Garrity breaks down the Kentucky Derby, comments on all 20 horses, picks who will win the roses
It feels like we’ve been waiting for this forever, but the Kentucky Derby is finally upon us. WIth the scratch of King Fury, who was declared out of the race with a fever, 19 3-year-old colts will go to the starting gate Saturday. Here is a breakdown of the field, and how we think the race will be run.
Churchill Downs, Race 12, 6:57 pm ET
Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, 1 ¼ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
1-Known Agenda, 6-1
The Florida Derby winner is trained by Todd Pletcher and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, giving him human connections as good as any entrant in the field. His speed figures say he is a contender, but his post does not: the last horse to win the Derby from a rail post was Ferdinand a generation ago. We didn’t like him much before the draw, and like him even less after. He is a non-contender.
2-Like the King, 50-1
Like the King has a good trainer in Wesley Ward, but has yet to win a race on conventional dirt: two of his three career wins were on synthetic surfaces, and one was on grass. He’s a nice-looking colt, but he appears overmatched.
3-Brooklyn Strong, 50-1
This colt sold for $5,000 a year ago, making him the biggest bargain in the field. He did win the Remsen, but that race was in the slop, and the track will be fast for the Derby. A minor placing would appear to be his ceiling.
This colt is a deep closer, a style that has historically worked in the Derby. But the pace will not be fast enough to set up his late charge, and even if it were, he’s not fast enough. He could clunk up for 3rd or 4th, but a finish better than that would be a shock.
Speed figures say Sainthood has no chance, and so do we. He is a non-contender, and is far, far more likely to finish last than first. He is a complete throw-out.
6-O Besos, 20-1
This son of Kentucky Derby winner Orb is another late runner, and he did run a deceptively good race rallying to finish third, just two lengths behind the winner, in the Louisiana Derby. But he’s a wise guy horse, and they never win the Derby. We’ve thrown him out.
Earlier this year, Mandaloun, a Juddmonte Farms homebred, was on the fast track to being one of the favorites this race. But an inexplicably bad effort in the Louisiana Derby, when he didn’t run a lick and finished a well beaten sixth, caused his odds to skyrocket. He has three wins in five career starts, and has been favored in all of them, which is a sign of his ability. He would not be the first horse to win the Derby coming off a bad race -- Secretariat, in fact, won the 1973 Derby after losing the Wood Memorial, a race everyone thought he would have to fall down to lose. We think Mandaloun is a major contender at a very, very appealing price. And his workouts at Churchill Downs the last few weeks have been sensational.
8-Medina Spirit, 15-1
Bob Baffert seems to win the Derby every other year. Unfortunately, this is the off year -- he won with Authentic last year -- and Medina Spirit looks to be a cut below the rest of this field. While a win by him would not be a total shock, we are betting against it.
9-Hot Rod Charlie, 8-1
Hot Rod Charlie won the Louisiana Derby very impressively in his last start, pressing a fast pace and drawing off to win by two lengths. The figures say he has a good chance, and so do we. The one thing that may work against him is pace, as he will be up front, and we expect the pace to be fast enough that it may leave him out of gas late, especially at this mile and a quarter distance.
10-Midnight Bourbon, 20-1
This son of Tiznow seemed to be a cut below the better 3-year-old colts who wintered in Louisiana, but he has steadily improved in all his races this year, and his morning workouts coming into this have been razor-sharp. We think he has a chance at a big price.
11-Dynamic One, 20-1
Dynamic is another Pletcher-Ortiz entrant: Todd Pletcher trains, and he has tabbed Jose Ortiz, Irad’s brother, to ride. He was an expensive yearling purchase, and his pedigree suggests he will like the distance, but he looks too slow to win. He may be a factor in stakes races later this year, but he does not appear good enough to win this.
Helium won the Tampa Bay Derby, which is nice, but that race was painfully slow, and it looks like 10 furlongs will be too far for him. He’s undefeated after three career starts, but will not be after four. He is a throw-out.
13-Hidden Stash, 50-1
We hope trainer Victoria Oliver, who starts Hidden Stash, has a hidden stash of her own, because she will need it -- this colt looks like a cinch to finish last. A complete and utter non-contender.
14-Essential Quality, 2-1
Essential Quality has everything one wants to see in a Kentucky Derby contender: He is undefeated; he was brilliant as a 2-year-old; he’s won the toughest races, and has run fast doing so; and in his last start, a win in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, he showed tenacity and guts, running down a quality colt in Highly Motivated. This colt checks all the boxes, and is the likeliest winner of the race. Taking 2-1 on a Derby horse may seem unappealing, but this colt reminds us of an old Damon Runyon quote: “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong -- but that’s the way to bet.” He looks the best of the group.
15-Rock Your World, 5-1
Rock Your World started his career on turf, but made jaws drop with his first race on dirt, winning the Santa Anita Derby in wire-to-wire fashion. He earned lofty pace and speed figures for that effort, but the rail was golden at Santa Anita that day, and that bias almost certainly made his run look better than it really was. He could win, but at 5-1, he looks like an underlay to us, and we are passing.
17-Highly Motivated, 10-1
Highly Motivated ran lights out in his last start, when he gave Essential Quality everything he could ask for, losing by only a neck in what we think was the strongest Kentucky Derby prep race. If one likes Essential Quality, then one must like Highly Motivated at least a little bit. We do, and while we don’t think he’s the likeliest winner, he is absolutely a contender.
18-Super Stock, 30-1
We can’t remember the last time the Arkansas Derby winner was 30-1 in the Kentucky Derby, but that’s what we have here, in the form of Super Stock. We think the odds are fair, as the Arkansas Derby was a slow race, and Super Stock appears to be inferior to others in the field.
19-Soup and Sandwich, 30-1
With his catchy name, Soup and Sandwich is likely to attract wagering support from once-a-year bettors who will play him for his name alone. That is enough reason to play against him, but another is that he has only three career starts, and none of them are even remotely fast enough to contend here. He is another colt who could develop into a very good stakes runner, but does not seem to have enough experience to win a race of this magnitude right now.
Bourbonic won the Wood Memorial at 72-1 odds, and that is likely to be the highlight of his year, because he appears seriously overmatched in this field. The outside post will not help him either. We are tossing him.
Here is how we expect the race to be run. We think that the early pace will be legitimate, not freakishly fast, but not slow, either. Rock Your World is the likely pacesetter, but a group of horses including Midnight Bourbon, Soup and Sandwich, Medina Spirit, Hot Rod Charlie, LIke the King, and Sainthood will be very close. The stalking group, including Essential Quality and Mandaloun, will be just behind them, and the deep closers will be farther back.
After a vigorous six furlongs, the pacesetters will begin to tire, and the stalkers will begin to move forward. Mandaloun and Essential Quality will forge to the lead at the top of the stretch, and while the deep closers will be mounting their charge, they will be too far back to be a threat to win. We see Mandaloun and Essential Quality engaged in a very good battle down the stretch, with Essential Quality gaining the upper hand in the final furlong. We see 14- Essential Quality winning, 7-Mandaloun hanging on for second, 17-Highly Motivated getting up to finish a non-threatening third, and 3-Brooklyn Strong getting fourth. That’s a 14-7-17-3 finish.
Enjoy the race.