I will go over the list of every Kentucky Derby entry and give you the reason(s) I like or dislike their chances in the order I like most of them. You can agree and use them to form your ticket or you can go with tip sheets and experts and who knows, they may make you a few bucks. They will hit more often than me because they normally pick two of the favorites, but I normally take a big swing and when I connect, it will take anyone 10-15 straight years of correctly picking the derby winner and most exactas to even get close to what I will give you the opportunity to earn for a few bucks. And it is all free.
First, he is one of the better bred horses for the distance in this year's derby. But after taking a look at his races is what made him my choice, especially at the odds he is expected to go off. After breaking his maiden in his first start on a muddy track at Saratoga, he ran 3rd in the G1 Champagne S after chasing a hot pace while angling out six wide in the stretch at Belmont Park, a major prep race for the derby for many years and still very important.
He then won the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club S in a roughly run key race to this year's Kentucky Derby. No less than eight horses have come out of that race to win again, but most key races produces 3-4 that return to win at max. Then in first start this year, he ran 4th to Audible in the Holy Bull while pinned near the rail but this race was designed to get him some much needed racing experience.
If you were a front runner, the rail was the place to be at GP this year, but if you liked to run late, your chances increased by getting outside horses and waiting out the speed duels. He then won the G3 Gotham S and for the first time was on the best part of the track that helped him. But comments by the trackman read “wrapped up late” meaning he felt the horse had more to offered. Then in the Wood Memorial, he again got on the dead rail on Aqueduct outer dirt track and look like he offered no resistance to the winner. But you can rest assured his trainer was more interested in getting to the Kentucky Derby with a healthy horse than winning a race that has lacked prestige over the last dozen years.
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He is a son of Kentucky Derby third Curlin and his broodmare sire Hard Spun ran 2nd in that same derby, beating Curlin by almost 6 lengths. They also represent the 1-2 finishers in that year's BC Classic. If he is not bred to like the 1 1/4 mile distance in this year's derby, then there is no one in here that is.
After running second in his maiden debut, he ran 2nd in the G1 Champagne S sitting just off a fast early pace, taking the lead in the stretch and just failing to last while still a maiden. He then won the G1 BC Juvenile Dirt, using the same tactics, but this time he was long gone before anyone else had the chance to challenge him. Then in his first start this year in the G2 Fountain Of Youth, his trainer used that race as nothing more than a workout to increase his chances of being ready for the first Saturday in May.
I have rarely seen so many handicappers abandon ship on a horse off a race his trainer and owner was not really interested in winning, especially if they want him at his best for the ultimate goal. Then in the G2 Blue Grass S, he again displayed the characteristics that netted him the biggest race up to that point, by sitting just off the pace and moving to the lead on a track listed as fast, but was not even close. These top two will be my main exacta bets for the Kentucky Derby, but I will probably box these two with a few more horses I think have a good chance, but only one at a time ($12 each box).
He broke his maiden in his first start at CD in 5 furlongs, using a late kick and finishing in good time. Free Drop Billy then ran 2nd in the G3 Sanford S & G1 Hopeful S, both at Saratoga and both times getting to the winner using his late kick. He then rode a perfect trip to victory in the G1 Breeders' Futurity. Next, in the G1 BC Juvenile Dirt, he broke last and sat on a dead rail at Del Mar and offered no challenge to run the worst race of his career.
After a 3 month break, he ran 2nd in the G2 Holy Bull S, sitting closer to the early pace that he ever had and offering a brief bid but in need of that race to move forward. He then revered back to his old style in the G3 Gotham but was no match for my top pick that day, but he, too, was on the best part of the track. He then was placed third through DQ in the G2 Blue Grass after he was clearly impeded by another horse late that made his late kick less impressive. But in 8 starts, he has shown up in major races and gives a honest effort each time and you will get odds that makes it worthwhile to take a shot.
