Kentucky Derby 144 Preview
posted Apr 25 2018, 07:48PM
story by Pat Infante
posted in All Sports, Analysis

Preview of the 144th Kentucky Derby and recap of the prep season.

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The Field

 Firenze Fire is a horse I don't give much of a chance at hitting the board to. He is a horse that will be much better at one turn races. He has finished behind a long list of horses in this race and I’d look for that trend to continue. Not a fan. At least not at this distance at this time. The one post pretty much seals the deal and makes him an easy toss.

 Free Drop Billy was quite a hype horse back in the fall. From day one Iv said there is no chance for this horse to win the Kentucky Derby. So its his last chance to shut me up. He’s a high 80s beyer type of horse that never really progressed. During this prep season he’s finished behind Good Magic, Flameaway, Enticed, Audible, Solomini, Bolt d’Oro, and Firenze Fire. He did win the Breeders Futurity at Keenland back in October where he beat Bravazo and Lone Sailor. The beyer in that race came back with a weak 79. Those 2 horses have gotten better. The same can’t be said for Free Drop Billy. The 2 post does open up the possibility od a rail skimming trip and if an opening comes around the turn he may be able to get a piece. 

 Promises Fulfilled is a son of 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford and he fell victim to a all out speed duel with Strike Power in the Florida Derby flying out to opening fractions 21.95 and 46.37. He seems to be a one style front runner who is surely to be part of the pace and his trainer Dale Romans has not his intent to get on the lead. He was successful in doing so in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes on March 3rd. He has a race under his belt at Churchill from back in November he finished 3rd in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. Drawing the 3 post he has option other than to make every effert to go right to the front. 

 Flameaway is a true versatile grinder that is full of heart that brings it everytime. 9 career races, 7 different tracks, 6 different distances, 4 different riders, 3 different surfaces, and yet he has managed to finish in the top two in 7 of 9 starts. His most recent was a strong second place in the Bluegrass Stakes at Keenland. He might not be good enough to win the derby but he is the perfect exotics play at a good price.... and hell if things got wacky and the race fell apart you know he's gonna be right in the mix, he is all heart, so you never know...

 Audible comes into the Kentucky after winning the Florida Derby. Trainer Todd Pletcher’s 5th Florida Derby winner. He won 4 races in a row and clearly was the class of the Florida prep season. I must admit I questioned his ability to navigate the mile and an eighth Florida Derby based on the top side of his pedigree but he handled it just fine. He closed his final ⅜ of that race in 37.46 seconds. Combine that with the fact that he has Buckpasser in the X passing position on the female side makes him a real threat in this race. A sub 38 second final ⅜ with Buckpasser in the X has proven to be a major positive for landing in the Derby exacta. Will his male side pedigree catch up to him in this one?

 Good Magic is the 2 year old champion who won the Breeders Cup Juvenile. He is trained by the red hot Chad Brown who won last year’s Preakness with Cloud Computing. Good Magic’s last race was a win in the Bluegrass Stakes on April 7th. He was a $1,000,000 yearling purchase and sired by Curlin. He is of the Raise A Native sire line and have Buckpasser in the X, so the pedigree is obviously there. I wish he would of run his final fractions in the Bluegrass faster but the final ⅜ and ⅛ in 38.21 and 13.31 isn't going to cut it with this crop. Same could be said about the 95 beyer he received in his Bluegrass win. He is going to have to improve to win this race. The Derby will be his 3rd race off a layoff and he did peak in his 3rd race last year in the Breeders Cup Juvenile. Of the top tier horses he is the one I like the least but with that said he is still one of the top tier horses and could win this race.

 Justify is the favorite for the 144th Kentucky Derby, trained by Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert. Justify did not make his first start until February 18th thus he is up against the ‘Apollo Curse’ - no horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Kentucky Derby after not racing as a 2 year old. Justify is also from the Storm Cat sire line which is 0-51 in the Kentucky Derby. With that said, Justify may just be a freak of nature that will snap both those ‘curses’. He has run over a 100 beyer in all three lifetime starts and ran a 110 in the Santa Anita Derby where he broke the heart of the at the time derby favorite Bolt d’Oro. Plain and simple Justify has the fastest speed figures, won with ease around 2 turns, has a win on an off track, and defeated what was perceived as his best competition. So he is a lock, right? Well, not so fast. He has only raced 3 times. In all 3 races he had perfect trips, against small fields, and the only real horse of substance he has raced against was Bolt d’Oro. In all 3 races he has only defeated a total of 14 horses and he will have to beat 19 in the Kentucky Derby. How will he react in a 20 horse field? How will he handle being pressed to his outside? How will he handle getting stuck in traffic? He’s never been bumped around or really had some kick back thrown in his face. There is a lot of history he is up against here and it will take a true freak to do it. He might just be that freak and if he is we have a real chance at seeing another Triple Crown.

