The big news before the Kentucky Derby is Omaha Beach, who was the morning line favorite, was scratched and will not run in the race. You feel bad for the connections and especially for veteran trainer Richard Mandella who has never won a Kentucky Derby.
Also the weather forecast for Saturday is 100% chance of rain so in all likelihood we will have a sloppy track which definitely changes the handicapping picture
Here is my preview
#1 War of Will The dreaded #1 gate and you know it is bad when trainer Mark Casse put his head in his hands when assigned that post position. Was the favorite in the Louisiana Derby but threw in a clunker finishing 9th after previous impressive performances winning the Grade 2 Risen Star and Grade 3 LeCompte. Good tactical speed but per being on the rail will have to gun early and find racing room to have any chance. One big positive is he did win as a 2 year old on his first dirt race at Churchill Downs at 1 1/16 on a sloppy track on 11/24/2018. I think you can toss his Louisiana Derby race but can't recommend this horse with his post position. Pass.
#2 Tax This hard trying horse has never finished out of the money in 5 career starts and battled Wood Memorial winner Tacitus all the way until the wire before getting outkicked losing by just over a length. In his last 3 stakes races all at Aqueduct he put up decent Beyer speed figures in the Grade 2 Remsen 93, Grade 3 Withers 96, and Grade 2 Wood Memorial 95. The negatives are his tough post position on the far inside, never having run on an off track, and questions if this horse can get the 1 1/4 distance. Will have to get out early and find racing room per almost all of the early speed is on the inside. Like War of Will I would like this horse a little more with a different post position but can't recommend him in this spot. Pass.
#3 By My Standards The so called wise guy horse and maybe the horse who has looked the best in his pre-race works at Churchill. Impressive win in the Louisiana Derby coming from behind with a huge inside move to run down fellow Kentucky Derby entrant Spinoff at 22-1 posting a 97 Beyer. Will likely sit off the pace and grab the rail with all of the early speed on the inside. He has run at Churchill on a sloppy track as a 2 year old finishing 2nd in his first career start on 11/24/2018 coming from behind in to get the place. His sire Goldencents ran in the Kentucky Derby 2013 fading badly to finish seventeenth and not a ton of success for Louisiana horses in the Kentucky Derby of late. Will use him in exotics.
#4 Gray Magician Finished 2nd in the Grade 2 UAE Derby in Dubai behind fellow Kentucky Derby entrant Plus Que Parfait. Not impressive overall numbers and his highest Beyer running the in the United States is an 80. He is facing much more superior competition in the Derby, the Dubai horses have not run well at the Derby, has not hit the board in any Stakes races in the United States, and in his only off track race was well beaten at Santa Anita in an optional claiming race. Pass.
#5 Improbable Finished 2nd by a length on a sloppy track in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby to pre-Derby favorite Omaha Beach. In his previous start he got caught at the wire in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes by fellow Kentucky Derby entrant Long Range Toddy. He ran a 99 Beyer in the Arkansas Derby and a 95 in the Rebel. He won his three previous races including the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity and is one of three horses trained by Bob Baffert. He is a very talented horse and he has one of the highest Tomlinson rankings which measures the ability of a horse on a wet track. Major Contender.
#6 Vekoma A hard trying horse with a somewhat awkward running style he won the Grade 2 Bluegrass Stakes with a 94 Beyer drawing away with a nice rail trip. He has only 4 career starts but has won 3 of them and has run no worse than an 87 Beyer speed figure. The question with Vekoma is can this horse get the distance and did he benefit from the usual Keeneland conveyor belt speed bias in winning the Bluegrass. Vekoma has the best Tomlinson ranking out of all of the Kentucky Derby entrants and could benefit hugely with an off track. Will use him in exotics.
#7 Maximum Security In my opinion the biggest wild card of all the entrants. Could win the race or finish 15th or worse. Is perfect on the year winning all 4 races including going wire to wire in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. He has run back to back triple digit Beyers with a 101 in the Florida Derby and a 102 in his previous race at Gulfstream Park. He won the Florida Derby with extremely slow fractions and usually in the Derby you will have plenty of horses up front pushing the pace. He has won on an off track and could duplicate what War Emblem did in the 2001 Kentucky Derby going wire to wire. He should be on the lead going into the 1st turn but his fate will be determined by the early fractions. Will use him in exotics.
#8 Tacitus #1 horse in total points in qualifying for the Kentucky Derby. Won both the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby with a 93 Beyer and winning the Grade 2 Wood Memorial with a 97 Beyer. Great connections with the sire being Tapit, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott who was the youngest trainer ever to be inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame, and ridden by jockey Jose Ortiz. Very battle tested, overcame a rough trip in the Wood Memorial to run down Tax, and you have to like both of his stretch runs to win his last two races. Won his only race on an off track at Aqueduct as a 2 year old so the off track should not be an issue. Major Contender.
#9 Plus Que Parfait Winner of the Grade 2 UAE Derby in Dubai. To many question marks with this horse to consider. Just like Gray Magician the Dubai horses have had no success running in the Kentucky Derby, he was well beaten in his stateside races finishing 13th in the Grade 2 Risen Star and 5th in the Grade 3 LeCompte. His highest Beyer stateside has only been an 84. The one positive you can find is finishing 2nd at Churchill Downs on 11/24/2018 on a sloppy track in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club. Don't think he has enough quality to run with the competition he is going to face. Pass.
