Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:58 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 145th Kentucky Derby!

Kentucky Derby ML Odds

2019 Breakdown
PP - Horse ML Odds Jockey (Derby Record) Trainer (Derby Record)
1 – War of Will (15-1) Tyler Gaffalione (0-1) Mark Casse (0-6)
Notes: At one point this past winter, he was on his way to being your Derby favorite after three consecutive dirt wins. Then the Louisiana Derby debacle happened. He hopped at the break, appeared lame in front AND behind before a ninth-place finish and soft tissue injury diagnosis. That’s a lot to overcome regardless of how well you’re reportedly training coming into the race. He benefits the most from the two scratches as all of the horses in the main starting gate will now move outward one stall, leaving the dreaded rail stall vacant. Looks like he’ll be gunning from his inside draw to get position early. Combine his issues with the inside draw and the six weeks between layoffs and he’s the first toss.
2 - Tax (20-1) Junior Alvarado (0-2) Danny Gargan (Debut)
Notes: Of all of the horses in here, the draw probably was most unkind to this gelding. His connections were on record saying they were going to take him back and make one run and now have little choice. Hard to take a horse out of his element in a race like this and now he figures to be surrounded. He ran well in his runner-up performance in the Wood Memorial but it felt like he was never beating Tacitus despite losing by just a little over a length. Not for me.
3 – By My Standards (15-1) Gabriel Saez (0-2) Bret Calhoun (Debut)
Notes: One of two “buzz” horses this season, he comes in on a two-race win streak that includes the Louisiana Derby where he had a great trip. He took a big step forward from his maiden tally to his last win and if he does it again, he’ll be right there. It’s hard for me imagine that happening. He’ll need to be used harder leaving out of there from his draw or risk getting shuffled back. Not great options after a perfect trip. Plus, his pedigree leaves a lot to be desired for this distance. I’m passing.
4 – Gray Magician (50-1) Drayden Van Dyke (0-1) Peter Miller (0-1)
Notes: With just a maiden win from eight tries he’s one of two horses in the body of the race that’s still eligible for an entry level allowance contest. And his races have been slow. Not really sure where that runner-up performance in the UAE Derby came from. He made a menacing move at a distance just a sixteenth of a mile or so shorter than this but did appear to level off in deep stretch. He’d be one of the biggest upsets in Derby history. Pass.
5 - Improbable (6-1) Irad Ortiz, Jr. (0-3) Bob Baffert (5-29)
Notes: I know a lot of people anointed this horse as the next “horse of a lifetime” for Baffert after his Los Al Futurity win but I’ve never been a fan. He beat little as a two-year-old when using his tactical speed to pull dream trips. He faced a bit of adversity when racing wide in his Rebel comeback and got run down late by a horse that figures to be 40-1 or higher here then had the length of the stretch to get by the winner in the Arkansas Derby and couldn’t make up a length. You can excuse the first race this year but not the last one. On the plus side, he gets arguably the best rider in the country but that doesn’t make up for the fact that I believe I think the topside of his pedigree is starting to catch up to him and no he has to get another furlong as one of the shorter prices. No thanks.
6 - Vekoma (20-1) Javier Castellano (0-12) George Weaver (0-1)
Notes: His speed allowed him to get a great trip in his Blue Grass tally but his action through the lane left a lot to be desired as he wheels his leg through the stretch awkwardly. Castellano is one of the best at figuring out the pace puzzle in a horse race and even better at taking advantage of it. He’ll have this horse in the vanguard and figure it out from there. My biggest issue with him is that I have never felt he was a distance horse and his win last out did little to change my mind. The runner-up had a tough trip but isn’t much in my opinion anyway. He’s gotten a lot more attention since they announced the Omaha Beach scratch but it hasn’t been from me.
7 – Maximum Security (8-1) Luis Saez (0-6) Jason Servis (0-1)
Notes: If I had a dollar for each time I’ve been asked how this horse was entered for a $16K tag in his debut I’d be wealthy. Sometimes they fall through the cracks. Sometimes they overcome their problems. Sometimes they win their first four starts at a track where their trainer won at over 35%. This time it’s all of the above. I think he’s the speed and Saez will go as fast as he has to maintain his position in front. If they go slow, like last out in the Florida Derby, they probably think he can steal away and win it. If he has to go fast, he winds up a rabbit of sorts for Game Winner. Either way I don’t think he has a chance in here.
8 - Tacitus (8-1) Jose Ortiz (0-4) Bill Mott (0-8)
Notes: Let’s end the suspense: he’s my pick to win the Derby. I’ve loved him since he got involved in a wicked pace in his debut and stayed on like a warrior. He’s won all three of his starts since. He went to the quirky Tampa Bay Downs course and passed a bunch of horses along the inside to win their Derby then survived a roller-derby-like run into the first turn of the Wood Memorial to win like a horse who wanted more distance than the nine furlongs offered, If you turned the 19 horses in the Derby loose in a paddock and asked me to pick out the horse that looks like the Derby winner, I’d point to him. He’s got a big ol’ stride on him that looks like it would get over any surface. He’s the total package. And when they pass the eighth pole, he’ll be drawing away.
9 – Plus Que Parfait (30-1) Ricardo Santana, Jr. (0-4) Brendan Walsh (Debut)
