#1 – Firenze Fire – 50/1. Breaking from the #1 post pretty much eliminates this horse from contention based on his recent starts. Since beating Good Magic and Enticed in the G1 Champagne last October I expected him to keep improving but he hasn’t topped that 90 Beyer figure since.
#2 – Free Drop Billy – 30/1. Trainer Dale Romans cannot be happy coming out of the #2 post. In Free Drop Billy’s last three starts he’s been beaten by three different Derby contenders, Good Magic, Enticed, and Audible. The 1 ¼ mile distance shouldn’t be an issue but he’ll need to close hard and avoid traffic to get in the money.
#3 – Promises Fulfilled – 30/1. He won Fountain of Youth at odds of 18-1 going wire to wire. Then he went out at a blistering pace in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby and finished last. I expect him to be out front with the #4 Flameaway but both should flame out well before the stretch.
#4 – Flameaway – 30/1. Not too many Ontario bred horses run in the Kentucky Derby. This is another speed horse who will be up or near the lead early. Interestingly, trainer, Mark Casse, skipped BC Juvenile last fall and opted to run in the BC Juvenile Turf and finished 8th. He been very consistent in his last four starts with decent Beyers figures. If the speed up front isn’t blistering he has a chance to finish in the money.
#5 – Audible – 8/1. One of trainer Todd Pletcher’s four entries in the Derby. I love a horse who has improved in each of his previous starts. He impressively won both the G1 Florida Derby and the G2 Holy Bull this year by a combined 8 ½ lengths. Jockey, Javier Castellano, will be back on the mount after John Velazquez opted to ride Vino Rosso. His sire, Into Mischief, has not sired a stake winning horse over 9 furlongs, the Derby is 10 furlongs.
#6 – Good Magic – 12/1. This horse has run five races at five different tracks from New York to California to Florida and to Kentucky, winning two and never finishing out of the money. He won the G1 BC Juvenile last November and the G2 Blue Grass in April competing in a 15-horse field. Look for him to be sitting upper mid-pack. A fast pace up will have jockey, Jose Ortiz, looking to close hard if he can escape the traffic in front.
#7 – Justify – 3/1. All the stars seem to be aligning for this colt. Trained by Bob Baffert, ridden by jockey Mike Smith, three starts, three wins including the G1 Santa Anita Derby, three Beyers figures 101 or better and a favorable post position. He’s very lightly raced (all at Santa Anita in California) and in all three of his races he has been at or near the lead on the first call. I’m guessing for this trip Smith will have him leading the second group of horses while the front runners set fast fractions. Nothing not to like about this horse other than no horse has won the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two year in 136 years. Can Justify break the streak?
#8 – Lone Sailor – 50/1. Other than a nice 2nd place finish in the Louisiana Derby which got him into the Kentucky Derby there really is nothing more to this horse. He’ll need to be at his best to hit the board, but I can’t bet a horse with only one win in eight starts to win the Derby.
#9 – Hofburg – 20/1. Another lightly raced colt with only three lifetime starts. His 2nd place finish in the Florida Derby gave trainer William Mott the confidence to enter him in the Derby. He’ll need a clean trip and a blistering pace up front if he’s going to come in the money.
#10 – My Boy Jack – 30/1. My Boy Jack ranks as the most experienced horse in the field with 10 starts. Since abandoning the turf surface in 2018 for the dirt surface the Desormeaux brothers, Kent (jockey) and Keith (trainer) have not looked back with this improving colt. The distance will not be an issue and at 30/1 odds he may be worth a bet.
#11 – Bolt d’Oro – 8/1. A lot will depend on keeping Bolt d’Oro out of trouble and in eyesight of the leaders. I didn’t like his stretch run in Santa Anita Derby against Justify which leaves me skeptical about him with this race going longer. He’s got the Beyers figures to back up his odds and has two Grade 1 wins to make him a contender that can’t be overlooked. Can his new jockey, Victor Espinoza be the difference?
#12 – Enticed – 30/1. After his win in the G3 Gotham Stakes this colt had me believing in him but then a 2nd place in the G2 Wood Memorial after going off as the favorite has me baffled with this horse. He has raced against at least six of the starters in the Derby only beating two of them. He did win on this track last November in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club. I’m not sure what horse is going to show up come Saturday.
