: 5 Starts 4-0-1-0Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1 Last 3 starts: 1st–->1st–>1st Sire: Into Mischief Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer) Jockey: Javier Castellano Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.48 – 2018 Florida Derby Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99 – 2018 Florida Derby
6) Good Magic (12/1) – The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and the Eclipse 2-year-old Male Champion. He had a somewhat disappointing 3rd place finish in the 2018 Fountain of Youth Stakes but bounced back to win the Blue Grass Stakes.
Career: 5 Starts 2-2-1-0Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1 Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>1st Sire: Curlin(Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby) Trainer: Chad Brown Jockey: Jose Ortiz Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.18 – 2018 Blue Grass Stakes Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
7) Justify (3/1) – The race favorite. He is fast but inexperienced. However, he has 100+ Beyer Speed Figures in all three career starts. He’ll be up against the Curse of Apollo. But if had to pick a trainer-jockey combo to break the Curse, it would be Baffert-Smith.
Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1 Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st Sire: Scat Daddy Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997,1998, 2003, & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer) Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner) Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.72 – 2018 Santa Anita Derby Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 107 – 2018 Santa Anita Derby
8) Lone Sailor (50/1) – The Tom Amoss-trained colt is a deep closer who briefly took the lead in the Lousiana Derby only to lose by a neck to Noble Indy (shown below). I question whether he really wants the 10 furlong distance.
Career: 8 Starts 1-3-1-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0 Last 3 starts: 9th–>2nd–>2nd Sire: Majestic Warrior Trainer: Tom Amoss Jockey: James Graham Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.32 (estimated) – 2018 Louisiana Derby Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2018 Louisiana Derby
9) Hofburg (20/1) – A second place finisher in the Florida Derby. He’s talented but very inexperienced with only 3 career starts under his belt. However, he should like the added distance as a son of Tapit.
Career: 3 Starts 1-1-0-1Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0 Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>2nd Sire: Tapit(Finished 9th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby) Trainer: William Mott Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.96 (estimated) – 2018 Florida Derby Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2018 Florida Derby
10) My Boy Jack(30/1) – While he is not a huge threat to win on a dry, fast track in this field, he certainly has a chance and his chances improve exponentially on a wet track. I wrote an article on his chances in the Kentucky Derby for US Racing which can be accessed HERE. And for movie buffs, no he is not named after Jack Kipling who the “My Boy Jack” movie is based on. Great movie though.
Career: 10 Starts 3-3-2-0Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0 Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>1st Sire: Creative Cause(Finished 5th in the 2012 Kentucky Derby) Trainer: Keith Desormeaux Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner) Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.40 (estimated) – 2018 Louisiana Derby Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2018 Louisiana Derby
11) Bolt d’Oro (8/1) – Much like Classic Empire was last year, a star as a 2-year-old who hasn’t seemed to take it to the level we expected as a 3-year-old. He’s has an excellent pedigree and I generally feel we have yet to see him run his best race. He’ll have two-time Kentucky Derby winner Victor Espinoza as his jockey.
Career: 6 Starts 4-1-1-0Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2 Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>2nd Sire: Medaglia d’Oro (Finished 4th in 2002 Kentucky Derby) Trainer: Mark Ruis Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner) Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.20 (estimated) – 2018 Santa Anita Derby Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2017 FrontRunner Stakes
12) Enticed (30/1) – The other son of Medaglia d’Oro in the field. He won the Gotham Stakes and then finished 2nd in the Wood Memorial behind Vino Rosso.
Career: 6 Starts 3-1-1-1 Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>2nd Sire: Medaglia d’Oro (Finished 4th in 2002 Kentucky Derby) Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin Jockey: Junior Alvarado Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.27 (estimated) 2018 Wood Memorial Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2018 Gotham Stakes
13) Bravazo(50/1) – After opening up his 3-year-old campaign with two wins, most notably the Risen Star Stakes, he had a disappointing 8th place finish in his final Derby prep at Fair Grounds in the Louisiana Derby.
Career: 8 Starts 3-1-1-0Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0 Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>8th Sire: Awesome Again Trainer: D.Wayne Lukas (1988,1995,1996 & 1999 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer) Jockey: Luis Contreras Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:53.68 (estimated) – 2018 Louisiana Derby Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2018 Risen Star Stakes
14) Mendelssohn (5/1) – The 2018UAE Derby winner. UAE Derby winners haven’t fared all that well in the Kentucky Derby but Mendelssohn should be viewed as a serious contender setting a UAE Derby track record and winning by 18 1/2 lengths.
