Horse Racing: Kentucky Derby Preview

1 – WAR OF WILL: Tough decision on whether or not to use the horse underneath. I’m not sure he’ll love the wet track and obviously the post position is a major challenge. Despite some decent dirt races, I think eventually he’ll return to his roots as a grass horse. PASS

2 – TAX: If you like Wood Memorial winner Tacitus, it would be hard to leave Tax off of your tickets at 8-10 times the price. An excellent gate horse, he’ll have himself in good position heading into the 1st turn. That’s half the battle. Is he good enough to win the race? I’m not sure. But if the Wood proves to be a key race, it would be a crime to not use this horse at 40/1 in a wide open derby. Alvarado and Gargan are underrated connections. MILD WIN CANDIDATE

3 – BY MY STANDARDS: The secret is out on this week’s buzz horse as he’s already been hammered down to 14/1. A very handy, tactical type. Can take dirt and can pass horses on the inside. The pedigree doesn’t suggest 10 furlongs would be in his wheelhouse, but my eyes tell me something different. His camp is very confident and there’s no doubt the horse is on the improve. My only negative here is that the horse should be 30/1 on his class and connections. I won’t let this one beat me, but I won’t be emptying the chamber either. WIN CANDIDATE

4 – GRAY MAGICIAN: We’ve seen far more imposing UAE Derby horses flop at Churchill. No reason to think this one will break the pattern. PASS


5 – IMPROBABLE: One of three in here for the legendary Bob Baffert. Unlike his other two, this one has drawn a really good post. His 3yo debut off the layoff was a great race to build on as he moved way too soon into a hot pace but showed grit in defeat. Came within a length of the mighty Omaha beach in the Arkansas Derby but was turned away. Shipped to Churchill early and seems to like the surface. A beautiful strider, the Mile and a Quarter is no concern to me despite the non-traditional distance pedigree. Currently sitting at 5/1, the horse is being significantly overbet. That’s the price you pay when you invest in Baffert’s brilliance. WIN CANDIDATE


6 – VEKOMA: Hall of fame connections and a superb wet track pedigree. 3rd off the layoff, Vekoma is primed to run his best race to date. The cons, unfortunately, are too strong for me to overlook. A bias aided win at Keenland combined with a pure sprinter pedigree on his dam’s side make this one a toss out for me. PASS

7 – MAXIMUM SECURITY: I bet this horse in his debut race in a 16k maiden claimer at Gulfstream back in December. Horses in those races do not run in Kentucky Derby’s – period. Jason Servis has done a remarkable job just getting this horse here. His numbers are as fast, if not faster than the entire field. I just can’t swallow 5/1ish on a horse coming out of an absolutely perfect trip prep race where he inexplicably was able to set a dawdling pace and cruise to victory. Servis is master, no question about it, but I expect a regression. PASS

8 – TACITUS: If you could guarantee me a clean trip, I’d say this son of Tapit was the likeliest winner. One of these days Mott and Juddmonte are going to win this race, and it can easily be this year. Should enjoy the wet track and 10 furlongs, but his one paced style is really playing with fire in a 19-horse field. I won’t bet him at 5/1, but wouldn’t be shocked if he won. Either way, the horse has a very nice future and should be a major player in all the big 3yo races to come. WIN CANDIDATE

9 – PLUS QUE PARFAIT: Another UAE Derby invader. Just too slow to contend in this race. PASS


10 – CUTTING HUMOR: Pletcher calls on hall of famer Mike Smith to ride after the scratch of Omaha Beach left him without a mount. The Sunland race came back really strong as many in there improved beyers next out. That was such a massive step forward though, it would be tough to ask for another jump. The price will be right to use in exotics, but I’ll let him beat me on the win end. EXOTICS CANDIDATE

13 – CODE OF HONOR: Was certainly up against it pace wise in the Florida Derby. To me, this one would need a super-hot pace and a ground saving trip to catch a piece. Very nice horse but 10 furlongs is stretching it considering his pedigree. 1-turn miles and 7f races will be more to his liking as the summer goes on. PASS


14 – WIN WIN WIN: Almost a poor man’s Code of Honor. Wouldn’t be surprised if they try to mount their runs from the back of the pack together. Nice horse but I don’t think he’ll have that same closing kick at a mile and a quarter. Some shorter routes and perhaps grass races will be where this one thrives as he continues to develop. PASS
15 – MASTER FENCER: Japanese invader’s numbers just don’t stack up. Too slow to really threaten although stamina shouldn’t be an issue PASS


16 – GAME WINNER: The aptly Game Winner was just that as a 2 year old en route to becoming a Breeders Cup Champion. This son of Candy Ride, however, hasn’t shown the development that I’d normally like to see from his 2yo to 3yo campaign. Unfortunately, in this spot, the wide draw will really make it challenging to work out any sort of realistic trip. I like the horse and he shows up every time, but there’s enough there for me to fade him at his anticipated short price. PASS

17 – ROADSTER: This one was dubbed the TMZ horse when Baffert spilled the beans on TV last year on Roadster being his most likely derby winner in the barn. He’s obviously super talented and one of the more likely winners all things equal. But he lacks seasoning and will be forced to work out a miracle trip from the 17 hole. Can be an exciting horse going forward, but I can’t back him after that perfect trip score at Santa Anita. PASS

18 – LONG RANGE TODDY: Tough to back off his wet-track flop in the Arkansas Derby. Outside post will make things too tough on this experienced stalker. PASS

19 – SPINOFF: A horse that has the right to improve off a narrow defeat in the Louisiana Derby in just his fourth lifetime start. Another one drawn outside without blazing speed or a big closing punch. If Franco can pull a rabbit out of his hat and somehow save some ground, this son of Hard Spun can make some noise. Too many ifs for me, even at a big price. PASS

20 – COUNTRY HOUSE: A dead closer who’s run his race each and every time since hall of famer Bill Mott switched him from turf to dirt. He has experience and plenty of seasoning, and with enough pace and the right kind of trip – I’d expect him to come running late and make a bid at the exotics. Flavien Prat will have his work cut out for him from the 20 post, but the price will be right on this son of Lookin at Lucky. EXOTICS CANDIDATE

21 – Bodexpress: Reminds me in a lot of ways of his sire Bodemeister.  That one arrived on the derby trail late, set a blazing pace, and eventually got warn down in deep stretch. I’m not quite sure this one has the pedigree on the dam side to hang around that long. The closers and mid pack horses will be hoping he presses Maximum Security and some of the other speeds in order to ensure an honest pace. Can play a big role in the race, but won’t himself factor in the outcome. PASS




For me, the idea will be to play exactas, trifectas, and superfectas with my “win candidates” slotted throughout, my “mild win candidates” slotted in the 2nd/ 3rd/ 4th spots, and my “exotics candidates” slotted in only the 3rd/4th slots. Here’s an example of what my ticket may look like. I’ll also make some win, place, show bets as the day goes on and I get a clearer picture of the odds.

$2 Exacta: 3,5,8 / 2,3,5,8 = $18

$1 Trifecta: 3,5,8 / 2,3,5,8 / 2,3,5,8,10,20 = $36

$1 Superfecta 3,5,8 / 2,3,5,8 / 2,3,5,8,10,20 / 2,3,5,8,10,20 = $108

Pat DiMartino