#13 – Bravazo – 50/1. Throw out his last race and Bravazo would be considered a colt who would have an outside chance at a top five finish. This Wayne Lucas trained colt will be carrying a new jockey in Luis Contreras. I don’t think he can hit the board but if his odds stay high he may be worth a small bet for show.
#14 – Mendelssohn – 5/1. His ownership paid $3 million for this colt and already have made back almost $2 million. His performance on the dirt in the UAE Derby back on March 31st was eye popping. Not only did he win by over 18 lengths, but he also set the track record. Trainer Aidan O’Brien says this is the best Derby horse he’s ever trained. Mendelssohn was Kentucky bred for the dirt, but his first five starts were all on the turf with a huge win in the BC Juvenile Turf last November. He has raced in Ireland, Great Britain, California, and Dubai so the traveling to Kentucky should not be an issue. The key for him is to get a clean break and stay up close with Justify in the second group of horses. The only knock on this horse will be that the other nine UAE Derby winners who came to race in the Kentucky Derby have fared no better than 6th. He should be on everyone’s ticket.
#15 – Instilled Regard – 50/1. Not a bad colt but I don’t think he can get the 1 ¼ mile distance. I think the owners who paid over $1 million for this colt should have put him in another stakes race to almost guarantee a big paycheck rather than put him in with this class of horses. He’ll need to come off the pace to be anywhere near a top five finish.
#16 – Magnum Moon – 6/1. Another Todd Pletcher trained horse in the field. This horse is 4-4 and has never looked back. He won the G1 Arkansas Derby, G2 Rebel, both at Oaklawn Park. This will be another Pletcher horse who will be running without racing as a two-year-old (see Justify). On the other hand, three horses have won the Kentucky Derby who both won the Arkansas Derby and Rebel Stakes, the last one was American Pharoah. It will be interesting to see if he goes for the lead or hangs back.
#17 – Solomini – 30/1. Another Bob Baffert trained horse. This horse has been in the money in all six of his starts but has no wins this year while losing to Magnum Moon in his last two starts. He will need the perfect trip by jockey Flavian Prat and overcome a lot of traffic to finish in the money.
#18 – Vino Rosso – 12/1. Number three of the four Todd Pletcher horses entered in the field. A great win in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct carried this horse to the Derby. Great pedigree for the distance. If the pace is fast up front and Vino Rosso saves ground, he has the pedigree for a stretch run to hit the board. John Velazquez is staying on the mount when he could have ridden Audible (see above) and Noble Indy which says a lot.
#19 – Noble Indy – 30/1. The fourth Todd Pletcher horse to make the 20 horse field. This horse is a fighter and he’ll need to battle it out coming from the 19th post position. Big win in the G2 Louisiana Derby after digging in the stretch. The added blinkers in the Louisiana Derby may have been the difference. If he can get a clean run in the first mile he can be there at the end. Jockey Florent Geroux will be in the reins because Noble Indy’s regular jockey John Velazquez will be riding Vino Rosso from the 18th post.
Post #20 – Combatant – 50/1. This colt’s last and only win was when he broke his maiden last October at Churchill Downs. Surprisingly though he has been racing up in class and has shown a lot of grit with a 4th place in the G1 Arkansas Derby and a 3rd place in the G2 Rebel, both at Oaklawn Park. Can he be a sleeper horse?
Also Eligible: Blended Citizen – 50/1. If he gets in the race…save your money. He hasn’t beaten anyone, and it took him five starts to finally break his maiden on the turf last November. His G3 win was on the poly surface against weak company compared to this field.
When handicapping the Kentucky Derby or any other major race with very large fields anything can happen. The best handicappers can study the Kentucky Derby form all day but all it only takes one of the following to ruin their day; bad break from the gate, horse behind too much traffic, the fast or slow pace of the race and the jockey making his move to fast or not in time. Now, that I’ve made my excuses…here are my picks.
My selections: 1st – Mendelssohn
2nd – Good Magic
3rd – Audible
4th – Magnum Moon
Long Shots: Flameaway 30/1
My Boy Jack 30/1