Kentucky Derby 2018 Picks and Analysis


#7 JUSTIFY (Scat Daddy/ Ghostzapper), 3-1 Morning Line Favorite

107 Beyer, 343 Tomlinson

Pros: Brilliant Bob Baffert trainee is undefeated in three career starts, showing triple digit Beyers in each. Coming off a 3 length win in the Santa Anita Derby in his first graded start where he vanquished the highly regarded Bolt d’Oro after that one eyeballed him in the stretch, it’s no surprise he will be heavily favored here. He owns the field’s highest Beyer speed figure (107), its highest Tomlinson Distance Rating (343) and its highest BRIS Late Pace figure (117) as he finished impressively in his last, coming home in :37.11 for the final 3/8 and :12.70 for the final 1/8. That’s quite the trio of accolades (no colt has ever entered the race leading the field in all three categories). He’s also the only colt in the field to run triple digit BRIS pace numbers for early, middle and late during his final prep, and his figures were escalating to boot.

Cons: The giant pink elephant in the room- Justify did not race as a two year old, and no colt has won this race without doing so since Apollo in 1882. It’s almost equally rare to see a colt win the Derby with only three starts; that’s only happened twice since 1915. Simply put, inexperience hasn’t exactly translated well to Derby success. If we are really playing devil’s advocate, it’s worth noting that he’s had it all his own way on the lead in his three career wins, and is likely to see a lot more company up front this time.

Conclusion: An absolute beast on paper, and he draws perfectly in the #7 post.  Those inclined to beat him in this spot are braver than we are. He’s quite simply the most likely winner by a large margin. He won’t offer much value for outright wagers (although the favorite has won an unprecedented five straight runnings), but is a must use on top of all multis and exotics.


#3 PROMISES FULFILLED (Shackleford/ Marquetry), 30-1

96 Beyer, 213 Tomlinson

Pros: Looked impressive winning the 8.5f Fountain of Youth in wire to wire fashion two starts back, extending his advantage into the finish. He enjoyed a very easy lead that day, but it’s conceivable he could enjoy a similar trip in this spot, as the speed types aren’t as blazing here as they usually are. In any case, he will be the one they all have to catch and will save ground and send from his inside post.

Cons: The speed duel strategy employed by trainer Dale Romans backfired catastrophically in his last as he stretched out to 9f in the Florida Derby and faded to finish at the back of the field, 35 lengths behind the winner. His Tomlinson Distance Rating is the lowest in the field, which doesn’t bode well for him hanging on any more successfully as he tries to go further this time.

Conclusion: The crazy thing about how badly he faded in the Florida Derby is that the opening half was only run in :46.20, which is fast but certainly not suicidal, and very close to what he would likely see here in a field of 20 horses. Romans has already said that he will try to wire the field yet again, as apparently the lesson needs re-learned. The only way he’s a factor is if all the other jockeys decide he will fade regardless and let him steal the race on the lead with glacial fractions. That seems unlikely, and when you put the realistic pieces together, he would be our surest bet to finish last.

#4 FLAMEAWAY (Scat Daddy/ Fusaichi Pegasus), 30-1

93 Beyer, 306 Tomlinson

Pros: Hard knock colt is one of four sons of Scat Daddy entered in the race, and he’s finished no worse than 2nd in his four starts this year. What he lacks in flash he makes up for in consistency, as he always seems to be right there at the end. Distance shouldn’t be an issue in terms of his breeding.

Cons: There is nothing that stands out about him to elevate him above this field. His closing 3/8 of :38.49 when 2nd in the Blue Grass last out leaves a lot to be desired; only 3 of the last 26 Derby winners have finished their final 3/8 slower than :38.40. While his consistency is admirable, his last three Beyers have been 93-92-93, and that sort of consistency won’t hit the board in a field this deep.

Conclusion: The feeling here is that he’s a nice colt but a known quantity at this stage. What reason have we to believe that he can make the 10-point jump in figures that would be necessary to hit the board here? He’s also one of just two colts here who doesn’t show any attributes above the mean of an average Derby winner. Pass.

#13 BRAVAZO (Awesome Again/ Cee’s Tizzy), 50-1

93 Beyer, 328 Tomlinson

Pros: Upset the Risen Star at 21-1, sitting just off the pace the whole time and getting up by a nose in the final strides. He’s bred very well to appreciate the distance if he can avoid getting sucked into a pace duel early. He broke his maiden over the Churchill Downs track.

