Kentucky Derby 2019: Early full field odds and analysis

April 21, 2019 09:40am
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The road to Kentucky Derby 2019 is complete, with 35 qualifying races producing 28 different winners, and now the field is basically set for America's greatest race.

This is the only race in our country with a 20-horse field, and that provides unique opportunities for bettors. Historically, payoffs in all exotics, both vertical and horizontal, are often large even when the favorite wins.

During the Derby's the points era, beginning with the 2013 running, results have become remarkably consistent. The top choice has won, usually while employing a stalking running style. Every winner in this new era has also recorded a victory in one of the 100-point prep races and entered unbeaten during his 3-year-old campaign.

The field below is ordered by qualifying points earned with morning line odds projected by Horse Racing Nation.

Tacitus [HRN odds: 6-1 – (150) 1st Wood Memorial – Tapit – B. Mott/J. Ortiz – 4: 3-0-0 - $653,000] Aside from his debut race, Tacitus has been perfect. The royally bred Juddmonte runner won the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and the Wood Memorial (G2) with determined runs in his only starts the season. In Florida, he had to squeeze through tight quarters down the stretch, and in New York he was bumped hard more than once and stayed in stride going into the first turn. In both cases, he used his size and strength to get the victory. He has been improving with each start and could well be the one to give his trainer Bill Mott and his sire Tapit their first Derby winners. Win contender.

Omaha Beach [HRN odds: 9-2 – (137.5) 1st Arkansas Derby – War Front – R. Mandella/M. Smith – 7: 3-3-1 - $1,121,800] With jockey Mike Smith choosing to ride Omaha Beach over Roadster, they are likely to head to the Derby starting gate as the favorite. When the son of War Front switched from turf to dirt to open the year, he became a different horse. At Oaklawn Park, Omaha Beach beat the two most highly ranked 3-year-olds when he first topped Game Winner in the Rebel (G2) and then Improbable in the Arkansas Derby (G1). Defeating two top Bob Baffert horses on the Derby trail is an amazing accomplishment. Since the points system began, winning a 100-point race and having tactical speed has been essential and this Richard Mandella trainee checks those boxes. Top choice and likely favorite.

Vekoma [HRN odds: 15-1 – (110) 1st Blue Grass – Candy Ride – G. Weaver/J. Castellano – 4: 3-0-1 - $788,850] Vekoma has become known for his paddling front leg action when he runs, but it has had no effect on his ability to win. This son of Candy Ride is yet another horse that likes to run close to the lead and sports a key 100-point victory. He used his speed to his advantage in the Blue Grass (G2) on a day that the Keeneland track showed bias in favor of front-runners. It appears that the Derby field is loaded with pace pressers, however, and this will make Vekoma’s task formidable. Mid-pack finish likely.

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Plus Que Parfait [HRN odds: 50-1 – (104) 1st UAE Derby – Point of Entry – B. Walsh/R. Santana Jr. – 7: 2-1-2 - $1,590,400] Even with its 100-point status, past winners of the UAE Derby (G2) have not had much luck on the first Saturday in May. The Brendan Walsh runner topped a rather weak field but made some brave moves in the stretch to do so. The Dubai based runners showed plenty of early speed but didn't finish well as second-tier American horses rounded out the exacta. Plus Que Parfait will go off at a big price with little chance at any return. Toss.

Roadster [HRN odds: 5-1 – (100) 1st Santa Anita Derby – Quality Road – B. Baffert/F. Geroux – 4: 3-0-1 - $706,200] Remember back to last summer when Bob Baffert hinted that Roadster could be his next Justify? After running third in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) behind Game Winner, he had throat surgery to correct a breathing problem. Since then he has come back with two wins in 2019. Roadster checks a third box for recent Derby winners, and that is an unbeaten record as a 3-year-old. In the Santa Anita Derby (G1) he rallied from farther back than usual to turn the tables on Game Winner. At this point, it appears that Baffert was right about Roadster, because he was the only one of his three in this field to win on the Derby trail since the new year. Still, he has only run in California and against small fields. Lots still to prove.

