Sunday, April 28, 2019

Breakdown of 2019 Kentucky Derby Field


After watching just about every replay of the 20 horses in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, and recognizing the extremely unfortunate scratch of my second choice Omaha Beach, I'm calling on Maximum Security to win the 2019 edition. Shame on folks for passing up the chance to claim him out of a Gulfstream Park race in December. His versatility is a perfect for the Run for the Roses.

The decent post-position draw (#7) locks Maximum Security in as my A+ pick.

The only other "A" for me is Omaha Beach, who has won on fast and wet tracks, has better-than-average gate speed and showed versatility in his preps for the Derby.

Here's my up-to-date rankings from 1-20, incorporating Omaha Beach's replacement, #21 Bodexpress, who gets post 20 while horses from posts 13-20 shift one inward. These placings are based on my review of prep-race replays and pace setup. I'll list them by "A" (can win), "B" (outside win chance but more likely a 2nd or 3rd place ceiling), "C" (might hit the board) and "Pass". Post position and morning line now included.

Feel free to use the comment field for questions or hit me up on Twitter -- @NJHorseplayer.

  • #7, Maximum Security (8-1; A): Not shy of taking dirt/mud in the face or going wire-to-wire as he did convincingly in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. To me, a California Chrome-type with the quickness to get toward the front, and tactical skill to sit off the front-runners and pounce. Top selection, whether wire-to-wire or tracking from the 2 or 3 path.
  • #14, Win Win Win (12-1; B/A): Deep closer in his two stakes preps, a style that doesn't work too well in the Derby, but he's had misfortune, and I've reassessed his prospects based on reviews of his earlier sprint wins, including one at Laurel where got the lead in 45 second and then ran an 11.06-second eighth of a mile. Go back and watch his effort in the Bluegrass in April at Keeneland -- had good momentum into the homestretch but lost a few spots after having to hit the brakes, before he re-rallied to somehow get second behind dream-trip Vekoma. I think he's a must use underneath and can spice up the exotics ticketsI've elevated him to my second choice and possible win contender, and think he will have a real shot by getting the jump on Code of Honor from the post just to his left and sitting mid-pack.
  • Omaha Beach (A): Like Maximum Security, also won on fast and wet tracks. Arkansas Derby effort did it for me. Settled back to fifth after a strong start from gate, then made a bold, sweeping move past the leaders and gutted out a victory. Versatile enough to win. I think he exerts a bit of energy to get toward front, sits 3-4 lengths off the pace-setter and tries making a move halfway down the backstretch. Can win.
  • #5, Improbable (5-1; B): Only 11th on Derby qualifying points, but 2-year-old season was impressive and he's this close to having won two preps this year. Outgamed by Omaha Beach late in the Arkansas Derby. Curious tendency to turn head toward grandstand in stretch. Think he can compete if able to focus in the Derby, but putting in my second tier for now.
  • #17, Roadster (5-1; B): Figure he'll stalk the pace, much as he did in Santa Anita Derby to get to Louisville. Versatile, but Mike Smith opting for Omaha Beach a negative. Might upgrade only if Smith is named as a replacement rider but would still be my third choice.
  • #8, Tacitus (8-1; C/B): Dream trip to win the Tampa Derby but got an awful trip in the Wood Memorial yet somehow won that too. Gutsy fellow but think those he beat can turn tables in Kentucky.
  • #16, Game Winner (9-2; C/B): Dominated as 2 year old but had misfortune in his two starts in 2019. To me he looks more like a grinder who maybe wins if everything goes his way, though I don't like that he's shipping for the 3rd time in two months. Fatigue could be a factor.
  • #13, Code of Honor (12-1; C): Fountain of Youth win was into a ton of early pace and he sat in perfect stalking spot before winning at 9-1, then bounced in Florida Derby. Ceiling is 3rd or 4th.
  • #6, Vekoma (15-1; C, only with advantageous post): Got a good post. Seems to be quick from the gate, but just don't love him visually. Seems to run bowlegged and drifts a lot. Perhaps a pace force who hangs on for a minor award; just don't see as potential winner.
  • Haikal (C at best): Deep closer who looks a notch below Win Win Win in that category. Effort in the Wood Memorial worth watching, if for no other reason to see how guy doesn't quit, even after horrid traffic early. Closed a bunch to get 3rd but closing style doesn't usually win at Churchill on the first Saturday in May.
  • #4Gray Magician (50-1; Pass C at best): Took 4 tries to break his maiden, though he shows some versatility and got Rosario'd in Dubai prep. Could see him step a bit forward off that effort and will include in the 3rd spot in my trifectas. 
  • #18, Long Range Toddy (30-1; Pass): The sort of horse that would benefit from a Calvin Borel-like rail-skimming trip. Beat Improbable at a big number in the Rebel Stakes in March, but his three other efforts at Oaklawn were nothing to write home about. Just think he's a cut below.
  • #1War of Will (15-1; Pass): Seems capable of getting toward front and maybe hangs on for share. Will use underneath on trifecta and superfecta only. but rail draw keeps him off my tickets. I loved Lookin at Lucky several years back; total monster, but finished 5th from the first post, which is draw about 4-5 paths inside of the rail. Death trap. Has no choice but to gun it and exhaust himself, hoping to get out safely. 
  • #19, Spinoff (30-1; Pass): I might have him too high here after he lost to a 22-1 shot while having his way in the Louisiana Derby. Yet that was his first stakes try, so maybe he's still developing. Seems like a plodder who may be better suited to Belmont Stakes. Post a big detriment with others of similar racing style getting better post positions.
  • #2, Tax (20-1; Pass): May be "wise guy" horse on Derby day, but I'm not buying. Think he was fortunate to get his stakes win; Haikal was better but less fortunate that afternoon.
  • #10, Cutting Humor (30-1; Pass): Barely held on to win the Sunland Park Derby. Another shrewd Pletcher move to do enough to get a horse into the starting gate on May 4, but not buying.
  • #3, By My Standards (15-1; Pass): If nothing else, horse is responding to jockey Gabriel Saez. Yet not sold on 22-1 winner of the Louisiana Derby, and think post 3 is a difficult place to begin with War of Wills gunning for the front and other speed to the outside. 
  • #9, Plus Que Parfait (30-1; Pass): Was lucky in Dubai that jockey Joel Rosario rode Gray Magician 6-8 paths wide the entire race. Otherwise he wouldn't have won. Gray Magician better of the two.
  • #20Country House (30-1; Double Pass): Gets into the Derby starting gate on points, barely. Did nothing to distinguish himself as anything other than filler.
  • #15Master Fencer (50-1; Triple Pass): Japanese entrant who gets to the Derby by way of second-place finish in a prep race where the winner wasn't Triple Crown nominee. I guess folks like to say they had a horse run in the Kentucky Derby.
  • #21, Bodexpress (30-1; Quadruple Bypass): Sure, a game second in the Florida Derby, but how is a horse that has yet to win a race going to pull off a Big Brown and win from the difficult far-outside post?! No way. 
I'll post my real-money wagers on Friday night after a crazy workweek, and will also have thoughts on Friday's Kentucky Oaks, a race where I've had good success in two of the past three years. 

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