Cons: His Louisiana Derby was horrendous, as he faded throughout the race to finish a distant 8th, some 21 lengths behind the winner. No colt has won the Derby after finishing worse than 4th since 1957. As one might imagine, there was nothing to like about that race from a figures standpoint, and even his Risen Star win came back slower than what will be needed to be a factor here. Enters off a six week layoff, which is another historical hurdle.

Conclusion: The Risen Star looks like an outlier relative to his other form lines, and the field he beat that day wasn’t even that great to begin with. Only two colts since 1956 have won this race off a six week layoff. Toss.

#19 NOBLE INDY (Take Charge Indy/ Storm Boot), 30-1

95 Beyer, 317 Tomlinson

Pros: His win in the 9f Louisiana Derby was impressive as he lost the lead in the stretch but battled back for the win after contesting a sharp pace early. It’s interesting to note that he is the only colt in the field to finish his final 3/8 above :38 but also turn in a final 1/8 under :13. He was flattered when a colt he defeated in that race and will see here again, My Boy Jack, came back to win the Lexington Stakes in his next start. His Tomlinson Distance Rating is competitive among these, although that pedigree number is somewhat contradicted elsewhere.

Cons: Let’s start there- his AWD numbers (6.8/6.3) are the worst in the field, and on paper he looks a lot more like an 8f-9f horse than a 10f one. He enters this race off a six week layoff and is very lightly raced, with only four career starts. The 95 Beyer he earned in the Louisiana Derby is still well below the cut line for win contention here. He drew perhaps worst of all, and will have to risk getting hung wide in order to position himself near the pace.

Conclusion: Todd Pletcher is loaded this year, but this colt looks to be the black sheep of the bunch if there is one. Jockey John Velazquez agrees, as he will opt for another mount here, and it’s hard to find an angle to elevate him above the other trio of Pletchers. Since we are not playing the superfecta and only need to go three deep at most, that speaks for itself.


#16 MAGNUM MOON (Malibu Moon/ Unbridled’s Song), 6-1

98 Beyer, 244 Tomlinson

Pros: Undefeated in four career starts, Arkansas Derby winner gets the red hot Luis Saez in the saddle for team Pletcher. In a strangely run race, this strapping colt was allowed to set pretty easy fractions on the lead in that race but exploded down the stretch, coming home in :36.47 for the final 3/8 and :11.99 for the final 1/8. Easy early pace or not, finishing the last panel in sub :12.0 is indisputably eye-catching, and his BRIS Late Pace figure (115) would seem to confirm this. His upside seems potentially limitless.

Cons: Like Justify, he has Apollo to buck, and he hasn’t looked nearly as professional or eye-catching as that one in his wins, often drifting out greenly in the stretch, a tendency that could be destructive to his chances late in this race. His Tomlinson Distance Rating is surprisingly low despite what looks on paper to be a more than adequate pedigree for 10f, but it’s fair to wonder whether he will be able to duplicate his closing kick going longer if he’s close to what figure to be vastly quicker fractions than he set in Arkansas (1:13.40 for the ¾). His speed figures to date fit with this group but don’t exactly jump off the page. One would expect that improvement would be needed to factor for the win, and it’s fair to wonder how much can be expected from such an inexperienced colt on a sharp three-week turnaround after contesting the only four races of his career in such a short time span.

Conclusion: Given how strangely the Arkansas Derby was run and how lightly raced against true competition he is, it is difficult to get a true read on him. It would certainly be no surprise to see him freak here and win, or hang on to hit the board, or to finish off of it. But if we are only using one Apollo curse colt on top, this won’t be the one. The feeling here is that as third choice, he is a bit of an underlay off the quick turnaround, and there should be some concern about his wide post considering he will likely seek to be forwardly placed. Seeking better value, we will take a stand against him in exotics.

#5 AUDIBLE (Into Mischief/ Gilded Time), 8-1

99 Beyer, 252 Tomlinson

Pros: Dominant and versatile winner of his two starts this year, he stalked a fast pace in his easy Florida Derby win last out after having won the 8.5f Holy Bull before that while running closer to the pace. What’s notable is that he duplicated triple digit BRIS Late Pace figures winning in two completely different fashions, posting a 104 at 9f. His BRIS and Beyer speed figures earned in the Florida Derby (107, 99) are good for 3rd and 4th best in the field respectively.

