Why your horse will -- and won’t -- win the Kentucky Derby

Why your horse will -- and won’t -- win the Kentucky Derby
No race is tougher to ferret out than the Kentucky Derby, which at times can seem as perplexing 30 minutes before post time as it is 30 days or three months out.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The defection of Kentucky Derby favorite Omaha Beach because of a breathing obstruction called an entrapped epiglottis, along with the possible withdrawal of Haikal due to a foot bruise, illustrates the speed bumps awaiting any horse. Trainers hope not for good luck but just to avoid bad luck and will take their chances from there.

No race is tougher to ferret out than the Kentucky Derby, which at times can seem as perplexing 30 minutes before post time as it is 30 days or three months out. Luck cannot be handicapped. But here we are to helpfully tell you in advance why the winner prevails. Of course we do it for every horse in the field — as well as explaining why you can’t possibly cash a ticket betting that horse.

Let us do the detective work as we dissect the Derby — including the perilous exercise of handicapping the racing gods.

Notes: Final Fractions reflects how fast the horse ran the last eighth-mile and last three-eighths of a mile in its 1 1/8-mile prep race. The Final Fractions Theory rules out horses who ran the last eighth in less than 13.0 and the last three-eighths in less than 38.0. Click here for that breakdown.

Bris and Beyer speed figures are ratings designed to compute how fast a horse ran taking into account track conditions as a means of comparing horses from different tracks and races.

Program # 1 (Post 1) WAR OF WILL (15-1)

Owner: Gary Barber

Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Sire: War Front

Dam: Visions of Clarity

Record: 8—3-1-1

Earnings: $501,569

Last race: 9th, Louisiana Derby, Fair Grounds

Fastest Bris speed figure: 96, 2/16 Risen Star (1st)

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 94, 1/19 Lecomte (1st)

Final fractions in last race: 14.04, 39.94

Why War of Will can win

His three straight wins — a maiden victory in the slop at Churchill Downs, followed by impressive victories in the Fair Grounds’ Grade 3 Lecomte and Grade 2 Risen Star — signaled this is a top horse. He has looked and trained fabulously at Keeneland and now at Churchill. There’s a reason he was given the moniker WOW in the barn. He had a legitimate excuse in the Louisiana Derby when he lost his action shortly out of the starting gate, a fleeting physical mishap that seemed resolved by the next day. Some grass in the pedigree doesn’t hurt at Churchill Downs in the Derby (see Barbaro, Animal Kingdom).

Why he won’t

In the Louisiana Derby, WOW was more like Whoa. You must go back to 1957 with Iron Liege to find a Derby winner who was worse than fourth in his final pre-Derby prep. And War of Will was ninth. The No. 1 post does him no favors, probably forcing Tyler Gaffalione to go to the lead, with a lot of horses with his same up-close style to his right. Ferdinand in 1986 was the last Derby winner out of post 1, and he was a closer. Animal Kingdom in 2011 is the only Derby winner since Needles in 1956 to go into the Derby off a 42-day layoff. And with his finish in the Louisiana Derby, you could argue that it’s more like 77 days for War of Will, dating to his victory in the Risen Star.

Notable

The last of only three Louisiana Derby horses to win the Kentucky Derby was Funny Cide in 2003. The last horse to win both the Louisiana and Kentucky Derby was Grindstone in 1996. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione’s lone prior Derby was a 14th-place finish in 2017 aboard the one-eyed Patch. Mark Casse’s best finish out of six prior Derby starters was fourth-place Classic Empire in 2017. This is a great bar bet: The last Derby winner whose first victory came at Churchill Downs was Brokers Tip, who broke his maiden in the 1933 Derby.

Program # 2 (Post 2) TAX (20-1)

Owner: R A Hill Stable and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing

Trainer: Danny Gargan

Jockey: Junior Alvarado

Sire: Arch

Dam: Toll, by Giant’s Causeway

Record: 5—2-2-1

Earnings: $326,300

Last race: 2nd, Wood Memorial, Aqueduct

Fastest Bris speed figure: 103, 12/1 Remsen (3rd)

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 96, 2/2 Withers (1st)

Final fractions in last race: 13.48, 39.07

Why Tax can win

This is the one Tax that people can love. He’s bred for the distance, a big, strong gelding with a Claiborne Farm pedigree. He’s never been worse than third and is a lot better horse than people are giving him credit for. He’s the only horse in the field with three straight triple-digit Bris speed figures. The last horse to win the Derby after running the prior fall in Aqueduct’s 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes was Thunder Gulch in 1995. Interestingly, no Remsen loser has won the Kentucky Derby, with six horses winning both races. Tax was third.

