Equibase Analysis For the 145th Running of The Kentucky Derby
The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby Purse: $3,000,000.00
A mile and a quarter (10 furlongs) Estimated Post Time: 6:50PM EST.
Story and analysis by Geo Sette
It’s often called the “Most exciting two minutes in sports” and “The Run for the Roses”. Lets dig deep in our equibase analysis of the 145th Kentucky Derby.There’s no doubt that, especially over the last 40+ years, this special race has been on the radar of most sports fans. For those like me, who have had a life long interest in the Sport of Kings, the anticipation and overall excitement is similar as the joy of Christmas Day.
This year, like many over the past few decades, fields 20 colts, many who come into the race showing steady improvement, and appear ready for one of their best efforts.
It was truly a special day last year when Justify pulled away from Good Magic in deep stretch to win and break the Apollo curse. Justify was the first Kentucky Derby winner in over 100 years to emerge victorious without the benefit of racing as a two-year old. He then went on to capture the sports most coveted prize, the Triple Crown.
There’s always added intrigue to the first Saturday in May. Will one of the horses finally top the record time of Secretariat 1:59 and 2/5ths ( 1973)? Can a horse again win from post #20, just as Big Brown did back in 2008?
There’s always the possibility of something extraordinary happening, like back in 2003 when Funny Cide won as a N.Y Bred, as well as being a Gelding. I remember it as if it was yesterday, just like that, it’s been 16 years.
Who can forget the great California Chrome and his win back in 2014 and his run for the Triple Crown, only to fall short at the Belmont Stakes look at his equibase charts here? Then the very next year, Kentucky Derby winner, American Pharoah, captivated the racing world by actually winning each Jewel of the Triple Crown.
There’s no doubt the drama will once again be at the highest of levels. Inaugurated back in 1875, you can make an argument that no other sport event has a greater history.
As always, expect somewhere in the area of 150,000+ people in attendance at Churchill Downs. There will be the old crusty local railbirds and the rich and famous. A collection of the most established horse owners, trainers and jockeys, as well as millions tuning in live on television
The Mint Juleps ( Bourbon, Mint and Sugar Syrup) will be sipped on throughout the track, and there’s no doubt the playing of
“ My Old Kentucky Home” will provide fun sentiments and perhaps some tears as the horses head on to the track.
I felt compelled to share some history because after all these years breaking down this special field of three-year olds, nowadays there are so many ways to approach handicapping. For the longest time, handicapping was done in the raw, specifically working with Pedigree information and recent equibase past performances, and the information provided, although accepted as detailed, was itself limited.
Since the new millennium in 2000 and especially over the last decade, handicapping resources have become much more advanced, and in fact more exciting to work with my personal favorite is equibase. Technology and its great advances have provided many more avenues to complete your handicapping analysis. Seasoned guys like me take full advantage of everything available, but it takes time and great patience to uncover the science and facts shown on equibase.
Equibase has evolved to provide significantly more information in the past performance charts. Through the web, you have access to race videos which have given me the platform to master the art of handicapping.
There are numerous contributing factors, far too many for me to mention in this article, but with experience, attention to detail and developed knowledge, you position yourself to be more successful.
I provide a deep pedigree analysis via equibase.com, a thorough and quite stringent breakdown of the past performances, workouts, and most importantly because the eyes never lie, a detailed level of video handicapping.
There are so many actions and areas of significance you can find in a racehorse by viewing actual races. You can recognize specifics in their strides, their behavior, their willingness to run, their guts, and how they respond to a serious challenge early on and then with greater impact during the stretch run of any race. You see how they handle larger fields and various surfaces, and so many other things. It really does matter, pay attention to everything, but don’t forget the science of it all. I will summarize by saying it comes down to the three “P’s” Performance, Pedigree and Passion.
Anyway, I haven’t missed a Kentucky Derby since the tender age of 15. As a writer and seasoned handicapper, it is always a huge challenge to break down this race, especially since the field has ballooned to 20 over the past decades with many horses trying the Churchill soil for the first time and most looking for their first grade one victory.