Cons: There is only one, but it’s a big one, and that’s his pedigree. Progeny of Into Mischief like Goldencents, Vyjack and Practical Joke went on to be terrific dirt milers but found the Derby distance taxing, finishing 17th, 18th and a well-beaten 5th in their respective Derby runs. Audible is the only colt in the field to show both Tomlinson Distance Rating and AWD numbers that are more than one standard deviation from the mean below an average Derby winner, and that is highly concerning. It’s interesting that his usual jockey John Velazquez opts for stable mate Vino Rosso for Pletcher in this spot, and that has to mean he has questions of his own after having ridden both colts in their last. The fact that Javier Castellano jumps off Bolt d’Oro here likely has more to do with his loyalty to Pletcher.

Conclusion: We are of the firm opinion that a son of Into Mischief is not winning the Derby, and especially not out of a dam line that is quite laden with speed. But this colt is tough and talented and looks to be the type that figures to outrun his pedigree in this spot. He’s a professional type that seems to know where to put himself to best sustain his run. The bet is that he won’t be able to duplicate the same Late Pace figures at 10f that he has at 8.5f-9f, but that doesn’t mean he can’t hang on for a spot on the podium on talent and intelligence alone, and he draws well near the rail outside the main speed here. One could argue that he got a perfect set up in the Florida Derby but conversely it should be noted that he understood what to do when the fractions up front were too hot and changed tactics accordingly.

#14 MENDELSSOHN (Scat Daddy/ Tricky Creek), 5-1

106 Beyer, 318 Tomlinson

Pros: Versatile foreign shipper has now won on turf, synthetic and dirt tracks. He absolutely demolished the 9.5f UAE Derby field over the dirt course in Dubai, winning by 18 lengths in track record time, so it is clear his talent is abundant. The 106 Beyer he earned for that effort is 2nd best in the field. Out of the Tricky Creek mare Leslie’s Lady, that makes him a half-brother to the now legendary Beholder, who won four Eclipse Awards and beat the boys with ease in the 10f, Grade 1 Pacific Classic. None of the other runners have contested a distance beyond 9f, so he’s already proven that the added ground won’t bother him, if there was ever any doubt to begin with. Ryan Moore, who is widely considered the best jockey in the world, jumps off his 2000 Guineas mount to ride across the pond here for Aidan O’Brien.

Cons: The main one is obvious: a foreign shipper from Dubai (or anywhere else) has never won the Derby. Additionally, as impressive as his UAE Derby romp appeared visually, it bears mention that the Dubai track had been heavily favorable to the speed on the rail all the way through the meet. Out of 17 races on dirt, 16 were won gate to wire on the inside part of the track, so it is easy to make the argument that he benefited greatly from the bias. (Thunder Snow won the Dubai World Cup that day, for heaven’s sake, so clearly there were some fluke results). Mendelssohn will likely be sent again here to avoid kickback (which he’s never had to deal with before) and may not find the dirt at Churchill quite as favorable to that style or the lead as easy to make out of the #14 post. He’s a late May foal, and won’t even be truly three years old when he enters the gate.

Conclusion: For starters, it’s certainly a positive that he’s already proven an ability to ship and win, having made the journey west last fall to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf as a two-year-old. At the end of the day, he could simply be a freak athlete who wins for fun here, and he certainly looms the most imposing threat for top honors to ever ship from Dubai. However, that alone doesn’t make him the winner, and we can’t quite shake the feeling that he figures to encounter a lot of difficulty from a race shape standpoint. It would certainly be no surprise to see him win this, and Moore wouldn’t be here if he couldn’t, but we will take a stand against him on the top line, while playing him heavily underneath. (Can’t use two Scat Daddys on top, and the other is preferred).

#11 BOLT D’ORO (Medaglia d’Oro/ A.P. Indy), 8-1

102 Beyer, 305 Tomlinson

Pros: Seemed a cinch for Eclipse Award honors last year before a rough trip and 3rd place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile cost him. Draw a line through that race and you have to like what he’s done since, winning the 8.5f San Felipe via disqualification after a tough stretch duel with the now sidelined McKinzie, and then improving his Beyer when a non-threatening but not disgraced 2nd to Justify in the Santa Anita Derby. An early season injury got him off to a late start, but he has plenty of bottom from his two-year-old campaign, and he now enters in the right stage of his form cycle, as trainer Mick Ruis wins with 20% of his runners third off the lay. His BRIS Late Pace figure for the Santa Anita Derby (114) is highly competitive here, and he’s actually the only colt in the field to have posted at least three triple digit Late Pace figures around two turns (he has posted four, in fact). His AWD numbers top the field, so the added ground and faster expected pace should only help his chances to take another step forward. He’s one of just three colts in the field to run a triple digit Beyer, and he’s done so twice around two turns in his six career starts. A model of consistency, he’s never missed the board and has never delivered a bad performance.

