Betting news, trends, odds and predictions from various handicappers and websites for Friday 4/19/19
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In time, we'll have memorized the past performances for these 2019 Kentucky Derby contenders and poured over every possible data point in handicapping the race. For now, though, this remains the introductory point of Triple Crown season, even for some of the most ardent of fans.
For the casual follower, what's there to know about this Derby class? And if you're looking to pass on a case of Derby fever, what should you lead with on each contender?
From the horse we discovered thanks to TMZ to an impending jockey record, here are the 20 story lines to know just in case the race comes up at the water cooler.
In ascending points order:
20. Master Fencer will be the first Japan-bred colt to ever run in the Kentucky Derby and the third ever from his country following previous attempts by Ski Captain (14th in 1995) and Lani (ninth in 2016). Should he enter, wagering will open overseas, exposing a new audience to the Derby.
19. Spinoff brings a familiar race pattern into the Derby for trainer Todd Pletcher, debuting this season with an allowance optional claiming win at Tampa Bay Downs. Pletcher got his last Derby winner, Always Dreaming, started there as well.
18. Gray Magician is California-based, and would become the first runner-up from the UAE Derby (G2) to start in the Kentucky Derby.
17. Country House is one of two probable entrants for trainer Bill Mott, a Hall of Famer who is missing the Derby from his resume. This colt tends to break slowly, but he hit the board in two major preps.
16. Win Win Win overcame a distinct speed bias, closing for second in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2). Earlier this season, he set a track record going seven furlongs in Tampa Bay Downs’ Pasco Stakes.
15. Cutting Humor, Pletcher’s second entry, is looking to become the first Sunland Derby (G3) winner to also win the Kentucky Derby. Mine That Bird, of course, ran in the Sunland Derby but didn’t win it.
14. Tax, a gelding, is one of two former claimers in the Derby field, but the only one actually purchased by new connections. Since snagged for $60,000, he has hit the board in three graded stakes, all at 1 1/8 miles.
13. Long Range Toddy’s jockey, Jon Court, would at age 58 become the oldest to ever ride in the Kentucky Derby. Bobby Baird, then 57, holds the current mark from the 1978 Derby.
12. War of Will suffered a mild injury leaving the gates as the Louisiana Derby (G2) favorite. Next, he’ll attempt to become the first contender in the Derby’s points era to win having lost a race at age 3.
11. Improbable is aptly named. Last summer at Del Mar, the chestnut colt with a white blaze, smaller in stature than the Triple Crown winner, took up residence in the same stall as Justify. He’s also campaigned by Winstar Farm, China Horse Club and Starlight Racing.
10. Haikal will look to improve upon Kentucky native Kiaran McLaughlin’s record in the Derby. His best result from eight starters was his first, with Closing Argument second in 2005.
9. Code of Honor brings trainer Shug McGaughey back to the Derby for the first time since 2013, when the Kentucky native won with Orb.
8. Game Winner is Bob Baffert’s first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner to enter the Derby and could provide him with an all-time record-tying sixth victory on the first Saturday in May. Ben Jones currently holds the record.
7. Maximum Security, a homebred who debuted as a $16,000 claimer, passed a huge hike in class when taking the Florida Derby (G1). He could bring some front-running speed to Churchill Downs
6. By My Standards is the first Kentucky Derby starter for Brett Calhoun, a multiple Breeders’ Cup-winning trainer with more than 3,000 career victories.
5. Roadster was mentioned as early as July 2018 by Baffert when TMZ famously asked who from his barn could be the next Justify or American Pharoah. His only defeat came last summer when third in a Grade 1 race. Roadster then went to the sidelines for minor throat surgery.
4. Plus Que Parfait will look to shake the UAE Derby’s stigma as an American-based winner of the Dubai World Cup night race. The UAE Derby’s best Kentucky Derby finisher thus far is a fifth in 2011 by Master of Hounds.
3. Vekoma has Louisville native George Weaver, his trainer, headed home, and this one will attract attention due to an unconventional front end action. See his Blue Grass Stakes (G2) score for example.
2. Omaha Beach will mark Richard Mandella’s first Derby starter in 15 years. Back in 2004, he last saddled Action This Day (sixth) and Minister Eric (15th). This one should be the favorite with Mike Smith choosing to stay on after the Arkansas Derby (G1).
1. Tacitus, Wood Memorial (G2) winner, exits a prep that hasn’t produced a winner since Funny Cide in 2003. But this brave runner overcame plenty of trouble that day and sizes up as a serious chance for Mott and Juddmonte Farms.
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Derby Contenders - Part 1
April 29, 2019
By Anthony Stabile
The first of our four-part Kentucky Derby preview will focus on the horses who earned their way into the Kentucky Derby starting gate by way of the Arkansas or California prep races.
Three of them – Game Winner, Roadster and Improbable - are trained by five-time Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert while the other two are conditioned by a couple of fellow Hall of Fame trainers looking for their first win in the race, Omaha Beach for Richard Mandella and Long Range Toddy from the Steve Asmussen barn.
The likely favorite in the Derby, Omaha Beach came in to the year having never even run on the dirt. He finished third in his debut then second in his two subsequent starts in turf races around two turns as a juvenile before missing by a half-length in his dirt debut going a flat mile in his first start of this year. He’s won three straight races since.
Omaha Beach broke his maiden in his lone sprint try, romping by nine lengths in the slop at Santa Anita going seven panels before Mandella shipped him to Arkansas for the Rebel.
Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith climbed aboard Omaha Beach for the first time in the Rebel. Omaha Beach pressed the pace from the start and found himself on the lead by the time they left the clubhouse turn. He was able to set sensible fractions before opening up a two-length lead in the lane and holding off Game Winner in a thrilling deep-stretch duel.
