Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM

Kentucky Derby Breakdown

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Kentucky Derby Contenders

The preps have been run, the work is done and now it's time to get it on.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the field for the 144th Kentucky Derby!

Kentucky Derby ML Odds

2018 Breakdown
PP - Horse ML Odds Jockey (Derby Record) Trainer (Derby Record)
1 – Firenze Fire (50-1) Paco Lopez (Debut) Jason Servis (Debut)
Notes: He won the Champagne, one of the most historic and prestigious two-year-old races there is, so obviously he has talent. In fact, he’s a three-time stakes winner in one turn races. I was willing to forgive the route effort in the B.C. Juvenile, even the second-place effort when he raced evenly in the Withers to be second. But the Wood Memorial try stunk. A really nice horse around one turn, two turns just isn’t his game. Toss for me.
2 – Free Drop Billy (30-1) Ronny Albarado (0-14) Dale Romans (0-8)
Notes: I thought he was going to run a big one in the Blue Grass at Keeneland, where he won the Breeders’ Futurity last year, but if I’m being honest, I was disappointed in his effort. And don’t let the short comment in the PPs fool you – yes, he was “bothered badly” by his nemesis Sporting Chance in deep stretch but he wasn’t getting any closer to the first two finishers than he did. His biggest problem appears to be that the kick he displayed in some of his races as a juvenile has turned into a grind. And in a year like this, where more than a handful have a powerful kick and others are probably just more talented overall, even if they grind it out, he just appears to be too slow. I’m tossing him.
3 – Promises Fulfilled (30-1) Corey Lanerie (0-2) Dale Romans (0-8)
Notes: When he’s in the right place in the right time, like in the Fountain of Youth when the faster sprinter decided to rate so he could lead the way and Good Magic was making his seasonal bow, he’s good. When he gets hooked, like in the Florida Derby when the aforementioned sprinter hounded him every step of the way, he’s in trouble. On Saturday, should he even see the lead, the sprinter will be replaced by one of these gorillas and he’ll have to deal with an extra furlong. No thanks.
4 - Flameaway (30-1) Jose Lezcano (0-5) Mark Casse (0-5)
Notes: He’s won on dry dirt, wet dirt, turf and over a synthetic surface, including stakes races over three of them. He’s won at distances ranging from four-and-a-half furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth. He’s won in gate-to-wire fashion, from just off the pace and from mid-pack. He’s been involved in three races decided by less than a length and has won all three. He was second in the Tampa Bay Derby by a length and the Blue Grass by a little more than that and ran his eyeballs out every step of the way in both races. I’d LOVE to own him and have him on my side in a bar fight. He hates to lose and refuses to quit, two amazing qualities to have in a racehorse, especially in this race. It’s hard for me to envision him winning this, mostly because he’s going to likely be involved early. But I’ve never seen him quit, so it’s hard for me to see him falling apart in the latter stages as well. I’ll use him in my exotic wagers and on a saver pick four ticket.
5 - Audible (8-1) Javier Castellano (0-11) Todd Pletcher (2-48)
Notes: Imagine you’re in New York right after Christmas. It’s been freezing cold for weeks when your boss calls from Florida and tells you to come on down, you’d go down and work your tail off, wouldn’t you? Well, that’s exactly what Audible did. He left his fellow New York-breds for the winter and owned the sophomores at Gulfstream Park. He even surprised his boss with how easy he won the first time in the Holy Bull. Pletcher used the Florida Derby as a prep for Always Dreaming last year and that obviously worked out well. I’ve been a fan of his from Day One but his detractors will say his two big efforts were due in part to Pletcher’s dominance in Hallandale Beach. I think they’re wrong. My one qualm is his pedigree. Nothing about it says ten furlongs. But he’s one of the fastest horses in here and is a serious contender if he takes another step forward and can find a way to handle the extra panel. One of four major contenders for me, he’ll be on all of my tickets.
6 – Good Magic (12-1) Jose Ortiz (0-3) Chad Brown (0-4)
