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The 9th Annual Casual Kentucky Derby Preview

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143rd Kentucky Derby Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Welcome to the 9th Annual Casual Kentucky Derby Preview!

9 DAMN YEARS! Wow!

At this point you have come to know and respect the brilliance of the CKDP, but for those who are new to the fray, peep this:

Over the past eight years I have given the world FOUR Trifecta WINS, a Superfecta WIN and the eventual creation of beer. To make it even more simple, if you have followed my guidance over the past eight years you would have net winnings of $2,372.

Remember - if you’re looking to win some coin on the Derby, you can’t do it by wagering your hard earned money on all of the favorites. No, you make money by nailing the trifecta or even better the superfecta, sprinkled with a few value horses that have a chance to hit the board. That’s how you get the instagram models to come to your parties.

Before we get to the analysis of the ponies, some ground rules. In this space as in years past I’m going to narrow the 20 horse field down to a group of 6 for a real casual $1, 6-horse trifecta box ($120) of Casual Destiny and Hope and Freedom and America.

With that in mind, below is the most casual analysis of the 2018 Kentucky Derby field you will likely find anywhere else, from someone who has actually watched all 20 of these horses run in all of their prep races. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. Indeed, my life has very little meaning.

Away we go...

  1. Firenze Fire (50-1):

Not a contender to begin with and cooked firing from the 1 spot.

Verdict: TOSS.

2. Free Drop Billy (30-1):

Free Drop Billy was highly regarded heading into the prep season but hasn’t impressed. Completely gave up in the Blue Grass Stakes and I would expect more of the same here given a better field. 2 post a killer.

Verdict: TOSS.

3. Promises Fulfilled (30-1):

Promises Fulfilled will provide the early pace in this race. Ran a blistering first fraction in the Florida Derby that was eventually won by Audible, and I’d expect Promises to be leading the field at the 1st turn and get run down.

Verdict: TOSS.

4. Flameaway (30-1):

Will provide the early pace alongside Promises Fulfilled. Flameaway finished 2nd to Good Magic in the Blue Grass but was fading in the stretch, not good enough to hit the board in this field. Out front early, then will get run down.

Verdict: TOSS.

5. Audible (8-1):

The 5 post produced last year’s winner Always Dreaming, and we get our first real contender coming out of the same post this year. Audible has won his last four starts and is coming off of an impressive win in the Florida Derby where he registered a big 107 Beyer speed figure.

In the Holy Bull, an earlier prep race for him, Audible ran a similar race, rating off the pace and firing at the top of the stretch to easily put away a field that includes fellow Derby contenders Enticed and Free Drop Billy.

Just as in these races, Audible is going to use his tactical speed to rate behind the early speed, and coming out of the 5 post he shouldn’t have much difficulty finding room to run at the top of the stretch. Has won races at a mile, a mile and 1/16th and a mile and an 8th. Does he have enough juice to hold off some of the others at a mile and a quarter? Who the hell knows, but at 8-1 he’s worth a play, not much of anything on paper or tape to dislike here.

Verdict: Include.

6. Good Magic (12-1):

Good Magic won the Blue Grass Stakes in his 1st race at a mile and an 8th.

Before the Blue Grass, Good Magic won the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile over an impressive field that included a number of Derby contenders including Bolt d’Oro, Solomini and Firenze Fire:

Good tactical speed, decent value at 12-1 for a horse that has looked good at Churchill this week.

Verdict: Include.

7. Justify (3-1):

Justify swept away a challenge from Bolt d’Oro to win the Santa Anita in his first race against class competition:

Undefeated but lightly raced, Justify has overpowered his fields thus far without much effort and could be the ‘superhorse’ of this year’s field. Has never run against a field this large before and you never know how he’ll react if he gets dirt kicked in his face, but the 7 post should permit him to run his kind of race and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be in the mix at the top of the stretch.

Verdict: Include.

8. Lone Sailor (50-1):

Would be a nice story as the family of the late Saints owner Tom Benson owns this horse, but not good enough here.

Verdict: TOSS.

9. Hofburg (20-1):

Lightly raced horse, ran 2nd to Audible in the above Florida Derby with a strong closing kick. Hofburg was clearly the 2nd best in that field. Could be improving and has a chance to hit board given the expected early speed here. Value play at 20-1.

