A 2019 Kentucky Derby Top 10 list for this tracksider

By Casey Laughter
April 14, 2019 03:55pm

The Kentucky Derby 2019 picture cleared up after Saturday's Arkansas Derby (G1), though the top horses are all close in my opinion, and this could be the first year since the points system was instituted that the post time favorite doesn't win.

Will it be a wild upset, or just a mild one? With three weeks to go, here's my Top 10:

1. Omaha Beach (War Front - Charming, by Seeking the Gold): The horse has a fantastic cruising speed that can be used to get him into position early, then reserved for later use when jockey Mike Smith says go. In back to back races, he beat the formerly undefeated Bob Baffert trainees Game Winner and Improbable, plus Omaha Beach should have no issues with the 10. furlongs and. We also know he can run in any condition, as two of his last three wins were over wet tracks. He is the likely Kentucky Derby favorite -- and if not, my top choice may bring some value into the race.

2. Tacitus (Tapit - Close Hatches, by First Defence): The colt doesn't bring the most raw speed, but he's able to weave his way through traffic with apparent ease, an important factor as he looks to come from mid-pack in a 20-horse Derby. Question is, can he get himself into a nice enough position where he will not be impeded? The way he has run behind horses before makes me wonder whether he'll have the type of trouble in the Derby he can't overcome, at least for the win spot.

3. Game Winner (Candy Ride - Indyan Giving, by A.P. Indy): We know the reigning 2-year-old champ can win at Churchill Downs. However, his competition in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile has appeared suspect at age 3. Only three of those rivals came out of the race to win again...and Game Winner isn't one of them. He can battle, as we have seen, but in those two fights this year, he lost narrowly. I like that he is tested, but I am questioning his ability to win against some of the nicer horses rounding into form later in their careers. Right now, Game Winner is the only horse in the Derby who ran in the Juvenile.

4. Improbable (City Zip - Rare Event, by A.P. Indy): City Zip has winners on all surfaces at all distances, including with classic distance horse Collected, who Baffert also trained. Because of that, I don't buy the logic that Improbable should face distance limitations. Improbable’s dam was a winner on both turf and dirt at distances up to 8.5 furlongs. She is out of the Stravinsky mare Our Rite to Spring, who is a half sister to Hard Spun. Improbable will have to work on his gate manners, however, as he got pretty agitated in the gate during the Arkansas Derby. He will have to wait even longer in the Kentucky Derby loading process.

5. Roadster (Quality Road- Ghost Dancing, by Silver Ghost): One of last year's most-hyped 2-year-olds, he went to the sidelines after his second start and has dazzled since returning from throat surgery to aid his breathing. Off a two-turn allowance, he went into the Santa Anita Derby needed to win or place to move on to the Kentucky Derby, closing from off the pace to nab stablemate Game Winner. Roadster will be making his fifth start in the Kentucky Derby, so he still seems a tad inexperienced. Thus far, he hasn't shipped out of California or run over a wet track, and both those variables could be in play. There's star potential here, and he could end up shining under the Twin Spires.

6. Code of Honor (Noble Mission - Reunited, by Dixie Union): Code of Honor sports the same connections as top racehorse Honor Code and the same trainer as 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb. They'll know how to go about preparing him for the big one. Lightly built, the Shug McGaughey trainee has a noticeably beautiful stride and is an efficient mover. But he is a bit pace dependent, as he settles toward the middle or back of the field and makes a move later in the race. If his jockey wants to get a good trip in the Kentucky Derby, he will have to a good stalking position in the first flight of horses. I view Code of Honor as a contender if he can get the trip.

7. War of Will (War of Will - Visions of Clarity (IRE), by Sadler’s Wells): One of the more heavily raced horses in the Kentucky Derby field is War of Will. The former turf runner has been beaten just once on dirt, when he injured himself leaving the gate in the Louisiana Derby. Back from that hind end ailment quickly, he has worked twice and seems to be his old self. Saturday's breeze from the gate at Keeneland was the bullet work for the day for five furlongs as War of Will stopped the clock in 59 seconds flat. Now, we'll see what he can do on Derby day to rebound from a ninth-place finish last out.

8. Maximum Security (New Year’s Day - Lil Indy, by Anasheed): The undefeated colt leaped from a claiming race on debut to Grade 1 hero of the Florida Derby in a matter of months. But the Gulfstream Park track is favorable to speedy types like Maximum Security, and he made an easy lead in his final and only prep. Already, he passed the class test. What about the distance? I do believe Maximum Security will be a factor in the Kentucky Derby, and his pedigree suggests the 10 furlongs should not be an issue, as his dam is a half to Flat Out, a classic distance winner and durable racehorse. His broodmare sire is also form the female family of Mineshaft, Mr. Sidney, and Revolutionary.

9. Long Range Toddy (Take Charge Indy - Pleasant Song, by Unbridled’s Song): Aside from his sixth in the Arkansas Derby, Long Range Toddy has been a consistent horse for trainer Steve Asmussen and trainer Willis Horton. He will be making his ninth career start in the Derby, and he has an ability to run the race he needs. He didn’t seem to care for the track in the Arkansas Derby, floundering a bit in the slop, but he proved his class prior to that by beating Improbable in the Rebel. The tactical runner should adjust to any pace scenario at Churchill Downs.

10. Tax (Arch - Toll, by Giant’s Causeway): Another former claimer -- this one who actually changed hands after running at the lower ranks -- has worked himself into America's most-prestigious race. He has thrived since arriving in New York with trainer Danny Gargan, who picked him up for $50,000 out of a race last fall at Keeneland. Distance is not going to be an issue with this gelding, who has run three races at 1 1/8 miles, but there's still a matter of class. Has he faced much at Aqueduct? While not among the absolute top tier of 3-year-olds, Tax was only 1 1/4 lengths behind Tacitus in the Wood Memorial, the both of them running into some early trouble.


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Meet Casey Laughter

I have loved horses for as long as I can remember, starting when Funny Cide crossed the wire in the 2003 Kentucky Derby. Thanks to my Dad, I now consume every ounce of thoroughbred literature I can.

When I am not stuffing my brain with pedigrees, I spend my free time with my fiancé, Daniel, and our dog, a Boxer mix named Piper. I enjoy hiking, reading, canoeing, and just relaxing.

In addition to Horse Racing Nation, for which I've shot numerous events, including the 2018 Kentucky Derby, I work for Bella Baby Photography, as well as a blog on my own platform.

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