Cons: Bolt d’Oro shows no historical red flags, but he’s also far from impenetrable. For one, he has shown a tendency to break slowly, which has gotten him into the sort of troublesome situations he endured at the Breeders’ Cup; a repeat of that could end his race early. While coming home in :37.41 for the last 3/8 and :13.00 for the last 1/8 is nothing to scoff at, we’d like to have seen him finish a bit more quickly. His connections aren’t quite as experienced as some here, and his works have been perplexing, as he recently turned in a 7f breeze where he showed decelerating splits. And of course, Justify just put him away by three lengths after essentially toying with him in the stretch.

Conclusion: He seems to be a bit of a forgotten and dismissed colt, having not truly won a race in his last three, but how quickly one forgets that he was the de facto favorite heading into the winter. While it’s tough to make a case for how he will turn the tables on Justify, we’ll try: Bolt d’Oro cut inside sharply in the stretch to a part of the track that had been playing poorly all day, and couldn’t have done so in a worse situation from a pace standpoint as Justify had walked the dog on the lead. That gives him some excuse for his come home time not jumping off the page. His final work looked a lot better than his penultimate one, so it’s possible he was just working on the break and getting some bottom that day. Three-time Derby winner Victor Espinoza picks up the mount and draws perfectly here right in the middle of the field. He looks like the biggest overlay in the field to us, and will be used heavily on top as well as in outright bets. The pick.


#6 GOOD MAGIC (Curlin/ Hard Spun), 12-1

95 Beyer, 329 Tomlinson

Pros: The defending two-year-old and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion enters off a win in the Blue Grass in a much needed effort following a perplexingly flat 3rd place finish in his season debut in the Fountain of Youth. Perhaps he needed that race after the long layoff, and it bears mention that he won the Breeders’ Cup race at the same stage in his form cycle last year as that was his third race of the year. Trainer Chad Brown wins with 25% of his runners third off the lay which is tied for tops in the field for that statistic. Sired by a 3rd place finisher in this race and out of a dam whose sire finished 2nd, he is bred to run all day, showing highly competitive Tomlinson and AWD numbers. Being by Curlin, he comes from the Mr. Prospector sire line, which has won 14 of the last 26 Derby races and 11 of the last 18. His back class earns BRIS Prime Power Selection honors, although that hasn’t been a historically meaningful stat, with these colts finishing in the trifecta just 8 of the past 18 years for an average finish of 7th.

Cons: While his Blue Grass win looked on paper like a vital return to form, the field he beat there wasn’t very strong, and the Beyer he earned there (95) seems to reflect that reality, coming in as the weakest figure of the five major preps. More worrisome is that he did not finish very strongly at all despite sitting 4 lengths off a pretty sharp pace, coming home in :38.09 for the final 3/8 and :13.31 for the final 1/8. The 93 BRIS Late Pace figure that this equates to would be the lowest final prep figure ever for a Derby winner outside of Mine That Bird.

Conclusion: He’s an interesting case due to the fact that if we use his two-year-old form as a template, a couple of his main negatives disappear. The 102 Beyer and 109 BRIS Late Pace figure he earned in his Breeders’ Cup score look very competitive here. The question remains whether he is poised to return to that form or whether he has simply flattened out as a three-year-old. He doesn’t register as a win candidate here even with a return to that form; in our view, he would have to improve upon it, and therefore is difficult to support on the top line. However, he has the appearance of a horse who is sitting on another improved effort, and it would sure be a shame to rip up a trifecta ticket because he got up for 3rd.


#12 ENTICED (Medaglia D’Oro/ Mineshaft), 30-1

95 Beyer, 307 Tomlinson

Pros: Shows two graded wins at shorter distances (8f and 8.5f), most recently two starts back in the 8f Gotham. On paper, his pedigree seems suited to handle the 10f here. He does have a graded win over this track from last fall, his only win around two turns.

Cons: Despite his bloodlines, he has the look of a colt who doesn’t especially want to run this far, as he hasn’t been able to extend leads in the stretch and came home slowly in his 9f attempt. He was bumped in the stretch which offers some excuse, but numbers like :38.25 for the final 3/8 won’t get it done here.

