I would have sworn the KD post positions weren’t drawn until the Wednesday prior to the race. And if it was changed this year, why wasn’t I informed ?! But seriously, here’s the entire field by post position, along with some pertinent information.
#1 FIRENZE FIRE. Trainer: Jason Servis. Jockey: Paco Lopez. Morning Line 50-1. Post position did no favors for this long-shot as he draws the dreaded rail. He races best when he is on or near the lead and to get that lead breaking from here will expend a lot of energy. Know him early.
#2 FREE DROP BILLY. Dale Romans. Robby Albarado. ML 30-1. Hasn’t won a race since last October, and while that was a Grade One, he beat the likes of BRAVAZO, and LONE SAILOR. Romans has tried different tracks and different distances to try and help him along. Feel free to drop him from your ticket.
#3 PROMISES FULFILLED. Dale Romans. Corey Lanerie. ML 30-1. Second of two Romans horses. (this ain’t no empire) Showed a lot of, ahem, promise when he won the Grade 2 Fountain Of Youth Stakes at Gulstream Park in March. Five weeks later same track, better company, 9th place finish in the G1 Florida Derby. Inside post will hinder his front running style.
#4 FLAMEAWAY. Marke Casse. Jose Lezcano. ML 30-1. Has won multiple Graded Stakes races. Out of nine starts has five wins and two seconds. He beat VINO ROSSO in a G3 at Tampa in February. Mystified as to why a consistent horse like this is 30-1. Raced once at Churchill Downs finishing 6th. Likes to run on the lead, again might have trouble getting there from this post.
#5 AUDIBLE. Todd Pletcher. JJ Castellano. ML 8-1. Was purchased as a two year-old for $500,000. Finished third in his debut race but has won everything since. He has gotten better as he stretched out in distance. He can sit chilly waiting, or run in the lead. Good value right now at 8-1.
#6 GOOD MAGIC. Chad Brown. Jose Ortiz. 12-1. He was a million dollar yearling, and is sired by CURLIN. He won the Breeders Cup Juvenile last fall. This guy checks a lot of boxes; champion sire, champion horse, champion trainer, and champion jockey. Won’t go off at 12-1
#7 JUSTIFY. Bob Baffert. Mike Smith. 3-1. This colt gets to the KD via a victory in the G1 Santa Anita Derby. He has never raced as a two year-old, but Bob Baffert is a 4 time KD winner, and ‘Money Mike’ Smith won’t bother putting his boots on for anything less than a G1 he thinks he can win.
#8 LONE SAILOR. Tom Amoss. James Graham. 50-1. This horse finished 2nd in the G2 Louisiana Derby, nine days after one of his principle owners Tom Benson- who also owned the New Orleans Saints passed away. If this (who dat?) long-shot wins, it will be Mardi Gras Louisville style.
#9 HOFBURG. Bill Mott. Irad Ortiz Jr. 20-1. You might usually toss a horse that has had just three career starts- two of them maiden races. But in his third race he finished second to AUDIBLE in The Florida Derby. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott doesn’t bring a horse here for “the derby experience’ he brings them to contend. Connections are solid. Don’t dismiss.
#10 MY BOY JACK. Keith Desormeaux. Ken Desormeaux. 30-1. Has the most racing experience in the field with 10 races. Half of which were graded stakes races. He has 2 wins so far in his 2018 campaign, most recently the G2 Lexington Stakes. He is a stone-cold deep closer, who doesn’t care what gate he breaks from. MY BOY JACK is flying under the radar at 30-1. But there is a group from the southside of Binghamton, NY who know of this horse. This group had, on occasion, been known to frequent a long-gone, legendary watering hole named Swat Sullivans. These folks will have some serious ACTION on this horse at the betting window. Good luck to them.
#11 BOLT d’ORO. Mick Ruis. Victor Espinoza. 8-1. He was the “IT” horse until JUSTIFY came along and did a mic drop on his flank. JUSTIFY beat BOLT d’ORO by 3 lengths in the Santa Anita Derby. JJ Castellano gets off this horse to ride AUDIBLE, but Victor Espinoza knows his way around Triple Crown races, having actually won a Triple Crown riding AMERICAN PHAROAH in 2015.
#12 ENTICED. Kiaran McLaughin. Junior Alvarado. 30-1. This horse has the class and the aptitude to run well here. He is well traveled, racing in New York, Florida and Kentucky. His first Graded Stakes win was over this track in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club.
#13 BRAVAZO. D. Wayne Lucas. Luis Contreras. 50-1. D. Wayne is back at The Derby at age 82. Thanks in part to this horse winning the G2 Risen Star, and having a couple of qualifying horses ahead of it pass on the KD, BRAVAZO was able to crack the top twenty and enter.
#14 MENDELSSOHN. Aidan O’Brien. Ryan Moore. 5-1. He set a track record in his qualifying race- The UAE Derby in Dubai, and beat the second place finisher by 18 lengths. So hes got that going for him, but he’s up against history as well, as no European (he’s from Ireland) horse has ever shipped to Churchill Downs and won The Run For The Roses.
#15 INSTILLED REGARD. Jerry Hollendorfer. Drayden Van Dyke. 50-1. Has won only twice in seven starts. Fortunately for his connections one was a G3 and earned him enough points to qualify here. Previously ridden by Mike Smith and JJ Castellano but Saturday they’ve got bigger reins to handle.
#16 MAGNUM MOON. Todd Pletcher. Luis Saez. 6-1. Undefeated in four lifetime starts. The 4 wins were by a combined length of 14 lengths, over three different racetracks. This post position is not ideal for a horse who won his last race on the lead, but he can come from the back as well. Saez has been his only jockey, and obviously knows how to get the best out of him.
#17 SOLOMINI. Bob Baffert. Flavien Prat. 30-1. Baffert’s second of two entries here. SOLOMINI was supposed to be ‘The Baff’s’ Derby horse until JUSTIFY came along. He has only one win and that was when he broke his maiden. He’s been in nothing but Graded Stakes races since then, finishing 2nd in three of them. SOLOMINI is owned by Zayat Stables, who along with Baffert gave us the aforementioned AMERICAN PHAROAH.
#18 VINO ROSSO. Todd Pletcher. John Velazquez. 12-1. Last out won the G2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Park, after an objection and inquiry from second place finisher ENTICED did not hold up. He can run near the pace or off it. Off of it would be the wiser choice given the post position. He is in the very capable hands of two-time KD winning jockey Johnny V.
#19 NOBLE INDY. Todd Pletcher. Florent Geroux. 30-1. The last of Pletcher’s four entries in the KD. Three of the four are starting out of the auxiliary gate, Mr. Pletcher can be none too pleased with that. He arrives here by winning the G2 Louisiana Derby back on March 24th. He prefers to run on the lead. Best of luck with that, breaking from gate 19. Accomplished rider Florent Geroux is in the saddle for the first time, taking over for Johnny V.
#20 COMBATANT. Steve Asmussen. Ricardo Santana Jr. 50-1. Asmussen seems to always be a KD contender, but this year he was outside looking in until last week when a couple of qualifying horses dropped out leaving room for COMBATANT. Has been beaten by several rivals here on more than one occasion. Only one horse has ever won from this post position and that was BIG BROWN ten years ago. I have seen BIG BROWN run, and you COMBATANT are no BIG BROWN
WHEW ! That’s all for now folks. Plenty to digest there. My daring choices will come on Friday as I sip on a good bourbon waiting for divine intervention. Or should it be equine intervention ?