Notes: He won going 1 3/16 miles in the UAE Derby when he added blinkers, his trainer has been on a roll and if you take the two races at the Fair Grounds off of his card he has the look of a live longshot. Problem is he is slow. Not much else to add. He’d flat-out shock me if he hit was a major player in here.
10 – Cutting Humor (30-1) Mike Smith (2-24) Todd Pletcher (2-52)
Notes: He’s the one that I’ve flip-flopped over the past few days. I really liked his second to Bourbon War at the start of the year and I was able to forgive the effort in the Southwest, one of the strangest races I’ve ever seen. But after watching the Sunland Derby win a couple of times, I decided that I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I was. Don’t fall for the “set a track record” rubbish from his last either. That thing seems to fall every year. I might use him on the bottom end of my exotic wagers in the Derby but nothing more.
11 - Haikal (SCR) Rajiv Maragh (0-5) Kiaran McLaughlin (0-8)
12 – Omaha Beach (SCR) Mike Smith (2-24) Richard Mandella (0-6)
13 – Code of Honor (12-1) John Velazquez (2-20) Shug McGaughey (1-7)
Notes: When Shug won this with Orb in 2013, he told me that he had “five perfect months” with him. That hasn’t been the case with this colt. He stumbled in the Champagne but recovered to be second. He got sick leading up to the Breeders’ Cup and was forced to scratch before a massive flub at Gulfstream. Things really seemed to turn the corner in the Fountain of Youth when Johnny V put him in the perfect spot to get the candy. He had no chance in the Florida Derby behind that slow pace yet made a couple of moves and managed to grab the show-dough. He’s been training very nicely leading up to this and while I’m not completely sold on his ability to get the distance, he should get a good pace set up and come running late. Using him in all of my wagers.
14 – Win Win Win (12-1) Julian Pimentel (Debut) Mike Trombetta (0-1)
Notes: He did lose ground when gaining ground to be third at Tampa and found trouble on the far turn of the Blue Grass when second but I think he’s a sprinter/one turn type as evident by his track record performance in a seven-furlong stakes at Tampa. We have rarity this year for Derby 145 as there are not one but TWO “wiseguy” horses and he is one of them. Between the trip at Keeneland and the fact that he won the “simulated-workout-by-accident-race” over the two Mott runners, he’s gotten a lot more attention than I think he deserves. Not for me.
15 – Master Fencer (50-1) Julien Leparoux (0-10) Koichi Tsunoda (Debut)
Notes: I would like to take this space to ask the powers that be to get rid of the Asian-points races. I understand why it’s done but I don’t like it. Hard pass.
16 – Game Winner (9-2) Joel Rosario (1-8) Bob Baffert (5-29)
Notes: The B.C Juvenile and Eclipse champ should still be undefeated. He lost a filthy head bob to Omaha Beach in their division of the Rebel when he raced wide then was ridden like a horse who was trying to get a lot more out of his race in the Santa Anita Derby. If the tactic works, Baffert may have his sixth Derby score. IF it doesn’t, it’ll likely be because this horse simply doesn’t want to go this far, a concern I’ve had with him since day one. He kind of runs like a horse that is stretched at nine furlongs. He’ll need to rely on his rider and his class to get that extra furlong. The fact that he won the Juvenile over this course helps though I think you can argue that he struggled over the course. If it’s wet and he runs to his pedigree it might be all over. In fact, it’s one of the biggest factors for me. Using him in almost all of my wagers.
17 - Roadster (5-1) Florent Geroux (0-3) Bob Baffert (5-29)
Notes:The last of the three Baffert runners is easily my least favorite one. He was mediocre, at best, as a juvenile and didn’t really impress with his allowance win or in the Santa Anita Derby. I can’t recall a more dressed up prep. The early speed can’t go that far, Game Winner was racing into shape and this guy just picked up the pieces late. It speaks volumes that Smith abandoned for Omaha Beach and I’m not a fan of the guy who wound up on his back. He is going to take plenty of money and I think he is one of the best bet-against horses in the field.
18 – Long Range Toddy (30-1) Jon Court (0-3) Steve Asmussen (0-19)
Notes: Court gave this horse a superb ride to win his division of the Rebel when he snuck up on Improbable. He probably didn’t like the wet track last out and that’s not god considering the weather forecast. He’ll likely have to hustle away from the high draw and will have a tough time pulling a favorable trip. Pass.
19 - Spinoff (30-1) Manny Franco (0-1) Todd Pletcher (2-52)
Notes:Like Long Range Toddy, he’s going to have to be harder used than his connections would like in the early going or he’s destined for a very wide trip into that fast turn. This scenario is a far cry from the trip he had last out because after a bit of a bump at the break he couldn’t have gotten a better set-up if they scripted it themselves. I don’t like the horse that beat him and I’m not a fan of his either.
20 – Country House (30-1) Flavien Prat (0-2) Bill Mott (0-8)
Notes: Mott truly believes this horse belongs in the Derby and that the added distance will help him tremendously. Things would have to go perfectly for him to win this from far back. He’d need a strong pace, have to avoid traffic trouble and pass an awful lot of horses. Really hard for me to see a horse eligible for an entry level allowance contest win this but stranger things have happened. I’ll use him in exactas and trifectas and on a Pick 4 ticket as well.
21 – Bodexpress (30-1) Chris Landeros (Debut) Gustavo Delgado (0-1)
Notes: I don’t care how many points they have, maidens do not belong in the Kentucky Derby. I do like his rider a lot, though.

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

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