As always, even more so this time around, I have spent numerous hours breaking down race replays, a myriad of past performances numbers, and always digging deep into the bloodlines of equibase pedigree.
There are many ways to wager on the race. Many people choose to spread their wagers through many winning combinations, especially when playing gimmicks like multi-race wagers like the Pick 4, or deeper gimmicks like the ever popular “Superfecta” and “Trifecta”
The exacta of course is always inviting, but nothing is more old school and conservative that playing your horse across the board (Win, Place & Show).
I will share with great pride, that I have often provided what I feel is worthwhile and insightful analysis, thus providing information for every horse entered, so you can make an informed window decision for yourself. So, as I provide my precise order for all 20 equibase horses entered, I feel that about half the field possesses the raw ability to win this race, with the other half more than likely limited to perhaps just a bottom share.
For some of these colts, they were able to draw a fortuitous post position, while others are facing a deeper challenge. As always, the trip is essential towards the horses success. Never forget that, yes these fabulous animals need the innate ability and guts to win, but they also need some racing luck. With that I wish all of you the very best of luck, as you dig into my equibase analysis and gather the information you need to make your window decisions.
Here’s how I see it, are you ready? Let’s Go!
#12 Omaha Beach
Had it not been for the late scratch due to an entrapped epiglottis, this colt would have probably been my top choice. I liked him in the Arkansas Derby as most of you know. Although I was concerned about a possible bounce, I watched his training closely and feel he would have been on his game. I have adjusted my game for the late scratch and here you go:
# 16 Game Winner
This fabulous colt was the two-year old champion, dynamically winning all four of his races, inclusive with the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and 3 of them being the Grade one variety. It was at his young age he developed greatly, matured significantly and was as professional as you will find. He has habitually shown great tenacity, even in races where he was bumped or forced to duel, and he possesses a menacing stalking style you love to see in a horse. His connections speak for itself, trained by the superb Bob Baffert and he will again be ridden by the strong armed and very consistent Joel Rosario. It’s funny as to some, he has sort of fallen under the radar, because in his two races as a 3 year old, he finished 2nd, but only beaten by a nose by my top choice Omaha Beach in the grade 2 Rebel and just ½ length off his stablemate Roadster in the grade 1 Santa Anita Derby according to equibase. In both of his defeats, he was heavily backed at the windows, he fought to the finish and was just beaten by a horse who simply put it all together against him. You simply cannot argue with success. This guy is 6 for 6 lifetime in the money, winning 4, and is basically ½ a length away from being a perfect 6 for 6 as seen on equibase. There’s some added challenge with him drawing the 16 hole, but he possesses enough tactical gate speed to break alertly and gain the position he will need to stalk the pace. I’m seeing him settling in around 5th or so, moving inside as they complete the first ¼ mile, then he’ll be primed with a smart ride to mount his typical threatening presence as they come thundering down the lane. Keep in mind his Breeders’ Cup victory came over this same Churchill strip and he won that race breaking from the 9 hole in a 13 horse field, and he was bumped multiple times during the race. His pedigree solves for the distance, and he’s a three-time grade 1 winner who must be respected and considered on most wagering tickets. As much as I was fascinated with many others in this race, he’s my top choice.