Mandella brought Omaha Beach back to Oaklawn for the G1 Arkansas Derby for a bout with another Baffert for in Improbable. It poured down rain the days prior and of the Arkansas Derby and Omaha Beach loved the sloppy ground again. In a trip reminiscent to the one in the Rebel, he broke, pressed and made the lead soon after straightening down the backstretch and galloped along to the turn before Improbable came calling but never got closer than a length, the final margin of victory.
Smith, who could have ridden others in here, announced he would stay with Omaha Beach when the final preps had been run and will be looking for his third Derby tally having scored with longshot Giacomo in 2005 and last year with the Justify, the betting favorite.
2018 Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Two-Year-Old Game Winner will be one of the three runners trying to get Baffert his record-tying sixth Kentucky Derby winner. His prior winners were three who eventually failed in their Triple Crown bids - Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002 – along with the two who succeeded, American Pharoah in 2015 and last year with Justify.
An undefeated, 2018 season that included G1 wins in the Del Mar Futurity, American Pharoah at Santa Anita and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill, after a debut win at Del Mar, Game Winner entered this year as the winter book favorite for the Derby.
Game Winner’s plans were altered almost immediately after he began preparing for his return when the San Felipe was cancelled due to surface issues and such at Santa Anita. He was set to face off with stablemate Improbable in that heat. Baffert opted to ship both to the G2 Rebel at Oaklawn, a race that was run in divisions due to an overflow of entries, thus separating the two.
In his Rebel, Game Winner fell towards the back of the field and was in a similar position as to the one he rallied from to gut out his win in the Juvenile some four-and-a-half months earlier. The result was different in Arkansas, however, as he fell a nose short of Omaha Beach after the stretch duel.
Back home in California for the G1 Santa Anita Derby just three weeks later, Game Winner and his regular rider Joel Rosario, who won this in 2013 with Orb, broke a bit sharper and was more forwardly paced but still raced wide as he had in the Rebel. He made the lead off of the far turn but couldn’t hold off Roadster in the very late stages and finished second.
While they’ve never faced off, Improbable and Game Winner can be linked in several ways. Improbable was also perfect as a two-year-old. He managed to win by just a neck in his sprint debut at Santa Anita a few hours before Game Winner’s romp in the American Pharoah, then showed dominance when stretching out to take the Street Sense at Churchill by over seven lengths going a mile on B.C. Friday several races before the Juvenile. He took down his biggest win of the season when he romped by over five lengths in the G1 Los Alamitos Futurity going 1 1 /16 miles in early December.
Like Game Winner, Improbable has finished second in both of his starts this year. He even got beat in his own division of the Rebel when he was kept extremely wide throughout before making the lead off of the turn only to get snatched on the line by Long Range Toddy.
Baffert made a rider change to Jose Ortiz, marking the first time the pair would team up, and put a pair of blinkers on Improbable for the Arkansas Derby. Breaking from the rail, he was taken off the pace despite the equipment change and post draw and was once again wide on the far turn. Still, he had dead aim on Omaha Beach but could not make up the length or so needed to get the money for over a quarter-mile.
Improbable will get another rider change for the Derby as Jose Ortiz committed to ride Tacitus. His brother, Irad Ortiz, Jr. will have the mount.
Oddly enough, Roadster is the least seasoned of the Baffert trio and figures to be the biggest price on the tote board of the three in spite being the only one of them to win this season.
Like a handful of SoCal juveniles last year, Roadster turned in an eye-catching debut tally early on in the season, romping by over four-lengths as the 4-5 chalk in a late July race at Del Mar. He disappointed some five weeks later when he finished two lengths behind Game Winner when third in the Del Mar Futurity before being laid up for almost six months.
Roadster returned in an entry level allowance/optional claimer on March 1. Sent off as the second choice at 4-5 (you read that correctly) he sat just off the early pace before making the lead and defeating the chalk by over two lengths.
In the Santa Anita Derby, Roadster was taken a bit more considerably off of the pace and launched a move on the far turn that eventually got him past game winner just before the wire to win by a half-length.
Perhaps the real action for Roadster came off of the track when Smith, his pilot in all of his starts, decided to stick with Omaha Beach, leading Baffert to grab a guy considered by many to be one of the top riders in Kentucky, Florent Geroux.
Long Range Toddy hasn’t had more six weeks between starts in an eight-race career that began at Remington Park on the final day of August last year. After finishing in a dead-heat for fourth in that sprint, he finished off his juvenile season with three consecutive wins, including both the Clevor Trevor going seven furlongs and the Springboard Mile where he won by a head and earned his first Derby points in the process.
After making his first four starts at Remington, Long Range Toddy made all four of his starts this year at Oaklawn, finishing a tough-luck second in the Smarty Jones before making up some ground late to be third in a strangely run edition of the G3 Southwest.
Rider Jon Court climbed aboard for the first time in the Rebel and gave what was one of the best rides in a Derby prep race one could give when Long Range Toddy broke on the lead before Court eased him off the pace and to the outside. He came and got Improbable in the last few jumps to get the money, points and lock up a Derby berth all at once.
In the Arkansas Derby, Long Range Toddy did not do much running. He broke alertly and pressed the pace a bit but never seemed to grab hold of the track and finished a non-threatening fifth.
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Derby Contenders - Part 2
April 29, 2019
By Anthony Stabile
The second of our four-part Kentucky Derby preview will focus on the horses who earned their way into the Kentucky Derby starting gate by way of New York and Kentucky, primarily, led by the highest points-earner on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, Tacitus.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who is seeking his first win in the Derby, Tacitus finished fourth in his debut going 1 1/16 miles at Belmont in early October before breaking his maiden going a mile at Aqueduct one month later in his two starts last year. He showed tactical speed in both efforts just off a couple of honest paces, especially in the early going.
