Now that we have post draws, morning line odds and a chance to do some proper handicapping here are my thoughts on the 2018 Derby Contenders....
1. Firenze Fire (50-1): Had a much better 2 yo season than he has as a 3yo but has never won a race over a mile in distance and has lost his last three, the last two by an average of 10 lengths. Throw in the dreaded on hole and Firenze Fire should be a non-factor in this race. Later in his career I'll show great interest if his connections decide that he could be a champion miler.
2. Free Drop Billy (30-1): Hasn't run horribly in his last three races but hasn't exactly set the world on fire either. With only two wins in his career and low speed figures in all his races (compared to the rest of the field) I just don't see him being able to overcome this inside post. Will need to improve.
3. Promises Fulfilled (30-1): Looked good in the Fountain of Youth and then horrible in the Florida Derby. Has a Beyer of 104 in the FoY which is comparable to the best horses in this race but it's unclear whether or not he's a true Grade 1 racer. Will need to improve mightily to win here, but might sneak into the minor placings IF he gets a good trip.
4. Flameaway (30-1): One of the more intriguing horses in this race in that he's raced the tough horses close, and beaten some of them as well. Certainly needs to improve here and might not be helped by all of the speed in this race. Might be a decent long shot play however. Might have a future career as a sprinter.
5. Audible (8-1): Easily trainer Todd Pletcher's best chance to win the Derby and he's on a 4 race win streak, and he's gotten better every race. Justify is the M/L favorite but methinks Audible will leave as the post-time favorite and it's easy to see why. Whether you like him or not, and I do, you have to use him in your exotics and you might not want to be left out in case he is the best horse in this field.
6. Good Magic (12-1): They say that every horse has one great race in them and I think Good Magic's race was the Breeder's Cup Juvenile last November. He hasn't come close to replicating that speed sense and appears to be a really good, but not great horse who could find himself surrounded by two great horses in this race.
7. Justify (3-1): This undefeated son of Scat Daddy is trying to undo the 136 year-old Curse of Apollo. He MIGHT have the chops to do it but I'd pump the brakes on the American Pharoah comparisons just yet. Still, he's done nothing wrong in his three races to date and I thought his Santa Anita Derby run was more impressive than many of the pundits on TV. He keeps getting better and batter and if he betters what he's done in the past on Saturday look out.
8. Lone Sailor (50-1): There are always horses that qualify for the Derby who come from small barns, trainers and for whom just getting their is an accomplishment. On Paper Lone Sailor is that. But he does have some closing speed and he has run close to some of the horses in this race so you never know. Would be a stretch though.
9. Hofburg (20-1): Lightly raced, steadily improving in every race and although Audible beat him handily in the Florida Derby if he continues to improve (a la Justify) he could make for an interesting entry. Rumored to be the "sharp horse" who typically gets over bet and then disappoints in the Derby as the "experts" try and get too cute with is. Will use him in my exotics, and won't leave him out of my Pick 4.
10. My Boy Jack (30-1): He's a pure closer, and I have an aversion to betting closers in the Derby. The reason for this is because the size of the field almost ensures that horses in the back will have traffic/trip issues. That said, I think he's got the best finishing kick in the race so I'll probably feature him in my Derby Superfecta in hopes of getting a price in there.
11. Blot d'Oro (8-1): In my opinion Bolt is the most overrated horse in this fied. He's had good speed figures but he's showing a worrying tendency to cross the line 2nd in bigger races. He was given the win in the San Felipe when McKinzie was DQ's for a late outside bump in the stretch but I always thought McKinzie was the better horse in that race. He'll be in my exotics for sure, but I won't be placing anything on him to win. Depending on his off odds a show bet might be in the offering however.
12. Enticed (30-1): Yet another horse in the Derby that I think is going to be wasted at a mile and a quarter. His best race was the Gr III Gotham at a mile, which is where I think his best days forward might be. I would love to see Enticed and Firenze Fire meet up at either the Met Mile or the Breeder's Cup Mile later this year.