# 14 Win Win Win
I spent a considerable amount of time viewing his race history, and in fact I was fascinated over many of his efforts. As a two-year old, he spent all of his time sprinting at both Laurel and then down in Florida at Tampa Bay. He developed nicely, raced well and won three of his four starts rather convincingly. His connections then gave him a 3 month break and stretched him out to run in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby as shown on equibase where he finished 3rd behind Tacitus. Even so, he ran a game race, forced 5 wide, yet still rallied. He didn’t deserve to win that day, but he showed the maturity I needed to see. Then three weeks later in the Grade 2 Blue Grass, he had a horrible start, was bumped around a bit then recovered well and brilliantly guided by Irad Ortiz, but then steadied at the 5/16th’s as seen in the equibase charts, Irad again asked him for more, which at that point is incredibly difficult to do, but this colt responded, finishing well down the lane to capture 2nd behind Vekoma. This all made me dig deeper into his pedigree. He’s a Japanese bred son of Hat Trick by Sunday Silence, who won this same Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and later the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This all convinced me that this guy isn’t the sprinter he was as a two-year old, but a horse that can make this 10-furlong distance. If you watch that Blue Grass Stakes and follow him throughout, you will understand why I say he ran a big race. It’s the type of effort I like to see from a horse, one that never throws in the towel, especially amid traffic problems. I cannot blame Irad Ortiz for choosing to ride Improbable, and for Bob Baffert, it’s a business decision for himself, but I’m not thinking he doesn’t appreciate the ability of this horse. Julian Pimentel is back in the saddle for Michael Trombetta, and although he doesn’t have equivalent rider skills as Irad Ortiz, he is a proven winner and is a very reliable rider, and he’s been aboard this colt for his three lifetime victories. There’s no doubt he will need a good trip, and I feel if it gets wet or sloppy out there, he may have greater comfort. His morning works are solid and indicate fitness, I thought about this long and hard, but decided to make him my 2nd choice, he just may be a nice addition to your trifecta or superfecta tickets.
# 17 Roadster
This guy is certainly intriguing, a stablemate to my top choice Game Winner from the great Baffert barn. As I mentioned earlier, he defeated Game Winner in the Santa Anita Derby. Of course it’s been well documented that Mike Smith, who was aboard this colt’s four lifetime starts, decided to ride Omaha Beach. Baffert has the very capable hands of Florent Geroux who is no stranger to huge races, as he was the pilot aboard Gun Runner who won many huge grade 1 races, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This colt has a world of talent, but is limited in experience with only 4 lifetime starts, all of which were on the West Coast. He was purchased for $525,000.00 according to equibase and has lived up to his potential showing continuous improvement since making his debut in smashing fashion back in the summer of 2018. He seems prepared with steady morning drills, and his pedigree suggests he’ll take the distance, something he has been gradually enhancing with every new start. I originally had him placed as my 6th choice, but respectfully moved him up to become my 3rd, this based on his raw talent. He will need to break sharply and show tactical speed mainly because the field size of his last 3 races have been 6, 5 and 6, a world of difference when you have 20 busting out of the gate. Even though he finished ahead of his stablemate in the Santa Anita Derby, I still feel he’s simply not seasoned enough to be rated higher in this Derby field, but trust me, this is a deep field with tons of talent, so I am giving him solid consideration. If it’s wet, I’m not sure how he will handle it, so in my opinion you lose betting value with him, so you must watch the board and see where the money is going. I will use him mostly in gimmicks as my top 2 are simply far more seasoned, but this guy does have some mad crazy talent, and keep in mind the expectations of him from the very beginning, Interesting for sure. His break will be everything, if he doesn’t get out, I feel he’ll face challenges that may surface his inexperience.
# 1 War Of Will
This is another horse that I have studied very closely and have offered greatly in past handicapping columns. I have great respect for his trainer Mark Casse who has been very pronounced about this colt’s raw ability. Sired by War Front ( the same as Omaha Beach), he was a $250,000.00 purchase according to equibase who began his career racing on the lawn. He was consistent and reliable and ran solid races, but failed to win in 4 starts on the weeds. Then in the slop over this same Churchill surface, he won his first race in ridden out dominating fashion. Since tasting that victory, he’s been significantly professional in a collection of races in very large fields, winning back to back graded stakes at Fair Grounds in Louisiana. He then was bet down to 4:5 in the grade 2 Louisiana Derby, but unfortunately took a very bad step early in the race, and could never recover. In my opinion, he was ridden smartly by Tyler Gaffalione who did not force him into injury. This rail post can be very tough at Churchill, which is why I limited him as my 4th choice; however, because he has raced in numerous big fields, and he’s proven to have a big turn of foot, in both the wet going and over this same oval, I feel he offers great betting value to your exotics. With a solid trip, he can potentially better my rating. His morning drill , a solid breeze over the CD track assures his fitness according to equibase workouts. The connections are confident that he will rebound nicely from that unfortunate race in the LA Derby, and I believe that as well. Watch the board, you may get 20-1 on him, so don’t dismiss entirely when exercising your deeper gimmicks.
