144th Kentucky Derby Handicap Perspective

The Churchill Downs’ track crew may have to spend Friday night and Saturday morning preparing Churchill Downs if the weather forecast for Louisville on Friday and Saturday for rain is correct. Saturday’s forecast is “There is now the potential for another round of showers to move through during Saturday,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Thompson. “With the potential of increasing showers, the odds of a fast track are diminishing, and if showers linger into the afternoon, the track could be muddy or sloppy for the Derby.” Although the weather forecast for in Louisville on Saturday is not ideal racing weather the Kentucky Derby faithful, over 170,000 people, are unlikely to discard their Kentucky Derby day tickets.

This year’s card features 14 races, seven of them Graded stakes, highlighted by the 144th running of the $2 million Kentucky Oaks.

TRA™ has two simple rules for handicapping on sloppy or muddy tracks. Our first one is don’t, to many variables to calculate or the simple one, wager on gray horses to run third. In general, gray horses handle off tracks better than the other horses.

The below is our Derby handicap perspective for dry track.

The horses are in TRA™ order of finish.

Justify (3-1): He is a big, grand looking horse that has little racing experience, only 3 life time starts, His most recent win was the Santa Anita Derby. He has tactical speed and should be near the front. Leaving the 7-post position should allow him to have excellent first turn position close to the pace setter Promises Fullfed. He has the talent to set solid fractions the entire race. If all goes well, he will be the horse to beat at the wire. 

Mendelssohn (5-1): Is the unknown factor in the year’s Kentucky Derby. He showed speed, superb stamina and world class fractions in his 19th length runaway UAE Derby win. The questions circling around him are how he will handle the shipping, the new surrounding and the Churchill Downs surface. Impossible to overlook.

Good Magic (12-1):  The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner. Trainer Chad Brown couldn’t be more pleased with how this colt is doing, coming off a victory in the Blue Grass following a disappointing 2018 debut in the Fountain of Youth.   The chestnut colt has looked polished, poised and professional in the mornings at Churchill Downs. He posted an impressive work Saturday over the surface (5 furlongs, 1:01.20). The Derby will his fourth since the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.  Nothing to knock about this runner. His disappointing third-place showing in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth came after a four-month winter break; taking that into account, it wasn’t a poor effort. He has the pedigree to run the distance and should be on the board. A win candidate.

Vino Rosso (12-1): He didn’t beat much in the Wood, but jockey John Velazquez chose him for his Derby mount and said the 10-furlong distance was the reason. His run from mid-pack to beat Enticed by three lengths in the Wood was his best performance to-date. He has the look of a true classic distance performer. We are looking for quick pace, which will allow him to move past the front runners down the stretch from mid-pack and be on the board.

Audible (8-1): He’s won four in a row with increasing speed figs each time. He was victorious in the Florida Derby, he’s ridden by Javier Castellano and trained by Todd Pletcher. He is the most adaptable runners in the race, he can be placed pretty much anywhere in the field and still have a shot to win. That’s a major plus in a field of 20. He has handily defeated quality competition, including Derby foes Hofburg and Free Drop Billy. The distance maybe be problem but he’s one to include in any exotics. He should be on the board.

Magnum Moon (6-1): Unbeaten in four starts, qualified with the most Derby points at 150, trained by Pletcher. He didn’t begin his racing career until January, but he boasts a solid foundation, gradually stretching out in distance and moving up the class ladder. He’s also won at three different tracks, proving he can handle various types of surfaces. He led the field in the Arkansas Derby, his most recent start, with a “walking” pace and won by four-lengths. He likes to day dream when he left alone on the front. He will need to focus the entire race to find the winner’s circle. He has been forwardly placed either on the lead or in a close stalking spot in all four wins. He will need to use his speed leaving post 20 to avoid being 8 wide or more of the first turn. He should be on the board. Needs to be part of any exotics wagers.

Hofburg (20-1):  Has raced only three time for trainer Bill Mott. He was the runner-up in the Florida Derby. He appears to be improving with each race. The distance should be no problem. He should be mid-pack down the backside and pass the pace setters in the stretch, which should give him a chance to be on the board. He’s a candidate for the exotics.

Bolt d’Oro (8-1): He flashed early brilliance in races such as the Grade 1 Front Runner and the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity but has shown limited progression as a 3-year-old. That was a bold, Derby-like move he made shifting from the inside and showing another gear in the stretch run of the Grade 2 San Felipe. But he was no match for Justify in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. The limited 3-year-old progression plus and weak showing in the Santa Anita Derby leaves the door open to show his two-year brilliance. He should finish in the top six.

