There is only one Kentucky Derby, and it is the only race in our country with a 20-horse field.
That large field provides unique opportunities for American bettors with payoffs in all exotic wagers, both vertical and horizontal, being unusually large.
Here is a closer look at the first ten of twenty.
1. KNOWN AGENDA [ML 6-1] Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. Trainer: Todd Pletcher. He leads the four Pletcher horses that are set to run. The trainer looks to Win his third Derby. KNOWN AGENDA attempts to take the same path to Victory as ALWAYS DREAMING used in 2017 with Wins at Gulfstream Park in an Allowance followed by the Florida Derby before heading to Churchill Downs. This son of CURLIN is an improving 3-year-old and his stalking running style will serve him well here, though drawing the rail is a downside.
2. LIKE THE KING [ML 50-1] Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke. Trainer: Wesley Ward. This runner began his career at Belterra Park, where he broke his Maiden in his second start. It was at Turfway Park that he came into his own with two Wins and a 2nd place finish. It appears that this colt exceeded his trainers expectations. It is a bit of a surprise to realize that this will be trainer Ward’s first Derby runner. The speed figures lag behind most of the field.
3. BROOKLYN STRONG [ML 50-1] Jockey: Umberto Rispoli. Trainer: Daniel Velazquez. He had a great juvenile campaign with three Wins from four starts, including the Remsen (G2) on the Derby trail in December. After that, it was one setback after another, which kept him from getting to the races until the Wood Memorial (G2), when he finished an uncompetitive 5th. The Derby is a tough spot to try to find a horse’s best performance.
4. KEEPMEINMIND [ML 50-1] Jockey: David Cohen. Trainer: Robertino Diodoro. After a promising 2-year-old campaign that included a Maiden Victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill, his two starts this year would have to be considered disappointing. He was not a factor in either the Rebel (G2) or the Blue Grass (G2), so it is hard to expect a reversal in form in the Derby. Blinkers come off.
5. SAINTHOOD [ML 50-1] Jockey: Corey Lanerie. Trainer: Todd Pletcher. The second of four Pletcher starters in the Derby field and, in a way, he might be the most interesting. On the dirt, this guy was 2nd in his debut at Gulfstream Park and then broke his Maiden on the main track at Fair Grounds. Pletcher then put him in the Jeff Ruby Stakes (synthetic surface) where at odds of 10-1, he encountered traffic in the stretch, had to check and lost all momentum. He recovered quickly, got clear and closed a lot of ground to finish 2nd beaten by only a length. Back on dirt in the KD, he will come with big odds and has a chance to hit the board.
6. O BESOS [ML 20-1] Jockey: Marcelino Pedroza. Trainer: Greg Foley. His two victories came in a Maiden special weight and then an Allowance at Fair Grounds. He stayed in New Orleans for the final two Derby preps where he ran 4th in the Risen Star (G2) and 3rd in the Louisiana Derby– in which he rallied from last of eight and being seven lengths behind. He is getting a lot of buzz in regard to his morning work-outs at Churchill Downs.
7. MANDALOUN [ML 15-1] Jockey: Florent Geroux. Trainer: Brad Cox. The other Brad Cox horse in the race, was the impressive Winner of 50 points in the Risen Star (G2) as the 2-1 favorite. He headed into the Louisiana Derby as the 6-5 favorite and came up empty to run 6th, which was the first off-the-board finish of his career. It’s hard to dismiss that kind of performance from a horse who had always shown up and run well. He is one of many horses here that prefer to press the pace.
8. MEDINA SPIRIT [ML 15-1] Jockey: John Velazquez. Trainer: Bob Baffert. After all is said and done, this guy will be the lone Baffert horse in the Derby field – no LIFE IS GOOD, no BEZOS, no CONCERT TOUR, and no HOZIER. Safe to say there will be no pity-party held in Baffert’s honor. MEDINA SPIRIT is a consistent runner who was 2nd in the Santa Anita Derby. The large KD field and the extra distance don’t seem to suit this Florida-bred colt, who Won the Robert B. Lewis (G3) with a front-end effort in a blanket finish. He will get over-played because of Baffert’s six-Win record in the Derby.
9. HOT ROD CHARLIE [ML 8-1] Jockey: Flavien Prat. Trainer: Doug O’Neill. He Won the Louisiana Derby, living up to the promise he flashed as a 2-year-old when he ran 2nd as a long shot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). He used his speed to convincingly Win that 100-point qualifier, which was run at 1 3/16 mile. Thus, HOT ROD CHARLIE is a Winner at a distance longer than any other horse in the field. The Louisiana Derby was a fast race, much faster than the other Derby preps at Fair Grounds. Trainer Doug O’Neill is a two-time Derby Winner with I’LL HAVE ANOTHER and NYQUIST.
10. MIDNIGHT BOURBON [ML 20-1] Jockey: Mike Smith. Trainer: Steve Asmussen. This consistent colt picked up 66 points with a Win in the Lecomte (G3) in January and then with a 3rd and a 2nd place finish in the other Fair Grounds prep races. MIDNIGHT BOURBON was 2nd in the Louisiana Derby going the 9.5 furlongs pressing the fast pace of HOT ROD CHARLIE, while earning a big Beyer number. He could get Asmussen another top three finish in the Derby.
That’s the first ten contestants.
On Friday the Daily Racing Blog will take a closer look at horses #11-20, as well as make our fearless, value-driven, Derby picks. So be sure to stop back.