# 2 Tax
This guy deserves to be respected and belongs in this field. He’s been in the money in all 5 lifetime starts, 3 of which were at 9 furlongs as per equibase past results, all 3 in graded stakes races ( Grade 3 Remsen, Grade 3 Withers and the Grade 2 Wood Memorial ( which many consider to be worthy of a Grade 1). Danny Gargan saddles Junior Alvarado, both of whom have had a variety of success. His draw of the # 2 hole according to equibase entries is challenging, but suitable for him as I am expecting him to break from the gate and establish solid inside position. He’s been comfortable breaking from the inside as he has drawn the rail 3 times in his 5 lifetime starts. Yes, he was beaten by Tacitus in the Wood Memorial, but I have him ranked slightly higher here because his maiden voyage was over this same surface and I’m impressed by his consistency. Sired by Arch, the winner of the Grade 1 Super Derby, which is a 10 furlong race who also won a grade 3 at nearly the same distance ( a mile and 3/16th’s), I’m expecting this colt to run well, especially since he’ll be on the pace, perhaps sitting 3rd or so around the first turn. Are there more talented horses to his outside? Absolutely, that is what I have him placed 6th, and if he runs his best race to date, then perhaps he can better my rating, but for someone like me to rank him 5th in a filed of 20, that already says a lot about his overall ability. Do not dismiss entirely, especially if playing multiple gimmicks, as he may last for a slice of the pie.
# 19 Spinoff
Just as I mentioned with my 4th choice Roadster, this colt has a world of talent, but possesses limited experience. He is also facing the daunting aspects of breaking from the 19 hole. Todd Pletcher now saddles the very smart and very capable Manny Franco, as he switches riders as Johnny V decided to stay with Code of Honor ( more on that later). This guy is a nicely bred son of Hard Spun who comes into the race fresh and fit after a series of weekly breezes, all of which were in solid time. He’s had trouble in his last two races, but survived being bumped around a bit to run his best two races to date. He’s another who has demonstrated solid early foot, and should show tactical speed, albeit challenged from his post position. He will have to do most of his work from mid-pack and will need to have a solid trip to make his presence felt as they turn for home. He’s sort of a wild card in the race at what will be potentially 40-1 odds, something you never see with a Todd Pletcher trained horse. Watch the board to see how much action he’s getting, if you see that he’s been bet down to less than 20-1, watch out and proceed with caution. He’s my 6th choice in a field of 20, to me again a respectful consideration.
# 8 Tacitus
This guy comes into the race as the highest qualifying point earner after emerging victorious in back to back races, the Tampa Bay Derby and the Wood Memorial, both of course considered strong prep races according to equibase for this Run for the Roses. I love the talent and tenacity of Junior Ortiz, so he’s got a great rider on him, and of course I have great respect for Bill Mott who is one of the better trainers out in the circuit today ( Mott also saddles # 20 Country House), more on that later in my article. Tacitus’ wins were both impressive, but in the Tampa Bay Derby I am convinced he won because of the suicidal pace that day. Then he proved greater value as he won the Wood Memorial after being bumped and having a challenging trip early on. He is also lightly traced with only 4 lifetime starts, so I’m not sure how he will handle the magnitude of the day. He’s got terrific bloodlines, being the son of Tapit, so I’m not worried at all about the distance. In fact I would consider him a candidate to run well in this summer’s Belmont Stakes journey going a mile and a half. I am siding with him as my 7th choice because those I have listed above him simply to me are more appealing over this Churchill surface and with the size of the field, is he capable to better my rating? Absolutely, but I’ve learned that you can’t kiss all the girls, or in this case, all the colts, so if he beats me, he beats me, I just feel he’s isn’t as good as my top selections. I have him 7th choice.
