Much has changed since we published Our Kentucky Derby contender by contender preview. First, the favorite Omaha Beach is no longer with us (he isn’t dead, but won’t be running) due to the discovery of an entrapped epiglottis. Haikal is gone thanks to a foot abscess which reduces the field to 19 after the inclusion of Grade 1 Florida Derby runner-up Bodexpress. Last, but not least, Starlight Racing decided to drop Corey Lanerie (poor guy!) in favor of “Big Money” Mike Smith who became available when Omaha Beach scratched.
But the biggest news of all is that the track is probably going to be wet which makes an already difficult endeavor, picking the winner, an even tougher challenge. There is no way to predict how horses will respond to having mud kicked in their face. Some will like it. Others will seemingly say, “Hey, this sucks, I’m packing it in!”.
As we previously discussed, the pace looks like it will be fast. #1 War of Will 20-1 will be flashing speed from the get-go in a bid to be clear of traffic. #2 Tax 20-1, #6 Vekoma 20-1 and #7 Maximum Security 10-1 will be in hot pursuit.
Right behind that group will be #5 Improbable 6-1, #8 Tacitus 10-1 and #16 Game Winner 5-1. The winner is likely one of those three. Two of them are trained by last year’s Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert.
The most likely winner of the three and perhaps the best horse in the group is Tacitus. He’s got tactical speed, is royally-bred and finishes fast. He broke his maiden over a wet track and his pedigree says he will run well regardless of whether the track is fast, good, muddy or sloppy. Tacitus has the look of a “now” horse that has been campaigned specifically for the purpose of running his best race on Kentucky Derby day. Obviously, that’s what we want. He’s in the best of hands with jockey Jose Ortiz and trainer Bill Mott.
Perhaps the only one you could conceivable argue is better than Bill Mott is the trainer of the other two contenders, Bob Baffert. His charge Improbable already has a win at Churchill Downs and his pedigree is that of a mudlark. He fires home fast and as such fits the profile of the type of horse we want to play. Game Winner is the most complete horse in the race and deserves to be the favorite. Last year’s Breeders Cup Juvenile winner has done nothing wrong and will be peaking in the Kentucky Derby.
If forced to look outside of that group we would consider the versatile #14 Win Win Win 15-1 who has been training up a storm for trainer Michael Trombetta, but might be a touch too slow to hang with the aforementioned three we like. If, for some reason, the pace doesn’t develop then Vekoma stands a chance at stealing away and getting to the wire first. But, that seems very unlikely.
This article might also be of interest to you – Maximum Security a Rabbit?
1st: #8 Tacitus 10-1
2nd: #16 Game Winner 5-1
3rd: Improbable 6-1