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Kentucky Derby Report

Inner posts can be the kiss of death in the Derby. My Derby top Lookin At Lucky had a miserable trip from the rail in 2010, but came back two weeks later to capture the Preakness.

My Derby top Union Rags was shuffled out of contention from an inner post in 2012 but returned five weeks later to capture the Belmont Stakes. His son Free Drop Billy drew post two this year and might get shuffled back early.

For Derby post positions, I want my top win contenders to be as far away from the rail post as possible and 2015 was a good example. Early/pressing type American Pharoah drew post 18 and moved in a bit after scratches. He was free and clear and in the hunt throughout and his outer draw was the key to his victory over Firing Line and Dortmund.

Nyquist stalked the pace from post 13 en route to a 1-1/4 length victory over late striding Exaggerator in Kentucky Derby 2016.

The last four Derby winners (California Chrome, American Pharoah, Nyquist, Always Dreaming) all had early/pressing versatility and comfortable forwardly placed trips from advantageous post positions.

From a 2018 post position standpoint, all of the main contenders landed decent positions. I think Mendelssohn did very well to land post 14. He should attend the pace while in the clear, and his draw seems to enhance his chances.

Bolt d’Oro was a big post position winner after landing 11. He projects a free and clear stalking trip.

Good Magic could fall into a beautiful ground saving stalking trip behind the speed. He could easily ride the inner portion of the track to victory.

Magnum Moon should not have any issues from post 16 and will probably stalk the pace outside.

As for post time favorite Justify, he did okay getting post 7. The key to his success is relaxing early behind likely front runner Promises Fulfilled from post 3. Flameaway has been on the engine this week, and he figures to attend the pace from post 4.

Justify Kentucky Derby Handicapping Past Performances 

Audible is versatile and Javier Castellano will probably take up a tactical position from post 5.

At the other end of the spectrum, Firenze Fire drew the dreaded rail, but he was not a serious top four contender anyway. Combatant might have a tough go of it from post 20.

Noble Indy might be in trouble from post 19. He likes to be forwardly placed and could end up wide chasing lively fractions.

Solomini does not really have an effective winning running style, and whatever Flavien Prat decides, he better make a quick decision from post 17.

Vino Rosso will likely be coming from off the pace under John Velazquez from post 18. I would not say that he was a post position winner. It all depends on the break, and he may or may not end up with a wide or uncomfortable journey.

Everybody else did fine in the draw department including Lone Sailor (post 8), Hofburg (9), My Boy Jack (10), Enticed, (12), Bravazo, (13), and Instilled Regard (15). Blended Citizen is on the also-eligible list.

Jarrod Horak’s Final “Exceptional Eleven" Kentucky Derby 2018 Contenders

(1) BOLT D’ORO (Medaglia d’Oro - Globe Trot, by A.P. Indy)

Trainer (Mick Ruis) - Owner (Ruis Racing)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 143 (San Felipe Stakes, SA, 3-10-18)

Latest Workout: 4f in :48.20 (10/70) at Santa Anita Park on April 28.

Comments: He has been my top ranked Derby contender since I rolled out my first list on 9-25-17, and I see no reason to abandon him now. His six lifetime starts have produced four wins, a second, and a third, and the 3-time graded stakes winner (2 grade one wins) has a versatile running style. He had his first Derby work at Santa Anita Park on April 22. In that move, he was eager to work, getting his first half-mile in 46.60, and cruising through five panels in a brisk 58.40. He finished his work on the clubhouse turn under slight urging. In his final Derby work on April 28, he worked a rock solid solo half-mile under a very still Victor Espinoza, who has won the Kentucky Derby three times (War Emblem, California Chrome, American Pharaoh).  
Derby Points (104)

Bolt D'Oro Kentucky Derby Handicapping Past Performances 

(2) GOOD MAGIC  (Curlin - Glinda the Good, by Hard Spun)

Trainer (Chad Brown)

Owner (e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 153 (BC Juvenile, 11-4-17)

Latest Workout: 5f breeze in 1:01.20 (8/55) at Churchill Downs on April 28.