Why he won’t

The racing gods just found out they’re not getting a refund this year. No horse who was ever claimed out of a race — as he was out of a $50,000 maiden-claiming race at Keeneland last fall — has ever won the Derby. In the modern era only three Derby winners had run in claiming races: Mine That Bird (2009), Charismatic (1999) and Dust Commander (1970). He came home in the Wood too slow under the Final Fractions Theory.

Notable

This is Louisville product Danny Gargan’s first Kentucky Derby. Co-owner Randy Hill also is co-owner in Blue Grass winner Vekoma. Jockey Junior Alvarado. The last Wood Memorial horse to win the Derby was Wood runner-up Funny Cide in 2003. Jockey Junior Alvarado’s best Derby finish in two prior mounts was fourth in 2016 with Mohaymen. Post 2 last produced the Derby winner with 1978 Triple Crown hero Affirmed.

Program # 3 (Post 3) BY MY STANDARDS (15-1)

Owner: Allied Racing Stables (Chester Thomas)

Trainer: Bret Calhoun

Jockey: Gabriel Saez

Sire: Goldencents

Dam: A Jealous Woman, by Muqtarib

Record: 5—2-2-1

Earnings: $653,710

Last race: 1st, Louisiana Derby, Fair Grounds

Fastest Bris speed figure: 102, Louisiana Derby

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 97, Louisiana Derby

Final fractions in last race: 12.49, 37.79

Why By My Standards can win

He has been improving by leaps and bounds and his barn thinks the colt hasn’t tapped his potential. By My Standards has looked spectacular training and his works have been tremendous, and he came home fast enough in the Louisiana Derby to qualify under the Final Fractions Theory. With speed to his inside, he could get a good trip from post 3 and avoid traffic on the first turn.

Why he won’t

By My Standards has a high bar to hurdle. No horse whose first win came at the Fair Grounds has ever won the Derby. No horse in at least 80 years — maybe ever — went from winning a maiden race, to winning a single Derby prep to wearing the roses in a three-race span. Animal Kingdom in 2011 is the only horse since Needles in 1956 to win the Kentucky Derby with a gap as long as 42 days since the prior race.

Notable

Gabriel Saez has been in two prior Derbys, including finishing second in the 2008 Derby with the filly Eight Belles, who tragically suffered catastrophic ankle fractures as she was being pulled up. He also was 18th in 2009 with Friesan Fire. This is the first Derby starter for Bret Calhoun and Chester Thomas of Madisonville, Ky. Only three horses have come out of the Louisiana Derby to win the Kentucky Derby, the last being Funny Cide in 2003. The last horse to win both races was Grindstone in 1996. Real Quiet in 1998 is the latest Derby winner out of the post.

Program #4 (Post 4) GRAY MAGICIAN (50-1)

Owner: Wachtel Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners

Trainer: Peter Miller

Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke

Sire: Graydar

Dam: Burg Berg, by Johannesburg

Record: 8—1-3-2

Earnings: $584,140

Last race: 2nd, UAE Derby, Meydan Race Course

Fastest Bris speed figure: 93, 2/16 Miracle Wood (2nd), Laurel

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 80, Miracle Wood, 11/24 Del Mar maiden (1st)

Final fractions in last race: 13.07, 39.09

Why Gray Magician can win

He is one of only two horses in the field to have run 1 3/16 miles, that coming in the UAE Derby. Never count out trainer Peter Miller.

Why he won’t

He didn’t win the UAE Derby, Plus Que Parfait did. His only win in eight starts is a maiden race. If he couldn’t win Laurel’s Miracle Wood, he isn’t going to win the Derby. You might not be able to count out Peter Miller, but you can count out horses in the UAE Derby. Their best finish to date out of 13 prior Kentucky Derby starters was Master of Hounds’ fifth in 2011. Fifty-to-1 shots only win when there is a wicked pace up front (see Giacomo, Mine That Bird). That doesn’t happen in this era of Derby points qualifying. He’ll need Houdini to get in the Derby winner’s circle.

