On the surface West Coast looks like Derby winner

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Welcome to Kentucky Derby 142 and my number of 149. We’ll get to the 149 in just a bit.

The past few years the West Coast runners have dominated the Derby and on the surface it could happen again with horses like the favorite Nyquist, the Santa Derby winner Exaggerator, the very consistent Baffert runner Mor Spirit who has never been worse than second in all seven of his starts, four as a 2yo and three this year with his last five coming in stakes races.

The West Coast also has the very speedy Danzing Candy, who beat Mor Spirit and Exaggerator in the Grade II San Felipe on a fast track but then went way too fast in slop when losing to both in the Santa Anita Derby. Yes, the West has some top notch runners.

Our goal here is to try and weed out the runners who we think are either too slow or just don’t belong with the top West Coasters, so let’s get that done before we get to 149.

Gun Runner

Won the Louisiana Derby for Steve Asmussen and gets a hot jock in Florent Geroux. History says there has never been a runner who won Louisiana that went straight to Kentucky and won. Trainer Asmusssen has started the most runners in the Derby (13) without having a winner. We like Gun Runner though and will use him underneath in our trifectas and superfectas.


Won the Wood with Trojan Nation, a maiden, just a head behind. We will pass on both as the Wood offers no winners or seconds since 2003 when Funny Cide and Empire Maker ran first and second. Since then there have been 26 starters from the Wood with none of them hitting the board, so we now have it down to just 18.

Brody’s Cause

Woke up winning the Blue Grass vs. a suspect group of 3 year olds. He has never run fast enough to beat any of the West Coast runners and we will toss.


The stablemate of Gun Runner is a deep closer and will need a perfect trip to get up for a piece of the pie. We will add him to use only in the back of our exotic wagers.


Won the UAE Derby but is a toss, especially as he could not even handle his first work at Churchill Downs last week.


Got crushed by Nyquist in the Florida Derby to suffer his first loss. He has run two races that make him a must-use if he can bounce back. We will add him to the back of our exotics.


Set a track record when winning the Tampa Bay Derby. The two runners who finished behind him came back to win the Wood and Blue Grass, which makes that a key race. Since 2008, trainer Todd Pletcher has sent 24 runners to the Kentucky Derby going 0-2-1. We will use Destin only in the back as we do get Javier Castellano in the irons.


A very deep closer who will need a lot of luck to get up for a price. He cannot be tossed out of the exotics but will not be used in the top two spots.

Oscar Nominated

Looks too slow and has never run fast enough to beat any of these. We will toss.


Also not fast enough and he exits a fifth place finish in the Wood. We will toss.


Is very consistent and had an excuse in the Arkansas Derby. He gets Victor Espinoza, who is looking for an unprecedented third straight Kentucky Derby. Has a tendency to hang but we will keep him in the exotic mix.

Tom’s Ready

The other Tom in the race (Mo Tom). We don’t see a race that can make him competitive with the top West Coast contingent. We will toss.

My Man Sam

Owns one win, a maiden breaker, but gets Irad Oritz Jr. back in the irons for Chad Brown. Was a fast closing second when widest of all in the Blue Grass. We will keep him in for the exotics.

Mo Tom

What do we make of him? The youngest of the 3 year olds in the race as he will not turn 3 until May 6. Has not raced since a troubled trip, again, in the Louisiana Derby. He is another one of this year’s deep closers. We love Tom Amoss and will keep him in just in case he wants to celebrate his birthday a day late.

So now let’s take a look at 149. We have three Hall of Fame jockeys riding three West Coast horses: Mike Smith, 50, is on the speedy Danzing Candy; Gary Stevens, 53, is riding the very consistent Mor Spirit for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert; Kent Desormeaux, 46, will ride Exaggerator for his brother Keith.

Baffert, who won with the great American Pharoah last year, is the last trainer to win back-to-back Kentucky Derbys as he did it with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998.

So barring drawing post position 1, which is not the place to be in a 20 horse field, and post 17, which has never won a Kentucky Derby, here is what this bettor will be doing this Saturday.


My key horse. Jockey Kent and his brother Keith have figured this colt out. He has the quick burst of speed displayed in the San Felipe first but could not follow through going 1-1/16. He did it again in the slop in the Santa Anita Derby and cruised to the win.

Most say he needs an off track but I just don’t see it that way. His three starts this year have him set up for his best effort and Kent would love nothing better than to win this one for his brother. Look for that big ride.

Selection: We will use Exaggerator first and second with Nyquist, Mor Spirit and Danzing Candy who, if able to set a soft early pace, could get very brave. We will use the ones we did not toss in the 3- and 4-spot in the trifectas and superfectas. We will also box those four runners in the trifecta.

Again, Churchill Downs will not be having dime superfecta wagering but we will be able to bet 50-cent trifectas.


This will be a great weekend so don’t forget to get off that couch and take in one of the great seminars around town.

The South Point will again have its very popular seminar on Friday evening and if you can’t attend or live out of town you can go online and watch it. There is always a ton of good betting info.

Also listen to myself, Ralph Siraco from “Race Day Las Vegas,”  Dave Valento of [email protected], Lou D’Amico and Vinny Magliulo on the Brian Blessing radio show (AM 1400 KSHP) this Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Or stop by O’Aces Bar & Grill (4955 S. Decataur Blvd.) and catch us live.

The Kentucky Derby offers little bettors a chance to make that life changing score. Bet those lucky numbers. You could be walking around lucky and not even know it.

Richard Saber, a former director of race and sports at the famed Stardust book, is GT’s horse racing and sports handicapper. Twitter: @SabesBet. Email: [email protected].

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