Last year was simple. Justify.
I bought a Kentucky Derby Future Book bet on him at 100-1 odds in late January. Then I picked him in public to win each of the three legs of the Triple Crown.
I wish every Kentucky Derby was that easy to select. Actually it has been. Since the advent of the Derby point system in 2013, the race favorite has won.
The thing about handicapping the Derby each year is with a 20-horse field it feels almost unpatriotic to settle on the favorite. The public wants another big long shot like Mine That Bird or Giacomo.
After six winning favorites in a row, maybe we are due for a price horse. I think there is a simple measure of how balanced this year’s field really is. Coming into the Derby, eight horses won their final prep race, six horses ran second and three more ran third. That means that 17 of 20 probable Derby starters ran in the money in their last start.
That tells me the post position draw will play a key role in who wins. In particular, you don’t want to draw the extreme inside or outside.
Omaha Beach was toiling on grass for trainer Richard Mandella. After three straight losses, he was switched to dirt. After losing a photo to Nolo Contesto, he has ripped off three straight wins. The last two were in the Arkansas Derby and Rebel at Oaklawn Park where he beat two Bob Baffert stars in Improbable and Game Winner, respectively.
Omaha Beach will be favored under jockey Mike Smith, but he should still be a generous price.
Roadster, from the Baffert barn, may have inched ahead of his stablemates Improbable and Game Winner. The three colts will run uncoupled. So you have the possibility of the longest priced Baffert horse winning. It happens a lot in Southern California.
Roadster exits an upset win in the Santa Anita Derby over Game Winner. Both Game Winner and Improbable have run second in their two Derby preps. Thus we must interpret if that is a positive or a negative.
Positive meaning they will improve in their third start of the year. Negative if they have not developed a lot since their 2-year-old season.
Tacitus will garner much support off wins in the Wood Memorial and Tampa Bay Derby. He might have the best pedigree to handle the 10-furlong Derby distance. He is by Tapit out of the mare Close Hatches who is a multiple Grade 1 winner in route stakes.
A horse flying under the radar is the undefeated Maximum Security. The Florida Derby winner made his first career start in a maiden claiming $16,000 race. He is owned by Gary and Mary West, who also own Game Winner.
Maximum Security is the only Derby horse who has run two triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures. This may mean he is the fastest horse in the field. He’s also 10-1 in the morning line.
Horse racing is a lot like life. It matters not where you start, but where you finish. Thus Maximum Security may get the last laugh.
I like Omaha Beach and Game Winner to run second and third.
In every Derby, there is a long shot or two that rallies from far back to get into the vertical wager.
I think the most likely late closers will be Haikal (30-1), Win Win Win (15-1) and Country House (30-1). They should be grinding away the last part of the race and passing tired horses.
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