Verdict: Include

10. My Boy Jack (30-1):

A closer, My Boy Jack won a race at a mile and a 16th before moving up to a mile and an 8th in the Louisiana Derby where he finished a hard charging 3rd after a very wide trip.

After the Louisiana his handlers moved him back down to a mile and a 16th where he won his last outing. Has a 99 and a 98 Beyer on his resume so has the speed to overcome some of the faster horses that will be in front of him, should be running at the end and is good value at 30-1 given the expected hot early pace.

Verdict: Include.

11. Bolt D’Oro (8-1):

Had every chance to win the Santa Anita and didn’t challenge Justify, not sure why we should expect anything different in the Derby. Baffert horse with impressive speed figures that could absolutely hit the board, but will take a lot of money given his connections and at 8-1 I’ll be looking elsewhere. Good horse, but every time he’s challenged it seems like he doesn’t fire.

Verdict: TOSS

12. Enticed (30-1):

Enticed went off as a 6/5 favorite and finished 2nd to Vino Rosso in the Wood Memorial in a stretch battle in which it looked like he was bumped and forced to the rail. He still racked up an impressive 99 speed figure in that race, and that was on the heels of a 104 in a win in the Gotham below.

I don’t think Enticed can win this race, but as a gritty mid-pack runner with good speed he has nice value at 30-1 if he has room to run at the top of the stretch.

Verdict: Include.

13. Bravazo (50-1):

www.NoChance.com.

Verdict: TOSS.

14. Mendelssohn (5-1):

The UAE Derby horse could be the greatest horse that has ever lived.

Though the UAE Derby winner is typically an annual toss for me, Mendelssohn isn’t your typical European entrant into this field as he has won a turf race in the US before. I don’t love the value at 5-1, but that run in the UAE is just too impressive to toss him.

Verdict: Include.

15. Instilled Regard (50-1):

Verdict: TOSS.

16. Magnum Moon (6-1):

The Arkansas Derby champ, Magnum has never lost a race in his life.

Magnum Moon reminds me a lot of Classic Empire from last year, a good horse that has won a bunch of races but doesn’t have speed figures that jump out at me (best Beyer effort was a 100 in the Rebel, 99 in the Arkansas). Yes, he did win the Arkansas, but that race had very little speed early and check out his drift to the middle of the track in the stretch. Does he want the distance? I don’t like the value at 6-1, looking elsewhere.

Verdict: TOSS.

17. Solomini (30-1):

Not sure what to make of this horse and it appears his handlers aren’t sure either as he has run from all over the track in his preps. Out of the 17 he won’t have much of a choice but to run mid-pack, doesn’t have the speed to hang with the class here. The 17 post has NEVER produced a Derby winner, which is odd but something certainly worth considering.

Verdict: TOSS.

18. Vino Rosso (12-1):

The Wood Memorial winner over Enticed.

Vino Rosso’s past performances and speed figures don’t impress on paper, but his running style should keep him in the mix here. Should take to the mile and a quarter and the pace in the Derby could be very similar to the early fast fractions in the Wood. Worth using at his current value.

Verdict: Include.

19. Noble Indy (30-1):

Bad post draw for a good horse that likes to be up front early, will spend a lot of gas getting up there from the 19 sspot and should fade in the final furlong.

Verdict: TOSS.

20. Combatant (50-1)

A closer, Combatant will have the benefit of the 20 post here and shouldn’t have any trip issues as the race unfolds in front of him. Value at 50-1, the problem is that when he was asked to go a mile and an eighth in the Arkansas he failed to hit the board, doesn’t have the speed figures of other closer options in this race.

Verdict: TOSS.

OK, so where are we:

5. Audible (8-1)

6. Good Magic (12-1)

7. Justify (3-1)

9. Hofburg (20-1)

10. My Boy Jack (30-1):

12. Enticed (30-1)

14. Mendelssohn (5-1)

18. Vino Rosso (12-1)

Down to 8! Need 6 for my box tri, and since I want to still include some good value I’ll keep one of the two 12-1 shots and one of the two 30-1 plays.

First, Good Magic gets the nod over Vino Rosso. Wood Memorial winners traditionally disappoint in the Derby, and I have concerns about that 18 post. Good Magic won the slow Blue Grass over a weak field, but his win in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile was more impressive than anything Vino Rosso has accomplished to date.