After a winter in which Mott had to plot the course for several sophomores pointed towards Louisville, he decided to bring Tacitus back in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby in early March. Tampa Bay’s racing surface has historically been one of the trickiest and quirkiest around and figured to provide a solid acid-test for a horse with just two starts under his belt. Tacitus answered the call.
Under his regular rider Jose Ortiz, Tacitus was much farther off the pace than usual from post 10 and faced a double-digit length deficit when the field made its way to the far turn. He began to launch a bid with a little over a quarter of a mile to go and passed horses swiftly while racing along the inside. He made the lead in deep stretch and held off a couple rallying with him to score by just over a length at just under 9-1.
Tacitus returned to the site of his maiden tally four weeks later to run in the G2 Wood Memorial.
The post time favorite at 5-2 from post 3, Tacitus broke alertly but quickly encountered traffic trouble on the first turn when the longshot front-runner crossed over from his outside draw and caused a chain reaction that led to several runners getting bounced around and bumped.
Tacitus found himself in fourth going down the backstretch of the Wood Memorial behind a speed duel some seven or eight lengths ahead of him. Ortiz waited until the far turn to launch his bid, this time going outside of the front runners, and Tacitus finally got to the lead in mid-stretch before drawing away to win by a similar margin to the one in his prior start.
Like Tacitus, Vekoma will be making just his fifth start in the Run for the Roses, for trainer George Weaver, who’ll give Javier Castellano a leg up once again in the Derby.
Vekoma broke his maiden going six furlongs at Belmont in his debut by almost two lengths, stopping the clock in a sparkling 1:08 4/5, back in late September. Weaver stretched him out and tried him in stakes company on Breeders’ Cup weekend at Aqueduct where he won the G3 Nahua going a mile in almost identical fashion as his maiden score.
Nearly four months later, Vekoma made his seasonal bow in the G2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. It would be his first try around two turns, something several people thought would be an issue for him. His effort did nothing to answer those questions.
Perfectly placed behind a sharp early pace in fourth, Vekoma did little running in the second half of the Fountain of Youth going 1 1/16 miles around the short stretch in those races at Gulfstream and actually lost ground in the late stages where he ultimately finished third nearly three lengths behind the winner.
Weaver changed riders to Castellano for his final prep, the G2 Blue Grass, where Vekoma put the two-turns question to rest. Placed just off of the early pace by Castellano, Vekoma made the lead midway on the far turn then accelerated away nicely through the stretch to win by an expanding 3 ½ lengths.
Both his margin of victory and awkward running action had people talking about Vekoma after the Blue Grass, a race many felt was the most authoritative prep-effort put forth this season.
Win Win Win has finished behind both Tacitus and Vekoma in his last two starts, respectively, though there are some out there that were more enamored with his effort as opposed to the winner’s in the Blue Grass.
Trained by Mike Trombetta, whose lone Derby starter prior to this year, Sweetnorthernsaint, was the lukewarm favorite back in 2006, Win Win Win made his first four starts in sprints, with the first three coming at Laurel near the trainer’s mid-Atlantic base.
A couple of wins followed by a second in a minor-stakes in Maryland as a juvenile were followed by a sensational, track and stakes record effort in the seven-furlong Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs, where Win Win Win stopped the clock in 1:20 4/5. The performance earned him a chance to get on the Derby Trail.
In the Tampa Bay Derby, Trombetta replaced regular rider Julian Pimentel with Irad Ortiz, Jr. despite Pimentel’s performance on Win Win Win. He was never far from Tacitus throughout but was eventually forced five-wide on the far turn and lost some ground before rallying to get third.
In the Blue Grass, Win Win Win had just one on his thirteen rivals beat in the early running and passed most of the them before the far turn before finding a good deal of traffic trouble/ He was bumped a couple of times then forced to steady a bit before resuming his rally in deep stretch when Vekoma was long gone. He managed a runner-up performance that got him into this spot.
With Ortiz opting to ride Improbable in the Derby, Trombetta has given the mount on Win Win Win back to Pimentel.
Tax earned every one of his 52 Derby points at the Big A for trainer Danny Gargan, who claimed him just his second start out of a $50 maiden claimer victory going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland, last October. Gargan ran him back six weeks later in the G2 Remsen at nine furlongs and Tax rewarded his faith with a solid third place finish less than three lengths behind the winner.
Two months later in the G3 Withers going the same distance as the Remsen, Tax stumbled a bit at the start under his new rider Junior Alvarado but recovered quickly and took advantage of the inside bias that day at Aqueduct and never left the rail. The hole opened up along the inside in mid-stretch and after briefly battling with a couple of rivals, Tax edged away and held off a re-rally from the pacesetting Not That Brady to score by just a head.
Not wanting to cut back to the one-turn mile distance of the G3 Gotham, Tax had another brief freshening and returned two months later in the Wood Memorial. Leaving the gate from post 1 again, Tax was one of those bothered going into the first turn and was actually considered to be one of the culprits by some for some dramatic actions taken by his rider going into the clubhouse turn run. Tax moved in tandem with Tacitus on the turn and mustered a nice rally but couldn’t stay with the winner in the final stages.
Speaking of Aqueduct, the Derby will be the first start Haikal makes outside of the South Ozone Park, NY oval for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Haikal flew home through the stretch to miss by just a neck while racing wide in his November debut before riding the rail to victory when cutting back to six furlongs under Rajiv Maragh for the first time some five weeks later.
Haikal made his stakes debut in the seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield where Maragh took advantage of a pronounced inside bias and rallied him up the rail again to win by a neck.
