2016 Kentucky Derby Preview
posted May 03 2016, 07:25PM
story by Pat Infante
posted in All Sports, Betting

Preview of the 2016 Kentucky Derby and recap of the Road To The Derby.

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  50-1 Trojan Nation is a horse that came out of nowhere to push Outwork to his limits in the Wood Memorial. He finished 2nd by a head at odds of 81-1. (Track announcer makes a mistake and calls him Adventist but he is the 3 horse on the inside in the video) The 2nd place finish was enough to earn enough points to qualify to enter the Derby. He has not won a race in 6 starts and made a major leap forward in his last race going from a beyer of 74 to 93. It would be very rare to see another jump up usually after a jump up in form like that it is followed by a bounce back to earth. Combine that with drawing the 1 post and it don't look good for him. I won’t be betting him but maybe if you want to boost your odds and look for a score throw him on the back end of some of your exotics tickets. 


 20-1 Suddenbreakingnews is one of the many closers in this field who finished 2nd in the Arkansas Derby. He had finished first or second in all 8 of his races with the exception of a troubled 5th place finish in the Rebel Stakes on March 19th. Suddenbreakingnews really waits til late to make his stretch run which could lead to some heavy traffic problems in a 20 horse field but his burst is fantastic. Trip depending, he could land in the top 4 as the same for any of these closers.


 10-1 Creator is another closer in this race. He comes in off a 1st place finish in the Arkansas Derby which has had a decent amount of horses come thru Arkansas and finish in the money in Kentucky over the past 5 years. He appears to be improving each time out and I think he is setup to run a big one in this race. It took him 6 races to break his maiden but in his 8 lifetime races he has finished in the money 7 times. With the way I see this race unfolding I see him flying down the stretch as they turn for home. The question is how many horse will he pass and in a 20 horse field what kind of traffic is he going to have to navigate thru?


 20-1 Mo Tom, what can you say about this poor horse, who has had nothing but rotten luck and ill-advised rides in his last two starts. Mo Tom followed the exact same path in the Louisiana Derby that he did in the Risen Star when he got stopped cold, surely costing him first or second. This time he was steered right to the rail after turning for home when he could have taken the outside and safer route, and sure enough he met the same fate, except that it happened twice this time. Jockey Corey Lanerie decided to take the dreaded rail route even as a hole opened outside him and he immediately had to check hard behind a tiring Candy My Boy in mid-stretch where there simply was no room in the first place. Mo Tom quickly recovered and kicked in, only to get stopped cold again behind Candy My Boy. Once again, he gathered himself and took off and just missed third by a neck. I like this horse because he always tries so hard and always recovers from his troubled trips and takes off again. The negative with Mo Tom is his style will always leave him vulnerable; he has so little early speed, and is such a dead closer, that he’s forever dependent on the pace and most importantly the trip. However, based on his past 2 races I see the jockey under any circumstance kicking him wide around the turn and having no part of getting stuck inside again like when he won the Lecomte Stakes on January 16th. Drawing the 4 post helps save some ground for what I expect to be a wide trip around the final turn heading home. Bottom line, Mo Tom runs his guts out every time and will be a tough out come Derby day.


 10-1 Gun Runner enters the Kentucky Derby as the winner of the Louisiana Derby.  He is bred like a Derby horse and has the looks of a Derby horse. He has 4 wins in 5 starts with his only loss being a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes back on November 28th. Although In the Louisiana Derby it is impressive in a way that he was able to draw away even with drifting out and then drifting in and then jumping back to his left lead in the final sixteenth, you would like to see him be a bit more professional in what likely was his last start before the Kentucky Derby. He will of had a 6 week layoff into the race and trainer Steve Asmussen should be able to clean up some of his form quirks. I think he is capable of winning this race and he draws a great post position with the 3 closers inside of him he should have a nice ground saving path to stalk to pace.


 20-1 My Man Sam will be the “Wise Guy Horse” off his second place finish in the Bluegrass Stakes. He ran impressive closing fractions with a final ⅜ in 37 ⅗ and final ⅛ in 12 ⅗. Of the 16 Kentucky Derby winners since 2000, 12 of them or 80% have run the final ⅜ of a mile in their final 1 ⅛ mile prep in under 38 seconds. Whereas about only 30% of horses entered have fit that angle. Horses finishing strong at 1 ⅛ tend to suggest the horse is able to handle their first test at 1 ¼ miles.  My Man Sam is a lightly raced horse coming into the Derby off of only 4 starts, winning one and two second place finishes. The question is off of only 4 starts and only 1 graded stakes race is that enough of a foundation to win the Kentucky Derby?


