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Kentucky Derby Recap and Preakness Preview

Justify put an emphatic end to the Apollo Curse in a prominent throughout victory in Kentucky Derby 2018 on Saturday, May 5 at Churchill Downs.

Mike Smith positioned Justify perfectly in second, just off the flank of overmatched 49-1 front runner Promises Fulfilled through strong splits of 22.24, 45.77, and 1:11.01 over the sloppy (sealed) main track. Good Magic was right behind the top two, probably no more than a length and a half back through the opening six furlongs. Justify opened up after Promises Fulfilled gave in, and the race was basically over after a mile. Good Magic gamely chased the winner for the final quarter of a mile and came up a couple of lengths short while just holding second over late mover Audible.

Justify is now 4-for-4, and looms a very short price in Preakness 2018 on May 19. His preliminary Today's Racing Digest numbers for the Derby were a strong 185 Pace Rating and a 140 Final Rating. Just like recent Derby winners California Chrome, American Pharoah, Nyquist, and Always Dreaming, Justify used his early speed to establish an advantageous forward position under the Twin Spires, and he cruised home as the sixth straight Derby betting favorite.

Justify Kentucky Derby Handicapping Past Performances 
As for his Triple Crown chances, he has made tremendous strides in a very short time, and if he makes it through his next test in the Preakness, he will have a handful of fresh, talented horses waiting to pounce on him in New York. If he wins the first two legs and heads to Belmont Park, the final Triple Crown series race will be his sixth start in sixteen weeks. To give you an idea of his recent busy schedule, if he kept going at that pace, he would face the starter more than eighteen times in a calendar year!   

The complete order of finish for Kentucky Derby 2018 (with comments):

Justify (1st) - I wanted the inexperienced colt to prove that he could ship from Santa Anita Park and face a stiff challenge. He passed his Derby test with flying colors over a wet track he obviously loved, but it would be a mistake to hand him the Preakness. Always Dreaming looked eerily similar in 2017, and he faded badly as a heavy favorite in Baltimore. 

Good Magic (2nd) - Chad Brown did a magnificent training job getting this one to peak on Derby Day. The Derby was the first time he ever saw a wet track, and he performed admirably. He appears to be back in top form and could easily turn the tables on Justify in the Preakness. His sire Curlin won the Preakness Stakes in 2007, and his dam sire Hard Spun was 3rd in the Preakness that same year. Chad Brown saddled 2017 Preakness hero Cloud Computing...Look out if this one show up in Baltimore!

Good Magic Kentucky Derby Handicapping Past Performances 

Audible (3rd) - He runs his race every time regardless of pace or track condition. Todd Pletcher’s talented NY-bred has made his way to the Big Apple and is expected to go in the Belmont Stakes next. I do not fancy his pedigree at a mile and a half.

Instilled Regard (4th) - Somebody had to rally for 4th in the slop, and the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee spiced up the superfecta at 85-1. If you used the horses exiting the SA Derby, you had 1st and 4th covered. I would gladly play against him in future starts if he takes too much action due to his higher than anticipated Derby finish. 

My Boy Jack (5th) - Probably would have finished much higher with a smoother journey. The surprising second betting choice was last after six furlongs and 16th after a mile, and weaved his way though traffic to finish a fast closing 5th (beaten seven lengths). He was 15+ lengths back after nine furlongs! The Derby was his third race in six weeks, and it looks like he will target either the Belmont Stakes or the Belmont Derby. 

Bravazo (6th) - Made a move from 11th to 4th in the stretch, and flattened out to finish a respectable 6th. Wayne Lukas was concerned that he might be short in his first start in six weeks, and he is expected to arrive at Pimlico on May 14 for the Preakness.

Bravazo Kentucky Derby Handicapping Past Performances 

Hofburg (7th) - One of two horses I thought were strong Belmont Stakes candidates, and the inexperienced late mover ran to my expectations in the Derby. He started out in 16th place and ended up 7th. He is lightly raced with a strong long distance pedigree, and the Bill Mott trainee is likely to show up in the Belmont Stakes next.

Lone Sailor (8th) - The LA Derby runner-up made a move from 12th to 6th but flattened out in the stretch to finish 8th. He is currently listed as possible for the Preakness.