Stretching out in the Gotham, Haikal went from looking like a prototypical, one-run closer to a racehorse when he took advantage of a pace meltdown to get up by a length. The Gotham win not only earned him 50 points but showed some people his ability to listen to his rider and alter course effectively, two things one-run closers often cannot do.
Haikal still had the two-turn question to answer and certainly proved he could handle it in the Wood Memorial, where his lack of early speed may have actually helped his cause going into the turn because he didn’t get into any trouble while others did. That can be taken as a negative as well when you consider the fact that the top two were affected and Haikal was only able to manage a third-place finish, four lengths behind Tacitus.
Still, the Haikal camp has to be happy with the fact that the distance of the Wood Memorial didn’t seem to hinder him. He was still making up ground at the end of the nine furlongs and in fact is one of only horse pointing to the Derby who can say he’s improved position in the second portion of all of his starts.
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Derby Contenders - Part 3
April 30, 2019
By Anthony Stabile
The third of our four-part Kentucky Derby preview will focus on the horses who earned their way into the Kentucky Derby starting gate by way of the Fair Grounds and Sunland Park.
Four runners – By My Standards, War of Will, Spinoff and Country House – exit the G2 Louisiana Derby, run six weeks before the Run for the Roses while Cutting Humor won the G3 Sunland Derby the very next day.
War of Will went into the La. Derby a perfect three-for-three on the dirt for trainer Mark Casse and rider Tyler Gaffalione.
After starting out winless in four starts on turf, with solid efforts in G1 races like the Summer at Woodbine and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill, Casse switched War of Will to the dirt and ended his juvenile season with a five-length romp in the slop beneath the twin spires.
Sent to Casse’s Fair Grounds string for his winter campaign, War of Will came out firing, rolling to a four-length tally in the G3 LeComte despite a wide trip and a bit of a more workmanlike, two-plus length victory in the G2 Risen Star that earned him the bulk of his 60 points.
The 4-5 favorite in the La. Derby, War of Will was awful. He broke awkwardly, appeared to be lame both in the race and afterwards and was said to have a soft tissue issue after a ninth-place finish.
War of Will has reportedly recovered nicely but would need a remarkable turn around and shake the notion that Louisiana is not the place to prep a Derby horse as few have had any success in these Triple Crown races in recent memory.
By My Standards upset the proverbial applecart in a big way in the Louisiana Derby for Bret Calhoun at over 22-1, earning all of his Derby points with one big effort.
Winless in two starts last year and his first this year, By My Standards had already tried two turns twice down in the bayou before breaking his maiden in his fourth try under regular rider Gabriel Saez. He overcame some trouble at the start and a wide trip to get out of the maiden ranks and was apparently good enough for Calhoun to send hi up against stakes company.
In the La. Derby, By My Standards couldn’t have scripted a better trip. Fourth early behind honest early fractions, Saez moved him into the clear off of the turn before the two grinded their way to the lead in the late stages to win by a little less than a length.
Since that score, By My Standards has been a bit of a buzz/wiseguy horse having done all of his prep work at Churchill Downs for over a month and is apparently getting over the ground well.
Country House used a couple of starts last year to find his way for trainer Bill Mott, who finally got him out of the maiden ranks in his seasonal bow at Gulfstream going 1 1.16 miles after breaking poorly and making up a ton of ground late to win by a widening three-and-a-half-lengths.
Country House shipped for the Risen Star off of that tally and after breaking slowly again, passed most of his rivals before stalling a bit when finishing second, more than two lengths behind War of Will.
He gave it another go in the La. Derby where he finished fourth after a slow but better break, wide trip and bit of a premature move on the far turn. The real story that day was his studish behavior in the paddock prior to the race. He was acting up and thinking more about the fillies that were in the paddock prior to his race for the Oaks than he was running in that Derby.
Mott seemed hellbent on getting Country House to the Derby and sent him to Oaklawn Park just three weeks later for the G1 Arkansas Derby. After a good break, he settled towards the rear of the field over the sloppy track and secured a third-place finish and enough points to run in this.
With Luis Saez riding Maximum Security and Joel Rosario on Game Winner, Mott has chosen Flavien Prat to ride Country House with the hope that he fits his one-run style.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, a two-time Derby winner having saddled Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming two years ago, comes into this Derby in a unique position for him as his two runners, Spinoff and Cutting Humor, figure to be longshots.
Spinoff has made just four starts in a career that has spanned over 10 months. After breaking his maiden at Gulfstream at the end of June last year, Spinoff shipped to Saratoga and finished third in the G2 Saratoga Special behind multiple graded stakes winner Call Paul.
Away from the races for over six months, Spinoff returned in a mile and forty-yard allowance/optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs, where he made quick work of four rivals, winning by almost a dozen lengths.
Back in against stakes company last out in the La. Derby, Spinoff raced alongside the winner most of the way and actually got the jump on him on the far turn but couldn’t stave him off in the final sixteenth of a mile. Manny Franco will ride for the first time as John Velazquez has committed to ride Code of Honor.
Cutting Humor still needs a rider as Velazquez has been his partner for four of his six starts. After a second-place finish in his debut at Belmont and third place finish on the stretch out at Keeneland, Cutting Humor broke his maiden going a two-turn mile at Gulfstream Park West last fall when blinkers were added.
Two months later, Velazquez climbed back aboard for the first time since his debut and piloted Cutting Humor to a runner-up performance behind Derby-bubble horse Bourbon War.
Pletcher decided to ship Cutting Humor to Oaklawn for the G3 Southwest. Sent off as the 2-1 chalk, Cutting Humor never seemed comfortable over the track and couldn’t work out a trip in an oddly run race and finished a non-threatening seventh.