 50-1 Oscar Nominated comes into the Derby off winning the Spiral Stakes. In 7 career races this will be his first try on dirt. The Spiral is raced on artificial polytrack and his previous 6 were all turf races. I find it very hard to believe Oscar Nominated can make an impact although he really does not have a decent pedigree. Not one of my main plays but will throw him on the tail end of a few exotic tickets just because this derby is so wide open and he will be a high odds horse.


  30-1 Lani is this year's horse who comes to Kentucky via winning the UAE Derby in Dubai. He is a Japanese-based horse and he does seem to have the right pedigree to suggest he will be able to handle the 1 ¼ distance. However the 8th place finish last year by well-regarded U.A.E. Derby winner Mubtaahij, who I did like, makes me skeptical and cautious on tying up money on this horse and the competition gets much steeper in the Kentucky Derby, but Lani is 2-for-2 on fast tracks overseas. And it’s difficult to get an accurate gauge on his overall talent. If he hits the board i'll eat crow but at least i’ll have something to eat.


 15-1 Destin is one of the true mysteries of this Derby. He has taken a very unconventional path to Louisville. There is so much that makes it so hard to judge this horse. First off he enters this race off of an 8 week layoff. Secondly, he skipped all of the big 1 ⅛ mile prep races. His last race was the Tampa Bay Derby ran at 1 1/16 mile on a quirky dirt surface all the way back on March 12th. Some horses love and some horses hate the Tampa surface. If his trainer wasn’t the well respected Todd Pletcher and one of the best in the business Id totally toss this horse out. But he is trained by Pletcher and is the one of three horses to run a 100 or better beyer. (Nyquist and Exaggerator the others) If he isn't a Tampa exception then it is safe to say he consistently improves every time out. For handicapping purposes, it would of been ideal to see if he can carry his Tampa Bay form in another prep on another track. His only other race as a 3 year old came back on January 16th in the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds in Louisiana where he was a well beaten 4th. Did he improve or was he a product of taking well to the Tampa Bay surface? 


 20-1 Whitmore gets a ride from Victor Espinoza who has won 5 of the last 6 Triple Crown races aboard California Chrome and Triple Crown Champion American Pharoah. He was first thrown into the Derby mix all the way back in November when he won his first race by 7 lengths in impressive fashion. He has only won 2 of his 6 races, however he has finished in the money in 5 of those race. His only finish out of the money was in the Delta Jackpot last year on November 21st on a sloppy track. He took the Arkansas rout to the Derby and has run 3 solid races. He seems to make nice swooping moves down the back stretch that seem to just fall a little flat in the stretch. If he puts it all together in Louisville he can be a nice sleeper and getting Victor Espinoza aboard can only help him. I like Whitmore as a decent longshot play and I expect him to outrun his odds.


 8-1 Exaggerator is the 6 ¼ length winner of  the Santa Anita Derby. He was also the most visually impressive winner of any prep on this Road to the Derby. He literally looks like he was shot out of a cannon coming around the final turn and runs by a totally gassed Danzing Candy and Mor Spirit like they were tied to the rail. He received a prep season high 103 Beyer speed figure for his performance. He consistently runs good races and has raced a lot of Derby horses in his 9 races. On March 12th in the San Felipe stakes he finished 3rd behind Danzing Candy and Mor Spirit in a much more moderate paced race. On February 17th in the 7 furlong San Vincente he finished 2nd to undefeated Nyquist. He was a 4th place finisher behind Nyquist and Brody’s Cause in the Breeders Cup Juvenile race last November. Furthermore all the way back on October 3rd in the Breeders Futurity he finished 2nd yet again to Brody’s Cause. All in all the moral of the story is although he does seem to be improving at the right time, outside of his Santa Anita Derby win where the race was effected by an sloppy track in the rain and a pace meltdown he has done a lot of losing to other top horses. He is going to be one of the top choices and maybe he will continue to improve and wins this race but my gut is telling me he loses to top notch horses again, albeit would not shock me one bit if he hits the board.  


 30-1 Tom’s Ready is owned by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson who also owns Mo Tom. He comes into Kentucky off a 2nd place effort in the Louisiana Derby. It is worth noting his trainer Dallas Steward is a notorious Kentucky Derby exotics bomber with 2 long odds horses finishing 2nd. (Golden Soul 35-1 in 2013 and Commanding Curve 37-1 in 2014) Its also worth noting Tom’s Ready has finished 2nd in 3 of his last 4 races. I like the way Tom’s Ready has passed horses on the far turn in the aforementioned placings. He’s one of many to consider for a small piece of the exotics puzzle.