Notes: His talent was obvious from the beginning, as his trainer, who is one of the more conservative around, ran him in the Champagne and B.C. Juvenile as a maiden. After breaking his maiden in the Juvenile and winning the Eclipse Award as the Outstanding Two-Year-Old last year it would have been hard to imagine him being double digits on Derby Day but that’s what he’ll likely be. More often than not, his type gets here as the favorite or don’t get here at all. Actually, he hadn’t had much buzz around him all year until after his Blue Grass victory last out. He’s really blossomed in Kentucky in the four weeks since and his form cycle looks a lot like it did last year: a good first start, a better second effort then BOOM! If he goes BOOM like he did in the Juvenile they all might be running for second money. I like his pedigree and the fact that horses like him make their own trips, a great weapon to have in this. He’s another that figures to have first crack at the early leaders. We’ll see what happens from there. My money is on him moving forward. A top win contender who’ll be on all of my tickets.
7 - Justify (3-1) Mike Smith (1-23) Bob Baffert (4-27)
Notes: When you look up the term “meteoric rise” on Google this guy’s picture pops up. Many people didn’t know he existed on February 17. On May 5 he’ll be your overwhelming Derby favorite. It’s one of the reasons this is the greatest game played outdoors. When you think about what he’ll be asked to do in just 77 days it boggles your mind. Four wins, including the Kentucky Derby. Only Big Brown in the past hundred years or so has won the Derby with just three prior starts and he had the benefit of a two-turn race as a juvenile on Labor Day weekend of that season. This colt didn’t see the racetrack until the fall. Maybe the hype is true and Baffert has his second “once-in-a-lifetime” horse in five years. Maybe Mike Smith was right to compare him to the great Easy Goer after he got off of him for the first time. And maybe he’s simply a freak and THAT much better than the rest in here. Or maybe he’s being asked to do too much too soon. He’s beaten a total of 14 rivals in his first three starts combined. He’ll face more than that in the Derby. He won two of his three races on the front end and the other in a five-horse field when he camped out in the four path behind two rivals and passed them as he pleased on the turn. Neither of those scenarios are playing out come Saturday. I think, in his case, more than any other horse in here, he has to be used early to try and keep him away from trouble and out of traffic. That likely puts him in front being hounded or on the chase. I wouldn’t want to be in either position this year. He also has to ship for the first time as all of his starts have come at Santa Anita until now. Add in the Apollo Curse, lack of seasoning or whatever you want to call it and it leads to me playing against him.
8 – Lone Sailor (50-1) James Graham (Debut) Tom Amoss (0-5)
Notes: Man, did it look like the karma police were going to work their magic in the bayou last out. Days after his owner passed away, this guy made the lead in the Louisiana Derby and looked ready to turn the Fair Ground winners’ circle into the most emotional place on the planet. John Velazquez and Noble Indy had other ideas, re-rallied and got the money. If you look at his PPs you could actually believe it was divine intervention last out because it was the fastest race he’s ever run by a pole and he’s still searching for his second victory. He’d have to duplicate that to even have a chance to smell the superfecta in here. I don’t see it happening.
9 - Hofburg (20-1) Irad Ortiz, Jr. (0-2) Bill Mott (0-7)
Notes: When he broke his maiden at Gulfstream the race before the Fountain of Youth in early March, I remember thinking to myself that the winner of the feature would have to do something special for me to think that this colt didn’t put in the best effort of the afternoon. Promises Fulfilled didn’t and I feel like I was right. Off of just one sprint, six months earlier, horses aren’t supposed to win from mid-pack while racing five-wide from post 11 at Gulfstream. It’s just not supposed to happen. Mott, who is as conservative when it comes to his horses, especially the inexperienced ones, backed that opinion up by running him back in the Florida Derby. That day, with the help of a sharp early pace, he made up about a dozen lengths, another thing you don’t see every race-day at the Hallandale Beach oval, to finish a solid second to a streaking Audible. I never thought he’d run him last time and I’m even more surprised Mott’s running him in here considering his aforementioned patience and the fact that his owner, Juddmonte Farm, never pressure their trainers to run horses in races for the sake of running. His talent is obvious, as is his lack of seasoning. I don’t really care about the Apollo Curse but unlike Justify and Magnum Moon, he has the benefit of a race last September. Simply put, he’s been trained to be a racehorse for a longer period of time than they have just by loading into the gate that Labor Day weekend afternoon and finishing fourth. He’s also going to be a much better price than either of those two and I think he has the most upside out of all of his rivals. A top win contender who’ll be on all of my tickets.
10 – My Boy Jack (30-1) Kent Desormeaux (3-20) Keith Desormeaux (0-2)