Comments: The 2-year-old champion was a flat 3rd in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, but he quickly put that effort in the rear view mirror after a rock solid stalk and pounce victory from an outer post position in the Blue Grass Stakes (150 Final Rating) at Keeneland on April 7. The 2017 BC Juvenile remains his best overall number, which is not a great sign, but the Blue Grass was definitely a step in the right direction. Trainer Chad Brown has methodically brought him along slowly this year, and he appears to be sitting on a top effort in the Kentucky Derby. His April 21 workout at Keeneland was excellent. The solo half-mile move was strong from start to finish, and he went an additional eighth of a mile in 1:01.40, and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.60. He had his final Derby workout at Churchill Downs on April 28, and once again, he was impressive. His gallops leading up to the Derby have been strong as well.    

Derby Points (134)

(3) AUDIBLE (Into Mischief - Blue Devil Bel, by Gilded Time)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) - Owner (WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, SF Racing) 

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 158 (Florida Derby, GP, 3-31-18)

Latest Workout: 4f in :49.40 (39/75) at Churchill Downs on April 27. 

Comments: There is not much that this New York-bred colt cannot do. He brings a four-race win streak into the Kentucky Derby, and he beat you from anywhere on the racetrack. He sat in 2nd in his romping Holy Bull Stakes victory (moderate pace). In the Florida Derby, the pace was smoking hot, and he rallied from 8th place. Due to his longstanding relationship with trainer Todd Pletcher, jockey Javier Castellano chose Audible over Bolt d’Oro for the Kentucky Derby. The $500,000 colt has never been a strong work horse, but his April 13 bullet was an exception. In that move, he worked inside older stablemate You’re to Blame, and finished on even terms after moving outside (pulled clear on the gallop out in 1:02.22). He worked in company with 2017 Derby also-ran Patch on April 20, and pulled well clear on the gallop out in 1:15.80. The only possible knock in his pedigree, which is not suited to a mile and a quarter.

Derby Points (110)

Audible Kentucky Derby Handicapping Past Performances 

(4) JUSTIFY (Scat Daddy - Stage Magic, by Ghostzapper)

Trainer (Bob Baffert)

Owners (China Horse Club, Head of Plains, Starlight Racing, WinStar Farm)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 147 (SA Derby, SA, 4-7-18)

Latest Workout: 7f in 1:25.20 (1/1) at Santa Anita Park on April 27.

Comments: The Kentucky Derby favorite has been going great guns since his sharp SA Derby wire job under Mike Smith. He had the first of his two Derby workouts at Santa Anita Park on April 21, and it was a solid move in company with Zipman. He got five furlongs in 1:00.80 and six panels in 1:13.20 before galloping out seven-eighths in 1:26.80 under his exercise rider Drayden Van Dyke. He started slow and finished fast, getting his final three furlongs in 36.00. In his final Derby move on April 27, he worked a strong seven panels (1:25.20) in company with recent maiden winner Longden (1-for-6 career record). Baffert caught the splits on his watch in 12.40, 24.40, 36.60, 49.20, 1:00.80, and 1:12.60. He galloped out a mile in 1:39.80. There is no denying his talent, and he is coming up to the race perfectly, but the 20-horse Derby stampede is a tall order for such an inexperienced horse.       

Derby Points (100)

(5) MAGNUM MOON (Malibu Moon - Dazzling Song, by Unbridled’s Song)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) - Owner (Robert and Lowana Low)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 149 (Arkansas Derby, OP, 4-14-18)

Latest Workout: 4f in :47.40 (4/75) at Churchill Downs on April 27.

Comments: He used his tactical speed and strong finishing kick to perfection in his first three wins, including a big Derby points race tally in the Rebel Stakes. He brought two bullet workouts into the Arkansas Derby, and went to the lead (slow pace) and never looked back in an easy triumph over pace presser Quip. It is easy to look good visually when everything is handed to you on a silver platter, and the same can be said of Justify. How will he handle a less than ideal trip in 20-horse Derby field? Apollo in 1882 was the last unraced 2-year-old to win the Kentucky Derby. He returned to his Palm Beach Downs base in Florida after the Arkansas Derby, and shipped to Churchill Downs on April 23.    

