1. Lookin at Lucky (3-1) – Definitely battle tested with significant trouble in his last two races in the Rebel (gr. 2) victory and the third in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. 1). His unlucky draw into the inside post will be helped by Ice Box, who is next door in hole #2 and likely to fall back quickly, giving Lookin at Lucky a little space. He also has the ability to launch his rally from any location in the pack (he raillied from 10th to just miss by a head in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile) so if he gets shuffled back early, he can still roll from far back late. If you’re a fan, then 3-1 odds Saturday may be the best value you’ll ever see on this horse for a while. He's a potential super star who has looked great in the mornings. If he goes to 7-2 or higher, he’ll be irresistible.
2. Ice Box (10-1) – The winner of the Florida Derby (gr. 1) has many things going for him - not the least of which is the likely pace in this year’s Derby. He is one of two big closers (along with long shot and Ark. Derby winner Stately Vicor) in a year filled with front runners who are likely to insure an early fast pace. He is trained by 2-time Kentucky Derby winner Nick Zito and although the Florida Derby may not have been that strong, he ran down the leaders on his left lead. Traffic and the 6-week gap since the Florida Derby will be his biggest obstacles. I’m siding with the obstacles.
3. Noble’s Promise (12-1) – A bridesmaid to Lookin at Lucky in his two starts just previous to a disastrous Arkansas Derby that almost cost him a trip to this Derby because of cuts and bruises suffered at Oaklawn. It was also later discovered that Noble's Promise had lung infection that week that has also since been irradicated. Had a big work over the Churchill Downs mud Monday so it appears he’s recovered and ready.
4. Super Saver (15-1) – Second as the front runner in a suspect Arkansas Derby (gr. 1). If he couldn’t hold on as the speed in Arkansas, he's not likely to do it in Kentucky.
5. Line of David (30-1) – A long shot winner of the Arkansas Derby and a winner of three straight as an intriguing speed horse that is improving with distance. Will need some breaks and a slow pace to have a chance. A half-mile in 47 seconds ala 2002 winner War Emblem will be a plus, but that scenario is not likely this year with all the competing gas.
6. Stately Victor (30-1) – He won the Blue Grass (gr. 1) on Keeneland’s Polytrack at 40-1 odds. His other win came against maidens. Distance won’t be the problem with this horse with 7 of 8 races at 1-1/16 miles or further. Talent may be the challenge.
7. American Lion (30-1) – Won the Illinois Derby (gr. 3) as the front runner on a Hawthorne track that may have favored his style. In much the same boat as other speed horses needing some luck and a slow pace but his ability to lay back in second/third might come in handy if he can rate in the Derby. At big odds he stays on the bottom of my superfecta, and not much else.
8. Dean’s Kitten (50-1) – He looks like a turf horse that took to the Polytrack at Turfway and defeated a weak Lane’s End (gr. 2) group. Just not much I like about this horse.
9. Make Music For Me (50-1) – The second to last horse to get into the Derby Wednesday morning and eight lengths behind Stately Victor in the Blue Grass in his last race. Doesn’t mind being behind the front runners and making a late move, but his only win came on grass in an ungraded stakes in California.
10. Paddy O’Prado (20-1) – He looks like another turf horse who adapted well to Keeneland’s Polytrack and ran a second in the Blue Grass behind Stately Victor. Not sure that will translate in the Kentucky Derby but he has looked good in the mornings this week.
11. Devil May Care (10-1) – Will be trying to become only the fourth filly to win the Kentucky Derby in 136 years so odds are against her. Word has it she’s been training the best of Pletcher’s army and put in nice final work Saturday to convince the trainer to let her go. Six weeks since her nice win against fillies in the Bonnie Miss (gr. 3) in Florida raises additional questions, although a very nice race and one of the few in this field to achieve a triple digit Beyer Speed Figure (100 in Bonnie Miss.) Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez won the Belmont with the filly Rags To Riches and I’m sure they’d like to each pick up the first Derby victory with another female.
12. Conveyance (12-1) – Strategy will be to go to the lead and let the others try to catch him much like Baffert trainee War Emblem in the 2002 Kentucky Derby win. Undefeated until second in Sunland Derby (gr. 3), a race in which Baffert said he was not on his game. His sire, Indian Charlie, couldn’t run successfully at 1-1/4 miles so that is a concern along with others who want to run on the lead. He has been impressive in his works, but I’m not going to play him at 12-1 odds.
13. Jackson Bend (15-1) – A distant second to once Derby favorite Eskendereya in the Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial who has worked very well at Churchill. Nick Zito, who can win Derbies and pull upstets in Triple Crown races will need all of Zito’s talent and luck to adorn the blanket of roses.
14. Mission Impazible (20-1) – My favorite of the Pletcher horses with a stalking running style, a good work at Churchill Saturday and comments from the trainer about this horse’s “improvement.” On paper there are additional signs of him getting better so he has all the right ingredients of a horse perhaps “peaking at the right time,” (A most important spice with intentions of cooking on Derby Day.)
15. Discreetly Mine (30-1) – Pletcher’s “Anti“ Mission Impazible who looks like he might have peaked in his Risen Star (gr. 2) victory in February then a fourth in the La. Derby. Another speed horse that is not even on my top tier of front runners.
16. Awesome Act (10-1) – British invader who crossed the pond to finish 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November before going home for the winter. Flew back to United States to win the Gotham Stakes (gr. 2) in New York before finishing third to Eskendereya in the Wood when losing a shoe after stumbling out of the starting gate. Works have not been great but I like his chances at double digit odds and will be my top choice on some trifecta and superfecta tickets.
17. Dublin (12-1) – Came home a weak third in the Arkansas Derby which didn’t concern me as Lukas may not have wound him real tight for that race. But his training at Churchill Downs has not been as sharp as what I would have liked. I kept thinking this horse would give me something to hang a wager on… but no to the any positive signs and no to getting 12-1 when I think there’s better value elsewhere.
18. Backtalk (50-1) – The Brock Talk has been a fan of this horse since we began following him shortly after he broke his maiden in June. He is the final horse to qualify for this Kentucky Derby and the 50-1 odds are certainly fair after a dull third in the Illinois Derby. He is by Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones and will benefit from his stalking running style and if can show the quick turn of foot he had in winning a minor stake at Delta Downs in Louisiana. According to trainer Tom Amoss, if it rains Saturday, 100,000 fans will be upset, but Backtalk will be happy.
19. Homeboykris (50-1) – You may hear or read about horses who are 50-1 in the Kentucky Derby when they should be 100-1. Homeboykris is just such a horse with his last win coming in October in the grade 1 Champagne. While a nice victory, it was seven months and his last race, a loss in a non-stake race at only one mile, was more than two months ago.
20. Sidney’s Candy (5-1) – I’m not one to put too much into post positions, especially with a horse like Sidney’s Candy with a ton of speed who will have the entire field to his inside as jockey Joe Talamo picks a spot for him to negotiate the first turn. Although trainer John Sadler says the horse will also rate just fine, he appears to be the best of the speedsters by quite a margin and an expected improvement off of the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita keeps him among the best even with the outside starting point. He has the breeding to run all day and looked good while extending his lead in the Santa Anita Derby. His morning works have been fast enough but reports are not glowing as to how he looked doing it under more than expected urging from the rider. He’ll be second and third on a lot of my tickets, but not on top.