Lone Sailor Kentucky Derby Handicapping Past Performances 
Vino Rosso (9th) - I was expecting him to finish midpack in the Derby and point to the Belmont Stakes, and hopefully Pletcher decides to target the third leg of the Triple Crown. The long winded sort would be a perfect fit for the Test of Champions.

Solomini (10th) - The consistent horse without an effective running style passed half the field after sitting in 20th for the first half-mile. He will probably win a stakes race at some point, and the Belmont Stakes might be a good fit for the grinder.  

Firenze Fire (11th) - The stalker from the rail hung in there for a mile or so before running out of pedigree and fading to 11th (12+ lengths behind Solomini). He is a decent sort at shorter distances, and I can see him earning checks in future 3-year-old stakes races between 7-8.5 furlongs. 

Bolt d’Oro (12th) - My longtime top ranked Derby contender was in a nice tracking spot right outside Good Magic for the first mile, but when jockey Victor Espinoza asked the question, he had no answer and steadily retreated in the stretch. He did not seem to care for the wet track at Churchill Downs. It originally appeared as though he would get some time off and point to the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, but owner/trainer Mick Ruis has had a change of heart. He is expected to enter the Preakness if the track is fast, and he will be reunited with his favorite 2017 pilot Corey Nakatani. If he does not go to Pimlico, look for him to shoot for the Penn Mile on turf or Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard.   

Bolt D'oro  Kentucky Derby Handicapping Past Performances 

Flameaway (13th) - He figured to be forwardly placed in the Derby, and he alternated between 3rd and 4th for the opening mile before throwing in the towel. He is a solid, consistent early/pressing type, and I can definitely see him doing well this summer in races like the Ohio Derby and West Virginia Derby.

Enticed (14th) - His best number was earned in the one-turn Gotham Stakes, and the ten furlong Derby distance did him no favors as expected. He never got closer than 11th place. I would like to have a future wager on him for the 2019 Met Mile.

Promises Fulfilled (15th) - He figured to be the Derby front runner and did not disappoint. He wilted as expected and did not hang in there long enough to soften up Justify. He can be dangerous when he catches the right lone speed scenario in a race without superstars.

Free Drop Billy (16th) - He was a decent juvenile but has not really progressed on the speed figure scale. He can earn some money for his connections when they find his niche...miler?

Noble Indy (17th) - The early/pressing type figured to be in deep water from post 19, and he was never able to secure a decent position from his tough draw. He showed heart and determination in his LA Derby triumph, and one of the lesser Derbies might have his name on it later this year.

Combatant (18th) - He was hung out to dry from post 20 and was never able to establish a decent position. He rallied to hit the board in multiple Derby points races, and I can see him finishing in the trifecta in lesser future graded routes. 

Magnum Moon (19th) - He played bumper cars early and was never able to establish position. The Arkansas Derby hero is very talented but the Derby was too much for the unraced juvenile. He was clearly was not as far along as Justify, and his drifting out antics in the Arkansas Derby and in his works leading up to the Kentucky Derby hammered that point home. Trainer Todd Pletcher will probably regroup and point to the Travers later this summer. 

Mendelssohn (20th) - The Dubai shipper was bumped and banged around early, and his race was over before it began. He probably did not care for the wet track either. Aidan O’Brien could send him back to the U.S. for the BC Classic later this year.

PREAKNESS 2018 PROBABLES (as of 5-11-18):

Derby Runners:

Justify - Kentucky Derby hero is a perfect 4-for-4.
Good Magic - 2-year-old champ was a very good 2nd in the Derby.
Bravazo - Risen Star hero was not disgraced in his 6th place Derby effort.
Lone Sailor - LA Derby runner-up was 8th on the first Saturday in May.
Bolt d’Oro - Was going great guns prior to hooking Justify in his last pair.

New Shooters:

Diamond King - Qualified for Preakness with Federico Tesio score.
Pony Up - Pletcher runner was 2nd in the Jeff Ruby Steaks and 3rd in Lexington.
Quip - Tampa Bay Derby hero was last seen finishing 2nd in the Arkansas Derby.
Sporting Chance - 2017 Hopeful winner is a likely Preakness pace player.
Tenfold - 5th when last seen in the Arkansas Derby.  

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