Derby Points (150)

(6) MENDELSSOHN (More Than Ready - Song of Bernadette, by Bernardini)

Trainer (Aidan O’Brien)

Owners (Derek Smith, Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 132 (BC Juvenile Turf, DMR, 11-4-17)

Comments: The UAE Derby has not been the preferred road to the Kentucky Derby to say the least, but this colt won the aforementioned Dubai race by a commanding eighteen lengths. Beholder’s $3 million half-brother shipped to Del Mar and won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last fall. In seven lifetime starts, he rattled off four wins in Dubai, Great Britain, Ireland, and the United States, and he has won on dirt, synthetic, and turf. He is one of the most intriguing overseas invaders to ever compete at Churchill Downs. He has arrived in Louisville and had his initial visit under the Twin Spires on May 3. 

Derby Points (100)

(7) VINO ROSSO (Curlin - Mythical Bride, by Street Cry)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) - Owner (Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 150 (Wood Memorial, AQU, 4-7-18)

Latest Workout: 4f bullet in 47.20 (1/75) at Churchill Downs on April 27.

Comments: The Wood Memorial hero has been hitting all the right notes since that breakout performance. In his workout on April 20, he drew away from older stakes winner Outplay, and galloped out six furlongs in 1:16.77. John Velazquez is his Derby pilot, and he has the pedigree to handle ten furlongs. 

Derby Points (107)

(8) SOLOMINI (Curlin - Surf Song, by Storm Cat)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) - Owner (Zayat Stables)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 140 (BC Juvenile, 11-4-17)

Latest Workout: 6f in 1:14.60 (4/9) at Santa Anita Park on April 29.

Comments: Gem of consistency has finished 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in all six starts. He has not won since breaking his maiden in his career debut, but he did cross the line first in the Los Alamitos Futurity (disqualified and placed 3rd). He has not shown a winning spirit in the stakes ranks, and the hard trying grinder has not developed a winning running style. He fired a three furlong bullet on April 23, and his final Derby move on April 29 was solid. In his latest work at Santa Anita, he galloped out seven furlongs in 1:28.20  and changed leads on time, something he has not always done. Baffert has said that he will instruct jockey Flavien Prat to take him back and let him finish in the Derby, and that strategy was successful for him in the Los Al Fururity late last year.

Derby Points (54)

(9) FREE DROP BILLY (Union Rags - Trensa, by Giant’s Causeway)

Trainer (Dale Romans) - Owner (Albaugh Family Stables)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 140 (Holy Bull Stakes, GP, 2-3-18)

Latest Workout: 4f in :49.40 (31/87) at Churchill Downs on April 28.

Comments: He earned a 140 Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last fall, and duplicated that number in in his first start this year in the Holy Bull (finished 2nd). In his final Derby prep on April 7, he was placed 3rd via disqualification in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland (138 Final Rating). He is one of four original members of the “exceptional eleven,” along with Bolt d’Oro, Good Magic, and Solomini. He uncorked a big bullet at Churchill Downs on April 21, and jogged a mile on April 24. He might be rounding back into top form. 

Derby Points (44)

(10) NOBLE INDY (Take Charge Indy - Noble Maz, by Storm Boot)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) - Owner (WinStar Farm)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 134 (LA Derby, FG, 3-24-18)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.60 (24/43) at Churchill Downs on April 27.

Comments: The Louisiana Derby winner is not afraid to get into a pace battle, and that determination to win is a big asset in a race like the Kentucky Derby. His LA Derby pilot John Velazquez has opted to ride Vino Rosso in the Derby, and Florent Geroux is his new pilot after Quip, another WinStar runner, opted to point to the Preakness Stakes. He had his first Derby workout on April 6, and breezed again in Florida on April 13. In his April 20 move, he was well clear of overmatched workmate Road to Damascus.   

Derby Points (110) 

(11) ENTICED  (Medaglia d’Oro - It’s Tricky, by Mineshaft)

Trainer (Kiaran McLaughlin) - Owner (Godolphin Racing, LLC.)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 146 (Gotham Stakes, AQU, 3-10-18)

Latest Workout: 5f breeze in 1:00.25 (2/7) at Palm Meadows on April 26.

Comments: The Champagne Stakes show finisher (Good Magic 2nd) ended his 2-year-old campaign with a victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. The latter key race produced subsequent stakes winners Bravazo, Diamond King, Promises Fulfilled, Quip, and Reride. He was 4th from the inside post in his Holy Bull return, but bounced back with a win from the outside post in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 10. In his final Derby prep in the Wood Memorial on April 7 (141 Final Rating), he stalked, took the lead, and was second best behind sharp winner Vino Rosso. In his latest workout on April 19, he traveled in company with Take Charge Paula, and he edged clear of his multiple Grade 2-placed workmate. It was a solid morning move, but I am concerned that his best speed rating was earned in a one-turn mile event.  

