2018 Kentucky Derby Predictions, Picks, and Odds

Last Updated: 2018-05-02

Post draws are out for the 144th Kentucky Derby, which, as you know, is run on the first Saturday of May at beautiful Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Twenty of the top three-year-olds in the sport will be on hand vying for the first race of the Triple Crown. Now that we know what the starting gate looks like, we can take a deeper look at the odds and see if we can find some good betting opportunities.

Odds are going to vary from Racebook to Racebook, both with the brick-and-mortar tracks offering wagering and with the online sportsbooks. For now, we’ll take a look at the morning line odds from the track right after draws were announced on May 1:

Post Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1 Firenze Fire P. Lopez J. Servis 50/1
2 Free Drop Billy R. Albarado D. Romans 30/1
3 Promises Fulfilled C. Lanerie D. Romans 30/1
4 Flameaway J. Lezcano M. Casse 30/1
5 Audible J. Castellano T. Pletcher 8/1
6 Good Magic J. Ortiz C. Brown 12/1
7 Justify M. Smith B. Baffert 3/1
8 Lone Sailor J. Graham T. Amoss 50/1
9 Hofburg I. Ortiz Jr. B. Mott 20/1
10 My Boy Jack Ken Desormeaux Keith Desormeaux 30/1
11 Bolt d’Oro V. Espinoza M. Ruiz 8/1
12 Enticed J. Alvarado K. McLaughlin 30/1
13 Bravazo L. Contreras D. Wayne Lukas 50/1
14 Mendelssohn R. Moore A. O’Brien 5/1
15 Instilled Regard D. Van Dyke J. Hollendorfer 50/1
16 Magnum Moon L. Saez T. Pletcher 6/1
17 Solomini F. Prat B. Baffert 30/1
18 Vino Rosso J. Velazquez T. Pletcher 12/1
19 Noble Indy F. Geroux T. Pletcher 30/1
20 Combatant R. Santana S. Asmussen 50/1

There are always winners and losers when it comes to the draw position. By and large, Todd Pletcher lost. Audible got a very favorable draw in the five spot, where Always Dreaming won last year, but his other three contenders are all well on the outside. Magnum Moon, Vino Rosso, and Noble Indy can all still make some noise this year, but they’ll have to be positioned well around the first turn, otherwise it will be hard to make up ground. Fortunately, Luis Saez, John Velazquez, and Florent Geroux are three of the best jockeys in this race. They’ll know what to do, so we’ll see if we get any additional value because of the post draw.

The post draw is important, though. Many of these contenders ran at the front of the pack in the Road to the Kentucky Derby and dominated in lower stakes races at their respective home tracks. Those races don’t have 20 horses in them and some of these top contenders haven’t had to chance anybody down. The weather forecast looks fantastic for Saturday, so hopefully the track will be nice and dry because muddy conditions would really muck it up for those on the outside looking to make a move in.

Because this is a 20-horse race, there are two different starting gates. Horses are loaded two at a time, with 1 and 11, 2 and 12, 3 and 13, and so on. That means Bolt d’Oro will sit in the starting gate for quite a while waiting on the other horses to be loaded. That may present a bit of a challenge for Javier Castellano. The closer to the rail, the shorter the trip for these colts, so most jockeys will be trying to cut inside and lighten the workload. That is another why being on the outside is such a challenge and why nobody wants to be pinned up against the rail.

Here are some thoughts on all 20 horses in the field and then we’ll give out some suggested bets:

  1. Firenze Fire (50/1) – Firenze Fire’s impressive win at the Champagne Stakes back in October, with Good Magic second and Enticed third, was thought to be a bit of a springboard for trainer Jason Servis. A disappointing seventh at the Breeders Cup Juvenile was followed by a win at the Jerome, but that was a lower-grade race. A fourth at the Wood Memorial in Firenze Fire’s final tune-up didn’t inspire more confidence and a draw right on the rail doesn’t help. Non-factor

 

  1. Free Drop Billy (30/1) – Dale Romans got shafted with his two horses right next to each other in the starting gate. Free Drop Billy, the son of Union Rags and Trensa, comes from a good bloodline, but hasn’t been a premier factor in a lot of races. A win in the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity was big in a race that also featured Bravazo and Lone Sailor, but a second to Audible in the Holy Bull and a couple of shows in the Gotham and Blue Grass Stakes haven’t been enough to impress. At 30/1, there is good value, but the post draw is tough and the results haven’t been there. Very long shot

 