 Lone Sailor finished 2nd in the Louisiana Derby. I find him as an interesting prospect to ‘clunk up’ and maybe land in the top 4 boosting those exotics payouts. He only has 1 win in 8 lifetime starts but has finished in the money 5 times. His beyer jumped from a 78 to a 95 in his Louisiana Derby performance. I remember watching an interview with his trainer earlier where he mentioned that Lone Sailor was an immature horse, so it is possible maybe the light went off that day in the Louisiana Derby. It's also possible he ran his career best race and will bounce back off of the 17 point beyer figure jump he made. I don't know what it is exactly but I just like the way he runs, I can certainly see him outperforming his odds in the Derby. He had a really nice workout at Churchill 2 weeks prior and it appears he has taken well to the track. I am always a fan of trying to find those horses that could land in the exotics at long odds and he is one to watch.

 Hofburg finished 2nd in the Florida Derby. He is a lightly raced horse with only 3 starts under his belt. He qualifies for a strong derby exacta angle of running their final ⅜ of a major prep in under 38 flat and having Buckpasser in the X passing position of their pedigree.  Hofburg is likely to give you the best odds of that group. He is a smaller horse so he may be more affected by bumping but at the same time it could make him more nimble to navigate thru traffic. He is sure to be a ‘wise guy’ exotics play.

 My Boy Jack ran against a substandard bunch in his final tune up for the Derby in the Lexington Stakes. The more telling race was his previous where he had a visually strong closing move in the Louisiana Derby but for me you really have to look deeper into it. The pace of this race was very fast with an opening quarter in 22.97 and the half mile in 46.61. He was position along the rail for most of the race until he veered out wide to make his move around the final turn. He did come closing home in his last ⅜ in 37.11 but really flattened out in the last ⅛ running it in 12.95. For comparison purposes Noble Indy who won the race was 1 length off the leader all the way around sitting right off that blazing pace and still closed his final ⅛ in 12.82. My Boy Jack is sired by Creative Cause who closed to finish second in the 2014 derby behind California Chrome. However being sired by Creative Cause also means he is part of a Storm Cat sire line that is 0-51 all time in the Kentucky Derby. I think he is better suited for a mile and may be slightly overbet because of his visually impressive closing move in the Louisiana Derby creating no value on this one but should the track turn up wet then he becomes a player. My feeling is his closing moves get weaker as the races get longer.

 Bolt d’Oro was the first big name star of the crop with his breakout performance in the Del Mar Futurity back on September 9th and then followed it up with an even more impressive score in the Frontrunner Stakes on September 30th. He fell to 3rd in the Breeders Cup Juvenile but really had a brutal trip and was just way too wide to win the race. As a 3 year old he ran against some of the best horses in the crop beating McKinzie in a controversial DQ and falling to Justify in the Santa Anita Derby where he finished 2nd but still managed a 102 beyer speed figure. He is incredible value in this race. Had it not been for this freak of nature named Justify, who will have a lot of history to overcome if he is to win the derby, Bolt d’Oro would of won the Santa Anita Derby ran a big beyer and be your derby favorite. With horses like Promises Fulfilled, Justify, Mendelssohn, Noble Indy, and Magnum Moon wanting to be toward the front of the pack I think it could be a lively pace. It is the perfect opportunity for Bolt to sit in the front of the 2nd tier of horses and pounce when the time comes. At the odds you will get for him now compared to if he did not run into Justify he is an incredible value play and a horse I heavily play up and down my tickets.

  Enticed is a nice horse who is probably better suited for shorter distances. He finished second to Vino Rosso in the Wood Memorial. He is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin who I just about guarantee will get his Derby win one day. I just don’t think it's going to be this year. He did win the Gotham Stakes impressively on March 10th. The Gotham is a one turn mile which I think fits this horse best. I think he will go on and scale back the distance and have a really good career. It's not impossible he improves to catch a piece of the Super but i'm not betting on it.

 Bravazo is an interesting horse that ran some really good races before throwing in an absolute clunker in the Louisiana Derby where he finished 8th by 21 lengths. Im going to give him the benefit of the doubt and draw a line through that race. I really liked his win in the Risen Star on February 17th. He runs his best when sitting off the lead and firing late. If he could break well and stay in good position he could be a threat underneath in the exotics.