Conclusion: With middling speed figures and a bit of a grinding running style, he’d have to have either a massive improvement or an ideal trip that saw the race completely disintegrate in front of him. He’s an honest colt that will have later successes in less hefty spots but in this field we are looking elsewhere.

#17 SOLOMINI (Curlin/ Storm Cat), 30-1

92 Beyer, 290 Tomlinson

Pros: Acquitted himself well as a two-year-old, posting runner-up efforts in the 8.5f Grade 1 Frontrunner and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile races, finishing behind the highly regarded likes of Bolt d’Oro and Good Magic. He was part of the Arkansas Derby contingent that finished incredibly well after chasing slow fractions, closing to finish 3rd and covering the final 3/8 in :36.87 and the final 1/8 in :12.24, earning a 111 BRIS Late Pace figure. He is one of three sons of Curlin that complete the entirety of the presence of the Mr. Prospector line in this race and seems bred for the distance. Bob Baffert wins with 25% of his runners third off the lay, which is tied for the best in the field.

Cons: He has the look of a colt who hasn’t quite figured it out yet. He has raced greenly, switching leads late and running in an unfocused manner. From a speed figure perspective, he has leveled off and hasn’t shown any improvement in his three starts this year, and actually shows decreasing figures over his last three races. Thanks to a disqualification in his 2018 debut, he owns just a maiden win to his name, so this looks like a big step up in class. He’s been defeated handily by Magnum Moon by a combined eight lengths in his last two races and it’s difficult to see how those tables get turned here.

Conclusion: One-paced type is our least favorite of the Curlin threesome. He seems to have the largest gap to close in terms of figures and we are still somewhat skeptical of the closing fractions in the Arkansas Derby, considering all four of the top finishers posted such similarly rapid come home times without any precedent in prior races. His lack of professionalism is the icing on the cake in this spot but like most Curlins, he should be one to watch as he develops into the fall.

#2 FREE DROP BILLY (Union Rags/ Giant’s Causeway), 30-1

89 Beyer, 229 Tomlinson

Pros: He broke his maiden over this track as a two-year-old and followed that up by winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland at 8.5f. His pedigree shows strong AWD numbers, especially underneath (8.1f). He looked to be making a strong stretch move in his 9f prep before a colt impeded his progress and was subsequently disqualified, so it’s hard to take his slow closing figures (:38.49 for the final 3/8) at face value. His running style and pedigree seem to indicate he will be moving late. He fired a bullet 5f work in :59.0 on 4/21, the best of 52 workers, so it’s safe to say he is feeling comfortable on the track.

Cons: What’s harder to give him a pass for are his speed figures, which rank as the second lowest in the field per both Beyer and BRIS. His Tomlinson Distance Rating is the second lowest number in the field, which is a bit puzzling on paper, but we don’t make the numbers. He’s been soundly beaten by many of these foes, including 4 lengths by Good Magic, 6.75 lengths by Enticed and 5.5 lengths by Audible. The draw didn’t do him any favors either, as he will likely be pinned down on the rail by his stablemate and the speed outside of him.

Conclusion: There’s somewhat of a pedigree contradiction here, as he’s one of only two colts in the field with above average AWD and below average Tomlinson. The head to head results seem to suggest he has too much ground to make up to be a serious contender for the trifecta. If you’re a superfecta player, crazier things have happened than a late moving type getting up in time to light up the board, however.

#20 COMBATANT (Scat Daddy/ Boundary), 50-1

92 Beyer, 318 Tomlinson

Pros: He wound up 4th in a three horse photo in the Arkansas Derby, but he covered the final 3/8 in :36.27, which is the fastest in the field. As mentioned several times already, the fractions in that race were slow enough up front that the true quality of finishing times is tough to gauge, but nevertheless, his figure stands out on the page. The folks at BRIS were plenty impressed, and awarded him a Late Pace figure of 116, which is the second highest in the field. His Tomlinson Distance Rating is above the average for a Derby winner, so the distance should be to his liking. He did break is maiden over this track.

Cons: Speaking of that maiden win, that came in his second start, and he hasn’t found the winner’s circle since. His speed figures are still on the low side and he hasn’t been able to hold off Solomini in his last two races, while also losing to the likes of Magnum Moon and My Boy Jack by over 4 lengths each. Drawing into the widest post of all, he doesn’t figure to get a trip that will benefit his already numerous limitations.