  1. Promises Fulfilled (30/1) – Promises Fulfilled had a very impressive win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream, with Good Magic coming in third. A distant ninth-place in the Florida Derby, however, really forced people to sour on this Romans colt. Non-factor

 

  1. Flameaway (30/1) – Flameaway is probably the most interesting of the 30/1 shots with inside draws. The pedigree includes Scat Daddy, who is the sire of the two favorites, Justify and Mendelssohn. A couple of game efforts in the Blue Grass Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby resulted in second-place finishes to Good Magic and Quip. The eighth-place in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf shouldn’t be that big of a detriment, since Flameaway only has two graded turf races. This is a horse to consider in some of your tri and superfecta wagering. Could hit the board

 

  1. Audible (8/1) – Audible is a legitimate contender. Todd Pletcher had to get at least one good draw with his four horses and Audible is the one that got it. Audible has rattled off four wins in a row, including an impressive gallop in the Florida Derby and the same in the Holy Bull. It doesn’t hurt to have Javier Castellano on Audible, as he looks for his first career Kentucky Derby win. He’s got several Breeders’ Cup wins and a victory in the Kentucky Oaks in 2016, but he’s still looking for that Derby maiden. He was the winner in the Preakness atop Cloud Computing last year for Chad Brown. This colt can really get after it, but it was John Velazquez in the Florida Derby and you’ll notice that Velazquez opted for Pletcher’s Vino Rosso over Audible. Contender, but not a top one

 

  1. Good Magic (12/1) – Everybody knows Good Magic’s father, a horse named Curlin, who won the 2007 Preakness and hit the board in all three Triple Crown races. To wrap up 2007 with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic was quite impressive. Good Magic channeled some of his sire’s good magic with a win at Del Mar in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year. This horse has only been run twice, while others have been run four times since the calendar flipped to 2018. A solid effort at the Fountain of Youth in March gave way to a win in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Call me crazy, but I really like this horse and Jose Ortiz was in the irons for the win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Ortiz is only 24 years old, but already has some significant wins, including last year’s Belmont atop Tapwrit. Worth a ticket to win

 

  1. Justify (3/1) – The favorite comes from the camp of Bob Baffert and it is Justify. A very favorable draw took Justify from about a 5/1 offshore favorite to the clear-cut morning line favorite at 3/1. Justify has not been run a lot in his young career, but he is 3-for-3 this season, including an impressive showing in the Santa Anita Derby on April 7. The upside is there, and largely untapped, but how will Justify fare in a big field? How will Justify handle being uncomfortable? How will Mike Smith handle the speed advantage? Will he look to push it early and get out ahead of the pack or will he wait for just the right time to push ahead? The horse is low on experience, but 52-year-old Mike Smith is not. Clear-cut favorite

 

  1. Lone Sailor (50/1) – Lone Sailor has a lot of experience, but not a lot to show for it. This three-year-old hasn’t won since September in an ungraded race at Saratoga. A third to Free Drop Billy and Bravazo at the Breeders’ Futurity was nice, but we’ve seen very little outside of that. Non-factor

 

  1. Hofburg (20/1) – Hofburg enters the Kentucky Derby as something of an unknown. The Bill Mott colt was second at the Florida Derby, but that is about all we have seen from this horse. He ran really well and finished second to Audible, but we don’t know much beyond that. It was a good trip, but it is just one data point. We have a lot of data points for other horses. If you get beat by Hofburg on Saturday, so be it. Intriguing, but unknown

 

  1. My Boy Jack (30/1) – The Desormeaux family teams up with My Boy Jack. Keith is the trainer and Ken is the rider. A nice win down at Oaklawn over Combatant in the Southwest Stakes Grade III race was the highlight of the road to the Kentucky Derby. My Boy Jack has been more consistent on dirt after running a lot of turf races late in 2017, but a show finish in the Louisiana Derby seems to be a sign that this field is just too strong. Non-factor

 

  1. Bolt d’Oro (8/1) – Bolt d’Oro is probably second to Justify in terms of potential as far as this field goes. The 11th post isn’t great because of the pre-race considerations, but being in the middle of the pack isn’t a bad thing because Victor Espinoza might have the chance to block out the Pletcher horses from the outside. Espinoza is one of the most decorated jockeys in this field and you can bet that he’ll put this horse in a position to succeed. Bolt d’Oro has hit the board in all six career races, including a close run with Justify at Santa Anita and a win in the San Felipe Stakes. No offense to Corey Nakatani, but it is fair to wonder how Bolt d’Oro would have finished in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year with Espinoza. He was the fastest horse in the field and the heavy favorite. Going to hit the board