 Mendelssohn won the UAE Derby by an impressive 18 ½ lengths. He will try to become the first horse to come out of the UAE Derby in Dubai to win the roses. He is surely to be bet heavily and deservingly so. The UAE Derby was his first race on dirt having raced his previous race on artificial and his first 4 on the turf. He won the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf last November. He earned a 106 beyer in his UAE Derby win. That race is run at 1 3/16 so I don’t think he will have any issues with the distance as his pedigree is a classic dirt pedigree being a half brother to Beholder. Here is something interesting when you dive deeper into his impressive win; over all the replays available and maybe the only racing days at Meydan (Mar 31, Mar 10, Mar 1, Feb 22, Feb 17, and Feb 15) there were 17 races for thoroughbreds on dirt - 16 of those races were won wire to wire by an inside speed horse. That's an amazing bias that surely helped him break the stakes record that day. Overall, make no mistake about it, Mendelssohn should not be taken lightly and is a good looking contender but I wonder if he is bet down to 5-1 is that poor value? I kinda think it is. Now if he is your horse im not going to talk you off of him but if you are on the fence you can find a horse who would have a similar chance of winning at a better price in my opinion. Nonetheless he needs to be considered a real threat and couldn't of had a better post draw.

 Instilled Regard makes his way into the field with Gronkowski coming down with an illness that will cause him to miss the race. He finished 4th in the Santa Anita Derby. He ran two impressive races in the Lecomte Stakes at FairGrounds on January 13th and on December 9th when he hung right with Solomini and McKinzie in the Los Alamitos Futurity. However, since then he followed it up with a disappointing 4th in the Risen Star Stakes and and 4th place finish in the Santa Anita Derby, which based on how the race was run he never had a chance. Early in the year he was a decent prospect but he never really seems to progress much. His performances and speed figures seems to have flattened. He will need a fast pace in this race to be able to make a run and be a factor.

 Magnum Moon, like Justify, is unraced as a 2 year old and up against the Apollo curse. The Todd Pletcher trained colt is undefeated in 4 starts and most recently won the Arkansas Derby. He closed in the fastest fractions in his final prep of all the contenders that won their last prep running his final ⅛ in an eye popping 11.99 seconds. It is worth noting the pace of the race was slow which is why he was the pace setter. He does not require the lead but will like to be up in that first tier of horse in the Derby. He joins a list of some really good horses to win both the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Horses like Smarty Jones, Curlin, and American Pharoah. It is a bit on a concern that he really had drifted out wide in the stretch of his last 2 races and he will need to clean that up to win the Kentucky Derby but he was born on May 9th which you could make a case for him being extra green as he will not even really be 3 by Derby day. There is not much to knock about the horse other than the Apollo curse but I just feel like if a horse is going to end the 130 year old streak this year it's going to be Justify. However I still feel Magnum Moon should be considered a legit threat and a solid exotics play.

 Solomini is a grinder who was thought to have a very high ceiling as a 2 year old. He is owned by the Zayat family and trained by Bob Baffert who teamed to win the 2015 Triple Crown with American Pharoah. He comes into this race off a third place finish in the Arkansas Derby. My biggest problem with him is as good of a 2 year old he was, even finishing second in the Breeders Cup Juvenile behind Good Magic and ahead of Bolt d’Oro, he has not seemed to progress much. His beyer number have stayed steady in the low to mid 90s. He is sired by Curlin and I don't think the distance will be a problem for him in the Derby. I just question whether he is fast enough. I will consider him as an underneath exotics play but not much more than that. 

 Vino Rosso won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. This is a horse that certainly checks off a lot of boxes as far the type of horse that performs well in the Derby. Raise A Native sire line? Check. Buckpasser in the X? Check. Fast final fractions at a 1 ⅛ final prep? Check. He got experience getting bumped around when he and Enticed were banging hard into each other in the stretch drive of the Wood Memorial as he pulled away and ran through the wire. It’s also worth noting Johnny Velazquez chose to ride this horse for Todd Pletcher over Pletcher’s other top notch colt Audible who he previously rode. This is a horse that has a really good chance at landing in the top 4 and is an intriguing win bet at a decent price. If it doesn't work out derby day for him, keep his name in mind for the Belmont. His pedigree says he wants to go long. His sire and maternal grandsire and great-grandsire won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup, and Belmont Stakes, respectively; he has three English Derby winners in his pedigree, and his tail-female line traces to Dr. Fager who won 18 of 22 races and is considered one of the greatest race horses to ever live.