Conclusion: One of the last colts to draw in due to a defection, he seems an outsider here on figures. It would be easier to take his Arkansas Derby Late Pace figure at face value had he ever delivered a triple digit figure previously in his six career starts, but that isn’t the case. We lean towards faster and more consistent closers for the underneath spots.

#15 INSTILLED REGARD (Arch/ Forestry), 50-1

91 Beyer, 303 Tomlinson

Pros: Began the year with promise by winning the Grade 3 LeComte at 8f. Despite finishing 10 lengths from the winner in his last outing, the figures for the Santa Anita Derby came back strong, and he posted a 105 BRIS Late Pace figure, which looks competitive here.

Cons: Like so many of these, his speed figures seem stuck in a rut, and he’d need a massive leap forward to be a factor here. He doesn’t seem to be progressing. Two starts back, his Risen Star was a disaster, as he finished 4th against a weak field, and despite the strong Late Pace figure he finished his final 3/8 in just :38.26 in his last. The bottom side of his pedigree seems pretty speed favoring as well.

Conclusion: You can’t fault the connections for taking advantage of the defection and running him, but we prefer several others in this spot.


#18 VINO ROSSO (Curlin/ Street Cry), 12-1

98 Beyer, 289 Tomlinson

Pros: Rapidly improving Pletcher trainee enters off winning the 9f Wood Memorial, where he stalked and overtook the leaders in a move similar to what is often used to win this very race. It was his second race with blinkers added and this time he appeared much more focused and settled than he did at Tampa Bay, where he seemed to not handle the track (wouldn’t be the first) and was only running in spots. He should be placed off the pace but doesn’t run like a deep closer, and keeping the blinkers on here should keep him in touch with the leaders enough to mount a powerful move, with strong breeding on top and bottom leaving no doubt that he will appreciate the added ground. He rounds out the Mr. Prospector contingent. It’s notable that John Velazquez chose to ride this colt over Audible, and the two worked a bullet 4f in :47.20 on 4/27 that was the sharpest of 75 that day.

Cons: He’s one of just two colts that shows no historical Red Flags. That would make him an easy pick for the win if his speed figures (98 Beyer, 102 BRIS) and BRIS Late Pace figure (98) had come back a touch higher. His Tomlinson Distance Rating is also in the middle of the group and it’s worth wondering if he is quite as talented as the best of these.

Conclusion: This looks like the classic colt that deserves attention more for his lack of negatives and potential upside than his accolades to date and may fly under the radar as a result. From a race shape standpoint he looks to be the type who will be in position to win, and he has the jockey to get him there. The wide post isn’t as big an issue considering he figures to take back early anyway. Any concerns about his last out Late Pace figure can be put somewhat at ease by the fact that he did run three straight triple digit numbers in the races before, two of those around two turns, which is something only two other colts in the field can claim. In the end he simply may not be fast enough but at these odds it is worth it to find out with a colt that doesn’t seem to have any knocks. It’s rare to see that for a colt with his credentials and he must be used on top of all wagers on general principle.


#10 MY BOY JACK (Creative Cause/ Mineshaft), 30-1

94 Beyer, 313 Tomlinson

Pros: Well-bred colt is the field’s most experienced runner, with ten races under his belt to date. He won the 8.5f Lexington just three weeks ago in his last in an attempt to earn a spot here, although we now know he would have made it into the field regardless. That may have been just the proper sharpening as otherwise he’d be coming off a six week layoff from his 3rd place finish in the Louisiana Derby, where he came home impressively in :36.81 for the final 3/8, the only runner outside of the Arkansas Derby to close in under :37. He earned a 106 BRIS Late Pace figure for the effort and shows a strong enough Tomlinson to suggest he will relish the extra distance here. So, call the cutback in the Lexington a glorified work for a colt who has plenty of mileage.

Cons: He is still well behind the top speed figures in this spot, and has tables to turn on fellow longshots Noble Indy and Lone Sailor here, who he couldn’t get past in the stretch of the Louisiana Derby as he appeared to hang. The three week layoff is a bit sharp, although it does bring us some comfort that he is heavily raced anyway.