# 13 Code of Honor
This colt enters the race supported by connections that have been in the winners’ circle before. Nice guy and longtime trainer Claude McGaughey III ( who won this race with Orb back in 2013) and Hall of Fame Jockey Johnny Velazquez who has won this race twice, back in 2011 with Animal Kingdom and just two years ago piloting Always Dreaming to victory. He’s a nice colt with some quality races to his resume, and seems to be fresh and fit after his recent am Drills, one at Keeneland and the other over this same Churchill Soil. Overall, he’s been consistent, hitting the board in 4 of his 5 lifetime starts, I’m just not too sure he wants this distance and he’s unproven if the track comes up wet. He’s also had various races with trouble and bad trips, and I’m not entirely sure he’ll be composed during the post parade and when they enter the gate. He’s another horse with solid ability, but I just need to see more of him before I back him greatly in a spot like this, but even still he’s made my top 10 as my 8th choice. Expect him to be in the middle of the pack early and then hopefully Johnny V can find a good lane for him to close into. This guy is capable of a big race, just not feeling it here and will use him at best at the bottom of deeper gimmicks.
# 5 Improbable
This guy is certainly another “Wild Card” and attached to him are the world class connections of Bob Baffert & Irad Ortiz. He’s a Grade 1 winner ( as a two year old) and vastly talented for sure. He comes out of the great Arkansas Derby where he failed to pass my top choice Omaha Beach. He’s 5 for 5 lifetime in the money as seen on equibase, winning 3 of 5 and placing 2nd in the other two. His speed rating numbers are exceptional, consistent and reliable when compared to the rest of the field. I took a long look at him and I’m just not entirely convinced that he’s very professional. He acted extremely restless in the gate at the Arkansas Derby, but then to his credit he raced well. I also took a long look at the Grade 2 Rebel where he got beat by # 18 Long Range Toddy, at the overwhelming odds of 2:5 according to equibase results, so he disappointed many backers that day. He was in a position to win, but didn’t finish the job which is concerning because he facing a much tougher group today; however, make no mistake, he ran a big race in the slop, and he’s been regarded as a Grade 1 runner since being purchased for two hundred grand. Baffert is taking his blinkers off and he got a fortuitous post position where he could possibly be in the mix early and then with the skilled hands of Irad Ortiz, potentially mount a powerful closing punch. My biggest concern is how he handles the magnitude of the day. Will the crowd rattle him? Will he again act up at the gate? Almost by default he made my top 10. Earlier on during my handicapping, I had him as my 5th choice, but then after watching more film, I decided on moving him down to 9th. He’s capable and a genuine threat on his best day, but I feel my top choice, especially my top two, will have to falter to give him his best shot, and I just don’t see that happening.
# 20 Country House
This colt is Bill Mott’s 2nd entry and was the recipient of the ever popular (saying it with a chuckle) 20th post position. So right off the top, please know that I would have had him ranked higher, perhaps around 7th in this field, but I dropped him to 11th position based on his post position. This guy is a tough horse, who has the bloodlines to run long. His Dad, Lookin at Lucky, headed into the 2010 Kentucky Derby week as the defending champion 2-year-old male and one of the favorites for the main event, but he was victimized by a brutal inside post draw
He then rebounded to win the Preakness Stakes at 1 3/16 miles as seen on equibase, the G1 Haskell Invitational Stakes at a mile and an eighth, and the G2 Indiana Derby at a mile and a sixteenth to lock down champion 3-year-old male honors. The same sire produced Breeders’ Cup Classic Champ, Accelerate. With a sire like that, trust me, you will eventually hear good things about this colt.
Bill Mott saddles Flavian Prat who knows how to handle a horse and he has a solid breeze over the track to prepare for this race. He does, however, have the propensity to start slow in races, which may work against him in this spot, especially from the challenging 20 hole. Even so, I’ve seen talent from this guy in viewing several races. With the proper trip, he’s capable of a monster close, especially if he gets a clear path as they come thundering down the stretch for the final furlong. At a big price, even as my 10th choice, I feel he can be used to fill a variety of your Superfectas or even triples if you are playing multiples or boxing various gimmicks, He’s likely to not have a good trip, but if he does, he could pass tiring horses and possibly finish well late. I will watch this guy more as the season progresses, there’s talent to be concerned about.