 3-1 Nyquist is your undefeated 2016 Kentucky Derby favorite. His records stands as 7 for 7 and he comes to Kentucky off of a win in the highly anticipated showdown with Mohaymen in the Florida Derby. He has not allowed horses to pass him at any stage in seven previous starts and overcame a wide trip on both turns to prove much best in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Nyquist could be cut from the same cloth of a Big Brown, who simply overwhelmed the competition with their talent in year with a crop of horses that leaves something to be desired on the first Saturday in May. If you are looking for reasons to bet against him and a few facts that make him vulnerable here they are. 1) Nyquist has not run out of this world beyer speed figures that would separate him greatly from the field. Matter of fact his best beyer of a 101 was run in a race of less than a mile at 7 furlongs. His Florida Derby win received a 94 beyer, his second best,  in comparison Mohaymen has run a 95 3 times, Exaggerator has run a 103, albeit on an off track, 96, and a 98. Creator, Mor Spirit, and Destin have all run multiple races in the mid 90’s. 2) If Nyquist wins the Derby he will have the worst dosage points out of all derby winners ever. His pedigree suggest he is distance limited. Now i'm not here to totally chop down this horse he is 7 for 7 but there is some level of vulnerability here, however I do believe he is a worthy favorite and a very very capable horse. If he gets smoothly in position sitting off the lead and there is a moderate pace then he’s going to be a handful.


 10-1 Mohaymen is truly one of the biggest puzzle pieces in the whole Derby. For those of you that don’t follow the entire prep season I want to take you way back to the beginning so you can fully understand the story. Mohaymen was purchased at auction for 2.2 million dollars as a yearling. He was put in the hands of top notch trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, an excellent horseman and all around good guy. He broke his maiden in his first race, a 6 furlong sprint on September 15th. At this point even before racing in a stakes race there was a buzz about this horse. Next, he was entered at Aqueduct in the Grade 2 Nashua Stakes on November 4th run at 1 mile and did not disappoint by winning again. 3 weeks later in the Remsen,  run also at Aqueduct and run at 1 ⅛ mile he won again. Now the buzz was really growing and he closed Kentucky Derby Future Pool 1 on November 29th at 11-1. From there McLaughlin opted to move Mohaymen to Florida for the winter at Gulfstream Park. He was given a layoff to refresh and returned in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream on January 30th then raced again February 27th in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes and won both. He is now 5 for 5 and the undefeated favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. He closed Future Pool 2 at 4-1 on February 14th and Pool 3 at 7/2 on March 13th. Now the stage was set for the most anticipated prep season race in a long time. Undefeated Nyquist - the best of the west vs Undefeated Mohaymen - the beast of the east would meet in the Florida Derby. It is so rare for the perceived best two horses to meet before Louisville but there was an extra incentive for Nyquist to ship in from California. Horses that went through the auction at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Sale (Nyquist) were eligible to earn a $1 million bonus by winning this year’s Florida Derby. There was such a build up for this race and on April 2nd it happened. As they came into the top of the stretch Mohaymen pulled neck and neck with Nyquist and it was about to be the race we all wanted to see. Could it be the beginning of a Sunday Silence vs Easy Goer rivalry that would stretch across the Triple Crown season? NO. Nyquist looked Mohaymen in the eye then blasted off. Mohaymen faltered and finished in 4th even behind Fellowship who he beat two previous times with ease. Nobody knew what happened, they scheduled to have the horse checked the next day to find a reason for him to fall so flat. The result came back that he was a fine healthy and happy horse. There was no reason. Did Mohaymen peak too early? Was he beating up on weaker competition? But why did he even fall behind Fellowship who he put away with ease multiple times? Did he not like the wet surface? Was it the wide trip? Can he rebound in Kentucky? We will soon find out. The Florida Derby changed everything before that race he was the consummate professional, as he just sat comfortably behind horses even stuck down on the rail, and then turned it on at the right time without being asked. He never got rattled and he beat you on the outside, inside, and between horses able to make his move early or late. I am very interested to see what he brings to Kentucky and can not bring myself to write him off. Hey, Secretariat finished third in his final prep race before the Derby. Chew on that for a second. Reports are he has really taken a liking to the Churchill surface and has had a tremendous amount of energy in his morning gallops and works. To Mohaymen or to not Mohaymen I've been pondering for the past 2 weeks. I finally decided that yes based on his odds he is a good value play and could be sitting on a big bounce back performance. Bet with caution but at the same time appreciate the value. Had it not been for the Florida Derby he would of been the Derby favorite.


