Friday, May 4, 2018

Handicapping the 2018 Kentucky Derby

I love trying to handicap The Derby.

It's generally an exercise in futility, but it is also an exercise in fun.

On the off-chance you are thinking of watching the race, and are looking for some talking points, this is how I see the field shaping up this year:

The Longshots:

Firenze Fire (50-1):
Let's start with an easy one. Firenze Fire has run four races this year, and has come away with one win. He finished an ordinary-looking 4th at the Wood Memorial. Do not bet on this horse.

Free Drop Billy (30-1):
Free Drop Billy had a great 2 yr old season, but hasn't been able to get anything together as a 3 yr old.  He has the kind of come from behind style that works very well in the Kentucky Derby, but with no evidence of being able win as a 3 yr old, I would stay away

Promises Fulfilled (30-1):
Promises Fulfilled showed a huge burst of opening speed at the Florida Derby, but could only hold it for ¾ of a mile. That won't cut it in this race

Flameaway (30-1):
Another speedster, Flameaway got away from a crowded field to start clean at The Bluegrass.  He tried gamely to go wire to wire, but just couldn’t close.  I think he is the best chance among the longshots for a dark-horse, wire-to-wire winner, and at 30-1 could be worth a flyer.

Lone Sailor (50-1):
Lone Sailor ran a very good race in the Louisiana Derby to come in 2nd. He has a great running style and looked tenacious in that race coming through traffic. I like this horse a lot among the longshots, but not quite as much as...

My Boy Jack (30-1):

Watch this race, and check out the BIG outside move My Boy Jack uses to come in 3rd from way back in the pack.

Then watch this clip, where he wins the Stonestreet Lexington from pretty much dead last. His late speed looks great, and could work really well on a crowded track like we are likely to see at The Derby. His odds are long because he hasn't featured against top-tier competition, but he represents a great value bet

Enticed (30-1):
Enticed gave Vino Rosso a real run for his money at the Wood Memorial, a race in which Enticed did not get to run his preferred style, getting stuck running at the front for much of the race.  He looked better at the Gotham, but just doesn’t seem to have “It” to my eye.

Bravazo (50-1):
Wants to run from the front but doesn't have enough pure speed to build a defendable lead against this field

Instilled Regard (50-1):
4th at Santa Anita in a field of 7
A blase 4th at the Risen Star
I don’t see much here

Solomini (30-1):
Together with My Boy Jack, Solomini is my other longshot gem.

Watch how hard he fights to make 3rd at the Arkansas Derby. He gets squeezed hard right out of gate and then forced 5-wide for much of the race, running a much longer effective race than the competition.  Solomini got an inside ride for most of the Rebel stakes, but got pinched out on the rail on the home stretch and settled for 2nd. Probably underbet because he doesn't have a marquee victory, but this horse can RACE, and is worth a few bucks. He is starting a ways outside at post 17, but if he can get some room to move through the field, he could definitely be a factor.

Noble Indy (30-1):
Won the Louisiana Derby, but did not look like the most impressive horse in that race to me. Does not seem to have the staying power for the Derby.

The Middle of the Pack:

Good Magic (12-1):
Good Magic won The Bluegrass in a crowded field coming from 5th place in a very nicely run race.
I'm not sure why he's sitting at 12-1 to be honest.  I think there is good value here.

Vino Rosso (12-1):

I really like the discipline Vino Rosso showed in the Wood Memorial, not getting caught up by the blistering first 1/4 mile, and setting up a great come from behind victory, finishing really strong.  That said, Vino Rosso looked VERY BAD at the Tampa Bay Derby, so that lack of consistency is concerning. Starting from the 18 post can be hard, but is easier on a come from behind runner like Vino Rosso, so it shouldn't hurt him too much.

Hofburg (20-1):
How is Hofburg at 20-1? He finished 2nd at the Florida Derby and kept pace with the winner, Audible through the finish.  The only issue was that he sat back too deep in 2nd last before making his move and had too much ground to make up.  He has another victory, also won in come from behind style.  He's been lightly raced this year, and should be relatively fresh. I don't figure on him being a contender to win (Audible is a very similar horse, only better), but he could definitely place.

The Not-Quite Favourites:

Audible (8-1):

The Florida Derby winner, coming from behind (8th at ½ mile) in a stretched out field with little traffic (check out Hofburg's 2nd place finish in this clip too). The style with which he ran in Florida is perfect for The Kentucky Derby, but the question is if he can do it in a much more crowded field.  If he can stay clear of traffic, he has a legitimate shot at winning

Bolt d’Oro (8-1):
Bolt d'Oro finished 2nd to Justify at Santa Anita, which is nothing to be ashamed of, but to my eye, he faded badly in the late-going, and that does not bode well for his chances at the Derby.

The Favourites:

Justify (3-1):
I don't quite know what to make of the Santa Anita winner.  Look at how casually he runs the first half of this race:

A Grade 1 win is a Grade 1 win but he didn’t look super impressive to me. Belt d’Oro faded but was a handful for him along the final turn. Justify likes to run from the front, which is always tough to do at The Derby.  Justify seems to have an extra gear that we haven't really seen yet, so maybe he could get there?  At 3-1, I'm not sure about the value of the bet, but you have to respect his results so far, and starting from the number 7 post is just about the perfect set up for him to take this race. It feels a bit lame to recommend going with the chalk, but it's hard to argue otherwise this year...

Mendelssohn (5-1):
No UAE Derby winner has ever finished higher than 5th at The Kentucky Derby.

Then again, no UAE Derby winner has ever demolished the field like Mendelssohn did earlier this year:

Now THAT was an impressive-looking piece of racing. But then again, the field took it very easy off the start, and didn't push him early, allowing him to save strength for that ridiculous push in the last 1/4 mile.  Throw in the travel, and the different dirt we have in North America, and I'm not sure Mendelssohn is worth it at 5-1

Magnum Moon (6-1):
The Arkansas Derby winner closed strong after running from the front for much of that race.  As with Justify, there are questions around whether he can handle traffic in a big field.  He's got a good post position out at 14 to give him a bit of room out of the gate if he can't get immediately clear. Unlike Justify, I think Magnum Moon has more questions around if he has the endurance to go all the way in The Derby.  Both Solomini and My Boy Jack look like they could have maybe taken Magnum Moon in a longer race.

Brian's Picks:

OK, so who do I like enough to put some units on?

1-unit Exacta Box Justify/Audible/Hofburg/Solomini (12 units total)

1-unit Trifecta Part Wheel Justify/Audible/(Hofburg-Solomini-Mendelssohn-Flameaway) (4 units total)

2-unit Win/Place/Show on My Boy Jack (6 units)

2-unit Win/Place/Show on Solomini (6 units)

2-unit Show on Flameaway (2 units)

30 units worth of excitement for the fastest two minutes in sports!

Get your fancy hats and mint juleps ready - should be a fun race

No comments:

Post a Comment