This year could be even bigger. The favorite, Justify, is an unraced 2-year-old, and one of those hasn’t won the Kentucky Derby since Apollo in 1882. It’s possible he misses the board completely: just eight horses since 1946 have finished in the money after skipping their 2-year-old campaign. Another short-priced horse, Mendelssohn (5-1 morning line odds), won the UAE Derby by an impressive 18 1/2 lengths. However, horses exiting that race are 0 for 13 in the Kentucky Derby with Master of Hounds’s fifth-place finish in 2011 the best result to date. Magnum Moon, the third choice at 6-1 odds, has a May foaling date and only one Derby winner in the last 20 years was born in May. Mendelssohn was also born in May. That’s a big knock (or two) on all three of the top betting choices heading into the race.
Bolt d’Oro, on the other hand, looks poised to peak on Saturday at 8-1 odds. The bay colt out of WinStar Farm has four wins in six starts, including a pair of Grade 1 victories, with a pedigree that lends itself to going the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles. His sire, Medaglia d’Oro, produced seven Grade 1 winners in 2017 and his broodmare sire, A.P. Indy, won the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes in 1992. As for speed, he had a top Beyer Speed Figure of 103, well above the 95 threshold seen in almost every other Derby winner since the figure debuted, and finished the last three-eights of a mile in the Santa Anita Derby in less than 38 seconds, another key indicator of Derby success. If you are looking for a key horse for your exotics, this is it.
In addition to having a solid juvenile foundation, tactical speed and a sharp performance in their last prep — preferably in one of the major stakes races such as the Santa Anita Derby or Florida Derby — an ideal Kentucky Derby contender also has to have a pedigree that is balanced between speed and stamina. Too much speed and the horse will burn out before reaching the finish line. Not enough stamina and the horse will fail at the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles on its first attempt.
For example, Bravazo, a son of the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again and Tiz o’ Gold, has never raced longer than 1 1/16 miles and has never won any race longer than a mile, and so probably doesn’t have the stamina to go the distance at Churchill Downs on Saturday. Other horses whose pedigree is suspect include Lone Sailor, Combatant, Enticed, Noble Indy and Promises Fulfilled.
In fact, Promises Fulfilled’s pedigree is so skewed toward speed (Dosage Index figure of 9.00, meaning nine times as much speed as stamina) it wouldn’t be a surprise if he jumped out to an early lead and set the pace. However, only 22 Derby winners have led at each point of call during the race and the last to do it was War Emblem in 2002. Go for Gin (1994) is the only other horse to grab the lead and keep it by the half-mile mark. Not even American Pharoah, the first Triple Crown winner since 1978, was able to lead from start to finish.
Firenze Fire and Free Drop Billy have enough speed and stamina in their heritage to keep them in play, but they drew the two inside posts for Saturday’s race, and that’s too much for any horse to overcome. The last time a horse won from the rail (post position No. 1) was Ferdinand in 1986. Before that it was Chateaugay in 1963. Horses coming out of the No. 2 gate have won just seven times in 88 tries since 1930 — none since Affirmed won on the way to the Triple Crown in 1978.
A horse can’t fall too far back, either. A field of 20 typically brings a lot of traffic, so if a jockey waits too long to make a move, there might not be any room to run. Bolt d’Oro is known as a stalker, meaning he has early speed but does not need the lead. Same for Magnum Moon and Audible — all three have the speed and stamina to be in the mix on exotic wagers such as exactas and trifectas. Good Magic and Vino Rosso are also contenders who figure to be in prime position to take a piece of the spotlight on Saturday. If you are looking to score on a superfecta, consider Flameaway, Solomini, Instilled Regard, Hofburg and Firenze Fire at the very bottom of the ticket.
Hitting a trifecta or superfecta cold in a 20-horse field with all entrants trying a longer distance for the first time can be tough, so here’s how you could create trifecta and superfecta tickets using these contenders while also keeping ticket costs down.
Trifecta betting strategy
Bolt d’Oro with Audible and Good Magic with Audible, Good Magic, Magnum Moon and Vino Rosso (11 with 5, 6 with 5, 6, 16, 18)
Audible and Good Magic with Bolt d’Oro with Audible, Good Magic, Magnum Moon and Vino Rosso (5, 6 with 11 with 5, 6, 16, 18)
Audible and Good Magic with Audible, Good Magic, and Vino Rosso with Bolt d’Oro (5, 6 with 5, 6, 16, 18 with 11)
Superfecta betting strategy
Bolt d’Oro with Audible and Good Magic with Audible, Good Magic, Magnum Moon and Vino Rosso with Audible, Good Magic, Magnum Moon, Vino Rosso, Flameaway, Solomini, Instilled Regard, Hofburg and Firenze Fire (11 with 5,6 with 5, 6, 16, 18 with 5, 6, 16, 18, 4, 17, 15, 9, 1)
Audible with Bolt d’Oro with Good Magic, Magnum Moon and Vino Rosso with Good Magic, Magnum Moon, Vino Rosso, Flameaway, Solomini, Instilled Regard, Hofburg and Firenze Fire (5 with 11 with 6, 16, 18, 4, 17, 15, 9, 1)
Audible with Good Magic with Bolt d’Oro with Magnum Moon, Vino Rosso, Flameaway, Solomini, Instilled Regard, Hofburg and Firenze Fire (5 with 6 with 11 with 16, 18, 4, 17, 15, 9, 1)
More on the Kentucky Derby:
Correction: A previous version had the incorrect amount for the 2017 trifecta.