 15-1 Outwork is the winner of the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 9th. In that race he displayed great heart in holding off a charging Trojan Nation. He is a lightly raced horse with only 4 starts under his belt. He is the type of horse that likes to run in front running fashion. He is trained by Todd Pletcher who won the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver. He could press Danzing Candy and push the pace of this race but I had heard rumblings that Pletcher has been training him to sit just off the pace. Pletcher is one of those trainers that before you know it will have 3 or 4 Derby wins under his belt. Is Outwork a horse that really can win this race? I don’t think so but the past 3 Kentucky Derby races have saw a Wood Memorial horse finish 4th. For that I will be using this horse on the tail end of exotic tickets. Sometimes it's more profitable to figure out who will finish 2-4 rather than picking the winner and this is one of those years that have the potential at an absolute huge superfecta payout.


 20-1 Shagaf laid an egg in the Wood Memorial finishing 5th as the post time favorite. He has 3 wins in 4 races but against lackluster competition. He had a good looking win in his first race back in November and that made him a ‘wise guy’ horse. However, he has not run fast enough in any of his 3 races since to be considered a viable contender. 2 weeks ago he was a toss for me but reports from Churchill say he has really looked good and seems to have taken a liking to the track. I have kind of flip flopped on him the more I look at him the more I feel he just hasn't reached his ceiling yet. His sire, Bernardini, was a proven  1 ¼ mile horse, and his offspring have shown to have inherited his stamina.  I will choose to throw him on the back end of a few exotics tickets.


 12-1 Mor Spirit breaks from post 17 the only post to never produce a Derby winner. However, Mor Spirit is the most consistent horse in this race. He is not the flashy type but runs a good race every time out. In his 7 career starts he has finished 1st three times and 2nd four times. He is the top 3 year old trained by Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert. His final prep was in the Santa Anita Derby which he finished 2nd but was probably too close to the blazing pace of the race. It is worth noting that he ended up running the last ⅛ of a mile as the same time the winner Exaggerator did. Which is impressive considering Exaggerator came from way off the blazing pace. The Santa Anita Derby is  a hard race to get a read on because of the absolute pace meltdown and the wet track. Mor Spirit runs like kind of a grinder and that can be scene best in the stretch runs of the Los Alimitos Futurity on December 19th and the Robert B. Lewis Stakes run on February 6th. His dosage numbers suggest the pedigree is right to get the 1 ¼ distance and if you combine that with the fact that he seems to always run a good race against the California competition which I believe this year was the strongest region then I think its safe to say he has a good chance of hitting the board and running a top 3 finish.


 30-1 Majesto comes in the Derby off a 2nd place finish in the Florida Derby.  He has 1 win in 6 starts and took him 5 races to break his maiden. The pedigree is decent but I don’t believe he has shown enough to be able to contend in this race. The best thing that can be said is he did come in 2nd to Nyquist in Florida Derby & 3rd to Destin in his first ever maiden race, makes you think about him maybe underneath in exotics. Reports out of Louisville have been positive.


 12-1 Brody’s Cause is the 2016 winner of the Bluegrass Stakes at Keenland on April 9th. For his running style the 19th post was not a good draw. Just check out his owners reaction to the draw. He has had an up and down career thus far. He opened his career on turf and finished 8th in his first race beaten by 25 lengths. Then he was moved to dirt and broke his maiden on September 11th. From there, he went on to the Breeders Futurity and wins the race beating Exaggerator and a couple of other good horses and then went on to finish a respectable third in the Breeders Cup Juvenile. After that he had a long layoff until the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12th where he threw up an absolute clunker finishing a well beaten 7th. It should be noted that Tampa is a tough track some horses love it and some horses hate it. Could that have been his problem? Hard to say, but his next race he went on to win the 1 ⅛ mile Bluegrass Stakes. He has good dosage numbers to suggest his pedigree has him set up to handle the 1 ¼ distance well. I am going to give him a pass on the Tampa Bay clunker. I do question his overall speed with his career best beyer being a 91. I expect him to sit mid pack and make a run at the top of the stretch but teh far outside post means he's going to have to cover a lot of ground. How much will he have left?


