By Shawn Rychling
The weeks and months of prep races are over and we have arrived at the First Saturday in May which means we are gearing up fort the Run for the Roses, the Fastest Two Minutes in Sports or the Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports. How many clichés can we come up with?
Of course what we have is the Kentucky Derby, and this year marks the 144th running of the annual race for the nation’s best 3-year-olds held at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
Here is a rundown of the 20-horse field in post position order. The gates are scheduled to open at 6:50 Eastern time.
Firenze Fire – 50-1 – Seemed to peak last fall in the Champagne and never moved forward off that race
Free Drop Billy – 30-1 – Has always garnered plenty of attention, but has yet to win in three starts this year and has lost to several of today’s entrants.
Promises Fulfilled – 30-1 – Uber impressive in taking the Fountain of Youth wire-to-wire defeating the Blue Grass winner that many like in this race at a price. This one could be a big factor in bottom slots of your exotic tickets.
Flameaway – 30-1 – Has five wins and two seconds in 9 career starts, but one of the wins came in a turf sprint back in January. Has moved forward smartly though from speed figure perspective and would not be impossible.
Audible – 8-1 – Pletcher seems to be loaded this year and this guy may be his best chance. Stakes wins in Florida looked was easy and he did it on the front end and rallying. The work at Churchill did leave something to be desired especially after the two previous were so good.
Good Magic – 8-1 – Have to think best race is still in front of this colt. Should be ready to fire a big one third off the layoff and Chad Brown knows what he is doing.
Justify – 3-1 – If any trainer can break the Apollo jinx and win this race with a horse that was unraced at two, it has to be Bob Baffert who knows how to train these lightly-used horses. The aforementioned Apollo was the last horse to win the Derby without the benefit of a race at 2, and that victory came in 1882! The triple-digit speed figures just put this one head and shoulders above the rest.
Lone Sailor – 50-1 – Hasn’t won since maiden-breaker last September.
Hofburg – 20-1 – Ran a strong second to Audible in the Florida Derby and Bill Mott isn’t a trainer that shows up just because it’s the First Saturday in May
My Boy Jack – 30-1 – Certainly the most seasoned horse with 10 career starts, and he has hit the board eight times.
Bolt d’Oro – 8-1 – Flying a bit under the radar and the two preps this year had the look of connections that were patiently pointing to this race. Only horse that can compete on speed figures with Justify.
Enticed – 30-1 – Liked him a lot before the Wood, but he is bred to run all day.
Bravazo – 50-1 – Peaked too soon.
Mendelssohn – 5-1 – Winner of three in a row and has been a real wise-guy pick. But these horses that prep in Dubai just never run well in this race and it certainly seems prudent to stay away at anything below 10-1 odds.
Instilled Regard – 50-1 – Speed figures seem stuck at a level too slow to win this race.
Magnum Moon – 6-1 – Has won all four starts in his short career and is very capable of winning, but like the favorite he was unraced at 2. That said, his workouts have been stellar.
Solomini – 30-1 – Baffert’s other entry has competed in every race and he has impressed in the morning. The long workouts are interesting as well.
Vino Rosso – 12-1 – Late bloomer really came on in the Wood despite a wide trip and this guy may be the real wise guy choice by post time. Interesting in that he is least heralded of the Pletcher crew.
Noble Indy – 30-1 – Speed figures are going in the right direction and odds seem very generous. Here is another horse that stayed in the barn as a rookie. Maybe the jinx will be broken.
Combatant – 50-1 – Hasn’t won since maiden-breaker in October. A great example of why this race doesn’t need 20 horses.
There is a rundown with a pithy comment or two on every horse. The Pletcher army looks more formidable than it ever has coming into this race, but the question is which one can take out the entrenched Baffert favorite.
In the end it is a good idea to try and beat the favorite, although short-priced horses have been winning this race of late.
It’s also a good idea to try and figure out which longshots are capable of filling out the trifecta and superfecta. Here are three for you: Flameaway, Hofburg, and Noble Indy.
Good luck and throw back a mint julep or two while you enjoy the race!
Hot List picks and analysis for closing weekend at Aqueduct are available on the MyWinners site by clicking here.