Dew: Mulling recent Kentucky Derby 2019 jockey decisions

April 19, 2019 09:31am

Two recent decisions by jockeys surprised me and also have me wondering to what extent those choices should influence my 2019 Kentucky Derby wagering.

The biggest news this week, of course, was that Mike Smith selected Omaha Beach over Roadster. Given the fact that Omaha Beach barely beat Game Winner in the Rebel Stakes (G2), and that Roadster seemingly ran down Game Winner with just the slightest bit of ease in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), I thought the safe move would have been for Smith to choose Roadster.

Additionally, you could argue that Omaha Beach has a penchant for performing over an off track and benefitted from that in his Arkansas Derby win. If that’s the case, it would be another reason to give Roadster a slight edge, unless Smith’s agent has special foresight in the May 4 forecast in Louisville.

Add in the fact that Smith and Baffert teamed up to win the Triple Crown last year, and you have several good reasons for Smith electing to ride Roadster. But Smith chose differently. So does that mean, as handicappers, we are forced to give an edge to Omaha Beach? If Smith
really thought Roadster had the better chance in the Kentucky Derby, would he have chosen Omaha Beach? No way, right?

There is just no other way to look at it. You have to move Omaha Beach ahead of Roadster. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use them both prominently on tickets.

Moving on, what about John Velazquez’s decision to ride Code of Honor over the Todd Pletcher-trained Spinoff? I had a feeling that would happen, though I was hoping it would not.

Spinoff’s new pilot, Manny Franco, has been red hot recently. But if Velazquez thought both horses were about equally likely to win the Derby, doesn’t he choose Spinoff out of loyalty to Pletcher? This decision has to mean that he fancies Code of Honor in a big way.

My point is that in the cases of both Smith and Velazquez: The safe and easy choice would have been to choose Roadster and Spinoff. But both jockeys went with different horses. As someone who really likes Spinoff's chances, do I need to reevaluate?

Luckily, there are two more weeks to decide.

Justin Dew, who qualified for the 2019 National Horseplayers Championship, publishes more handicapping insights at


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Meet Justin Dew

Justin Dew founded LoneSpeed in 2018 out of a desire to bring racing fans and bettors together to discuss about how they approach the game. Before that, he contributed to the official Kentucky Derby website and TVG, among other outlets. Oh, and he wrote this bio in third person, too.

Twitter: @justindew

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