However, the race still needs to be run, and with a large field of 16 horses, anything can happen, including a historic upset. Here are two horses best suited to make their surprising mark on history. Both should feature in your exotics card.
No. 2 Max Player (30-1)
Max Player improved his final Brisnet speed figure in every race he has run, culminating in two triple-digit speed figures in his last two races, both losses to Tiz the Law in Grade 1 stakes. That last race was also classified as a fast-fast race, meaning both the pace and final time were above-average for a Grade 1 stakes. Any horse exiting those races deserve extra consideration, especially any horse that doesn’t collapse under the pressure. Max Player closed the last quarter-mile of the Travers in 25.2 seconds, second only to the eventual winner.
“I’m extremely excited about how he’s going to run in the Kentucky Derby,” said Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who recently took over training duties from Linda Rice. “I love how he looks going over the racetrack. His attitude is really good. He came in with a really good attitude and was moving really well. That has stayed the same.”
Saturday’s pace scenario could also help Max Player find the winner’s circle. Authentic, one of the lone early speed horses in this race, should bolt to the front quickly and entice others to follow so he isn’t loose on the lead. That should help Max Player’s closing style. Plus, the scratches of Finnick the Fierce and King Guillermo will leave starting gate stalls No. 1, 2, 19, 20 vacant, giving Max Player more room to avoid traffic.
No. 16 Honor A. P. (5-1)
Honor A.P. gave a career effort in his Santa Anita Derby win, setting highs for final speed and pace, per Brisnet. That’s also known as a double top, a negative pattern that often indicates a worse effort next out. No wonder he took a step back in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar, losing to Thousand Words by three-quarters of a length. That doesn’t mean you should discount his chances on Saturday. His last two speed figures were at or above par for the Kentucky Derby, and the one he earned in the Santa Anita Derby (108) is the third fastest in the field.
Plus, his sire, Honor Code, was also a highly decorated route runner, winning the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes and the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at 1⅛ miles. Nine of the last 11 Derby winners were sired by a horse who won at least one Grade 1 route race, a race one mile or longer. Orb and California Chrome are the lone exceptions.