By My Standards [HRN odds: 20-1 – (100) 1st Louisiana Derby – Goldencents – B. Calhoun/G. Saez – 4: 2-2-1 - $653,710] By My Standards jumped from a maiden special weight win in his fourth try to a 100-point victory in the Louisiana Derby (G2). He sat a stalking trip in there and benefitted from the unorthodox start that eliminated favorite War of Will as a contender. He would have to make another significant jump up to be a major player in big race. Overall, the Fair Grounds horses have not fared well in the Derby recently. Toss.

Maximum Security [HRN odds: 10-1 – (100) 1st Florida Derby – New Year’s Day – Ja. Servis/L. Saez – 4: 4-0-0 - $649,400] He’s undefeated, a 100-point winner and possesses speed. Those are all measures for success in the Derby this past decade. Since the former $16,000 claimer took the Florida Derby (G1) going wire to wire, he has become the field's most divisive runner. Many believe he is the real deal, and that Jason Servis can have him ready to go 10 furlongs, while others feel that he got away with a pedestrian pace that won’t happen on the first Saturday in May. Debate away, but a wise colleague of mine said that it must be remembered that Game Winner is the first-string horse for owners Gary and Mary West and that Maximum Security has already overachieved at Gulfstream Park. Could he be the classic rabbit for Game Winner? Won’t be there at the end.

Game Winner [HRN odds: 8-1 – (85) 2nd Santa Anita Derby – Candy Ride – B. Baffert/J.Rosario – 6: 4-2-0 - $1,846,000] When do two seconds in Kentucky Derby preps become a disappointment? That happens when you live in the Bob Baffert barn and you won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the division championship as a 2-year-old. Game Winner lost those races to the two horses who will vie for Derby favoritism in Roadster and Omaha Beach. He is certainly capable of getting the distance, and there is no reason to think that he won’t be right there at the end. Must-use horse.

Code of Honor [HRN odds: 15-1 – (74) 3rd Florida Derby – Noble Mission – S. McGaughey/J. Velazquez – 5: 2-1-1 - $478,820] One thing we know for sure is that Code of Honor is likely to go off at the highest odds of his career. He was overlooked in the Fountain of Youth when he won at 9-1, and in the Derby 15-1 is possible. Critics say he is pace dependent, but there is certainly a chance that there will be plenty of front-end pressure. Shug is going to have him ready to roll. Use underneath.

Haikal [HRN odds: 30-1 – (70) 3rd Wood Memorial – Daaher – K. McLaughlin/R. Maragh – 5: 3-1-1 - $373,900] Haikal is another one of the late runners, and he is a genuine deep closer. Orb was the last with that running style to win the Derby, but others have hit the board. In every race this season, Haikal was asked to do something new, going longer and longer, and he responded. On the first Saturday in May, he is finally going to have to race on a track other than Aqueduct. He’s another one that will have hefty odds with a chance to be part of the trifecta or the superfecta. Use in vertical wagers.

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Improbable [HRN odds: 10-1 – (65) 2nd Arkansas Derby – City Zip – B. Baffert/I. Ortiz Jr. – 5: 3-2-0 - $619,520] Two starts and two second-place finishes for Improbable this year. Both were close finishes at Oaklawn Park. Quite frankly, we expect Baffert to win these Derby preps like he did with his two Triple Crown winners, but in the past he has won the Derby without winning Derby preps. No question, Improbable will carry the biggest odds of his career, and that should make his loyal fans happy. He has developed a habit of racing down the stretch with his head cocked toward the stands, and I don’t much like it. Baffert put blinkers on in the Arkansas Derby but doesn't plan to use the equipment again at Churchill Downs. Improbable has fallen out of favor with me. Irad Ortiz will replace his brother, Jose, who has opted to ride Tacitus. Threat to win.

War of Will [HRN odds: 20-1 – (60) 9th Louisiana Derby – War Front – M. Casse/T. Gaffalione – 8: 3-3-1 - $501,569] Heading into the Louisiana Derby, War of Will was the buzz horse after showing everything you want from a Derby contender: tactical speed and a turn of foot down the stretch. He won the Lecomte (G3) and Risen Star (G2) in fine fashion. Then came that bizarre start that cost him all chance in the Louisiana Derby. He went back to the barn sore, but he is now reported to be training lights out. If he is in fact entering the Run for the Roses with no ill-effects he could be very dangerous and forgotten a bit at the windows. A price horse with quality.

