The field for the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby (G1) is pretty much set barring any last-minute defections, and there are a couple of runners standing by, so we should see a full field on the first Saturday of May.
The field looks like one of the most competitive fields we have seen in recent years, with two contenders (Justify and Bolt d’Oro) coming into the race owning three triple digit Beyer Speed Figures. In the last nine years there have been just two occasions where there were two contenders with at last two 100+ Beyers.
Several of the contenders also are attempting to buck history. Justify and Magnum Moon are attempting to end the Apollo Curse and Mendelssohn is looking to become the first Derby winner to use the UAE Derby (G2) as a prep.
Here is a look at the top ten in order of current early betting odds at USRacing.
Three races and three triple digit Beyer Speed Figures for this Bob Baffert trainee. He is looking to become the first Derby winner since Apollo in 1882 to win the race without a start as a juvenile. The “Curse” will be broken sooner than later. Baffert has four Derby wins. His Santa Anita Derby (G1) win was impressive, beating Bolt d’Oro by three lengths.
Derby contenders shipping off a prep in the UAE Derby (G2) in Dubai are 0 for 12 with a fifth by Master of Hounds the best finish. However, this guy has already won in the U.S., taking the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) last fall at Del Mar. A half-brother to the great Beholder, he has the dirt pedigree and the connections. Trainer Aiden O’Brien is 0 for 5 in the Derby and jockey Ryan Moore is 0 for 1, but hard to knock the connections or anything else on this invader. He took advantage of a speed friendly Meydan surface last out but looked like the real deal drawing off to win by 18 ½ lengths over a nice filly in Rayya.
He was no match for Justify in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) but was at a tactical disadvantage and the pace will be quicker on Derby Day. He lost by a head two back in the San Felipe (G2) but was put up to first via a DQ. He owns three triple digit Beyers and only Justify has done the same. In fact, only two others have reached that plateau once—Good Magic and Mendelssohn. He is tough and has a solid pedigree. Could he end up getting overlooked in the betting?
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner spent the winter as the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby. However, his third in the Fountain of Youth (G2) in his three-year-old debut sent horseplayers jumping off his bandwagon in droves. He bounced back with a solid win in the Blue Grass (G2) although his Beyer came up light. Trainer Chad Brown is 0 for 4 with his Derby starters but is going to win a few of these eventually. He could be sitting on a career top effort third off the bench on Derby Day.
He could be trainer Todd Pletcher’s best shot among four he saddles. The colt won the Florida Derby (G1) last out and the last two winners of the Run for the Roses went through that race including Pletcher’s Always Dreaming last year. The pedigree may be in question but there is no doubt he has a ton of talent and a good running style for the race.
This Pletcher trainee took the field gate to wire to win the Arkansas Derby (G1) last out at Oaklawn Park and comes into the race undefeated. He won the Rebel (G2) two back sitting off the pace and there is enough early zip in here he will end up with a tracking role. He has shown improvement with each outing and while he is also fighting the Apollo Curse he does have one more start than Justify and made two trips to Oaklawn Park and raced at Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park, so just may be seasoned enough to get the job done.
This Pletcher trainee put it together by winning the Wood Memorial (G2) last out. He had checked in third in the Sam F. Davis (G3) and fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in his two previous starts. No Wood participant has landed in the money in the Kentucky Derby since Funny Cide and Empire Maker completed the exacta in 2003. He faces much tougher here but has shown steady improvement and there may be more in the tank.
My Boy Jack
The Desormeaux brother are back at it. Trainer Keith and jockey Kent teamed up for a runner up finish in 2016 with Exaggerator. My Boy Jack won the Southwest (G3) but his fourth in the Louisiana Derby (G2) meant he did not have enough points, so they brought him back in the Lexington (G3) where he rallied from last to first to win and pick up 20 points, getting into the field at the last minute. You have to like his late running style and it appears likely there will be an honest pace in front of him.
This colt has just three starts under his belt, but he ran well in a runner up finish in the Florida Derby (G1), beaten three lengths by Audible. The fact that his Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott continues with this guy is a good sign. Mott has started just seven starters in the Derby and they have not done much, the best finish an eighth by Favorite Trick in 1998. He lacks in experience and should be a bigger price than 20-1.
He is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, so this is one to keep an eye on Derby week. His best race was the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) where he crossed the wire ¾ of a length in front but was DQ’d for interreference and placed third. He was no match for Magnum Moon in his runner up finish in the Rebel (G2) and third in the Arkansas Derby (G1). We know the barn can have them ready to fire third best on the first Saturday of May and he has a solid foundation. He showed plenty of promise last year with a second in the Frontrunner (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
Next up we will take a look at the second half of the field.
Michael Dempsey’s Triple Crown Package $49.95
Get Michael’s Dempsey’s full card reports for the three jewels of this year’s Triple Crown! Included in this package is Michael’s full card reports for Kentucky Oaks Day, Kentucky Derby Day, Preakness Stakes Day and Belmont Stakes Day. Michael’s Reports includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for every race.