Still in search of Derby points, Cutting Humor found his way to Sunland Park for its Derby. Bet down to 2-1 yet again, this time he rewarded his backers, sitting a few lengths behind a fast pace before making the lead at the top of the stretch and holding off Anothertwistafate in the final yards to win by a neck.
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Derby Contenders - Part 4
May 1, 2019
By Anthony Stabile
The final of our four-part Kentucky Derby preview will focus on the horses who earned their way into the Kentucky Derby starting gate by way of Gulfstream Park and the international points races offered in the Middle East and Asia.
Maximum Security is undefeated in four starts and is the only horse this year in the Derby that has yet to lose a race, a remarkable note when you consider the fact that he began his career in a $16K maiden claiming event in late December at Gulfstream, where he has made all of his starts.
Trained by Jason Servis, Maximum Security took them gate-to-wire that afternoon, winning by nearly 10 lengths going 6 ½ furlongs. He returned five weeks later in a six-furlong starter allowance/optional claimer and romped by over six lengths from just off the pace over a muddy track.
Same conditions, same results in late February when he won by over 18 lengths over a fast track going seven furlongs and earning the highest Beyer Speed Figure in this year’s Derby field with a 102. Servis decided to test him for stamina and class and pointed him towards the G1 Florida Derby going nine furlongs in late March.
Luis Saez climbed aboard Maximum Security for the first time in the Florida Derby. There was some other speed signed on for the event, namely the highly regarded Hidden Scroll. But when the rumors that they were going to rate Hidden Scroll proved true a few jumps out of the gate, Saez took advantage and let his stretching out sprinter use his speed.
Maximum Security didn’t have to go very fast early on yet still found himself loose on the front end. After a half that went just under :49 seconds, a pedestrian pace at Gulfstream for this caliber of horses, it was all but over. He faced a brief rally from the maiden Bodexpress, currently first on the AE list to get into the Derby, but quickly drew away from him on the turn and never faced a challenge through the stretch, winning by three-and-a-half lengths.
Maximum Security figures to be the pacesetter once again in the Derby and could also serve as an incidental “rabbit” for Game Winner as they are owned by the same connections.
Code of Honor let you know he was a good one right from the start of his career when he took his debut in gate-to-wire fashion in a Saratoga sprint last August for his Hall of Fame trainer and winner of the 2013 Derby with Orb, Shug McGaughey. It’s not only rare for the trainer to win first time out but with speed and dirt sprinting is like finding a dragon egg.
So impressive was Code of Honor in his debut, McGaughey entered him next in the Prestigious G1 Champagne at Belmont. Code of Honor seemingly lost all chance at the start when he stumbled badly leaving the gate, taking away his tactical speed and leaving him behind nine rivals. He recovered nicely and launched a strong but wide rally on the far turn to finish second, just three-lengths behind the front-running winner.
Code of Honor was entered in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but forced to scratch when he fell ill the week of the race. It was decided to give him some time and take him straight to Florida where he returned in the early January Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream. The 4-5 favorite, he couldn’t have been more disappointing/ He made a very brief move approaching the far turn but was never really a factor and finished a well-beaten fourth.
McGaughey pressed on to the G2 Fountain of Youth with Code of Honor, hoping the prior effort was just a case of his charge needing to knock the rust off. Shug was right. Under a brilliant ride by John Velazquez, a two time Derby winner with Animal Kingdom in 2011 and Always Dreaming in 2017, he saved ground behind a blazing pace in fourth, made a move to the lead off of the far turn in the short stretch run of the event and was able to hold on by three-quarters of a length.
As well as it set up for Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth, the Florida Derby pace scenario was a nightmare, especially after he was bumped at the start. He was eighth in the early running, launched a run on the turn and again did a bit of running in deep stretch but he never really threatened in third, over six lengths behind the winner.
Plus Que Parfait is the rare American-based runner that had to go to Dubai to earn his Derby points on a desert night in March for trainer Brendan Walsh.
Last season, Plus Que Parfait finished third in his first two starts, his first on turf then at Churchill going a mile, before breaking his maiden around two turns at Keeneland. It was a strong enough effort to lead him to the G2 KJC where he made a big move from off the pace while wide over an inside, speed-biased sloppy track to miss by just a neck while finishing second.
This season, Plus Que Parfait began his season at the Fair Grounds with a decent effort in the G3 LeComte where he stumbled at the start and was very wide subsequently. It was enough of a trip for the public to send him off at 6-1 behind big favorite War of Will in the G2 Risen Star. He didn’t run a step in an absolute head-scratcher, beating home just one of his 13 rivals while beaten over 20 lengths.
A pair of blinkers and trip to the G2 U.A.E. Derby were up next for Plus Que Parfait. In a reversion of tactics, he found himself on the lead early on and stayed there, battling through the lane to hold on by almost a length at an about distance of a mile and three sixteenths under Jose Ortiz, who will ride Tacitus in the Derby. Ricardo Santana, Jr., his pilot in his maiden tally, rides in here.
Gray Magician was a bang-up second in Dubai and will be making his ninth start in the Derby for trainer Peter Miller who will give Drayden Van Dyke a leg up for the first time.
Gray Magician broke his maiden in his fourth start and first for Miller last year to close out his juvenile campaign before finishing fourth in the G3 Sham at Santa Anita to start this season. After a poor effort in the slop in an allowance/optional claimer, he shipped to Laurel just over two weeks later for the Miracle Wood where he finished second, over four lengths behind mid-Atlantic star Alwaysmining, a Preakness candidate.
In Dubai, Gray Magician and his rider that day, Joel Rosario, bided their time early on before launching a serious bid once the field entered the stretch but couldn’t reach the winner.
The mystery horse in this year’s Derby is the Japanese-bred import, Master Fencer, who’ll get French-born but locally based Julien Leparoux to ride.
