Hopefully post position draw doesn't mess up Justify pick

Hopefully post position draw doesn't mess up Justify pick

May 02, 2018 12:00 PM


From a timing standpoint, it is unfortunate the post position draw for the 144th Kentucky Derby is taking place as this May 1 issue of GamingToday is being distributed. Yet, unless something unforeseen occurs when the 20-horse field leaves the starting gate, I feel confident the horse to beat in this Derby will be Justify.

Beyond Justify’s positive credentials, which are cited below, there are more than a half-dozen Derby horses that deserve strong consideration for possible Trifecta and Superfecta plays.

Here in fact, are the 20 expected Derby starters listed in alphabetical order, along with my positive and/or negative comments:

Audible: Jockey Javier Castellano, trainer, Todd Pletcher… Rallied to win Florida Derby and recently posted OK workouts at Palm Beach Downs.

Bolt d’Oro: Victor Espinoza, Mitch Ruis… OK 2nd to Justify in SA Derby and posted a strong 7 Furlong work on Apr.22.

Bravazo: Luis Contreras, D.Wayne Lukas… Narrow Risen Star victory and has OK CD works for four-time Derby winning trainer.

Combatant: Jockey to be named Monday and trainer Steve Asmussen may yet decide not to run. Several fair tries; but seems a tad overmatched.

Enticed: Junior Alvarado, Kiaran McLaughlin… OK win at Churchill Downs last fall; plus good 2nd in the 2018 Wood Memorial. Has fair recent works.

Firenze Fire: Paco Lopez, Jason Service… Fair form with weaker; seems overmatched.

Flameaway: Jose Lezcano, Mark Casse… Went well in the Tampa Derby and the Blue Grass. Good CD work; money chance at good odds.

Free Drop Billy: Robby Albarado, Dale Romans… Three OK finishes this year and had a rough Blue Grass trip. Worked a sharp 5 furlongs at CD.

Good Magic: Jose Ortiz, Chad Brown… Won 2017 BC Juvenile and the recent Blue Grass with good rallies. Fits here and had OK recent Keeneland work.

Hofburg: Irad Ortiz Jr., Bill Mott… Lightly raced 2nd with good rally in Florida Derby. OK CD works. Room to improve.

Instilled Regard: Drayden Van Dyke, Jerry Hollendorfer… Poor try in SA Derby; but did work a good 5 furlongs at SA Sunday before shipping.

Justify: Mike Smith, Bob Baffert… Undefeated SA Derby winner with top Beyer Speed Figures for four-time Derby winning trainer. Had terrific 7 furlong work for this with a strong, visually impressive gallop-out!

Lone Sailor: James Graham, Tom Amoss… Sharp 2nd in Louisiana Derby and subsequently worked a sensational 5 furlongs in 57 breezing at CD April 19!

Magnum Moon: Luis Saez, another Pletcher… Won 3 of 4 this year including the Arkansas Derby, with a stalk-n-go trip. A good horse with steady works at Palm Beach Downs.

Mendelssohn: Ryan Moore, Aidan O’Brien… Impressive winner of the UAE Derby with big Beyer. Arrives at CD Monday. Can win this but, the lack of reported recent works leaves many questions.

My Boy Jack: Kent Desormeaux, Keith Desormeaux… Stretch running winner of two Derby preps with moderate Figures; Yet, he could benefit from a fast, competitive pace.

Noble Indy: Florent Geroux, Another Pletcher… Won Louisiana Derby with a stalking trip and has been working steadily at Palm Beach Downs for this.

Promises Fulfilled: Corey Lanerie, Dale Romans… Won career debut at CD last fall and the Fountain of Youth at GP in March. Recently worked sharp 5 furlongs in 59 flat at CD.

Solomini: Flavien Prat, another Baffert… Decent colt was 2nd in the BC Juvenile last fall and ran well in the Rebel and Arkansas Derby this year. All works tend to be very fast.

Vino Rosso: John Velazquez, another Pletcher… Improved his OK tries at Tampa to score solid victory in the Wood Memorial. OK recent work at Palm Beach Downs.

Possible late addition to the field:

Blended Citizen: Kyle Frey, Steve Asmussen… Needs a scratch to get in; but even if he does; do not see him contending.


Justify has too many positives to ignore; but there will be minimal value playing him to win in a race that can be roughly run.

My $1 Trifecta Play: Justify over Magnum Moon; Bolt d’ Oro, Good Magic and Flameaway.

Two Superfecta tickets: $.50 Superfcta Ticket A: Justify over Noble Indy; Bolt d’ Oro, Promises Fulfilled, Vino Rosso, Good Magic, and Flameaway. $.50 Superfecta Ticket B: Justify over Bolt d’ Oro, Promises Fulfilled, Mendelssohn, Flameaway, Hofburg, Lone Sailor.

While I will buy the above tickets regardless of the post position draw, I might increase each play to $1 or $2 units while adding an extra ticket at my Friday 6 p.m. seminar at the Sunset Station racebook.

Professional handicappers Richard Eng and Brian Blessing will join me, along with racebook manager Chuck Esposito. In the meantime, let’s all enjoy this annual racing classic that has been playing out for 144 years.