#10 Cutting Humor Winner of the Grade 3 Sunland Derby. Some positives for this horse is the nice move he made in the stretch to win the Sunland Derby, his 95 Beyer he earned, and is trained by Todd Pletcher. He has decent showings on an off track and and if he can stay away from trouble he can get the distance and is a sneaky long shot. The negatives would be his disastrous 7th place finish in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes in his previous race and a possible career effort in the Sunland Derby and a bounce back to lesser form. Probably not your winner but worth a shot in exotics as a price horse.
#11 Haikal A solid resume with 3 wins and never finishing out of the money this horse is the biggest closer in the field and will be coming from way back if he wants to win. Won the Grade 2 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct with a huge stretch finish running down 3 horses while taking advantage of a hot pace. In the Grade 2 Wood Memorial finished a well beaten 3rd to Tax and Tacitus with another closing kick to get 3rd. Will need a hot pace and even with his closing kick not sure if the distance is right. Has run twice on off tracks winning once and finishing 2nd. A decent long shot pick and a good horse to include in your exotics
#12 Omaha Beach SCRATCHED
#13 Code Of Honor A lot of things to like about this horse. In his stakes races he ran 2nd in the Grade 1 Champaign at Belmont Park with a 90 Beyer, won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park with a 95 Beyer and finished 3rd in the Grade 1 Florida Derby with a 91 Beyer. Great connections with Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey and jockey John Velazquez who has won multiple Kentucky Derby's including 2017 with Always Dreaming. One negative is he has not run on an off track and questions if he has the pedigree to get the distance. Will be sitting back and hoping for a hot pace to have a chance. Will be using in exotics.
#14 Win Win Win Another closer who will be hoping for a hot pace. Finished 3rd in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and finished 2nd in the Grade 2 Bluegrass Stakes. Not impressive Beyers in those 2 races with an 89 in the Tampa Bay Derby and and 88 in the Bluegrass and was well beaten in both races. He did run on late and closed well in both of those races and maybe the extra distance will help him. He has a history of finding trouble and will need a lot of racing luck to have a chance. Had a decent effort finishing 2nd in his only off track race. Will be using in exotics.
#15 Master Fencer Arguably the biggest longshot in the race coming from Japan. Not even the best horse from Japan and probably not fast enough to be any type of factor. Pass.
#16 Game Winner You have to like everything about this horse with great connections being trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Joel Rosario, the bloodlines from Candy Ride and A.P. Indy, and racing resume with 4 wins and 2 second place finishes competing in 4 Grade 1 races and 1 Grade 2. Won at a 1 1/16 at Churchill Downs as a 2 year old in the Breeders Cup Juvenile, finished 2nd in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes losing to Omaha Beach, and finished 2nd in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby losing to Kentucky Derby entrant Roadster. All of his Beyers in his last 5 races have been in the 90's and has worked well in Kentucky. He has the 2nd highest Tomlinson rating even with no races on an off track so it actually might benefit him. The only question mark is having to break from the far outside. Major contender
#17 Roadster Since having throat surgery has won his last 2 races including the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby outdueling Game Winner in the stretch. Mike Smith who rode Roadster in the Santa Anita Derby decided to take the mount on Omaha Beach so Florent Giroux will be in the irons for the Kentucky Derby. Another in the Bob Baffert barn who has been lightly raced but has been improving each race and might be peaking at the right time. The negatives for Roadster would be not having run on an off track, a far outside post position, and not having a veteran multiple Kentucky Derby winning jockey like Smith. Major contender.
#18 Long Range Toddy Plenty of positives with one of the best trainers in the business in Steve Asmussen, won the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes running down Kentucky Derby entrant Improbable down the stretch, and finishing a solid 3rd in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes only 2 lengths off the leaders. He has finished in the money in 6 out of his 8 starts and has arguably faced the best competition in his prep races in Arkansas. The big negative is his last race in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby where he finished a well beaten 6th flattening out in the stretch on a sloppy track. With rain in the forecast and and starting on the far outside I don't see him being a factor. Pass.
#19 Spinoff Lightly raced from the Todd Pletcher barn finished 2nd in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. Talented horse and ran a 95 Beyer in the Louisiana Derby but a bit of a mystery per only have run 2 races since August 12th. A big negative drawing on the far outside and will probably have to gun from the outside to avoid trouble. Only would use underneath in exotics.
#20 Country House Another Bill Mott trainee who should like the distance and has raced against good competition in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, and Grade 2 Risen Star. Unfortunately finished 6 lengths off the lead in the Arkansas Derby and Louisiana Derby and was a well beaten 2nd in the Risen Star. A good closer who might like the distance but extremely tough drawing from that far outside and will probably be to far back to make a serious run. Pass.
#21 Bodexpress Made it into the field with the scratch of Omaha Beach. Pretty tough to expect anything with a horse who still has not won a race and is starting from the far outside. Ran well as a 70-1 shot in the Florida Derby finishing second to Maximum Security but on a sloppy track in a Maiden Special Weight race in January at Gulfstream Park finished 18 lengths out. Pass.
My betting strategy every year for the Kentucky Derby is toss 10 horses and exacta box the other 10. So here will be my combinations for a $2 exacta for $180.
My Derby history in the last 10 years
2018 WON exacta $69.80, overall loss -$110.20
2017 WON exacta $336.20 profit +$156.20
2016 WON exacta $30.80 overall loss -$149.20
2015 WON exacta $72.60 overall loss -$107.40
2014 WON exacta $340.00 profit +$160.00
2013 WON exacta $981.60 profit +$801.60
2012 LOSS -$180.00
2011 WON exacta $329.80 profit +149.80
2010 WON exacta $152.40 overall loss -$27.60
2009 LOSS -$180.00
Overall profit of $513.20