Notable

Drayden Van Dyke, who grew up in Louisville and Hot Springs, Ark., finished fourth on Instilled Regard in his Derby debut last year. Peter Miller was 19th in 2011 with Comma to the Top as his only prior Derby starter. Super Saver in 2010 became the first winner out of post 4 since Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew in 1977.

Program #5 (Post 5) IMPROBABLE (5-1)

Owner: WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Irad Ortiz

Sire: City Zip

Dam: Rare Event, by A.P. Indy

Record: 5—3-2-0

Earnings: $619,520

Last race: 2nd, Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park

Fastest Bris speed figure: 100, 12/8 Los Alamitos Futurity (1st)

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 99, Arkansas Derby

Final fractions in last race: 12.38, 37.45

Why Improbable can win

He’s trained by the man who figures to tie and ultimately pass Ben Jones’ record six Kentucky Derby victories. Improbable finished very well in the Arkansas Derby, making him a Final Fractions Theory horse, and he’s never been worse than second. His versatile running style will serve him well, and post 5 is ideal for him. WinStar Farm has owned two Kentucky Derby winners (including Triple Crown winner Justify last year) and knows what it takes to wrest the roses. Improbable already has won over the track, taking Churchill’s Street Sense Stakes. Third race off a layoff is always a betting angle.

Why he won’t

After going 3 for 3 last year, he has two seconds in his two starts at 3, making one wonder if the better competition and/or distances are kicking in for the son of the top sprinter City Zip. His name is Improbable, not Probable or Definite. WinStar, China Horse Club International and Louisville-based Starlight Racing teamed to win the Triple Crown last year with Justify; the racing gods like to spread the wealth.

Notable

Bob Baffert’s Derby record is 5-3-3 in 29 starts, including with Triple Crown winners American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify last year.

The best finish in three prior Derby mounts for Irad Ortiz, the reigning Eclipse Award jockey, is Hofburg’s seventh last year. Starlight Racing, whose partners include a number of Louisvillians, is a minority owner in Improbable, as is China Horse Club. Look for Improbable to be much better in the gate than he was for the Arkansas Derby, for which Baffert added the blinkers. Improbable ran well in the slop at the Arkansas Derby, so predictions of rain Saturday shouldn’t be an issue. Post 5 has produced 10 Kentucky Derby winners since the advent of the starting gate in 1930, including Always Dreaming in 2017 and California Chrome in 2014.

Program #6 (Post 6) VEKOMA (15-1)

Owner: R A Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables

Trainer: George Weaver

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Sire: Candy Ride

Dam: Mona de Momma, by Speightstown

Record: 4–3-0-1

Earnings: $788,850

Last race: 1st, Toyota Blue Grass, Keeneland

Fastest Bris speed figure: 101, Blue Grass and 11/4 Nashua

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 97, Nashua

Final fractions in last race: 13.45, 39.39

Why Vekoma can win

Vekoma was a very good 2-year-old who will be making his third start off a four-month layoff, and that’s a handicapping angle. Has an excellent style with the speed to stay out of trouble. He’s improved as the distances have stretched out. Javier Castellano is the most accomplished active jockey to have never won the Derby.

Why he won’t

He came home way too slow in the Blue Grass, which hasn’t produced a Derby winner since Street Sense in 2007. Javier Castellano is the most accomplished active jockey to have never won the Derby, last year’s third with Audible his best finish out of 12 prior mounts. All six Derby winners since the advent of the points system were unbeaten at 3 and won all their points-qualifying races. Vekoma was third in Gulfstream Park’s Fountain of Youth.

Notable

Weaver could become the third generation of the Wayne Lukas training tree to win the Derby, following the four-time winning training patriarch Lukas and two-time winner Todd Pletcher, who was Weaver’s boss when Pletcher was Lukas’ New York assistant and when Pletcher went out on his own. This is Weaver’s second Derby starter, following 17th-place Tencendur in 2015. For whatever reason, post 6 has underperformed for what should be a good starting position, with Sea Hero in 1993 and Iron Liege in 1957 the only winners in the 89 years with a starting gate.