Next, I’ll roll with My Boy Jack over Enticed. 30-1 is a solid price for Enticed given that he went off as the favorite in the Wood, but he was blitzed in the Holy Bull by Audible, and while I like his run in the Gotham the only other decent horse in that field was Free Drop Billy. Enticed also tends to like to be a bit more forwardly placed, and in a field of 20 with early speed I think that will doom him. My Boy Jack will have the benefit of falling back early and should be passing horses down the stretch with his closing kick.

So there we go, the Final 6!

5. Audible (8-1)

6. Good Magic (12-1)

7. Justify (3-1)

9. Hofburg (20-1)

10. My Boy Jack (30-1)

14. Mendelssohn (5-1)

RACE ANALYSIS

The usual thought with the Kentucky Derby is that swift early fractions (quarter mile in less than 23 seconds, half mile in the 45 second range) are bad news for horses with a front-running style as they will fade and get run down in the stretch by horses with better closing speed. Class horses, however, are able to hold off these closers which explains why the favorite has won this race in each of the last five years.

In 2016, speedster Danzing Candy set a fast pace around the first turn, setting the race up nicely for a closer like Exaggerator to grab 2nd to the tactical speed and betting favorite Nyquist.

This also happened last year, as State of Honor led the way early, with the class of the field Always Dreaming right there with him and holding on for the win despite late charge from strong closer Lookin’ at Lee.

In this year’s Derby, though obviously everything will come down to how the horses break from the gate, I expect a similar race to unfold. This race should have strong early pace - perhaps not as blistering as in the Florida Derby or Wood Memorial, but a sub 23 first quarter mile and a high 45s low 46 first half mile isn’t out of the question.

As the field makes its way around the first turn, I’d expect Promises Fulfilled and Flameaway to be near the rail at the lead, with horses like Audible, Good Magic, Justify, Bolt d’Oro, Mendelssohn, Magnum Moon, and Noble Indy tucked in the pack just behind. As the lead horses get run down along the backstretch, the horses with the best tactical speed will turn on the jets around the far turn and strong mid-pack runners like Vino Rosso and closers like Hofburg and My Boy Jack will get in the mix for the final stretch blitz.

If the visuals in the prep races hold true to form, Justify, Audible, Good Magic and the big question mark Mendelssohn should be up there, with Hofburg and My Boy Jack passing horses down the stretch in bids to hit the board at the wire.

If I had to pick the top 6 in order, I’ll roll with:

WIN: 7. Justify (3-1)

PLACE: 5. Audible (8-1)

SHOW: 9. Hofburg (20-1)

4th: 6. Good Magic (12-1)

5th: 10. My Boy Jack (30-1)

6th: 14. Mendelssohn (5-1)

NOTES:

- Justify has elite cruising speed. Watch the top of the stretch in the Santa Anita where he is just chilling out there while Bolt d’Oro is being urged by his jockey to make up ground to no avail. If he duplicates that effort in the Derby and adds a closing kick when urged, I’m not sure he has an equal here.

- Audible is a winner, and this race could easily be just like the Florida if Justify falters with him finishing 1st with Hofburg right behind him.

- Good Magic is a grinder and should be in the mix.

- My Boy Jack has no chance to win this race but could clunk up there and hit the board.

- It is very possible that Mendelssohn wins this race or finishes dead last in the entire field, and I’m not sure there is really any in between. If he is the freak horse that he appeared to be in the UAE Derby then it is lights out for the rest of this field. I’ll take the chance here that he isn’t just because of the whole European entrant thing, but will include in the box tri just in case.

As I have a tendency to go back and forth and talk myself out of my analysis as the prices change for these horses once the money (or the rain) starts pouring in, be sure to check right back here in the comments for updates right up until go time.

I had a chance to visit Churchill a few years ago and if you are ever in the fine city of Louisville, you must go. Documentation below.

Casual Twin Spires from the inside of the track
Casual Stretch Run
The Clubhouse
Pat Day!
Casual Eight Belles #RIP
2009 Derby champion Mine That Bird!

At the end of the day, wager how you wish but remember to wager, because life without gambling on ponies is a life not worth living and a bad day at the track is better than a good day at work.

Enjoy the race.