  Noble Indy won the Louisiana Derby punching his ticket to Louisville. He hung right off a blazing pace and still had enough to fight back and win down the stretch. The pace was fast enough that the pace setter, albeit a 70-1 shot, tired badly and finished dead last. He is trained by Todd Pletcher and has won 3 of his 4 races. His lone defeat in his race 2 back in the Risen Star Stakes finishing third. I don't think the Louisiana Derby was a very strong race in terms of the competition level compared to the other final preps but it was impressive nonetheless he was able to hold on after sitting right off some fast early fractions kind of like Battle of Midway did last year in the Santa Anita Derby. Battle of Midway then came back to finish 3rd in Kentucky at odds of 30-1.

 Combatant is kind of a poor man’s Flameaway that should go off at huge odds. He got into the Derby when Quip opted out and instead pointed to the Preakness. His last race was a 4th place finish in the Arkansas Derby. He had the fastest closing final ⅜ of all the prep starters closing in 36.30. This was aided due to a soft pace in the Arkansas Derby which resulted in fast closing fractions for all 3 of the Derby horses coming out of that race. Like Flameaway, he brings it every time but overall he may be overmatched in this race. He has finished in the top 3 in 5 of his 7 races which makes him an intriguing underneath play on your exotics at huge odds.


The Win Bet


I am not a big fan of the straight win bet in the Kentucky Derby if I want to pick winners I can do that on any given day of normal racing. For me, the Kentucky Derby is a day to try to hit big scores in the exotics. However, if I wanted to make a win bet for this race you have to find some value. It's possible Justify is a true freak and will overcome all the history of the Apollo Curse and win this race but he offers no value. If I lose to one of the low odds favorites, so be it, I didn’t miss out on much. For me the best value for a win bet in this race comes down two horses. The first one is Bolt d’Oro. This horse checks off just about every box. He’s faced the best competition, ran at 2, is battle tested, dealt with adversity, bred for distance, is coming into his 3rd start off a layoff, has been training well, drew a great post, has a mid-pack running style, and has run 3 100 beyers. The Santa Anita Derby was a complete sub-optimal set up for him with Justify on an uncontested lead. He still managed to record a beyer speed figure of 102 which if you compare that to the other major preps that means he would of won those races by the following lengths: Florida Derby 1 ¾, Arkansas Derby 1 ¼, Wood Memorial 2 ¼, Bluegrass Stakes 4 ¼, and the  Louisiana Derby 4 ¼. At the odds you will get him combined with the fact that the race shape will be far different than the Santa Anita Derby I consider him very good value and a major threat to win this race. Secondly, another horse I like that may be peaking at the right time is Vino Rosso. This is just a good looking colt. I like his Wood Memorial win and I think he finally reached his potential. This Todd Pletcher trainee really bounced back from some lackluster efforts at Tampa Bay Downs but I never trust anything that happens at Tampa. What happens in Tampa stays in Tampa. It's just a quirky surface. He is of the Raise A Native sire line, has Buckpasser in the X passing position, and closed the Wood Memorial fast. Johnny Velazquez, who won last year’s Kentucky Derby for Pletcher chose to ride him over the other Pletcher horses for a reason. With that sad I am really disappointed in his post position but I really think he is peaking at the right time and at his odds he is another offering great value. As far as a quick run down of the other perceived top contenders. Audible I do consider a win candidate and has value similar to Bolt d’Oro at 8-1, he also drew the best post position out of the 4 Pletcher horses. Mendelssohn could very well win but at 5-1, there is just no value. Good Magic and Magnum Moon are the two I am going to take a stand against. Good Magic has not run the big speed figures and his claim to fame was beating Bolt d’Oro in the Breeders Cup Juvenile but when you dive deeper into that race Bolt d’Oro had a brutal trip set up and if the flip flopped trips Bolt would of won by about 10 lengths. As far as Magnum Moon, I just feel if a horse is going to break the Apollo curse its going to be Justify and not Magnum Moon. His beyers have seemed to top out in the high 90’s and its going to take a 104 to win this race Saturday.