Notes: Especially before Justify came along, you probably heard a lot of people talk about how good of a crop this is. I truly believe that. We’ve seen quite a few horses win races in less than ideal circumstances for them, whether it be race dynamics, surface, distance, etc. He’s one of them. The problem is I think he’s a turf horse, and so did his connections last year. He was in the right place when he won the Southwest and his overall talent and experience likely got him the duke in his last gasp at Derby points in the Lexington last out when he received a Hall of Fame ride from a Hall of Fame rider in KJD. He’s one of several “wiseguy” or “buzz” horses in here. I can see where his dramatic late run makes him attractive to people in a number of ways but I’m not falling for it.
11 – Bolt d’Oro (8-1) Victor Espinoza (3-9) Mick Ruis (Debut)
Notes: When he won the Front Runner in a waltz last fall I figured people would be talking about him right about now the way they are talking about Justify. He looks the way a racehorse is supposed to look and runs like a racehorse is supposed to run. He’s simply a spectacular individual with a tremendous pedigree. His Juvenile trip was terrible, he made up for some lost time when he played bumper cars with McKinzie two back and didn’t look cranked when Justify had thing his own way on the front end of the S.A. Derby last out. The “cranked” comment may get a couple of second looks since quite a few people feel his inexperienced owner/trainer isn’t sharp enough to know if he was cranked or not. I think he’s done a good job with him but am admittedly a little gun-shy because of him. I’m admittedly far more terrified of the guy on his back, who I’m not a fan of, despite his success in this event. If almost anyone else was on his back, I may have made him the pick but I can’t do it. Still, he’s a top win contender for me and will be on all of my tickets.
12 – Enticed (30-1) Junior Alvarado (0-1) Kiaran McLaughlin (0-7)
Notes: Every year, there are one or two horses that perplex me the most. He is the winner, in that case, at least, in 2018. Visually, his Gotham two starts back going one turn at Aqueduct was his best race. I’d argue he was better in the KJC around two turns over this course last year. As opposed to the clean trip he had in the Gotham, the one in Kentucky last fall wasn’t the best. Speaking of trips, the one he had last out in the Wood Memorial wasn’t great either, and I’m not just talking about the shoving match he got into with Vino Rosso through the stretch. This colt was second basically the entire way last out behind a runaway leader, a position he’s not used to being in. The race unfolded oddly for him and much better for the winner, in my opinion. He gets to return to a course he exceled over and should be in a more customary position than he was last time. I’m using him in my exotic wagers and on a spread pick four ticket.
13 - Bravazo (50-1) Luis Contreras (0-1) D. Wayne Lukas (4-48)
Notes: When you’ve been around this sport for as long as I have you come to the realization that this game can humble you really quick. Except if you’re D. Wayne Lukas, apparently. I’ve been at VI for over a decade and I feel like I’m writing about a Lukas horse not belonging in the Derby almost every single year. He won the Risen Star when he took advantage of a fantastic speed bias and then stunk the place up in the Louisiana Derby last out. He’s probably not as good as the former or as bad as the latter. If that assessment is right, he’ll finish twelfth in here. Pass.
14 - Mendelssohn (5-1) Ryan Moore (0-1) Aidan O’Brien (0-5)
Notes: Hi, my name is Anthony and I picked and bet on Mubtaahij in 2015. I will say that every time the UAE Derby winner or some other import invades for the Derby just to remind myself how tough it is. Now, I will say, this guys probably has more going for him than his predecessors. He’s a half-brother to the fantastic race-mare Beholder, he won the B.C. Juvenile Turf on U.S. soil and won that UAE Derby in his lone start on dirt by over 18 lengths. Those are three points you’re screaming from the rooftop if you’re a fan. If you’re not, you can say Beholder really didn’t want 10 furlongs, his B.C. win was on turf and he took advantage of a speed-biased racetrack to beat a filly and a C-list sophomore. I’m in the latter camp. He didn’t get here until Monday and didn’t get over the track until Thursday after a 48-hour quarantine. He’s not fast enough to get to the lead therefore will be taking dirt for the first time in his career. In the Kentucky Derby. Plus, he’ll be the second choice at around 5-1. I’m tossing him but can understand people that like him or want to use him protectively.
15 - Instilled Regard (50-1) Drayden Van Dyke (Debut) Jerry Hollendorfer (0-6)
Notes: Rumor has it that his trainer was offended when the folks at Churchill Downs removed him from the contenders list after his abysmal effort in the Santa Anita Derby even though he was 22nd on the list. Did he watch that race, or the one before that, the Risen Star, for that matter? This horse went the wrong way and fast. I’m offended that he was offended. Toss him out.