# 18 Long Range Toddy
This colt comes into the race as one of the more experienced in the field with 8 lifetime starts. Steve Asmussen is one of your better trainers who has never won this race, so by default it adds to the sentimental value of Jockey Jon Court who at age 58 is the oldest rider to ride in the Kentucky Derby according to equibase. Although a consistent sort, he failed miserably from the 11 hole in the Arkansas Derby. He actually started well in the slop, pressed the pace, but then was used up and faded badly in the stretch of the 9 furlong race. So now we are asking him to break from the 18th hole, and to go an extra furlong, not an easy task for sure; however, this guy comes from a good barn and has shown some good talent ( beating my 9th choice Improbable, who no doubt is ranked higher by other handicappers). A nice horse who has won 4 of his eight starts including his Grade 2 Rebel victory from equibase charts, but I feel he’s just a level below against many of my higher selections. Asmussen has done some special things with other horses, but I’m just going to have to pass on him today. 11th choice for me.
# 7 Maximum Security
Wow, he’s my 12th choice. Trust me it wasn’t easy placing him here, especially knowing the success of trainer Jason Servis (Yeah, he wins often) and his rider Luis Saez ( who wins often too) especially while he’s on the lead, he’s a quality rider while in front during routes and or in sprints. Additionally, the horse is a ridiculous 4 for 4, winning all of his races by wide margins. So why do I have him ranked at 13th in a field of 20? Well his first 3 victories were in sprints, and vs much cheaper, and then when ambitiously entered in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, he went wire to wire going 9 furlongs, never headed or challenged running at a soft pace. I knew he would never be caught after I saw the posted 48.4 half mile that was posted in equibase. So lets just say everything went his way that day, and now coincidently, he draws the same # 7 post and he’ll sure be the likely leader, but now he’ll be facing 19 rivals, a major step up in class, added distance, the mad crazy significance of the Churchill crowd and additional speed who may press his ways up front. Additionally, I was stunned to see his works for this race, for a speed horse to post a pair of 4 furlong breezes at 53.4 & 54.4 and a 3/8ths breeze at 42 flat on equibase workouts, those were some slow works, which has me perplexed. I’m sorry, I may end up having egg in my face if he once again got loose to win this, but I just don’t see it happening and I need to be decisive in my ways. Out of pure respect for the connections, I’m rating him 12th in the field of 20, but that’s the best I can do. Look for him to break out on top, be the likely leader perhaps through 6/8ths of a mile, but then get swallowed up by much classier horses down the lane.
This horse gets in due to the Omaha Beach scratch. Most handicappers will dismiss this maiden but not me. First he would not be the very first maiden to win the Run for the Roses. That said I really don’t think he is the winner but I think he can run in the middle of the pack and use his kick to even possibly get into the bottom gimmicks. Don’t just dismiss this very well bred runner. He is my 13th choice.
# 6 Vekoma
Here’s another colt who’s been lightly raced with only 4 starts to his credit. George Weaver saddles the great Javier Castellano whom I admire greatly, so rest assured he’s in very capable hands. Like many in this field, this guy has been a model of consistency, winning 3 of his 4 lifetime starts. His last in the Grade 2 Blue Grass was sensational getting clear in deep stretch as the post time favorite. On that day, he defeated my 2nd choice Win Win Win, but as I had mentioned, Win Win Win absorbed a horrible trip that day. Vekoma is deserving of his entry is this packed field, and he’s working well ( 59.4 breeze on April 26th according to equibase). He can also be tactical and received an advantageous post position, so with that he certainly has the ability to better my rating, but again I simply cannot kiss all the girls, and I’m siding with this colt to do his best running later on in the year, rather than in this big Run for the Roses. He’s ranked 14th in this field of 20.
