The 141st Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on Saturday could go down in history. This year’s Kentucky Derby features one of the top collections of horses in quite some time, even though one stands head and shoulders above the pack in the betting market. Legendary trainer Bob Baffert is expected to come away with his first Derby win since 2002, either from race favorite American Pharoah or his other top contender, Dortmund.
First, we’ll take a look at the horses in the field, the jockeys, and the opening odds:
|1||Ocho Ocho Ocho||Elvis Trujillo||25/1|
|2||Carpe Diem||John Velazquez||17/2|
|5||Danzig Moon||Julian Leparoux||33/1|
|7||El Kabeir||Calvin Borel||33/1|
|10||Firing Line||Gary Stevens||16/1|
|Scr||International Star||Miguel Mena|
|14||Keen Ice||Kent Desormeaux||40/1|
|16||War Story||Joe Talamo||50/1|
|17||Mr. Z||Ramon Vazquez||50/1|
|18||American Pharoah||Victor Espinoza||13/5|
|20||Far Right||Mike Smith||40/1|
Victor Espinoza has the opportunity to ride the race winner in consecutive derbies. Espinoza was atop California Chrome for last year’s Kentucky Derby. California Chrome also won the Preakness before falling victim to an injury in the Belmont.
Can Calvin Borel work some magic and guide long shot El Kabeir to the finish line first? Borel had one of the biggest upsets in Derby history atop Mine That Bird back in 2009. It was the second of Borel’s three Kentucky Derby wins. He has not won since 2010. El Kabeir finished eighth in the Road to the Kentucky Derby circuit. El Kabeir could be a late scratch for the race after some issues in Friday’s practice run.
How about three-time Kentucky Derby winner Kent Desormeaux? He will be riding Keen Ice, a definite longshot to be a factor., though Keen Ice did finish in the money in several races leading up to Saturday.
Taking a look at some of the horses and what they have done in the lead-up to the race can be a good way to decide what which ones you want to bet on for Saturday’s highly-anticipated event.
Why is American Pharoah such a heavy favorite? American Pharaoh has won four straight races and the last one wasn’t even close. The colt was the second-highest money earner on the Road to the Kentucky Derby circuit with over $1.4M in winnings, including comfortable wins at the Rebel Race at Oaklawn and the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.
Dortmund is going to be mentioned a lot in exactas and quiniellas as Baffert’s “other” house. Dortmund rolled to victory at the Santa Anita Derby in early April and also cruised at the San Felipe Stakes, also at Santa Anita. Dortmund is 6-0 in races and has a decent post in the #8 spot. If Dortmund can get a good start and get out in front of the outer pack trying to creep in towards the rail, he has a great shot to be the winner. Dortmund has gotten some big money throughout the week and seems to be a hot pick right now. He is also the offspring of 2008 Kentucky Derby champion Big Brown.
Carpe Diem drew a tough starting position in second. Todd Pletcher is another legendary trainer in the horse racing world and Carpe Diem won at Keeneland in the Blue Grass Stakes and the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs in the pre-race circuit. Carpe Diem has inched down from 8.5/1 to 8/1 during the week and could have the best endurance of any of the horses in the race. He doesn’t have the same upside that a total package like American Pharoah has.
Longshot Bolo is a horse to root for. Under the direction of Carla Gaines, Bolo is hoping to become the first horse with a female trainer to win in the 141-year history of the Run for the Roses. At 32, jockey Rafael Bejarano has yet to take home a big race, but did finish second on Andromeda’s Hero in the 2005 Belmont Stakes.
In terms of a longshot with a good chance, International Star finished the Road to the Kentucky Derby race circuit with the most points. International Star’s father, Fusaichi Pegasus (awesome name), was the Kentucky Derby champion in 2000. Bloodline is often a popular way to bet the Derby and offspring of past winners often get some love because of that.
(Editor's note: International Star was scratched on Saturday morning.)
One horse that could see some action on Saturday before post time is Materiality. Skeptics of this colt are worried because Materiality did not race as a two-year-old. He didn’t have a great showing during the Road to the Kentucky Derby circuit with the exception of a win at Gulfstream in the Florida Derby. Pletcher’s two big contenders, Materiality and Carpe Diem, are going to get some respect on Saturday. A late jockey change with Javier Castellano instead of John Velazquez is interesting. Velazquez will ride Carpe Diem. Castellano was the Eclipse Award winner for outstanding jockey in 2013 and 2014, but has never won the Kentucky Derby. His only Triple Crown win came in the 2006 Preakness atop Bernardini. Velazquez was the Kentucky Derby champion in 2011 on Animal Kingdom.
Look to play some exotics with both Baffert horses, American Pharoah and Dortmund, as well as the two Pletcher horses, Carpe Diem and Materiality. In terms of a winner, Dortmund has a shorter path to the rail than American Pharoah, so it’s easy to see why Dortmund has gotten so much steam throughout the week. If Carpe Diem had a better post position, it would be interesting to see the lines and how they would change.
Unfortunately, El Kabeir looks hobbled by a misstep in practice this week to take away what would have been one of the most attractive longshots. If El Kabeir cannot go, it will be interesting to see where Calvin Borel ends up. He will definitely ride somebody’s horse in this race and that horse will instantly become a factor. International Star is interesting based on the performance during the Road to the Kentucky Derby, but 28-year-old Miguel Mena has not won many races of consequence in his jockeying career.
If you’re looking for a longshot, give Frosted a shot. Frosted will be under the direction of Joel Rosario, who won the 2013 Kentucky Derby on Orb and the 2014 Belmont on Tonalist. Rosario just passed the 2,000-win mark for his career at age 30 and he has been listed as a top-five jockey since 2009.
Post time is 6:24 p.m. ET on Saturday for the 141st Run for the Roses.