Speculation over who will win this year’s Kentucky Derby is hitting a new high as betters try to figure out whether one of the two favorites, Justify and Magnum Moon might break the so-called “Curse of Apollo,” and win the Kentucky Derby without racing as two year-olds. Both colts are undefeated, with wins at some of the most prestigious stakes races outside the Triple Crown. Justify is currently the betting favorite, listed at 3/1, while Magnum Moon is sitting around 6/1. But both of them also lack the experience seen as required to navigate through a field of 20 three-year olds, and in addition, Magnum Moon has a tendency to drift hard to the right, especially in the home stretch. This could be a real problem in a crowded field.
In the Middle of the Odds Pack
Surrounding those two is a glut of strong horses. Mendelssohn, also listed at 4/1, shares a lot of the same qualities as Justify, but raced as a two year-old all over the world. There’s some questions about whether his international success will help Mendelssohn; winning on the rail at Dubai isn’t quite as impressive when you look back at the previous results on that track, even though he smoked the competition winning by 19 ½ lengths. Plus, Mendelssohn is a horse that doesn’t like dirt in his face, so a clean break and early speed might be his best shot. If he wins, Mendelssohn will be the first non-US based horse to win the Derby.
Another early favorite was Audible, a Todd Pletcher horse with stellar pedigree and four wins from five starts. Audible’s odds are currently listed at 8/1. Audible has gained a lot of visibility in the race because the colt shares the name of Amazon’s audible book division. Audible (the company) has supported the horse with a social media campaign and has donated $15,000 to Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, which is meant to help the quality of life for thoroughbreds after racing. It even set up an entire website for the horse, and the Instagram page for Audible is filled with photos of the horse and the Derby. They’re doing everything short of actually affiliating themselves with the team, though they have made it clear they’re having fun and not owners. In some ways, this makes Audible a winner already.
Bolt d’Oro led the early futures betting pool but has since regressed to 8/1. The son of Medaglia d’Oro won in controversial fashion at the San Felipe Stakes where McKinzie crossed the finish line first but was disqualified due to interference. The Kentucky Derby is notoriously bumpy but disqualifications are rare. However, Bolt d’Oro has performed well consistently, and being maligned by bettors for circumstances well outside his control might be creating value. Named after Usain Bolt, backers hope he has his namesake’s speed over the full mile and a quarter. One of the things that work in his favor is that Bolt D’Oro is a calm, seasoned colt. He was started under saddle by Ike Green, who rode the $630,000 colt out on the trails of Montana as a long yearling and basically bomb-proofed.
“I’d rather a horse lose because he’s slow than because he acted up in the paddock or at the gate,” Green explained. “So by the time they leave the ranch, these yearlings are broke. They’ve been ridden alongside cars and tractors and anything else that comes down the road.”
Here’s the video of the San Felipe Stakes. What do you think about the bump?
Good Magic was the two-year old champion, winning the 2017 Breeders Cup Juvenile, and early in the year was a favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. Since then, the horse has had some tough races, losing the G2 Fountain of Youth as a strong favorite. Good Magic recovered to win the Blue Grass Stakes over Flameaway, but it’s fair to say that his season has been disappointing thus far. That mostly explains why his odds have regressed as far as they have, Good Magic is now listed at 12/1, but he’s a good horse (with great potential at longer distances) and fantastic pedigree.
The last Todd Pletcher horse, Vino Rosso, is also worth a look. He’s had some disappointing results, but he’s a versatile horse with some great results and great speed figures. If you’re looking for pedigree, speed and talent, and aren’t worried about consistent performances, Vino Rosso at 12/1 might be the horse for you.
What about the Longshots?
Now if you’re betting on the Derby and hoping for a big payoff, My Boy Jack (50/1) and Lone Sailor (50/1). Everyone likes an underdog and My Boy Jack was purchased for just $20,000 – the least expensive horse in the field. My Boy Jack is a closer – the kind of horse that sits in the back and then explodes from behind. In the Louisiana Derby, Jack was so far behind the field at one point that jockey Kent Desormeaux joked that “he stopped for a hot dog at the turn.” However, Jack rallied with a burst of speed that put him third, behind Noble Indy and Lone Sailer. If the first part of the race is run fast, this may put a horse like Jack in the running as they tire.
Take a look at this closing!
Lone Sailor is another horse flying under the radar, although reports from Churchill Downs says he’s prepping well for the race and loves the track. Lone Sailor is reported to be a slow-maturing horse who has the athletic ability but hadn’t quite figured out what do with his speed. Like My Boy Jack, Lone Sailor is a closer. Trying to make him run early on in the race has backfired in the past, so he will be one of those horses that puts on a huge burst of speed and could surprise everyone at the end. Lone Sailor is owned by Gayle Marie Benson, the wife of the late Tom Benson (who owned the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans). Tom Benson died the week before the Louisiana Derby so never got to see his colt qualify for the Derby.
My picks? I’m a sucker for big chestnuts, so among the favorites, I like Justify. For a longshot? I like My Boy Jack. At 50/1, he might be worth a bet of a few dollars.