Master Fencer won his last of three starts in 2018 and first of this year from six career starts and earned his points via a fourth-place finish in the Hyacinth and second-place effort last out in the Fukuryu last out for trainer Koichi Tsunoda.
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by Kyle Markus
There is plenty of intrigue as this year’s Kentucky Derby approaches, as there is no clear favorite in the field, especially now that Omaha Beach has been scratched due to illness. In situations like this one, the savvy bettors will take a long and hard look at the longshots, as there is definite value to be had there if one of them is able to come away with the surprising victory.
The field certainly has its top candidates to win but don’t be surprised if this year’s race does not go according to plan. With that in mind, the Kentucky Derby longshots are a worthy group to be wagered on in 2019 in horse racing odds.
The Kentucky Derby will be held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky at 6:50 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 4th, 2019. The race will be nationally televised on NBC.
By My Standards+1616
War of Will+1616
Code of Honor+1817
Win Win Win+2253
Long Range Toddy+4550
Plus Que Parfait+6050
There is a group of five horses that are expected to be among the front of the pack, with Game Winner now coming into the Kentucky Derby as the favorite without Omaha Beach in the field. Tacitus, Roadster, Improbable and Maximum Security are also expected to be in the mix.
However, there are also plenty of other horses in the race, and some of them have a good enough chance that some money on the longshots makes a ton of sense.
Win Win Win is a horse that has been inconsistent of late but has the pedigree to be in the mix. He won the Pasco Stakes in January and as a strong closer, could benefit from the length of the Kentucky Derby and try to come from behind to clip the leaders at the finish line. At +2253 odds, it is certainly something that should be taken into consideration.
War of Will gets the 1 post, which won’t make things easy, but this is a talented colt. At odds of +1616, it’s not out of the realm that War of Will can use his early speed to get off the rail and become a contender.
By My Standards is coming off a win at the Louisiana Derby and now returns to his home turf for this race. There are elements of his racing styler that could bode well in this one, including the ability to start fast and finish with a nice kick.
Spinoff is one of the more intriguing horses in the field. While he couldn’t quite beat By My Standards at the Louisiana Derby, Spinoff had to use a lot more steps and still made it close at the end. There is a lot of unknown with this horse because it has been lightly raced, but the ability is there to make things interesting.
Country House is not going to be near the front of the pack at the beginning of the Kentucky Derby, and thus could get caught up in the traffic and get his chances torpedoed from the outset. However, this is a very fast finisher, and if a lane opens up, don’t be surprised if Country House makes a run toward the end.
Free Horse Racing Picks
There are a lot of intriguing longshots in the Kentucky Derby field, especially considering there is not a horse this year that seems capable of competing for the Triple Crown. The odds say that a pick or two among these candidates is the way to go as it wouldn’t be a shock for one of them to finish ahead of the pack.
Spinoff has improved his speed every time out and has the raw talent to be in the mix. The odds are right for this longshot and a victory at the Kentucky Derby would pay off handsomely in horse racing betting.
Horse Racing Pick: Spinoff to win the Kentucky Derby at +32 odds
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Kentucky Derby Picks
The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby takes place on Saturday with the original morning line favorite, Omaha Beach, scratched from the race. A field of 20 horses will go to the post on Saturday afternoon with five horses listed at single-digit odds, led by the new favorite Game Winner at odds of 9-2.
The post-time favorite has done really well in the Kentucky Derby of late, winning the last six times. The Derby has been streaky, as the favorite lost for 20 straight years some time back. Post time for the Derby on Saturday is 6:50 p.m. Eastern and the race can be seen on NBC. Let’s look at the odds and Kentucky Derby picks.
Kentucky Derby Odds at BetDSI
1) War of Will 15-1
2) Tax 20-1
3) By My Standards 15-1
4) Gray Magician 50-1
5) Improbable 5-1
6) Vekoma 15-1
7) Maximum Security 8-1
8) Tacitus 8-1
9) Plus Que Parfait 30-1
10) Cutting Humor 30-1
12) Code of Honor 12-1
13) Win Win Win 12-1
14) Master Fencer 50-1
15) Game Winner 9-2
16) Roadster 5-1
17) Long Range Toddy 30-1
18) Spinoff 30-1
19) Country House 30-1
20) Bodexpress 30-1
There are three main contenders in this race with Game Winner, Improbable and Roadster; two darkhorses in Maximum Security and Tacticus, and 15 longshots. If you want to take a chance on a big price then this could be a good race to do so.
The three Bob Baffert horses are the top contenders. Game Winner could easily be undefeated, but Baffert’s other horse, Roadster needed the last win more and it could be that Baffert set it up for Roadster to win the Santa Anita Derby. If that was the case, then Game Winner could be undervalued on Saturday, even though he is now the morning line favorite due to the scratch of Omaha Beach.
Roadster on the other hand, looks overvalued. The horse has never run outside of California and his post position could be a problem. Improbable has finished second twice this season and really has been a bit of a disappointment. He is talented enough to change everything to the positive on Saturday.
It should be noted that while Baffert does win a lot of races, his horses are overbet. His horses won 32% of the time last year but if you had bet every one of those horses you would have lost seven cents on every dollar wagered. More than half of his winning horses last year paid 2-1 or less. “My horses do get overbet,” Baffert said to the media, “There are a lot of times I’ll send a horse up there and (gamblers) will ask me, ‘What do you think? Is it a real favorite or a fake favorite?'”
Maximum Security and Tactius are the darkhorses. Maximum Security has won all four of his starts and has looked great in winning. Tacitus has won his last three starts but Wood Memorial winners rarely do well in the Derby.
Take your pick with the longshots, as the field is full of them, but keep an eye on Code of Honor. He has won every race in which he didn’t have trouble and he has an excellent jockey in John Velazquez.