Program #7 (Post 7) MAXIMUM SECURITY (8-1)

Owner: Gary and Mary West

Trainer: Jason Servis

Jockey: Luis Saez

Sire: New Year’s Day

Dam: Lil Indy, by Anasheed

Record: 4—4-0-0

Earnings: $649,400

Last race: 1st, Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park

Fastest Bris speed figure: 102, Florida Derby

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 102, 2/20 Gulfstream allowance

Final fractions in last race: 12.52, 35.96

Why Maximum Security can win

He’s the fastest horse in the race, winning his four starts by a combined 37 3/4 lengths. If he gets away with the pace he stole in the Florida Derby, they won’t catch him. If Dust Commander could come out of a $7,500 maiden-claiming race — that he lost — en route to the 1970 Derby, Maximum Security can come out of a $16,000 maiden-claiming race that he won by 9 3/4 lengths. The surest way to come up with a good horse is to sell the sire — with New Year’s Day this year relocated to Brazil. (See 1993 Derby winner Sea Hero.)

Why he won’t

He won’t get away with a slow pace.

Notable

This is trainer Jason Servis’ second Derby starter, his first coming last year with 11th-place Firenze Fire. His brother, John, won the 2004 Kentucky Derby with his first starter, Smarty Jones. They’d become the first brothers to win the Derby as trainers. Owner-breeders Gary and Mary West also have the Bob Baffert-trained 2-year-old champion Game Winner in the Derby. Luis Saez’s best finish with six prior Derby mounts was Brody’s Cause’s seventh in 2016. The Florida Derby’s 24 winners in the Kentucky Derby are the most for any prep race. Triple Crown winner Justify last year and Street Sense in 2007 are the last winners out of Post 7.

Program #8 (Post 8) TACITUS (8-1)

Owner: Juddmonte Farms Inc.

Trainer: Bill Mott

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Sire: Tapit

Dam: Close Hatches, by First Defence

Record: 4—3-0-0

Earnings: $653,000

Last race: 1st, Wood Memorial, Aqueduct

Fastest Bris speed figure: 103, Wood Memorial

Fastest Beyer speed figure:

Final fractions in last race: 13.30, 38.47

Why Tacitus can win

He might have the best bloodlines in the field, being by international super-stallion Tapit and out of Close Hatches, a top-class racemare, a $2.7 million-earner who won nine of 14 starts. He has won three straight races after starting off with a close fourth in his debut, with his Wood Memorial one of the prep season’s most impressive performances after he burst through the stretch after clipping heels mid-way through and being seemingly out of contention. In this era of the points system for Derby qualifying, all six winners had won all of their points races, and Tacitus is 2 for 2, also winning the Tampa Bay Derby. The racing gods want to see Bill Mott finally win a Kentucky Derby, along with Juddmonte Farms for being one of the classiest owners in the game.

Why he won’t

Tapit is known for siring Belmont Stakes winners, not Derby winners. The Wood Memorial field was weak and that impressive finish could have been something of an illusion. Albeit just barely, his final eighth-mile and three-eighths goes against the Final Fractions Theory. Mott, known for developing top older horses, has never been better than seventh, with eight prior Derby starters dating to 1984, the seventh being Hofburg last year. But watch out for Tacitus in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Notable

The last Kentucky Derby winner who came out of the Wood Memorial was Funny Cide in 2003. Juddmonte Farms’ best Derby finish was with favored Empire Maker in 2003. Jose Ortiz’s best finish out of four prior Derby mounts was second last year on Good Magic. The Tampa Bay Derby has produced two Kentucky Derby winners, Street Sense in 2007 and Super Saver in 2010. Post 8 last produced 50-1 winner Mine That Bird in 2009 and Barbaro in 2006 among its eight winners.