# 3 By My Standards
This guy is a beautiful looking horse, appearance wise, and has also performed at a consistently high level. He comes from a solid barn and has his regular rider, Gabriel Saez in the saddle again ( he’s been aboard for all 5 career races). I am entirely impressed with his bloodlines, particularly with his sire, Goldencents. After beginning his career with a sprint, he has been running in routes since. His last was his career best race by a wide margin, running a much improved 97 in the grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. That day he beat my 6th choice Spinoff as he rallied powerfully through the stretch. His improvement was so significant that day which leads me to believe that he may take a step back on Derby Day, He does however have solid experience with big fields, racing with 11 or better in 4 of his 5 starts based on his past equibase performances. His morning drills are average, and his running style is likely to find him mid-pack and looking for room to mount a close. If it’s wet, then his chances improve, but for now I will have to recommend tossing him.
# 10 Cutting Humor
Just as I mentioned above with By My Standards, this colt is coming off his very best race, holding on to win the Grade 3 Sunland Park Derby. He’s also trained by Todd Pletcher, who has won this fabulous race twice and his reputation alone will always draw added attention to the past performances on equibase. He was an expensive purchase ( $400,000.00) so inevitably I feel he show greater success, especially coming from this barn. He’s definitely fit as his morning drills were nicely completed, Corey Lanerie is a new rider and as with most pilots in this field, capable of making sound riding decisions. Personally, I would have ran this colt in the Preakness as his next race, but when you qualify, I guess you take the Run for the Roses first. I’m tossing him and will wait for a softer opportunity or less impactful field.
# 9 Plus Que Parfait
This guy enters the race 2nd in career earnings ( Game Winner is first) thanks to his most recent victory in the UAE Derby, so I must give him credit for winning in a big spot. Now he’ll be facing tougher, faster horses and he would have to further advance his ways to contend in this spot. He’s a nice horse who has hit the board twice over this Churchill strip, including running a huge race last November in the slop in a quality Grade 2 field. Trainer Brandan Walsh switches back to Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. who was aboard him when he graduated last October at Keenland. His big win was in his last, and I don’t think he’s got the ability to parlay it to a victory here so I’m tossing him.
# 11 Haikal
This guy has had some relentless and rather dynamic late run closes, mostly in sprints and under ideal pace scenarios where the race collapsed in front of him. Those efforts are always fun to watch. In the Grade 3 Gotham on the Big A soil, he closed powerfully going a mile facing a sizzling 44.2 pace as seen on equibase charts, impressive again. A month later he stepped into greater company in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial, ran a decent race while finishing 3rd in the field of 11 defeated by Tacitus and Tax. So the consistency is there and I have always trusted Kiaran McLaughlin, but in this spot going 10 furlongs, I’m getting the feeling that there’s just too much distance. Many fans may think that if he’s such a hot closer going 6/8th’s or 7/8th’s of a mile, why wouldn’t he close well in a 10 furlong race? This has been proven time after time, so in this spot, although I have always trusted this trainer and I can appreciate jockey Maragh in the saddle, I feel this colt is simply up against it facing this field of quality routers.
# 4 Grey Magician and 15 Master Fencer
Round up my rankings in 19th and 20th position. Both colts loom to be extensive longshots, this based on their lack of performance and quality of their races. They are my choice to become the bottom exacta and, in my option, should be eliminated from all wagering considerations. Master Fencer is making his US Debut being shipped in from Japan. Grey Magician, although a strong rally in his latest, running 2nd to Plus Que Parfait, would need to run his best race to even contend in this spot. His speed ratings are just too slow. Either one of these guys would be an absolute shocker if they stole this race. Only for hunch players who play their favorite numbers or are currently engaged in the fencing business or they are a magician with grey hair.
Final thought, I would recommend focusing on my top 4 selections. Be aggressive with my top choice, playing him across the board, play exactas, triples & Superfectas. Boxing exotics as a hedge sometimes prove added value, and as I shared with my selections ranked 5th through 9th, those guys can be added to multiple bottom gimmicks, just to have some more fun and anticipation. Remember, as a hedge, low risk/high reward.
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Good Luck and enjoy Kentucky Derby Day!