Career: 7 Starts 4-1-0-0Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2 Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st Sire: Scat Daddy Trainer: Aidan O’Bryan Jockey: Ryan Moore Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2018 UAE Derby
15)Instilled Regard (50/1) – A consistent colt. In seven career starts, he has never finished out of the Superfecta.
Career: 7 Starts 2-2-1-2Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0 Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th->4th Sire: Arch Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.24 (estimated) – 2018 Santa Anita Derby Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – 2018 Lecomte Stakes
16) Magnum Moon (6/1) – The 2018 Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby winner. His final 3 furlong time in the Arkansas Derby is the fastest in the class. Like Justify, he will be vying to break the Curse of Apollo.
17) Solomini(30/1) – The Bob Baffert-trainee was yet to win since his first start as a 2-year-old. However, noteworthy that he finished 2nd in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race behind Good Magic (shown below). His 3-year-old campaign has been a bit disappointing with a 2nd place finish in the Rebel Stakes and a 3rd place finish in the Arkansas Derby. And he draws post-position #17, a post that no colt has ever won the Derby from.
Career: 6 Starts 1-3-2-0Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0 Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>3rd Sire: Curlin(Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby) Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997,1998, 2003, & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer) Jockey: Flavien Prat Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.54 (estimated) 2018 Arkansas Derby Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
18)Vino Rosso(12/1) –His name in Italian means “Red Wine”and he’s moving up my board.The Wood Memorial winner will get last year’s Derby winning jockey John Velazquez. His reasoning? He thinks he has more potential than Audible at getting the distance (SEE). I was a bit surprised Churchill Downs handicapper gave him 12/1 morning line odds. I think he will be well south of that number on Derby Day. So many love Italian red wine.
Career: 5 Starts 3-0-1-1Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0 Last 3 starts: 3rd–>4th–>1st Sire: Curlin(Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby) Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer) Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winner) Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.79 – 2018 Wood Memorial Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2018 Wood Memorial
19)Noble Indy (30/1) – The surprise winner of the 2018 Louisiana Derby winner and yet another Derby horse trained by Todd Pletcher. Noble Indy is an above average colt in this field, but I don’t feel that he has the speed of the other Pletcher trainees.
20) Combatant (50/1) – The lone Steve Asmussen Derby entry. Combatant is yet another son of Scat Daddy in this field. He’s a quality horse but not a serious threat to win in this very talented field. He’s only win came in a Maiden Special Weight race as a 2-year-old at Churchill Downs. He’s a deep closer who you might consider in your superfectas
Career: 7 Starts 1-3-1-2 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0 Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>4th Sire: Scat Daddy Trainer: Steve Asmussen Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr. Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.56 (estimated) 2018 Arkansas Derby Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2018 Smarty Jones Stakes
Note: In a rush to get this out early as possible, I caught and already corrected a few minor errors and typos. If you see any more, let me know.
On the docket…
My next blog will provide handicapping advice for the Derby. I should have this out by Thursday evening.
As far as who is moving up my board of Derby Kentucky Derby contenders? I will enlighten you.
Last year the Kentucky Derby was won by a Todd Pletcher-trained horse that jockey John Velazquez rode to victory in the Florida Derby in Always Dreaming. The same trainer-jockey combination won this year’s Florida Derby with Audible.
With Johnny V’s choice of mounts in this year’s Kentucky Derby, who did he choose? The same mount that he won with in the 2018 Wood Memorial — Vino Rosso. He explains his decision to ride the son of Curlin in the video below.
As a Derby handicapper, you have to take note of this. Audible is a great horse and history is on his side. The past two Kentucky Derby winners (Always Dreaming and Nyquist) were Florida Derby winners. And three out of the past five Kentucky Derby winners were Florida Derby winners.
I am currently working on my 2018 Kentucky Derby preview which I will will publish in the next 24-48 hours. Stay tuned!
The anticipation is growing. We are officially seven days away from the 2018 Kentucky Derby. I feel that this year’s Derby is going to be one of the most exciting we have witnessed in a long while. I generally feel that there are 5 or 6 horses that can win this year and the dreaded Curse of Apollo is in huge danger.