16 – Magnum Moon (6-1) Luis Saez (0-5) Todd Pletcher (2-48)
Notes: One of two undefeated colts that didn’t race as a two-year-old trying to break a streak that goes back to 1882. To his credit, he’s run at three different tracks in his four-start career and has been in and out of training for the better part of a year. His last two at Oaklawn were solid efforts, save that severe drift through the stretch in the Arkansas Derby last out. You can’t be doing that beneath the twin spires against 19 others. You’re bound to find someone and some trouble. Unlike Justify, whose talent might be limitless, my ample gut tells me we have seen just about the best we’re going to see from this colt. I’m also not sure of what he has beaten in his career and I’m not sold on him wanting the added distance, either. If I’m right he’ll be the third choice so we can add him to the list of shorter prices I will not be endorsing.
17 - Solomini (30-1) Flavien Prat (0-1) Bob Baffert (4-27)
Notes: As bad as the Bayern non-DQ in the 2014 B.C. Classic was, this guy’s DQ in the Los Alamitos Futurity might have been worse. He came into the year as one of the top sophomores and was a finalist for the Outstanding Two-Year-Old Eclipse Award last year. But this year, after he faced a couple of hiccups that delayed his return, his two tries have been very ho-hum. You can make a little excuse for him in the Rebel when he was off the layoff and had brief traffic trouble on the turn but I can’t offer one for the Arkansas Derby. I like his pedigree more than some others in here as far as the distance is concerned but he’s going to have to work out a trip AND run the race of his life. As enticing as Baffert at 25-1 sounds I think he’s up against it here.
18 – Vino Rosso (12-1) John Velazquez (2-19) Todd Pletcher (2-48)
Notes: He’s looking to give his trainer, jock and part-owner back-to-back wins in the Derby, something that hasn’t happened in 45 years. He’s been a real puzzle this season as Pletcher made moves that seemed counterproductive, stuck with his decisions and they ultimately paid off. He got himself involved in a real scuffle with Enticed in the Wood Memorial and probably should have been disqualified but I’m pretty sure he was best that day. And it looks like the added distance won’t be an issue as he seems to thrive in the latter stages of most of his races. Johnny V. was given his choice of the Pletcher trio he won 100-point races aboard on consecutive weeks this season and chose to stick with this colt. He’s going to have to improve to win this but what’s to say he won’t? I think he’s a contender and will use him in my exotic plays and on a few pick four tickets.
19 – Noble Indy (30-1) Florent Geroux (0-2) Todd Pletcher (2-48)
Notes: If they gave out an award for Gutsiest Prep Victory, this guy would be your winner. His effort in the Louisiana Derby was good on so, so many levels. He rated, he raced along the rail, he re-rallied, he ran through the wire. There was nothing not to like. I’ve never been a fan of the six weeks between starts and I don’t love the rider choice but he has had similar spacing between all of his starts and the jock does ride the track well. I like his pedigree and the fact that he’s seemed to have gotten better and faster with each start. If all goes according to plan, he should get a dream set up as well and figures to be one of the first to pounce on the leaders. A second level win contender, I’ll use him in all of my exotic plays and on some pick four tickets.
20 - Combatant (50-1) Ricardo Santana, Jr. (0-3) Steve Asmussen (0-18)
Notes: If I would have heard someone, namely my buddy/HRRN partner Steve Grabowski, tell me he liked this horse in a prep once more I think my ears would have started to bleed. Everyone was waiting for him to produce a breakthrough effort but it never happened. If you’re still a believer, you’re going to get a huge price on him. But he’s still eligible for an entry level allowance contest and appeared to me to want no part of nine furlongs last out in the Arkansas Derby. Not for me.
21– Blended Citizen (50-1) Kyle Frey (Debut) Doug O’Neill (2-6)
Notes: He’s never hit the board in four starts on conventional dirt and his biggest claim to fame is taking the Jeff Ruby at Turfway over their synthetic surface. I know O’Neill has had success in here but him winning would be nothing short of miraculous. Toss out.

Anthony “the Big A” Stabile can be heard regularly on the Horse Racing Radio Network from 3-6:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday and 3-7:00 p.m. ET on Thursday and Friday. Tune in on Sirius 219, XM 201 or streaming live at He also is a contributor on NYRA-TV as a guest on Talking Horses. Follow him on Twitter at @TheBigAStabile

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