 15-1 Danzing Candy along with Outwork are figured to be the front running pace setters in this race. Based off his performance in the beginning of the Santa Anita Derby when pressed by Uncle Lino and shot off to opening fractions of 22.15 and 45.24 it goes to show that this horse may not be able to help himself and only be able to run on the lead. Of course in the Santa Anita Derby he ended up gassed and was all but cooked coming around the final turn after setting such a fast pace. Now what that did was also cook anyone that was anywhere remotely near the lead and led to Exaggerator looking like he was shot out of a cannon and although Exaggerator was definitely moving it was even more visually impressive because how out of gas the front was. I think he is an important piece to figuring out the Derby outcome. If he is pressed up front and goes out and sets the same kind of fractions then he is going to cook everyone on the front end and look for some of these closers come charging home. Nyquist likes to be forwardly placed will they back him off a blazing pace? If they don't and he is spent look out because you're going to see some giant payouts. Now if he gets to go an easy 47 for the first half mile then you have to think the only thing stopping him from wiring the field would be distance limitations that he may or may not have. As the expected pace setter he's a key piece to this whole race and I give him a punchers chance to wire the field.


Betting Stratagy

If you thought I was going to sit here and pick a winner your wrong. This is the most wide open Derby I have ever had to handicap. Nyquist is a very deserving favorite but 3-1 is a terrible price. The truth is I can make a case for about 18 of the 20 horses. The thing that is good about such a wide open race is you are going to have money spread around among all the horses so the exotics payouts (Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta) should be huge.

If Nyquist is your horse, you dont want to bet him at 3-1. What I would do is bet the exacta with Nyquist on top then pick a bunch of the higher odds horses and play them under neath him. Something like this:

13 w/  2,3,4,6,10,14,15,17,18,19,20 - That bet for a $2  exacta would only cost you $22 bucks and could pay hundreds of dollars. You can substitute any horses in you like but Id keep the odds at over 10-1 of any horse you are putting underneath. Then if you want to put some lower odds horses underneath him do a trifecta of something like 13, w/5,11 w/ 5,11,6,10 that would only cost you $6 per $1 tri ticket so id make sure to hold a bunch of those tickets as the tri very well could pay over $1000 and maybe a few thousand. Then if you want to take a few stabs at the super that could pay 5 figures and up, for $12 you can do a $1 Superfecta ticket 13 w/ 3,14 w/ 3,14 w/ 3, 14, 4, 17 w/ 3, 14, 4, 17. Now you don't have to use those same horses I am under neath pick what ever suits you, the point is the format of the ticket. 

A few horse I like to put on top of Exacta tickets that could make a exacta pay close to or over $1000 if the right horses finish second would be 3 Creator, 5 Gun Runner, 10 Whitmore, 9 Destin, 14 Mohaymen, 20 Danzing Candy. I would use the same format of the exacta I was doing with Nyquist single the horse of your choice of a decent amount od 2nd place horses a $2 exacta with 10 horses would only cost you $20 and if it comes out right could pay $1000 or close to it. You could even use Nyquist in the second place spot or any of the lower odds horses like Exaggerator, who I like, because all the horses I name above would give you over 10-1 on top in the first place spot. 

If you are looking for a longshot I got two for you. The 10 Whitmore I liked even before I knew Victor Espinoza would be aboard, thats just gravy. He always seems to run a good race and be right there at the end. Reports out of Kentucky say he has shown up to Churchill muscled up and in excellent shape. The other longshot I like is 4 Mo Tom if this horse can get a decent trip he should be flying late if you get a fast pace maybe he can finally put it all together and close on this field. 

Horses I havent mentioned above that I expect to outrun their odds is as follows - 2 Suddenbreakingnews, 6 My Man Sam, 12 Toms Ready, 15 Outwork, 16 Shagaf, 18 Majesto.

In conclusion Im not really dismissing any of these horses outside of 7 Oscar Nominated and 8 Lani and even as I write this I feel like I just gave all my tickets the kiss of death but those are the 2 horses I am tossing. My suggestion is to bet the exotics using the formats I have mentioned above and constucting some nice tickets. You fill in the horses you like, don't listen to handicapping experts opinions because it's way too wide open. You might as well throw a dart at the program and pick a horse. Enjoy the oppertunity for giant payouts this year, you don't get that every year. Now, just to be festive if I had to pick a winner I am going to go with 14 Mohaymen turning the tables on Nyquist. The horse only has had 2 bad minutes his entire career unfortunatly they came on his biggest stage thus far. His energy level has been through the roof at Churchill and he very well could be sitting on a huge bounce back performace. 


Undercard Horse I Like, Use as you like:

Race 1 1-2-7
Race 2 1-3-4
Race 3 1-10-11
Race 4 1-2-9
Race 5 4-10-12
Race 6 Exacta 1 w/ 2,3,4,5,8
Race 7 5-7-8
Race 8 2-4-8-10
Race 9 1-4-8-13
Race 10 5-7-9-13
Race 11 1-2-5-12


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Pat Infante
I am from the Jersey Shore. Not the TV show, the actual geographical area. I have been in the car business for over 18 years. Being in the car busines...

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