Here are the six that I think can win:
Justify Magnum Moon Bolt d’Oro Mendelssohn Audible My Boy Jack
All of these contenders have the necessary closing speeds. As I noted in my last US Racing article which can be accessed by clicking HERE, my Kentucky Derby favorite must have a final 3 furlong time in their last 9 furlong Derby prep under 38 seconds with a few exceptions. Here is why. Below are the estimated final 3-furlong times in the last Derby prep race for the last six Kentucky Derby winners:
2017-Always Dreaming (36.56 in Florida Derby) 2016-Nyquist (37.64 in Florida Derby) 2015-American Pharoah (37.82 in Arkansas Derby) 2014-California Chrome (36.69 in Santa Anita Derby) 2013-Orb (37.74 in Florida Derby) 2012-I’ll Have Another (36.42 in Santa Anita Derby)
All of my contenders this year have eclipsed this 38 second mark:
Magnum Moon – 36.47 in Arkansas Derby (1st) Justify – 36.87 in Santa Anita Derby (1st) My Boy Jack – 37.21 in Louisiana Derby (3rd) Mendelssohn – 37.34* in UAE Derby (1st) Bolt d’Oro – 37.35 in Santa Anita Derby (2nd) Audible – 37.48 in Florida Derby (1st)
Magnum Moon and Justify will be vying to break the Curse of Apollo by winning the Kentucky Derby having never raced as a 2-year-old. Both are fast and undefeated in 3 starts. Will their inexperience come back to haunt them on Derby Day?
Mendelssohn is a great unknown. I am always skeptical about “shippers-in” from overseas. However, Mendelssohn won by a tractor-trailer length in the UAE Derby–18 1/2 lengths. That was back in late March. You can question his competition but he produced a track record for that event. And what if he had been pressured at the wire?
The Florida Derby has produced the last two Kentucky Derby winners and three out of the last five. So, you have to consider Todd Pletcher’s 2018 Florida Derby winner Audible.
I have always loved Bolt d’Oro and his pedigree. I generally feel that he has yet to produce his best race. He’s the FrontRunner Stakes winner from last year as a 2-year-old. Two out of the last three FrontRunner Stakes winners (American Pharoah and Nyquist) went on to win the Kentucky Derby.
With the news that John Velazquez has chosen Vino Rosso as his mount in the Derby over Audible, add another serious contender.
So the above are all reasons why I feel that this year’s Derby is wide-open and will be one of the best in recent memory.
The above profile was one of the top viewed articles on US Racing last year during Derby month.
I could say “little did I know at that time that Always Dreaming would go on to win the Kentucky Derby.” But I volunteered to write that US Racing Derby profile after that Florida Derby performance because I thought he would win. I always hedge just in case you get an unpredictable performance.
If you really want to know why I think this year’s Kentucky Derby is going to be one of the most exciting we have witnessed in a long while, I tell all in my latest article for US Racing. The link is provided below.
My Great Uncle Joe is mentioned in the above US Racing article. For those who are interested, here is a link to the The New Yorker magazine article where my Great Uncle and my Abruzzi Italians descendants are chronicled by distant cousin Richard Severo “FORTE E GENTILE” (Italian for Strong and Kind) The Annals of Immigration. A highly entertaining read. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1979/09/03/forte-e-gentile
Also for US Racing, I am also working on a profile for my Derby sleeper “My Boy Jack” which should be out next week. I think this article may be better the last. Stay tuned!
A prelude to why I volunteered to write a Derby Profile for “My Boy Jack” for US Racing whom I feel is a Derby Sleeper. I will provide the link for this profile once published. First, I like horses who have Secretariat on at least one side in their blood line and he has it on both sides (paternal and maternal). I mentioned in a previous article last year that this Secretariat in the bloodline was an interesting new trend for Derby winners.
Secondly, I like my Derby hopefuls to have a final 3 Furlong time under 38 seconds in their last major Derby 9 furlong prep. In the Louisiana Derby, his 2nd to last Derby prep, I calculate a final 3 furlong time of 37.21. Third fastest in this class but he will get an additional furlong in the Kentucky Derby to knock off tired horses.
Thirdly, My Boy Jack is a closer, most horse racing fans favorite running style because they lag around at the back of the pack early on and then move up the field and start plucking off the competition. If you followed me last year, I sang a similar tune about Lookin At Lee in a US Racing article “Is there a Mine That Bird in the 2017 Kentucky Field? CLICK HERE. Lookin At Lee finished 2nd in last year’s Kentucky Derby.
My Boy Jack is the best closer in this class and he will have plenty of early speed which will work to his advantage. Although he may not win, he has to be in all of your superfectas and exotic bets.