 

  1. Enticed (30/1) – Bettors should be anything but enticed with Enticed. Despite the same sire as Bolt d’Oro, consistency has been a problem for Enticed. There have been some issues with race length and also traffic. Unfortunately, both of those things can be problematic in this race. A good showing at the Wood Memorial and a win at Churchill in last year’s Kentucky Jockey Club aren’t enough of a resume. Non-factor late

 

  1. Bravazo (50/1) – The most accomplished trainer in the history of horse racing is D. Wayne Lukas and this is his lone entrant into the field. The 82-year-old hasn’t gotten a Kentucky Derby win since 1999 and he won’t get one this year either. Bravazo was a disaster in the Louisiana Derby and finished 10th in the Kentucky Jockey Club with some of the best two-year-olds from last year. It would be great to see Lukas get at least one more, but he’ll have to wait at least a year. Non-factor

 

  1. Mendelssohn (5/1) – The second favorite comes from the 14 post in Mendelssohn. The third and final of the Scat Daddy horses, this three-year-old colt is something of a mystery. Obviously the odds are short and the upside is high, but what have we really seen? Mendelssohn ran the overseas portion of the Road to the Kentucky Derby, with a win in Dubai at the UAE Derby and a win in the Patton Stakes. This was a turf horse previously, including a win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar last year. Most of trainer Aidan O’Brien’s big wins have been overseas. Same with jockey Ryan Moore. This is clearly a great horse, and the speed ratings back it up, but with the large field, the outside draw, and a set of tune-up races that is hard to gauge, this is a tough bet to make. Approach with caution

 

  1. Instilled Regard (50/1) – A win in the G3 LeComte Stakes is about the only accomplishment for this colt. A fourth-place finish at Santa Anita wasn’t bad, but Instilled Regard was nowhere near the pace of Justify or Bolt d’Oro, which is what will be needed here. Non-factor

 

  1. Magnum Moon (6/1) – This Todd Pletcher colt is undefeated in four races, with wins in the Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby in the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby. Luis Saez has a lot of horsepower, pardon the awful pun, with this colt. The speed metrics love him, even as he has been a little bit lackadaisical against lesser fields. Starting way on the outside is a little bit tricky, but that’s where the speed can come in. Also, a starting position well off the rail could allow Saez to keep Magnum Moon going in more of a straight line rather than drifting a little bit. On the other hand, if the horse takes over a little and starts to drift, there are 19 other potential horses in the way. There is a lot of risk, but obviously the reward is pretty high. Only a few horses can claim speed like this. Good chance to hit the board

 

  1. Solomini (30/1) – Solomini hasn’t won in a long time and hasn’t won a stakes race, but reliably hit the board in all five stakes races from September 30 to April 14, including a place in the Rebel Stakes and a show in the Arkansas Derby. A strong second between Good Magic and Bolt d’Oro at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile really stands out. After all, four of Solomini’s last five races have been G1 races. Not many horses in the field can say that. Another colt from the long line of Curlin, Solomini has a chance to find the board. But, with post 17 and the deepest field of the season, Flavien Prat is likely to only get one shot to make a move. Interesting option for exotics

 

  1. Vino Rosso (12/1) – A Pletcher sweep wasn’t really that much of a long shot until the draws came out. Vino Rosso starts two spots outside Magnum Moon and just inside Noble Indy. Vino Rosso was kind of an afterthought until an impressive win at the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Once again, John Velazquez opted for Vino Rosso over Audible, which really says something, as he is one of the best in the biz. He was the best horse in the Tampa Bay Derby, but failed to hit the board. He was clearly the best horse at the Wood Memorial. This is a very interesting long shot to sweeten some exactas and trifectas. Good chance to hit the board

 

  1. Noble Indy (30/1) – What do we make of the resume for Noble Indy? An impressive win in the Louisiana Derby generated a bit of buzz, but this is not a horse with a lot of experience. On the other hand, this is a much stiffer field and a draw well on the outside. This seems like a colt that could be a factor for a little while, but eventually the distance and the other horses will be the difference. Non-factor

 

  1. Combatant (50/1) – The only colt in the field for Steve Asmussen is a long shot that drew the 20 post. Asmussen has never had a Kentucky Derby winner and won’t this year either. He won’t even have a filly in the Kentucky Oaks, so it will be a quiet weekend for Asmussen in the premier races. Non-factor

 

As of now, I’m looking at these options:

Win: 11 & 6

Exactas: Key 3 & box 11, 6, 16; Key 11 & box 3, 6, at 16

Work those four plus 17 & 18 together into trifectas and superfectas

Will work 3, 6, 11 into some pick 4s and pick 5s

 

-END OF 2018 PREVIEW AND PICKS-

 

The 143rd Run for the Roses, better known as the Kentucky Derby, is coming up on May 6, 2017 at world-renowned Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. A full weekend of racing and fun culminates with the most notable horse race on the planet, as the world’s best and three-year-old Thoroughbreds run the 1.25 miles seen around the world.