Kentucky Derby Picks
Do you remember what they say about streaks? You can win a lot of money betting on them and lose just once. Favorites have been cashing in the Derby for many years now and there is no reason not to like Game Winner. We definitely lost a little bit of value when Omaha Beach scratched, but keep in mind that we can now ride the favorite winning streak and go with Game Winner, who is primed for a big race.
We do think that Maximum Security and Code of Honor are also worth considering. We’ll take Game Winner to win this race on Saturday and also play exacta and trifecta boxes with Game Winner, Improbable, Maximum Security and Code of Honor.
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By Anthony Stabile
PP - Horse ML Odds Jockey (Derby Record) Trainer (Derby Record)
1 – War of Will (15-1) Tyler Gaffalione (0-1) Mark Casse (0-6)
Notes: At one point this past winter, he was on his way to being your Derby favorite after three consecutive dirt wins. Then the Louisiana Derby debacle happened. He hopped at the break, appeared lame in front AND behind before a ninth-place finish and soft tissue injury diagnosis. That’s a lot to overcome regardless of how well you’re reportedly training coming into the race. He benefits the most from the two scratches as all of the horses in the main starting gate will now move outward one stall, leaving the dreaded rail stall vacant. Looks like he’ll be gunning from his inside draw to get position early. Combine his issues with the inside draw and the six weeks between layoffs and he’s the first toss.
2 - Tax (20-1) Junior Alvarado (0-2) Danny Gargan (Debut)
Notes: Of all of the horses in here, the draw probably was most unkind to this gelding. His connections were on record saying they were going to take him back and make one run and now have little choice. Hard to take a horse out of his element in a race like this and now he figures to be surrounded. He ran well in his runner-up performance in the Wood Memorial but it felt like he was never beating Tacitus despite losing by just a little over a length. Not for me.
3 – By My Standards (15-1) Gabriel Saez (0-2) Bret Calhoun (Debut)
Notes: One of two “buzz” horses this season, he comes in on a two-race win streak that includes the Louisiana Derby where he had a great trip. He took a big step forward from his maiden tally to his last win and if he does it again, he’ll be right there. It’s hard for me imagine that happening. He’ll need to be used harder leaving out of there from his draw or risk getting shuffled back. Not great options after a perfect trip. Plus, his pedigree leaves a lot to be desired for this distance. I’m passing.
4 – Gray Magician (50-1) Drayden Van Dyke (0-1) Peter Miller (0-1)
Notes: With just a maiden win from eight tries he’s one of two horses in the body of the race that’s still eligible for an entry level allowance contest. And his races have been slow. Not really sure where that runner-up performance in the UAE Derby came from. He made a menacing move at a distance just a sixteenth of a mile or so shorter than this but did appear to level off in deep stretch. He’d be one of the biggest upsets in Derby history. Pass.
5 - Improbable (6-1) Irad Ortiz, Jr. (0-3) Bob Baffert (5-29)
Notes: I know a lot of people anointed this horse as the next “horse of a lifetime” for Baffert after his Los Al Futurity win but I’ve never been a fan. He beat little as a two-year-old when using his tactical speed to pull dream trips. He faced a bit of adversity when racing wide in his Rebel comeback and got run down late by a horse that figures to be 40-1 or higher here then had the length of the stretch to get by the winner in the Arkansas Derby and couldn’t make up a length. You can excuse the first race this year but not the last one. On the plus side, he gets arguably the best rider in the country but that doesn’t make up for the fact that I believe I think the topside of his pedigree is starting to catch up to him and no he has to get another furlong as one of the shorter prices. No thanks.
6 - Vekoma (20-1) Javier Castellano (0-12) George Weaver (0-1)
Notes: His speed allowed him to get a great trip in his Blue Grass tally but his action through the lane left a lot to be desired as he wheels his leg through the stretch awkwardly. Castellano is one of the best at figuring out the pace puzzle in a horse race and even better at taking advantage of it. He’ll have this horse in the vanguard and figure it out from there. My biggest issue with him is that I have never felt he was a distance horse and his win last out did little to change my mind. The runner-up had a tough trip but isn’t much in my opinion anyway. He’s gotten a lot more attention since they announced the Omaha Beach scratch but it hasn’t been from me.
7 – Maximum Security (8-1) Luis Saez (0-6) Jason Servis (0-1)
Notes: If I had a dollar for each time I’ve been asked how this horse was entered for a $16K tag in his debut I’d be wealthy. Sometimes they fall through the cracks. Sometimes they overcome their problems. Sometimes they win their first four starts at a track where their trainer won at over 35%. This time it’s all of the above. I think he’s the speed and Saez will go as fast as he has to maintain his position in front. If they go slow, like last out in the Florida Derby, they probably think he can steal away and win it. If he has to go fast, he winds up a rabbit of sorts for Game Winner. Either way I don’t think he has a chance in here.
8 - Tacitus (8-1) Jose Ortiz (0-4) Bill Mott (0-8)
Notes: Let’s end the suspense: he’s my pick to win the Derby. I’ve loved him since he got involved in a wicked pace in his debut and stayed on like a warrior. He’s won all three of his starts since. He went to the quirky Tampa Bay Downs course and passed a bunch of horses along the inside to win their Derby then survived a roller-derby-like run into the first turn of the Wood Memorial to win like a horse who wanted more distance than the nine furlongs offered, If you turned the 19 horses in the Derby loose in a paddock and asked me to pick out the horse that looks like the Derby winner, I’d point to him. He’s got a big ol’ stride on him that looks like it would get over any surface. He’s the total package. And when they pass the eighth pole, he’ll be drawing away.