Program #9 (Post 9) PLUS QUE PARFAIT (30-1)

Owner: Imperial Racing

Trainer: Brendan Walsh

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Sire: Point of Entry

Dam: Belvedera, by Awesome Again

Record: 7—2-1-2

Earnings: $1,590,400

Last race: 1st, UAE Derby, Meydan Race Course

Fastest Bris speed figure: 94, 11/24 Kentucky Jockey Club (2nd)

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 84, Kentucky Jockey Club

Final fractions in last race: 12.93, 38.46

Why Plus Que Parfait can win

He has a lot of stamina in his pedigree and is the only horse to have raced — and won — at 1 3/16 miles. The racing gods have been snickering over the mispronunciation of Plus Que Parfait’s name and can’t resist forcing the Kentucky governor to try to say his name before an international television audience. The Russians interfered in our election; why can’t a horse owned by Russians interfere with our Derby?

Why he won’t

He’s not good enough or fast enough, which was why going to Dubai for the $2.5 million UAE Derby was a brilliant Plan B. No UAE Derby horse has ever finished better than fifth in the Kentucky Derby. President Donald Trump will sign an executive order banning any horse with a French name from winning.

Notable: This is Brendan Walsh’s first Derby starter. Ricardo Santana’s best finish out of four prior Derby mounts was 12th on Untrapped in 2017. This is his first Derby mount for a trainer other than Steve Asmussen. The Kentucky Jockey Club, in which Plus Que Parfait was second last fall, has produced seven Kentucky Derby winners, most recently Super Saver in 2010. The last winner out of post 9 was Riva Ridge in 1972.

Program #10 (Post 10) CUTTING HUMOR (30-1)

Owner: Starlight Racing

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Sire: First Samurai

Dam: Pun, by Pulpit

Record: 6—2-2-1

Earnings: $516,967

Last race: 1st, Sunland Derby, Sunland Park

Fastest Bris speed figure: 99, Sunland Derby

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 95, Sunland Derby

Final fractions in last race: 12.18, 37.01

Why Cutting Humor can win

His final eighth-mile in a Sunland Derby victory was the fastest of any horse in the field among the final preps. Starlight Racing will be laughing all the way to the bank. Racing gods have a sense of humor, and being a son of the stallion First Samurai and the mare Pun gives Cutting Humor the most clever name in the field. If Corey Lanerie could be second in the 2017 Derby on Lookin At Lee, he can win on Cutting Humor.

Why he won’t

Win? You’re joking, aren’t you? The only Kentucky Derby winner to come out of the Sunland Derby was 50-1 shot Mine That Bird, and he at least had been Canada’s champion 2-year-old.

Notable

Trainer Todd Pletcher won the 2010 Derby with Super Saver and the 2017 Derby with Always Dreaming. Corey Lanerie has had four prior Derby mounts, Lookin At Lee his best finish. Giacomo, the 50-1 winner in 2005, is the last horse to win out of post 10, but in the 1980s it produced four winners. The last horse whose first victory came at Gulfstream Park West, back when it was known as Calder, was Lil E Tee in 1992.

Program #11 (Post 11) HAIKAL (30-1)

Owner: Shadwell Stable

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin

Jockey: Rajiv Maragh

Sire: Daaher

Dam: Sablah, by Distorted Humor

Last race: 3rd, Wood Memorial

Fastest Bris speed figure: 102, 1st, Gotham (1st)

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 95, Gotham

Final fractions in last race: 13.13, 38.24

Why Haikal can win

This is a better horse than people think. Wait until the distance gets longer. If Kiaran McLaughlin could finish second in 2005 with 71-1 Closing Argument, he can win with Haikal, a better horse.

Why he won’t

He’s being treated for a foot abscess and could be scratched. Since the Derby points system was created, all six Derby winners won all the qualifying races in which they participated. He was third in the Wood Memorial after winning the Gotham. As his Jimmy Winkfield victory at seven furlongs and Gotham at a mile indicated, his future might be as a come-from-behind sprinter or miler. Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner, is the only horse to come out of the Gotham to win the Derby. He’s not Secretariat.

Notable

Rajiv Maragh’s best finish in five prior Derbys was third aboard Mucho Macho Man in 2011. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has had three fourth-place finishes with his previous eight Derby starters, his best finish being second with 71-1 Closing Argument in 2005. The Wood Memorial has produced 20 Derby winners, most recently Funny Cide in 2003. Post 11 has produced only two Derby winners, the last being the front-running Winning Colors in 1988.