Flameaway (30-1): This is a very consistent horse. From his nine starts, he’s won five with two seconds and has raced at seven different tracks. A very athletic specimen, he’s turned the heads of onlookers in the mornings during pre-Derby training at Churchill Downs. He’s won from off the pace, but he does his best running on or near the lead, and that could pose a problem since Promises Fulfilled looks to be the main pace factor in the Derby. He had a brilliant work on Saturday at Churchill Downs. He will need shorter a distance to prove his value. I think his consistent record of being on the board is in jeopardy on May 5th.

My Boy Jack (30-1): The cheapest auction price in this field at $20,000 and the most experienced Derby contender with 10 starts. Besides that, he has a deep-closing running style that is irresistible. He has the same Desormeaux brother connections as Exaggerator, who finished second in the 2016 Derby. Stamina shouldn’t be an issue, and the long campaign doesn’t show on the sturdy colt in the mornings. He posted a solid work over the Churchill Downs surface on Saturday, 5 furlongs, 1:03.20. He’ll need a pace meltdown – and Saturday’s forecast of rain would help his cause as well – but his closing kick is tremendous. Exotics definite and a long shot win candidate if the track is sloppy.

Lone Sailor (50-1): He was a game second behind Noble Indy in the Louisiana Derby, which was a huge jump from his previous races. Lots of experience with eight starts.  He’s been training at Churchill and likes it. He can close and should certainly be used in the exotics.

Combatant (50-1):  He hasn’t won since October, but he deserves points for closing from near-last in the Arkansas Derby with an extremely wide trip into a slow pace, where there was a blanket finish behind front runner Magnum Moon. His speed figures aren’t high enough to contend with the likes of Justify and Mendelssohn on paper but with a stiff pace in front of him, he could find the tote board at huge odds. He should follow the pace setters after leaving PP 20. He will need help with the pace but should be used on the underneath of exotics.

Noble Indy (30-1):  From post position,19. He didn’t become a topic of Derby conversation until his win over Lone Sailor and the fast-closing My Boy Jack in the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on March 24th. That performance was an improvement over his third-place showing in the Grade 2 Risen Star. The difference could be the addition of blinkers that made this speed horse, who prefers to be on or near the lead, more focused. Sporting those blinkers, he posted one of the best pre-Derby works at Churchill on Saturday, (5 furlongs, 1:01.60). The question remains where jockey Florent Geroux places him in what could be a lively pace setup.

Solomini: (30-1): From what I understand, he’s not the easiest colt to ride or train, but he showed something in the Arkansas Derby that’s only visible from watching the replay, he didn’t change leads turning for home. He was wide down the backside and into the stretch and still finished with strong final fractions into a pretty-slow pace. Don’t think he’s fast enough to win against this field. However, there are 19 Derby winners whose name started with the letter “S”.  Might be a fun $2-win bet.

Promises Fulfilled (30-1): He likes being on the lead. He will be the pacesetter leaving PP 3.  He will set a very honest pace as he did in the Florida Derby. He won three of his five starts wire-to-wire, including the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, but trying to win a wire-to-wire 2018 Kentucky Derby is a tall task with the caliber of colts in this year’s Derby to let him steal it away. His best-case scenario, he leads to the turn for home and fades off-the-board.

Enticed (30-1): He won the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November, a race that featured Derby rivals Promises Fulfilled, Lone Sailor and Bravazo. He didn’t show much in his 3-year-old debut – a fourth in the Grade 2 Holy Bull – but he rebounded well at Aqueduct, winning the Grade 2 Gotham and finishing second to Vino Rosso in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial. Some observers thought he should’ve placed first up in the Wood after some bumping in the stretch and then his loss by three lengths.  He should not be a factor in the Derby.

Free Drop Billy (30-1): He is good looking colt makes a favorable impression during his morning training. He has not shown much this year racing season.  He finished fourth in the Blue Grass. That’s not good enough in this year’s Derby field. He’s a closer with PP 1, there’s a slight chance he earns a share of the purse.

Instilled Regard (50-1): He finished 4th, 10 lengths behind Justify in the Santa Anita Derby. He does have a decent pedigree for the distance, but the Derby contenders are more than he can handle. He needs softer competition and shorter distance to find the tote board.

Bravazo (50-1): He has raced eight times; his best performance to-date was winning the Risen Star. He has little on his 2018 race record to show he can compete for a place on the tote board.

Firenze Fire (50-1): He won the Sanford at Saratoga last year, then the Champagne Stakes. Since then, he has one victory from five starts and that was in a non-graded stake race. He then lost by 20 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and finished a combined 20 lengths behind in his last two starts. He has 3-year-old campaign shows little and his Derby performance will be the same.


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