While the Kentucky Derby is always a bit of a crapshoot, this year’s race is a mess. With 20 horses entered and a slew of closers, all of which seem to be heading into the race in top form, it should set up for a wild finish.
Only five favorites have won the Derby since Spectacular Bid in 1979, but lately the chalk has done much better. Bodemeister is the early favorite but can he go 1¼ miles?
Here are the horses in post position order:
Odds have been updated as of Saturday May 5 at noon ET.
1. Daddy Long Legs (+3000); Jockey: Colm O’Donghue
Ran a forgettable 12th in a field of 13 in his last outing, also at Churchill Downs. Hard to recommend off that one but this colt has solid connections and could get up for a piece of the purse. Father Scat Daddy ran in the 2007 Derby but the rail is an issue.
2. Optimizer (+5000); Jockey: Jon Court
Appears much more suited for the turf but trainer D. Wayne Lukas wants a reason to go to the Derby and this is the best he has. This horse will make some noise in the summer but not here.
3. Take Charge Indy (+1000); Jockey: Calvin Borel
Went wire-to-wire in the Florida Derby and should be in the thick of things here. Out of A.P. Indy, this colt is extremely sharp and Borel is the master of knowing when to make his move. He’ll get a call in this one.
4. Union Rags (+450): Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Flew home in the Florida Derby, finishing third to Take Charge Indy. Works have been solid but unspectacular, but he appears to be able to get the distance which is a mystery for many of the top contenders. He could go from Rags to riches and be a serious Triple Crown threat if he can avoid traffic problems. Leparoux is having a strong Churchill Downs meet.
5. Dullahan (+800); Jockey Kent Desormeaux
Ran a monstrous stretch to win the Bluegrass last time out. Has fantastic closing speed but could get buried behind a wall of horses in the field of 20. That, and the fact that he seems to like synthetic surfaces better, scares me off of this one.
6. Bodemeister (+400): Jockey: Mike Smith
Seems destined to go off the favorite but no horse has won the Derby that has not run as a 2-year-old since 1888. Still, Smith’s mount has won two of his four races by blowouts and he’s trained well. Certainly a top contender but I don’t want him in a tight race while only getting 4-1.
7. Rousing Sermon (+5000); Jockey: Jose Lezcano
Another horse with great closing kick but he’s 0 for 3 this season on Grade II races. Would like to have seen a better effort at Santa Anita where he was well back in consecutive starts. Nevertheless, this is the type of horse to put a couple of bucks on and pray for boxcar payoffs.
8. Creative Cause (+1200); Jockey: Joel Rosario
Has hit the board in eight starts and beat the favorite, Bodemeister, in the San Felipe. Always seem to be battling traffic problems, some of which was his doing. This one tries hard but if he’s bumped around it will hinder his chances. Trainer Mike Harrington is making first Derby start at age 71.
9. Trinniberg (+5000); Jockey: Willie Martinez
Has won two straight but the distance should be his downfall. This one has never gone past seven furlongs. Appears to be the rabbit and nothing else.
10. Daddy Nose Best (+1500); Jockey: Garrett Gomez
The seasoned vet of the field with 10 races (four wins) has a good closing kick. My biggest knock is that Leparoux wanted to ride Union Rags and Mike Smith went for Bodemeister. Gomez is a solid jock but this is going to take one heck of an effort weaving through traffic to get there.
11. Alpha (+1500); Jockey: Rajiv Maragh
Has won three of six starts but Alpha never looked like he could catch Gemologist in the Wood and has had health issues. His recent work at Belmont was impressive but he’s 0 for 3 in Grade I events and I don’t think he gets there. Bernardini’s horse is a must-use in the exotics.
12. Prospective (+3000); Jockey: Luis Contreras
Was last in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile run at Churchill Downs last year and it is hard to see him outkicking some of these foes. Pass.
13. Went the Day Well (+2000); Jockey: John Velazquez
Another closer that improved greatly since his maiden win two starts ago. Will add blinkers but I question his speed and he’s never seen the likes of these horses.
14. Hansen (+1000); Jockey: Ramon Dominguez
Sure to be the star of NBC’s coverage, the Great White Hope is a beauty but has plenty of questions. The distance could be the biggest problem but he should stay clear of the traffic. My guess is he fades to second place.
15. Gemologist (+600); Jockey: Javier Castellano
The only undefeated horse in the race, he’s won all five starts including a dominant performance in the Wood. He’s worked well and is fresh. The only knock is who he’s beaten and that’s the one I’m hanging my hat on.
16. El Padrino (+2000): Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Todd Pletcher trainee is sure to take some money but didn’t fire in the Florida Derby. He’s 2 for 2 on an off track but I don’t like the works and he seems to be off his game.
17. Done Talking (+5000): Jockey: Sheldon Russell
Crushed by Hansen two starts ago, he came back to win the Illinois Derby. Yet another closer without the monstrous kick, seems better suited for regular allowance events.
18. Sabercat (+3000): Jockey: Corey Nakatani
Asmussen trainee seems to be able to get the distance but also looks like he’d need a big-time speed duel up front to help his cause. And if that happens, I think others would be closing much better. Pass.
19. I'll Have Another (+1200); Jockey: Mario Gutierrez
Just missed in the Santa Anita Derby but the post could hurt this speedster from making the front. Has won 3 of 5 and has a Beyer figure of over 100. I’m guessing he burns himself out getting to the front and fades in the stretch.
20. Liaison (+5000); Jockey: Martin Garcia
Baffert trainee has not been sharp. Puts the blinkers back on but seems to be overmatched here.
Kentucky Derby picks:
1. Union Rags. 2. Hansen. 3. Daddy Knows Best. 4. Went The Day Well