Derby Points (103)


(12) Hofburg - (40 points) - Bill Mott’s Florida Derby runner-up late bloomer appears to be developing rapidly. He worked in company with Good Samaritan on April 15, and got the better of his classy older work mate by a head. They galloped out 5f in 1:01.37, and kept on going another furlong (1:15.30). He drilled a five furlong bullet on April 22 in 1:01.40 (1/6), and impressed again in his final Derby workout at Churchill Downs on April 29. In his latest move, he worked in company with 3-year-old filly Villamay, and he worked a strong half-mile with an energetic gallop out. Irad Ortiz, Jr. will be his Kentucky Derby pilot. Like many others, he appears to be peaking at the right time, but looking ahead, the Belmont Stakes might be his coming out party, along with Vino Rosso.   

Hofburg Kentucky Derby Handicapping Past Performances 

(13) My Boy Jack (32 points) - The late runner definitely earned his Derby stripes in the Sham Stakes (3rd), Southwest Stakes (1st), LA Derby (3rd), and Lexington Stakes (1st). He could easily land a share for Team Desormeaux if the Derby pace heats up, but at this stage he seems to prefer a mile and a sixteenth. West Point Thoroughbreds has purchased an interest in the Creative Cause colt. His lone Derby breeze was an easy five furlong maintenance move in 1:03.20 (46/55) at Churchill Downs on April 28. 

(14) Flameaway - (70 points) - He ranks up there with My Boy Jack as a very likeable overachiever. He has won on dirt, synthetic, and turf, and has competed in eight stakes races with four wins, and a pair of 2nds. The early/pressing type never stops trying and has been on the muscle in his exercise leading up to the Derby. He breezed 5f in 1:00.40 (12/52) at Churchill Downs on April 21, and came back with a half-mile breeze in :47.80 (2/87) at Churchill on April 28. Jose Lezcano is his Derby pilot.  

(15) Lone Sailor - (40 points) - His lone points race success was a rallying 2nd in the LA Derby. He will be passing tired horses in the Kentucky Derby, and a minor award is not impossible, especially if the pace is swift. On April 19, he drilled a five furlong bullet in :57.60 (1/19) at Churchill Downs, and his final Derby move was a four furlong breeze in :48.00 (13/75) on April 27.

(16) Combatant - (32 points) - He settled for minor awards in all five of his Derby points race events. The late mover will be passing tired horses, and he can be used in the trifecta and superfecta. 

(17) Instilled Regard (29 points) - A couple of late defections helped land him in the Derby field. His improvement pattern ended after his Jan. 13 Lecomte win, and that is not a positive pattern. He worked 5f in 1:01.00 (37/96) at Santa Anita on April 21, and came back with another five furlong move in 1:00.80 (3/62) at that same venue on April 29. 

(18) Firenze Fire - (39 points) - He is easy to root for, but a mile and a quarter is too far. 25 of his 39 Kentucky Derby points were earned in one-turn mile races (Champagne, Jerome, Gotham). He breezed 3f in 39.70 (35/37) at Belmont Park (dirt training) on April 21, and returned with an easy half-mile breeze in 50.00 (52/83) at that same venue on April 28.    

(19) Bravazo - (54 points) - He qualified for the Derby with a game prominent throughout victory in the Risen Star, but was up the track when last seen in the LA Derby. The Wayne Lukas trainee worked six furlongs from the gate at Churchill Downs in 1:15/40 (1/3) on April 20, and his final Derby breeze was a five-eighths exercise in 1:01.40 (11/55) on April 28.   

(20) Promises Fulfilled - (50 points)  - The Dale Romans trainee is the likely Derby front runner, but he probably won’t be around at the finish. He went all the way in the Fountain of Youth, but got caught in a speed duel before throwing in the towel in the Florida Derby. He breezed 5f in 59.20 (4/52) at Churchill Downs on April 21, and went that same distance in 1:00.40 (4/55) on April 28. Like Bravazo, he may have peaked over the winter.  

(21) Blended Citizen (22 points) - The Derby also-eligible needs one defection to make the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. Even if he gets in, he faces a very tall order from the far outside post position. He seems to prefer synthetic or turf footing. 

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