Post positions have been drawn, so we have updated our original article. Here are the post positions and the morning line odds for the 2017 Kentucky Derby:

Post Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
1 Lookin At Lee 20/1 C. Lanerie S. Asmussen
2 Thunder Snow 20/1 C. Soumillon S. bin Surror
3 Fast and Accurate 50/1 C. Hill M. Maker
4 Untrapped 30/1 R. Santana Jr. S. Asmussen
5 Always Dreaming 5/1 J. Velazquez T. Pletcher
6 State of Honor 30/1 J. Lezcano M. Casse
7 Girvin 15/1 M. Smith J. Sharp
8 Hence 15/1 F. Geroux S. Asmussen
9 Irap 20/1 M. Gutierrez D. O’Neill
10 Guennevera 15/1 J. Castellano A. Sano
11 Battle of Midway 30/1 F. Prat J. Hollendorfer
12 Sonneteer 50/1 K. Desormeaux K. Desormeaux
13 J Boys Echo 20/1 L. Saez D. Romans
14 Classic Empire 4/1 J. Leparoux M. Casse
15 McCraken 5/1 B. Hernandez Jr. I. Wilkes
16 Tapwrit 20/1 J. Ortiz T. Pletcher
17 Irish War Cry 6/1 R. Maragh G. Motion
18 Gormley 15/1 V. Espinoza J. Shirreffs
19 Practical Joke 20/1 J. Rosario C. Brown
20 Patch 30/1 T. Gaffalione T. Pletcher
Alt1 Royal Mo 20/1 G. Stevens J. Shirreffs
Alt2 Master Plan 50/1 J. Velazquez T. Pletcher

Noticeably absent from the odds board is Mastery, who had a phenomenal run at the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, which may have been the most loaded field and the best race in the Road to the Kentucky Derby circuit. Unfortunately, Mastery is out of action with an injury.

Before we dive into the specific contenders, let’s look at some overall Kentucky Derby results. The favorite came in last year with Nyquist taking down the $1.631M first prize with a win for jockey Mario Gutierrez and trainer Doug O’Neill. Exaggerator came in the place position and Gun Runner showed nicely in third. Nyquist would go on to finish third at the Preakness and did not run in the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown. Exaggerator won the Preakness and finished 11th at the Belmont. Exaggerator is now a breeding stallion after retiring from competitive racing. It was a much less exciting Triple Crown circuit last year after American Pharoah cemented his place in history with a dominant Triple Crown performance and a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic for good measure.

Nyquist’s win was the second in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Doug O’Neill, who also had a winner back in 2012 with I’ll Have Another. Gutierrez was the jockey for that ride as well. Bob Baffert was the winning trainer with American Pharoah for his fourth career Kentucky Derby triumph. It was his first since 2002 with War Emblem, which was also a win for jockey Victor Espinoza. Espinoza was also atop Art Sherman’s California Chrome is 2014. Well-known trainer Todd Pletcher’s only win came back in 2010 when Super Saver was a winner for decorated jockey Calvin Borel, who also won in 2009 on Mine That Bird and 2007 on Street Sense. These are all names that you will want to know heading into Saturday’s feature race.

Unfortunately, Baffert’s top contender was Mastery, so he will have no horses in the race. Pletcher has three horses in the Derby, with a prime contender in Always Dreaming, and two others in Tapwrit and Patch. O’Neill’s only horse is Irap, who has shown well in the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

The early odds that we posted from DSI Sportsbook had Classic Empire at +625 and now he is the favorite at 4/1. Classic Empire got a decent draw in post 14, so he should be able to avoid getting tripped up early in the race. He shouldn’t have a whole lot of ground to cover to get to the front of the pack once things settle in. There’s some pedigree here with this horse, as Pioneerof the Nile provided the goods to Star of Goshen. Pioneerof the Nile won the Santa Anita Derby and the San Felipe Stakes before finishing second to Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby in 2009. Trainer Mark Casse hasn’t gotten a win in a Triple Crown race, but does have some impressive Breeders’ Cup wins and also a win in the Queen Anne Stakes with Tepin. Those aforementioned Breeders’ Cup wins came in the Futurity Stakes and also the Juvenile, both with Classic Empire. Classic Empire showed at the Holy Bull, but won the Arkansas Derby. This seems like a great price point for a horse that has already taken down some very impressive Grade I stakes races. Julien Leparoux has been the jockey atop Classic Empire and led him to that Breeders’ Cup Juvenile win and had tremendous success with Tepin.