Conclusion: Closers like Lookin’ At Lee last year and Golden Soul and Commanding Curve before him seem to keep wrecking Derby exactas and trifectas, so it’s always worth landing on one longshot closer that could light up the board at a big price. He looks like the type to do just that, with an explosive turn of foot that should have him in the mix late. In his last two races, he gobbled up 9 lengths and 5.5 lengths respectively between the second call and the stretch, which is easily the best in the field; now he just needs to sustain that energy. With experience under him the feeling here is that he can improve upon his relatively slow speed figures with some extra ground, we advise using him as the bomber option underneath in exactas and trifectas.

#8 LONE SAILOR (Majestic Warrior/ Mr. Greeley), 50-1

95 Beyer, 311 Tomlinson

Pros: He’s been working spectacularly, ripping off a rocket 5f work in :57.3 on 4/19 over the track.

Cons: Just a maiden winner after eight starts, he took the lead in the stretch of his last, the 9f Louisiana Derby, only to be passed again before the wire. The six week layoff between that race and this one has historically been tough to overcome.

Conclusion: He’s clearly sharp at the moment based on his lightning fast work, although we are not sure that’s exactly the sort of training you want to see from a horse that is supposed to be an off-the-pace type. He would seem to need to improve quite a bit from a figure standpoint to factor here and we are not sure that the breeding screams for more ground. Pass.

#1 FIRENZE FIRE (Poseidon’s Warrior/ Langfuhr), 50-1

83 Beyer, 281 Tomlinson

Pros: Was regarded highly as a two year old after winning the Grade 1 Champagne at 8f at Belmont.

Cons: Longer distances have not been to his liking, however, and his form seems to have trailed off as well. Between his slow come home times (:39.64, 78 BRIS Late Pace) and field low Beyer, there isn’t a lot to like here. He draws the dreaded #1 post to top it off.

Conclusion: We remain surprised that one-turn specialist is actually going to contest this race, and while we expect success from him at shorter distances going forward, this is, respectfully, the easiest toss in the field. And it seems just that the most toss-able horse lands in the most toss-able post.

#9 HOFBURG (Tapit/ Touch Gold), 20-1

94 Beyer, 282 Tomlinson

Pros: Trainer Bill Mott took a confident shot running this inexperienced colt in the Florida Derby off just two career starts and it paid off with a runner up finish, earning a spot in the starting gate. His BRIS figure (104) is actually the fourth best in the field although it somewhat contradicts his low Beyer for that effort, but the two publications disagreed on the quality of that race in general. Sitting back off a fast pace, he was able to come home in :37.70 for the final 3/8 and earned a 101 BRIS Late Pace figure. His BRIS figures have ascended rapidly in his short career (79-96-104) and a similar leap forward would put him squarely in the mix.

Cons: With only three career starts and being only a maiden winner, he is easily the least experienced colt in the field. Mott wins with just 15% of his runners third off the lay, the lowest win percentage here for the colts in that stage of their form cycle. He’s also never hit the board in the Derby in seven tries. Looking more closely at the Florida Derby, Hofburg actually lost ground in the stretch to the winner Audible after sitting further off the pace than that one did.

Conclusion: The combination of his off-the-pace running style and potential for upside is appealing, but the overall sense here is that this may be too much too soon in a Derby as deep as this one appears to be. It would be advisable, though, to keep an eye on the performance of Mississippi (3rd in the Florida Derby, 7.75 lengths behind Hofburg) in the Pat Day Mile. If he were to run well or win that race, it would certainly flatter the Florida Derby form.



Picks Summary:

  1. Bolt d’Oro
  2. Justify
  3. Vino Rosso
  4. Mendelssohn
  5. My Boy Jack
  6. Audible
  7. Good Magic
  8. Magnum Moon
  9. Hofburg
  10. Solomini
  11. Combatant
  12. Free Drop Billy
  13. Enticed
  14. Noble Indy
  15. Lone Sailor
  16. Instilled Regard
  17. Flameaway
  18. Bravazo
  19. Firenze Fire
  20. Promises Fulfilled


$10 Win, $20 Place- Bolt D’Oro

$20 Place- Vino Rosso

$3 Exacta Box- Bolt d’Oro, Justify, Vino Rosso

$1 Exacta Key- Bolt d’Oro, Justify, Vino Rosso/ My Boy Jack

$0.50 Trifecta Part Wheel- Bolt d’Oro, Justify, Vino Rosso/ Bolt d’Oro, Vino Rosso, Justify, Mendelssohn, My Boy Jack/ Bolt d’Oro, Vino Rosso, Justify, Mendelssohn, My Boy Jack, Audible, Good Magic

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