Garrity Handicaps the entire 19-Horse Kentucky Derby Field, avoids chalk, comes up with surprise winner

The Kentucky Derby Derby goes off at 6:57 pm EDT.
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It’s finally here: the biggest race of the year. Here is our rundown of all 20 runners, and our pick.

Churchill Downs, Race 12, 6:57 pm ET

Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, 1 ¼ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

1-Hit Show, 30-1. This son of Candy Ride comes off a runner up finish in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. He has improved in all five of his career starts, and another step forward would put him into contention here. He would be worth considering were it not for his disastrous draw: his rail post makes him a non-contender. We are tossing him.

2-Verifying, 15-1. Verifying was last seen running a close second to Tapit Trice in the Blue Grass Stakes; before that, he ran fourth in the Rebel. He’s another one who might be worth a longshot look but for his post: the inside slots are very, very difficult to overcome.

3-Two Phil’s 12-1. Two Phil’s earned a very good speed figure, and earned a spot in this field, winning a stakes race at Turfway Park. The problem is that that race was on a synthetic racing surface, and his prior efforts on dirt were subpar. For reasons we cannot understand, a lot of people like this horse; we think he is an underlay, and wouldn’t bet him with counterfeit money.

4-Confidence Game 20-1. The good with Confidence Game: His last race was a very good win in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The bad: That race was in February, and winning the Derby off a layoff of nearly three months is a very, very tall task. He could be a good horse later this year, but we do not think he will be good this year.

5-Tapit Trice 5-1. Tapit Trice has been both visually impressive and fast in his last three races, all of which were wins. We particularly liked his victory in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, when overcame a wide trip, closing strongly to take the prize. He is a very solid, if obvious, contender, and perhaps the biggest knock on him is that he is trained by Todd Pletcher, whose record in the Derby is abysmal. Contender.

6-Kingsbarns 12-1. This colt has past performances reminiscent of Triple Crown winner Justify: He did not start racing until January, but since then has reeled off three consecutive wins. He got a very easy trip winning the Louisiana Derby in his last start, going wire-to-wire running very soft fractions. He will not get a soft trip today, and for that reason we are tossing him.

7-Reincarnate 50-1. Should be in the leading group for the first six furlongs. Will not be in the leading group after that. Non-contender.

8-Mage 15-1. Mage has improved in every one of his three career starts. But he’s done so without winning: his only career victory was in a maiden race. He is another colt who got started late, not making his debut until the end of January; we think that the lack of experience is going to catch up to him today.

11-Disarm 30-1. Disarm has run three times this year, and hit the board in all of them, including the Louisiana Derby and the Lexington in his last two. But he has not won, and it is difficult to envision him turning the tables on the horses who beat him in those races, who are also in the field. 

12-Jace’s Road 50-1. This horse has speed, and a good post position, but he was thoroughly outrun in his last two starts, and  just isn’t good enough. Non-contender.

13-Sun Thunder 50-1. Sun Thunder is by top stallion Into Mischief, and his form is very interesting: he should like the distance, but we don’t think the early pace will be fast enough to set the table for his deep-closing style. Clunking up for third or fourth would seem to be the best his connections can hope for.

14-Angel of Empire 8-1. This runner from the Brad Cox barn comes off consecutive wins in the Risen Star and the Arkansas Derby. He has improved significantly since last year, and is a major win threat.

15-Forte 3-1. Forte is the favorite for a reason: he won last year’s Breeders Cup Juvenile, which earned him the Eclipse award as top 2-year-old, and this year, he won the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby, the two most important preps on the Florida circuit. He is a major win contender whose only real fault is price: taking 3-1 in a 19-horse field is tough.

16-Raise Cain 50-1. His connections will surely enjoy the Derby atmosphere at Churchill Downs, especially on a nice spring day. We hope they soak it up, because their colt is a cinch to finish last.

17-Derma Sotogake 10-1. This Japan-bred colt has been the buzz of the horse racing cognoscenti since he earned a trip to Louisville with a win in the United Arab Emirates Derby in Dubai. We’ve been touting Japanese horses for years – but we are not touting this one, if only because the UAE Derby route to Louisville has been tried repeatedly the past 20 years, and has never worked. We are throwing him out from win consideration.

18-Rocket Can 30-1. Rocket Can? No, he can’t. Non-contender.

21-Cyclone Mischief 30-1. This Dale Romans trainee drew into the race after a few horses ahead of him scratched. We think getting into the race will be the highlight of his week. Non-contender.

22-Mandarin Hero 20-1. This is another horse from Japan, but one who took a more conventional route to the Kentucky Derby: He made his debut in the Santa Anita Derby, where he finished second, just a nose behind the winner, Practical Move, who was scratched a few days ago. We like everything about this colt: We like his connections, we like his race record, with four wins and two seconds in six career starts; and we like the fact that he has been trained vigorously coming into this race. We like him so much, in fact, that he is the pick: we think that Mandarin Hero will be wearing a garland of roses just after 7 pm this evening.

23-King Russell 50-1. Speed figures would suggest that this colt is too slow to win. So do we: this horse has no chance. He is a total toss.

Enjoy the race.

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