Bolt D'Oro will be another I will be considering using in a few exotic bets. He was the early favorite for the derby last year and if you like him then, it boggles my mind why you would abandon ship now. True he has lost his last three races, but none were really that bad. From getting a bad break in the G1 BC Juvenile Dirt but running on to finish a good third and both races this year, he ran against an only speed horse that controlled the pace.
If you name is not Secretariat, that would have spelled defeat for most horses, but at least he tried to run them down. So what, Castellano decided to get off, but rest assure, it is not the first time a jockey thought he had a better chance elsewhere in America's biggest race. However, Espinoza is an upgrade simply because he has already won the Kentucky Derby 3 times and Castellano is looking for his first and he has ridden several with solid shots but were no factor.
Lone Sailor is another that can get at least a minor reward.
The Kentucky derby third and fourth is usually filled by one of two types of horses; 1) horses that the betting public gives no chance of winning or 2) a horse that the public thinks highly of but his pedigree suggests otherwise. As far as Lone Sailor goes, his races suggests he may have a bigger shot than most believes. After breaking his maiden on a sloppy track at Saratoga in his 2nd start, he then ran 3rd in the G1 Breeders' Futurity to Free Drop Billy with more traffic problems, a narrow 2nd in the ungraded Street Sense S, 5th in the G2 Ky Jockey Club S after going widest of all to avoid trouble that effected over half of the field and became a key race.
In his first start this year in the G3 Lecomte S, it was used as a race to point him to the derby as he contested the early pace before tiring after six furlongs and fading. Entered back in an O/C, he came from last and ran 2nd chasing a loose on the lead speed horse that slowed the pace to a crawl. Then in the G2 La Derby, he sat near the back, made a solid move to take the lead in mid stretch before a Pletcher horse fought back and nipped him at the wire. Still not a bad race in his third start of the year and it should set him up perfectly for his best race in the Kentucky Derby.
While I do not believe he can win this race, I do feel he has as good shot as any to get a minor reward. And at his projected odds, the trifecta and super will pay big if he was to land there.
My Boy Jack will take a lot of money due to the Desormeaux brothers factor. While almost anything can happen in the derby, he seems a cut below some of these and will need a career best to even get a minor reward. While I will not be using him because I have to draw the line somewhere, I am aware he is one that can mess up my bets. Keith Desormeaux has trained 3 G1 winners in his career and wins with 15% of his starters. However, with two of his best G1 winners, Exaggerator & Texas Red, they both under achieved compared to what their bloodlines suggested they would do on the race track, IMO. Both were very good, but both should have been great.
Mendelssohn is a 1/2 brother to Into Mischief and Beholder. He is one I would like more if I thought he could get a clear lead and slow down the pace. But there are several in here that will probably make him work hard and he will probably be grasping for air as they turn into the stretch. For this reason, I can not, in good faith, recommend anyone to include him in their exotics. He is one of 15 that could win if everything goes his way, which is not likely.
Vino Rosso will sit in mid pack and try to close by them all in the stretch. But before you bet him, there are a few things you may want to consider. In the G2 Wood Memorial, he stayed outside on the best part of Aqueduct's main dirt track and herded my top pick(according to footnotes from the trackman) to the inside part of the track, the worst place to be. I have known for years that your horse needed the rail on Aqueduct's inner dirt track(used during winter months only) and have waited every year for them to open the outer track, where I cash monster pay offs betting on late runners in the middle of their main outer dirt.
I did not realized they ran on the outer track all winter until earlier this week. Second, it seems Pletcher has always used Johnny V to draw attention away from his top contender. Or maybe Johnny V is a terrible judge at figuring which Pletcher horse is live. Either way, it makes it impossible for me to consider this horse, since his races are average at best. Another I am willing to take a stance against.