Pletcher’s Always Dreaming is one of the second favorites at 5/1, along with McCraken. Always Dreaming scored the win at the Florida Derby on April 1 and also scored a pretty easy win at Gulfstream Park in his final tune-up for the Florida Derby on March 4. The rider tasked with getting Always Dreaming to the winner’s circle is John Velazquez, who won his one and only Kentucky Derby on Animal Kingdom back in 2011. The 45-year-old has two career wins in the Belmont Stakes. Always Dreaming’s pedigree includes Bodemeister, who was the runner-up in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes in 2012. Ironically, Bodemeister was a Baffert-trained horse and now Pletcher has the proverbial rains with the offspring.

McCraken’s odds in our first write-up were +800 at DSI, so you got a little bit of value if you hit some of the early numbers. The price is now 6/1. McCraken won at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Jockey Club race back on November 26. His other win came at the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 11. In McCraken’s final tune-up, he finished third in the Blue Grass Stakes, behind Irap, who is lined at 20/1 and Practical Joke, who is also 20/1. That doesn’t seem to bode well for McCraken or trainer Ian Wilkes, but this is a horse that has shown good speed in most races.

Irish War Cry is also right there at 6/1. Lineage plays a big role here in this price and a big role in a lot of prices as you start to look back and see which famous horses the world’s top three-year-olds have come from. Irish War Cry is a product of Curlin, who won the 2007 Preakness Stakes and also the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Irish War Cry has done a lot of winning, including the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct back on April 8, but it seems to be the disappointing seventh-place effort at Gulfstream Park in the Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 4 that has some skeptics out there. Irish War Cry also won the Holy Bull on February 4 at Gulfstream, so the upside is definitely there.

One really compelling mid-range shot for this race is Guennevera at 15/1 and in slot #10. A Kentucky Derby win has evaded both jockey Javier Castellano and trainer Antonio Sano, but this horse has a good shot. Castellano has one Triple Crown win back at the 2006 Preakness Stakes atop Ghostzapper. He also won the Breeders’ Cup Classic that year and has several other Breeders’ Cup triumphs. Interestingly enough, McCraken’s father is Ghostzapper, adding a nice little wrinkle to this race. His win in the Kentucky Oaks last year on Cathryn Sophia was his first big win at Churchill Downs. A win for Sano would make for a tremendous story. Sano was kidnapped on two separate occasions in 2009 and was released when the captors got the ransom money that they were asking for. Guennevera had a pretty strong run in Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream on April 1 in his final tune-up. He finished third, as Always Dreaming won. Guennevera won the Fountain of Youth in March and finished second to Irish War Cry in the Holy Bull in February.

As far as some of the other medium and long shots, J Boys Echo has had some nice runs, but those mostly came in Grade 3 Stakes races, so context is important in terms of his speed numbers. Irap beat Practical Joke and McCraken at the Blue Grass Stakes last month and could be a real sleeper with a great trainer in Doug O’Neill and a talented jockey in Mario Gutierrez. This is the tandem that won last year’s Kentucky Derby with Nyquist and also the Kentucky Derby in 2012 with I’ll Have Another.

The favorites are fairly spread out for this race. Always Dreaming should be in pretty good shape in the #5 post, with Classic Empire and McCraken possibly running into some trouble trying to get to the rail. It certainly feels like Always Dreaming, with a good start, can get out in front and could make that count. Irap and Gunnevera also got terrific draws, although they are side-by-side. Something with the 5, 9, 10 or 5, 9/10, 14 looks good for setting up a box trifecta, with some win money on Always Dreaming and Classic Empire. McCraken has the most experience at Churchill Downs and has shown some strong speed numbers, but there is some dead weight to move through to get out into open ground and Classic Empire has the inside track.

Post time for the 2017 Kentucky Derby is 6:46 p.m. ET.

 

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