9 – Plus Que Parfait (30-1) Ricardo Santana, Jr. (0-4) Brendan Walsh (Debut)
Notes: He won going 1 3/16 miles in the UAE Derby when he added blinkers, his trainer has been on a roll and if you take the two races at the Fair Grounds off of his card he has the look of a live longshot. Problem is he is slow. Not much else to add. He’d flat-out shock me if he hit was a major player in here.
10 – Cutting Humor (30-1) Mike Smith (2-24) Todd Pletcher (2-52)
Notes: He’s the one that I’ve flip-flopped over the past few days. I really liked his second to Bourbon War at the start of the year and I was able to forgive the effort in the Southwest, one of the strangest races I’ve ever seen. But after watching the Sunland Derby win a couple of times, I decided that I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I was. Don’t fall for the “set a track record” rubbish from his last either. That thing seems to fall every year. I might use him on the bottom end of my exotic wagers in the Derby but nothing more.
11 - Haikal (SCR) Rajiv Maragh (0-5) Kiaran McLaughlin (0-8)
Notes: IS SCRATCHED DUE TO A FOOT ABSCESS.
12 – Omaha Beach (SCR) Mike Smith (2-24) Richard Mandella (0-6)
Notes: IS SCRATCHED DUE TO AN ENTRAPPED EPIGLOTTIS.
13 – Code of Honor (12-1) John Velazquez (2-20) Shug McGaughey (1-7)
Notes: When Shug won this with Orb in 2013, he told me that he had “five perfect months” with him. That hasn’t been the case with this colt. He stumbled in the Champagne but recovered to be second. He got sick leading up to the Breeders’ Cup and was forced to scratch before a massive flub at Gulfstream. Things really seemed to turn the corner in the Fountain of Youth when Johnny V put him in the perfect spot to get the candy. He had no chance in the Florida Derby behind that slow pace yet made a couple of moves and managed to grab the show-dough. He’s been training very nicely leading up to this and while I’m not completely sold on his ability to get the distance, he should get a good pace set up and come running late. Using him in all of my wagers.
14 – Win Win Win (12-1) Julian Pimentel (Debut) Mike Trombetta (0-1)
Notes: He did lose ground when gaining ground to be third at Tampa and found trouble on the far turn of the Blue Grass when second but I think he’s a sprinter/one turn type as evident by his track record performance in a seven-furlong stakes at Tampa. We have rarity this year for Derby 145 as there are not one but TWO “wiseguy” horses and he is one of them. Between the trip at Keeneland and the fact that he won the “simulated-workout-by-accident-race” over the two Mott runners, he’s gotten a lot more attention than I think he deserves. Not for me.
15 – Master Fencer (50-1) Julien Leparoux (0-10) Koichi Tsunoda (Debut)
Notes: I would like to take this space to ask the powers that be to get rid of the Asian-points races. I understand why it’s done but I don’t like it. Hard pass.
16 – Game Winner (9-2) Joel Rosario (1-8) Bob Baffert (5-29)
Notes: The B.C Juvenile and Eclipse champ should still be undefeated. He lost a filthy head bob to Omaha Beach in their division of the Rebel when he raced wide then was ridden like a horse who was trying to get a lot more out of his race in the Santa Anita Derby. If the tactic works, Baffert may have his sixth Derby score. IF it doesn’t, it’ll likely be because this horse simply doesn’t want to go this far, a concern I’ve had with him since day one. He kind of runs like a horse that is stretched at nine furlongs. He’ll need to rely on his rider and his class to get that extra furlong. The fact that he won the Juvenile over this course helps though I think you can argue that he struggled over the course. If it’s wet and he runs to his pedigree it might be all over. In fact, it’s one of the biggest factors for me. Using him in almost all of my wagers.
17 - Roadster (5-1) Florent Geroux (0-3) Bob Baffert (5-29)
Notes:The last of the three Baffert runners is easily my least favorite one. He was mediocre, at best, as a juvenile and didn’t really impress with his allowance win or in the Santa Anita Derby. I can’t recall a more dressed up prep. The early speed can’t go that far, Game Winner was racing into shape and this guy just picked up the pieces late. It speaks volumes that Smith abandoned for Omaha Beach and I’m not a fan of the guy who wound up on his back. He is going to take plenty of money and I think he is one of the best bet-against horses in the field.
18 – Long Range Toddy (30-1) Jon Court (0-3) Steve Asmussen (0-19)
Notes: Court gave this horse a superb ride to win his division of the Rebel when he snuck up on Improbable. He probably didn’t like the wet track last out and that’s not god considering the weather forecast. He’ll likely have to hustle away from the high draw and will have a tough time pulling a favorable trip. Pass.
19 - Spinoff (30-1) Manny Franco (0-1) Todd Pletcher (2-52)
Notes:Like Long Range Toddy, he’s going to have to be harder used than his connections would like in the early going or he’s destined for a very wide trip into that fast turn. This scenario is a far cry from the trip he had last out because after a bit of a bump at the break he couldn’t have gotten a better set-up if they scripted it themselves. I don’t like the horse that beat him and I’m not a fan of his either.
20 – Country House (30-1) Flavien Prat (0-2) Bill Mott (0-8)
Notes: Mott truly believes this horse belongs in the Derby and that the added distance will help him tremendously. Things would have to go perfectly for him to win this from far back. He’d need a strong pace, have to avoid traffic trouble and pass an awful lot of horses. Really hard for me to see a horse eligible for an entry level allowance contest win this but stranger things have happened. I’ll use him in exactas and trifectas and on a Pick 4 ticket as well.
21 – Bodexpress (30-1) Chris Landeros (Debut) Gustavo Delgado (0-1)
Notes: I don’t care how many points they have, maidens do not belong in the Kentucky Derby. I do like his rider a lot, though.
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