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Kentucky Derby Picks: 5 Live Longshots
TUESDAY, APRIL 23, 2019
by: Rich Bieglmeier
The field is mostly set with the 2019 Road to the Kentucky Derby GPS reading end of the route. The top 20 leaderboard is final, and the four Alternate Entries stand ready should they get a racing silk and gate number in the event of scratch(es).
Oddsmaker William Hill has set the early 2019 Kentucky Derby lines with OMAHA BEACH as the 7/2 pre-race favorite followed by GAME WINNER 5-1, ROADSTER 6-1, IMPROBABLE and TACITUS both listed at 8-1, and MAXIMUM SECURITY at 9-1 filling out the top six early favorites.
All the talk between here and when the gates at Churchill Downs on May 4th will be focused on which horse has what it takes to win the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby, and if any have Triple Crown potential. We'll answer the second question first; no, we don't believe 2019 will have a Triple Crown winner.
If anything, the prep races showed that there isn't much difference between the top contenders. A bump here, a slow start there, traffic over there, a rainy day and wet track ... small difficulties are all it might take for the second, or third, or other than the "best horse" to find the winners' circle and a blanket of roses. It's wash, rinse, and repeat at the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
As for the first question, "which horse has what it takes to win the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby?" We'll answer that question with a series of follow-up profiles for the top contenders according to their pre-race odds. Today, our focus in on the longshots, horses with odds of more than 10-1 that have a chance to hit the board, maybe even win, and enhance winning exotic tickets.
War of Will at Fair Grounds
The first on our list must be WAR OF WILL with current odds on 18-1. The Mark Casse trainee won two Derby Prep races at Fair Grounds: the Grade III Lecomte Stakes and the Grade II Risen Star Stakes. He was the heavy favorite ($0.80) to win the Grade II Louisiana Derby. However, WAR OF WILL "took an extremely weird step" five strides into the race and then "buckles on his right hind," according to trainer Casse. He went on to say that he's never seen anything like it in his 40-years of training.
In the two Graded Stakes wins prior to his misstep, WAR OF WILL pressured the early pace, took the lead at the 3/4's marker and never looked back. Fast forward to today and it looks like "all systems are go" for the chocolate brown colt. He's back to training at Keeneland and assistant trainer David Caroll says, "He trained beautifully all week" and "each day he seems to be getting better."
In our view, if WAR OF WILL lived up to the betting public's expectations and won the Louisiana Derby, he'd be one off the pre-race KD favorites. At 18-1, he looks like and overlay.
One of the criteria a Kentucky Derby winner usually has on its resume is at least one triple-digit speed figure. There are three longshots that meet that standard.
BY MY STANDARDS pre-race odds 32-1
HAIKAL pre-race odds 30-1
SPINOFF pre-race odds 30-1
By My Standard in the Louisiana Derby
BY MY STANDARDS went over the mark by a few points in his Louisiana Derby win at 22-1; so, he is no stranger to pulling off the upset in a major race. The LA Derby was his first race after breaking his maiden in his fourth attempt.
In taking the Grade II crown at Fair Grounds, BY MY STANDARDS reduced his 6-furlong fraction by almost two-seconds compared to previous routes. That's usually a good sign that a horse is cycling into top form. Watch his workouts, if he takes to the Churchill track, he could pull off another upset.
Haikal taking the Gotham Stakes
HAIKAL is a neck away from five wins in six career starts with a third in his last race, the Wood Memorial Stakes. He popped his 100+ numbers on the speed gun in the Wood and winning the Grade III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. He is a closer and that running style hasn't won the Derby since ORB came from 16th to win in 2013; however, a deep closing effort has hit the board in five of last six KDs, with three of them at odds greater than 30-1.
He hit the Belmont Park track for a morning workout on Friday, April 19th, working a 1/2 mile in 47.59 seconds. That was the fastest of 48 at the distance. If HAIKAL continues bullets works, with his racing record, and extra 1/8th of mile, he could play the 30-1 spoiler role in 2019.
SPINOFF hit the triple-digit mark in an Allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs two back. He crushed a short field of five horse by 11 3/4 lengths. However, none of the others in the group have won since with the best finish being fourth and two finishing seventh in their most recent outings. To say the least, it wasn't a quality field.
He finished second behind BY MY STANDARDS in his last, the Louisiana Derby. Giving up the lead late at 1 1/8 miles is concerning considering the Kentucky Derby is 1 1/4 mile. The extra distance is concerning and something that could work against SPINOFF. The lightly raced, Todd Pletcher trainee will need to improve his late-race stamina to make his mark in the 2019 Kentucky Derby.
Code of Honor taking home the Fountain of Youth
Finally, horses that hit the board despite in-race troubles can be overlooked because their past performance lines look blah to OK at best. CODE OF HONOR (pre-race odds 14-1) has excuses in three of his five career starts. The two races without issues you ask? Both wins, including the Grade II Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. In the other three outings, he was bumped at the start twice and stumbled at the start in the other.
Needless to say, trainer Claude R. McGaughey, III will be working overtime to get CODE OF HONOR out of the gate cleanly in the lead up to the Kentucky Derby. The trainer, who won the Derby with ORB, worked CODE OF HONOR on Friday, April 19th. McGaughey noted, "I wanted him to go in 1:01 (5-furlongs) and that's what he did, and I had him going out in 1:13 and change (6-furlongs) and seven-eighths in 1:26 and change." Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey John Velazquez said the workout was, "Very good, very nice."
Much like ORB and HAIKAL, CODE OF HONOR will be coming from off the pace, but he'll need to get off to a clean start to win, place or show.
Considering the history of longshots at the Kentucky Derby hitting the board, we believe these five have a legitimate chance to finish in-the-money and maybe even win. In the days ahead, we will profile the leading contenders according to pre-race odds. Of course, we'll make our final picks for the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks along with our analysis in our 2019 Kentucky Derby Wagering Guide.
Good luck at the races!
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