With a field full of stalkers and just one true early speed horse, Promises Fulfilled, the pace in the 2018 Kentucky Derby should be honest but not insane. Of the many in the field who prefer to take up a close stalking position, a good number of them will find themselves farther back than they are used to, with more horses to pass, and in a lot more congestion. Many contenders will be adversely affected by the congestion, as is always the case in the Derby. If the pace turns hot, My Boy Jack looks to benefit most, but others in the race, including Vino Rosso, Bolt d’Oro and Audible, are comfortable coming from way back.
Much of the Derby hype is centered on Justify, who is undefeated in three starts. Although he did not race as a 2-year-old, he has looked dominant in his short racing career. But his racing style will put him near the front, where he should have company, and he has never raced outside California, nor has he faced large fields. His being the favorite makes some sense, but he is not without some dings. There are reasons to seek value elsewhere, particularly in horses with more races under their saddles.
Another horse getting lots of discussion is Mendelssohn, winner of the UAE Derby. While this prep race is usually a toss-out, Mendelssohn won by 17 lengths in an easy ride. Even if the field were soft, the margin of victory made a strong statement and put him solidly in the Derby favorite discussion. He won his one race stateside, the BC Juvenile Turf, but that race was over turf and much shorter.
Others with a shot include Magnum Moon, Good Magic and Audible. Magnum Moon, like Justify, is lightly raced (just four lifetime starts) and undefeated. Good Magic was last year’s BC Juvenile winner who looked dull in the Fountain of Youth Stakes before returning to form in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. In that one, he looked back to his old form and beat a solid, large field of 14. Audible ran a very impressive race in the Florida Derby, laying well off a fast pace to win from second to last. The jockey showed him the whip a couple of times in the stretch, but the horse had plenty left in the tank. That victory capped a four-race winning streak.
For some value, look at Vino Rosso. He was a tepid betting choice in the Wood Memorial, but overcame a lot of trouble and finished well to win. For even more value, My Boy Jack looks like he could be dangerous. The pace does not look to be insane, but if it is quicker than expected, he might be the one running best late.
A bet on Justify is certainly justifiable. But his racing dossier is thin, so there might be better value elsewhere. Audible will be at least 6:1 and is worth a bet at that price or higher.
Win bet: Audible
Exacta bet: Box Justify, Audible, Magnum Moon, Good Magic and My Boy Jack
Trifecta bet: Wheel Justify and Audible with Justify, Audible, Magnum Moon, Good Magic and My Boy Jack
Liam Durbin is owner-handicapper of e-ponies.com. He shares his Triple Crown picks and betting tips with The Baltimore Sun each year.