Solomini is Baffert's best shot at winning another derby this year, IMO, as I have mentioned on several occasions. For starters, he has ran a decent race in every start. Since breaking his maiden in his first start, he has shown up in the biggest and most competitive preps, barring no one. In the FrontRunner, he ran second to early Ky Derby favorite Bolt D'Oro. Then he ran second to expected 2nd favorite, Good Magic, in the BC Juvenile. Then he won the G1 CashCall Futurity(formerly Hollywood Juvenile) but was DQ to third and ran the fastest time at 1 1/16 mile recorded by a 2 YO in California in a G1 race last year that I found.
In his first start after a three month break, he got a horrible trip in the G2 Rebel S but still managed to finish second to highly regarded Magnum Moon. Then he run 3rd in the G1 Arkansas Derby behind Magnum Moon's and Quip's extremely slow pace for a G1 race and got exactly the type of race he needed to move forward.
A couple of more interesting facts concerning Solomini is his broodmare sire Storm Cat is in the pedigree of the last 3 Ky Derby winners. Yes, he was broodmare sire of Bodemeister, who was sire of 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and he was the broodmare sire line of both Nyquist, the 2016 Ky Derby winner and 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Storm Cat was also sire of 2006 Ky Derby 2nd Blue Grass Cat and 1999 Ky Derby 3rd Cat Thief and grandsire of 1999 Ky Derby 2nd Menifee. 2) Baffert has always tried to divert attention away from the horse he thinks is going to run their best race in the Ky Derby.
In 2015, he repeatedly marveled about Dortmund, but focused on Pharoah. Then in 2002, he scratched 2 front runners the week of the derby, making War Emblem the only true speed in the race. In 2001, his build up was all about Point Given but Congaree was the one that almost got there. And in 1998, he built Indian Charlie up, but his trainee Real Quiet came within a nose of sweeping the TC. So if you still don't believe Solomini is live, there is nothing I can say that will change your mind. A must include on my saver bets.
Magnum Moon is one I will not include in any of my bets. Bloodlines wise, he is right on the edge on being able to handle 1 1/4 miles in G1 company. However, to me, that means if he has a perfect trip and can slow the pace down enough, he will be tough. Not likely though, IMO. His last race was a perfect example of that, He slowed the pace to a crawl and still was trying to bear out in the stretch which signals one of two things; he was getting tired or he was still green. Either one is not the way you want your horse to go into the derby. Pass.
Audible is another I will bet against. In both his starts as a 3 YO, he was kept out off the rail and at GP late running horses that stay away from the rail won almost every time when a speed duel developed. If a late runner tried to get near the rail before making his run, he was usually not a factor in the outcome. Audible got perfect set ups in both his starts and his bloodlines says he will not want to go this far. Pass.
Justify will be near the lead but I really do not believe he can out break several of these, much less dictate the pace to give a good opportunity to last. His bloodlines suggests he can get near the 1 1/4 under idea circumstances, but definitely do not see that in this race. And the fact he has only 3 lifetime races only magnifies his inexperience and probability he will face trouble he has yet to encountered. Pass.
Flameaway is a name that has been thrown out as a likely contender. But he, like several others, does his best running near the lead and that alone will be the major factor why I will take a stance against. His race in the Blue Grass S is his only start that is fast enough to compete in this race and since he was near the lead throughout, the track condition helped his cause. He also has nowhere near the bloodlines I look for year after year. Not for me. Pass.
Bravazo is a 3/4 brother to 2013 Ky Derby participant, Oxbow. Oxbow showed promise early in his 3 YO, like Bravazo, but got a couple of less than inspiring rides in both the Ark Derby & Ky Derby. Then when he got a ride worth noting, he won the Preakness and ran 2nd in the Belmont. Bravazo, though, reminds me of Lukas other participant in that same derby, Will Take Charge. He has ran several good races but has yet to put it all together but when he does, you will hear his name pop up in big races. And Lukas is now the most patient and determined trainer to get a horse to realize his potential. However, I will have to pass on this horse as I like others better for the Kentucky Derby.