Long Range Toddy [HRN odds: 30-1 – (53.5) 6th Arkansas Derby – Take Charge Indy – S. Asmussen/J. Court – 8: 4-1-1 - $854,459] We have seen Steve Asmussen runners improve with more racing, and Long Range Toddy is certainly one of them. He defeated Improbable in the Rebel as one of his four career victories. No doubt he will be fighting to the end and passing tired horses, but I don’t see him as a winner. He’s another one with good odds to consider in exotic wagers. Use underneath.

Tax [HRN odds: 30-1 – (52) 2nd Wood Memorial – Arch – D. Gargan/J. Alvarado – 5: 2-2-1 - $326,300] One of the former claimers in this year’s Derby field, he debuted at Churchill Downs last year for a $30,000 tag. He was second best in the Wood Memorial, but the water gets much much deeper in the first jewel of the Triple Crown. He’ll be a big price, but you can’t use them all. Toss.

Cutting Humor [HRN odds: 30-1 – (50) 1st Sunland Derby – First Samurai – T. Pletcher/TBA – 6: 2-2-1 - $516,967] This Todd Pletcher runner qualified with his victory in the Sunland Derby over Anothertwistafate, a horse that a lot of experts held in high regard. He is one of many in this year’s field with that desirable stalking running style. Likely, he's going to win more races in his career, but there are too many others that I like more in this spot. Toss.

Win Win Win [HRN odds: 30-1 – (50) 2nd Blue Grass – Hat Trick – M. Trombetta/J. Pimentel – 6: 3-2-1 - $367,300] When Win Win Win made up some ground in the Keeneland stretch to get second behind Vekoma in the Blue Grass, he was racing against a real front end bias that aided the winner. Previously, Win Win Win also set a track record in the seven-furlong Pasco stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. He is more of a closer than a stalker, and will have the chance to pass a lot of tired horses in the Derby. Still, I think I like others better, but he must be considered for the exotics. Consider for the exotics.

Country House [HRN odds: 30-1 – (50) 3rd Arkansas Derby – Lookin At Lucky – B. Mott/TBA – 6: 1-2-1 - $260,175] Country House is another 3-year-old that is likely to make noise later in the year. Maybe we can give him an excuse in the Arkansas Derby due to the sloppy track, although he did finish a non-threatening third when he passed horses that weren’t a factor. He’ll have long odds in the Derby, but he isn’t high on my list of horses to use in the trifecta. Others may prefer to use him. Possible to use underneath.

Gray Magician [HRN odds: 50-1 – (41) 2nd UAE Derby – Graydar – P. Miller/TBA – 8: 1-3-2 - $584,140] He shows just a maiden victory at Santa Anita against a field of six. In his only American Derby prep, Gray Magician ran fourth in the Sham (G3) to open the year. Logically, if I don’t like the winner of the UAE Derby then I can’t use the runner-up. Toss.

Spinoff [HRN odds: 30-1 – (39) 2nd Louisiana Derby – Hard Spun – T. Pletcher/M. Franco – 4: 2-1-1 - $260,000] He had the lead in the stretch of the Louisiana Derby only to be passed by the winner, By My Standards. This son of Hard Spun made only one other start this year which was a big allowance victory at Tampa. He’s another one the fits the current popular running style in the Derby as a stalker who has shown some early speed at times. The are others of this type that I like better. Toss.

Master Fencer [HRN odds: 50-1 – (Japan Invite) 2nd Fukuryu Stakes (JPN) – Just a Way (JPN) – K. Tsunoda/J. Leparoux – 6: 2-2-0 - $234,392] It’s too bad that a horse that has a shot in the Derby like Signalman may miss his chance because this guy gets in the field from Japan. He has not won a stakes race and can’t even be considered as a possibility in any kind of Derby wager. Pretender.

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