13. Bravazo (50-1): Who knows what happened to Bravazo in the Louisiana Derby but he laid an egg. I just don't think he has the speed to keep up with the other horses in the field, and he doesn't has the late kick he needs to make up the ground. When he won the Risen Star, it was the fastest he ever ran and he didn't have to make up any ground. That won't happen in the Derby.
14. Mendelssohn (5-1): Yes, he's come a LONG way to run in this race but his UAE Derby finish might have been the best KY Derby prep run we've seen all year. It seems to be as the races get longer this horse gets better. He's one of my top choices and I'll be featuring him prominently in my wagering.
15. Instilled Regard (50-1): When Instilled Regard has ran against Derby caliber horses he's come in 4th. When he's ran against fringe Derby horses he's won. I consider Instilled Regard to be similar to a gate keeper in boxing. IF you can beat him you should be racing against the big boys, if you can't you aren't a top caliber horse. Still, he's the horse this year that makes the KY Derby Superfecta so hard to hit. You can't include them all and he's never finished lower than 4th.
16. Magnum Moon (6-1): Also facing the curse of Apollo, also undefeated, also seemed to get better as the races got longer. Magnum Moon is a speed horse and he should figure in the early pace. Will he tire? I'm not sure. But he's a good horse that's beaten good horses and if you like Justify you have to like Magnum Moon.
17. Solomini (30-1): Solomini has made a habit of running among the Derby favorites, beating some of them, but ultimately coming in 2nd or 3rd. Still, this is a horse with some tactical speed that has never finished worse than third in any race so here's another example of why the Derby Superfecta is so hard to hit.
18. Vino Rosso (12-1): The training partner to Audible and a horse that I've been very high on since the infamous morning work where he made the latter look like a yard horse. The problem here is the post-draw, and the fact that until the Wood Memorial this horse looked average against many of these horses. It's possible that this horse just figured it out at the Wood or it could be that he just really took a liking to Aqueduct. Tough for me to determine. This is the one horse that I'm struggling with on where to place him in this race.
19. Noble Indy. (30-1): IF you can draw a line through the Risen Star where this horse was jostled at the start and still rallied to finish 2nd, then there's a case to be made for Noble Indy based on the Louisiana Derby. The problem is that Noble Indy appears, on paper, to be just a notch below these horses at the present time but might be one to watch later in the year. (Haskell, Travers etc.) I don't think he's fast enough to overcome that outside draw. If he's the horse that beats me I'm comfortable with that.
20. Combatant (50-1): This half-brother to Justify is a pure closer. Expect to find him way off the pace and looking to rally through horses at the end. I don't like his tactical speed, I don't like that he's never won at the Stakes level but I do like that he's never finished lower than 4th. I think he's going to be up against it here and with his post draw I see him struggling to compete against the class in this race.
AE 21. Blended Citizen (50-1): If he gets in due to a scratch (increasingly unlikely) I don't see him having the speed to compete. He's not done well against Derby Caliber horses.
How I'm wagering.
$20 Win - 7 - Justify. I've watched all of his races on tape and I'm a believer. I didn't see the weakening in the Santa Anita that some horse players claimed to see. He outran the field, and coasted home. He's very fast out of the gate so I think he gets the position he wants and Mike Smith in the irons is too smart to get caught up in a speed duel.
$10 Win - 5 - Audible. This horse is just too good to leave out Period.
$5 Win - 14 - Mendelssohn. I loved his UAE win but he's got several things working against him. Including faster horses to his inside. Still, he's in with a chance.
$2 Win - 19 - Noble Indy. Of all the long shot runners with a chance I can make the strongest case for him.
$2 WPS ($6 Total) - 4 - Flameaway. It's hard for me to leave this horse totally out.
$1 Supr. ($32 total)- 7 with 5-6-14 with 5-6-14-18- with 4-6-14-16-18
$75 Total Investment.
Clearly I'm keying on Justify as my favorite but I'm trying to go fairly broad at the bottom of the card. I think Audible is 2nd best but I give him trip consideration to third. After that it's wide open. I'm probably too chalky at the top but as I've said throughout, this is a TOUGH super to figure out.
Good luck however you play.