Live Longshot Underneath Plays

Those looking for a payday will be looking for some nice long shots to play underneath on your exotics. I have a handful of horses that will go off at long odds that I like as possible price boosters on your tickets. I like Noble Indy he is another Pletcher horse who’s win in the Louisiana Derby was pretty impressive considering he hung right up near a fast pace, lost the lead in the stretch, and fought back to win the race. It's a race that reminds me of the 2017 Santa Anita Derby where Battle of Midway stayed close to a fast pace and still finished strong. Battle of Midway came back to finish 3rd in the Derby at 30-1 contributing to a $4000 trifecta and $75000 superfecta. The ability to do what Noble Indy did shows me he has stamina and the bodes well in this race. I also like Lone Sailor who finished 2nd to Noble Indy. I think the light really may have gone on for this horse who’s trainer, Tom Amoss, admitted he was very immature in his development. He has looked really good at Churchill and seems to be liking the surface. He blazed over the Churchill track for his 5 furlong work on April 19th in 57.60 seconds. I think he is moving in the right direction, if he makes another improvement he can really blow up the superfecta. Flameaway is a gutsy grinder that always runs a strong race. Naturally that would make him a no brainer that should get a look on your tickets. This horse may not be the most talented but he is all heart. He reminds me on Musket Man from the 2009 Triple Crown season when he finished 3rd in the Derby at 19-1 and came back to finish 3rd in the Preakness. Flameaway is a fighter and your going to get all he got. Bravazo is an interesting play if you put a line through his Louisiana Derby where something just was not right on that day. If he runs back to form he could be one that ran a few good races and then was forgotten. Hofburg is lightly raced but has the pedigree to suggest that if he can navigate a trip he will be flying late passing a bunch of tired horses. Combatant has the fastest final ⅜ in his final prep out of all the horses in the field. I consider him a less classy version of Flameaway. His career finishes are as follows 4th, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 4th so he is another that seems to just bring it everytime. It will take a improvement of his speed figures but he has the typical profile for a exotics bomber. It wouldn’t shock me if Solomini cleaned up his stride and lived up to what we thought he might be last fall. He is a grinder that should just keep grinding away for the whole mile and a quarter. Any type of pace meltdown in front of him will only help his chances. All the bombers over the years follow a pretty simple formula, Effort, stamina, and a good trip. Lastly, Free Drop Billy who Im really not a fan of drew a good post position for his running style if he can carve out a rail skimming trip he may be able to clunk into the super. This is an exceptionally strong crop of horses but you still have to play for a price.

Derby Bettting Stratagy

This is without question the best crop of Derby horses this century. Play the exotics. I love going after the trifecta here is my betting format for a $1 Tri that would cost $105. Keep in mind the minimum bet is .50 cents so if you bet it that way it would only cost $52.50. Use my horses and fill in the blanks or create your own with the same suggested format. Its a 3 X 6 X 9 format.

7 Justify, 11 Bolt d'Oro, A__________ with
7 Justify, 11 Bolt d'Oro, A__________, 9 Hofburg, B__________ , C__________ with
7 Justify, 11 Bolt d'Oro, A__________, 9 Hofburg, B__________ , C__________, 8 Lone Sailor, 4 Flameaway, D___________


The Undercard - Bombs Away Tri's

As far as the undercard goes today is a day of huge betting pools and should be bet differently than a random Saturday at Monmouth Park. My startagy is to bet the tri's and hit at least 2 bets on the day to end up with a profit by betting longer odds horses. Last year was very chalky and if that happens again im going to get wiped out but if the day comes up like 2016 with some nice payouts I will have a good day if I could hit a couple of these. The minimum tri bet is .50 cents so each of these bets will cost $13.50.

Race 1 
3,5,7 w/ 3,5,6,7 w/ 3,4,5,6,7

Race 2
1,5,9 w/ 1,2,5,9 w/ 1,2,5,7,9

Race 3
1,6,10 w/ 1,5,6,10 w/ 1,5,6,8,10

Race 4
4,6,12 w/ 4,6,7,12 w/ 4,6,7,9,12

Race 5
3,6,9 w/ 3,6,8,9 w/ 3,6,8,9,10

Race 6
3,6,8 w/ 3,5,6,8 w/ 3,5,6,7,8

Race 7 
4,8,9 w/ 1,4,8,9 w/ 1,2,4,8,9

Race 8
1,3,5 w/ 1,3,4,5 w/ 1,3,4,5,7

Race 9 
6,8,13 w/ 3,6,8,13 w/ 2,3,6,8,13

Race 10
5,8,12 w/ 5,8,11,12 w/ 5,8,11,12,14

Race 11
2,7,10 w/ 2,5,7,10 w/ 2,5,7,8,10


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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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