The Kentucky Derby is the showcase of horse racing in the United States. It is a Grade 1 stakes horse race for three-year-old thoroughbreds held annually on the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky in the United States.
Also known as the Race for the Roses, the one and a quarter mile race will be held for the 144th time on May 5th.The post time for this year’s race is set at 6:34 pm ET but the race will start 12 minutes after.
This year’s field consists of 20 horses, racing for the prize money of $2M. The field is considered deep, with several horses given good chances of winning. We’ll break down some of the factors to consider, the favorites, the odds and our pick for this year’s race.
Post Position History
Post positioning may not matter much or even not at all in a one and one-fourth mile race like the Kentucky Derby. Ultimately it’s going to go down to stamina and luck, but some post position stats are quite interesting and maybe worth noting.
According to Americasbetracing.net, 2017 winner Always Dreaming was one of 10 horses to win the Kentucky Derby from post position no. 5. That’s the most wins for any of the 20 positions in the race. Post no. 10 has produced the 2nd most winners at 9. On the other hand, no horse has won the race from post position no. 17 and only one each has won from post nos. 18, 19 and 20.
Meanwhile, 25 horses have finished in the money from post position no. 2. That’s followed by post position no. 10 and 5 which has 24 and 21 in the money finishes, respectively. As with producing winners, post nos. 18-20 have produced the fewest ITM finishes with just a total of 9 between them.
Bob Baffert is looking for his first Kentucky Derby win since Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015 and his fifth overall. Having Solomini and odds-on favorite Justify gives him a legit shot at that. Bravazo’s D. Wayne Lukas is also a four-time winner but has not won since Charismatic in 1999.
Todd Pletcher, the trainer of 2017 winner Always Dreaming, has two strong favorites in Audible and Magnum Moon. But aside from last year, his only other winner was Super Saver in 2010.
Since 2000 though, there have been 10 one-time winners. This gives the likes of Bolt D’Oro’s Mick Ruis and Mendelssohn’s Aidan O’Brien, who haven’t won one yet, a fair chance of winning with their horses being among the favorites.
Justify will be ridden by Mike Smith, who won with Giacomo in 2005. Bolt D’Oro’s Victor Espinoza won back to back on California Chrome in 2014 and American Pharoah in 2015. Meanwhile, John Velasquez hopes to repeat for Pletcher with Vino Rosso. My Boy Jack’s rider, Kent Desormeaux hasn’t won in 8 years.
Other than the names above, the other jockeys in the field don’t have Kentucky Derby winning experience. In fact, the last time we had a first time derby winner was in 2013 when Joel Rosario won with Orb.
The morning line favorite is chestnut colt Justify, the son of Scat Daddy. Trained by Bob Baffert, Justify had the best odds at 3-1. He was also the top horse in the final Kentucky Derby Media Poll released by horseracingnation.com.
The undefeated Santa Anita Derby winner garnered a total of 315 poll points, including 7 out of the 17 first-place votes from the media panel. Joining Justify in the Top 5 are Bolt D’Oro ( 291 points ), Good Magic ( 282 points ), Audible ( 280 points ) and Mendelssohn ( 279 points ).
Justify has won all three of his races, including the Santa Anita Derby where he held off Bolt D’Oro by three lengths. Bolt D’Oro led all North American stallions with 7 Grade 1 wins.Audible won the Kentucky Derby just like what last year’s winner Always Dreaming did before winning at Churchill Downs. Mendelssohn won the UAE Derby by 18 ½ lengths.
The Complete Odds:
Bolt D’Oro, Magnum Moon, and Mendelssohn opened as betting favorites when the lines opened. But since then, the lines have moved and most recently, it has changed after the post position draw held on May 1.
Here are the results from the post position draw and the updated betting odds for the 2018 Kentucky Derby:
( post, horse, trainer, jockey )
- Firenze Fire, Jason Servis, Paco Lopez, 50-1
- Free Drop Billy, Dale Romans, Robby Albarado, 30-1
- Promises Fulfilled, Dale Romans, Corey Lanerie, 30-1
- Flameaway, Mark Casse, Jose Lezcano, 30-1
- Audible, Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano, 8-1
- Good Magic, Chad Brown, Jose Ortiz, 12-1
- Justify, Bob Baffert, Mike Smith, 3-1
- Lone Sailor, Tom Amoss, James Graham, 50-1
- Hofburg, Bill Mott, Irad Ortiz Jr., 20-1
- My Boy Jack, Keith Desormeaux, Kent Desormeaux, 30-1
- Bolt d’Oro, Mick Ruis, Victor Espinoza, 8-1
- Enticed, Kiaran McLaughlin, Junior Alvarado, 30-1
- Bravazo, D. Wayne Lukas, Luis Contreras, 50-1
- Mendelssohn, Aidan O’Brien, Ryan Moore, 5-1
- Instilled Regard, Jerry Hollendorfer, Drayden Van Dyke, 50-1
- Magnum Moon, Todd Pletcher, Luis Saez, 6-1
- Solomini, Bob Baffert, Flavien Prat, 30-1
- Vino Rosso, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 12-1
- Noble Indy, Todd Pletcher, Florent Geroux, 30-1
- Combatant, Steve Asmussen, Ricardo Santana Jr., 50-1
It’s easiest to believe firmly in Justify and Audible, not only because of their track record but also because of the team behind these horses. But don’t count out Mendelssohn just because he is untested in U.S. soil.
While Justify is the odds-on favorite as well as the media poll favorite, history is not on his side. No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Kentucky Derby after being unraced at the age of 2.
Justify is going against the 135 years Apollo Curse but if there’s a horse who breaks it, it’s him. His Beyer Speed Figure of 107 in the Santa Anita Derby is the highest in any Derby prep this year and the highest in the Kentucky Derby field. He’s a freak and he may be the real deal.
And yes, don’t forget that the odds-on favorite ( including co-favorites ) has won the Kentucky Derby in the last five years. Having said that, we’re picking Justify to win the 144th Kentucky Derby.