Noble Indy was last seen winning the La Derby. But he done it in a way that is rare for cheap stock to do it and most will not or can not repeat it. He opened a clear lead, then took a breather until late and was able to nipped the late runners at the wire. If he tries that in the Ky Derby, he will be swallowed by at least a half dozen horses. It is one thing to do it against one or two horses but a whole different story to do it against half the field. Actually never seen that happen before. Pass.
Promises Fulfilled will be sent from the gate to cause havoc on the other early speed to set the race up for his stablemate. Several trainers have used this tactic in the past in the Kentucky Derby but it rarely works. There is nothing good about running a horse in a race where he does not belong and it can lead to the horse becoming discouraged and never willing to try again. And Promises Fulfilled has given no indication he wants to go 1 1/8 mile, much less 1 1/4 miles. Pass.
Hofburg is, IMO, being asked to do more than I feel should be asked of any horse with such little experience. While he has the bloodlines to run against the best at this distance, it could be the worst decision this barn and owner has ever made. They will look like a genius if they succeed but the special interest groups will be all over them if the horse breaks down or pulls up in distress. But having deep pockets will give you opportunities only others can dream about. But I can not bet this horse against this caliber of a field off his race against Audible, a horse I feel has little to no chance of winning the Kentucky Derby. Pass.
Firenze Fire started his career with a lot of promise. But since he has turned three, he is the one horse that looks like he regressed or others caught up with and passed. That said, he still is not a horse that I can say has no chance because the fact remains he still has not ran a bad race. In his worst outing, he worked much too fast(100 breezing), then boarded a plane and flew from NY to Southern California to race in the G1 BC Juvenile, all in a span of 6 days.
Otherwise, he should have ran much worst than his 7th place finish suggested, after making a mild move before flattening out. Most top older horse could not have pulled off what he was asked as a 2 YO to do. Also, probably the main reason for his three year form more than other factors. Not impossible but I like others better at this point.
Combatant is the Scat Daddy son that to me looks like he is best equipped to handled the 1 1/4 mile distance. His race in the G1 Arkansas Derby was not as bad as it looked considering he tracked a slow pace while last early and finished 4th, just missing second. He is one that will not be considered by most, but he may just be more live than others believe. I mentioned the derby 3rd & 4th tends to be runners that are overlooked and he fits that assessment to a T. And his trainer is notorious for having his horses fit when others tends to think they are overmatched. Minor reward very possible and I might be willing to include him underneath, especially if his odds goes up too much.
Instilled Regard looked like he would be one to be considered earlier this year. But his SA Derby run was less than inspiring and I realize that was his 2nd race in a row where he had no chance to produce his best run. However, I feel he did not get enough out of each race to improve enough to make him a contender against these. He also has a pedigree that is heavily tilted towards a miler type and that also makes him suspect. If I had only a bunch of pace type horses to choose from, then I would be more likely to use him underneath. But there are several late runners that has a better finishing kick than he has displayed. Pass.
My 2018 Kentucky Derby bets will be as follows:
WP Enticed. Ex Box Enticed(keyed top & underneath) with Bolt D'Oro, Good Magic, Free Drop Billy, Solomini, and Lone Sailor. Tri Box Enticed, Good Magic, Solomini, Free Drop Billy— Tri Key Enticed with Good Magic, FDB, Bolt, Lone Sailor, Solomini, & Combatant in 2nd & 3rd. Super Key Enticed And Good Magic in first & second with FDB, Bolt, Solomini, Combatant & Lone Sailor in third & fourth.
These are the Kentucky Derby bets I am sure of thus far. I may or may not add a couple of more bets but they will only include the ones I have already mentioned, if I do. If I stick to these bets along with my future bets, I will have more than $600 in tickets, including more than $200 to win on Enticed, roughly half of it locked in at 69-1 and roughly $100 that is no longer in play. Otherwise, I am betting what I believe in and will simply move on to the next time if I am wrong.
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