OMAHA BEACH HAS BEEN SCRATCHED

Program #13 (Post 12) CODE OF HONOR (12-1)

Owner: Will S. Farish

Trainer: Shug McGaughey

Jockey: John Velazquez

Sire: Noble Mission

Dam: Reunited, by Dixie Union

Record: 5—2-1-1

Earnings: $478,820

Last race: 3rd, Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park

Fastest Bris speed figure: 95, Florida Derby, Fountain of Youth (1st), Champagne (2nd)

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 95, Fountain of Youth

Final fractions in last race: 12.78, 36.79

Why Code of Honor can win

His breeding and running style suggest 1 1/4 miles will be an asset. He ran well to finish a closing third in the Florida Derby, behind a slow pace and over a track where speed excelled. Trainer Shug McGaughey already has won the Derby, with Orb in 2013, and expects Code of Honor to be in the thick of things. The racing gods want to reward owner-breeder Will Farish, an industry stalwart who is a former chairman of the board at Churchill Downs and who was the breeder and part-owner when eventual Horse of the Year A.P. Indy had to scratch the morning of the 1992 Derby with a foot problem.

Why he won’t

In the points-qualifying era, all six winners have won all their qualifying races and been unbeaten at 3.

Notable

The last horse to win the Derby after running in Belmont’s Grade 1 Champagne at age 2 was Super Saver in 2010. John Velazquez is a two-time Kentucky Derby winner, picking up the mount the day before on Animal Kingdom in 2011 and two years ago on Always Dreaming. This is his 21st Derby. McGaughey won the Derby on his seventh attempt, with 2013 winner Orb his last time in the race. Canonero in 1971 is the last of the three Derby winners coming out of post 12.

Program #14 (Post 13) WIN WIN WIN (12-1)

Owner: Live Oak Plantation

Trainer: Michael Trombetta

Jockey: Julian Pimentel

Sire: Hat Track (JPN)

Dam: Miss Smarty Pants, by Smarty Jones

Record: 6—3-2-1

Earnings: $367,300

Last race: 2nd, Toyota Blue Grass, Keeneland

Fastest Bris speed figure: 101, 1/19 Pasco, Tampa Bay Downs

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 99, Pasco

Final fractions in last race: 12.69, 38.98

Why Win Win Win can win

Just look at his name. If you’re a trip handicapper, you absolutely have to use him, with all the trouble he was in during the Blue Grass. He was flying the last eighth-mile. He has looked terrific training at Churchill, including an impressive workout (half-mile in 47 3/5).

Why he can’t

No No No. In the Derby points era, all six winners won all their qualifying races, and Win Win Win went 0 for 2. A horse whose only stakes win was in the seven-furlong Pasco is not wearing the roses.

Notable

Trainer Michael Trombetta’s only prior Derby starter was Sweetnorthernsaint, the surprise post-time favorite who finished seventh in 2006. This is Julian Pimentel’s first Kentucky Derby. The only jockeys since Ronnie Franklin (Spectacular Bid, 1979) to win on their first attempt are Stewart Elliott (Smarty Jones, 2004) and Mario Gutierrez (I’ll Have Another, 2012). The Pasco has never produced a Derby winner, though Musket Man was third in the 2009 Derby. Six horses born in Florida have won the Kentucky Derby, the last being Silver Charm in 1997. That’s a distant second to the 110 Derby winners born in Kentucky. Post 13 was lucky for five winners, the last being Nyquist in 2016.

Program #15 (Post 14) MASTER FENCER (JPN) (50-1)

Owner: Katsumi & Yasuyo Yoshizawa

Trainer: Koichi Tsunoda

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Sire: Just a Way

Dam: Sexy Samurai, by Deputy Minister

Record: 6—2-2-0

Earnings: $234,391

Last race: 2nd Fukuryu Stakes, Nakayama, Japan

Fastest Bris speed figure: NA

Fastest Beyer speed figure: NA

Final fractions in last race: 13.02, 37.32

Why Master Fencer can win

He is the only horse in the field to have run 1 1/4 miles, and he did so twice his first two career starts. He’s a son of the Japanese-bred Hat Trick, himself a son of 1989 Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence.

Why he won’t

He didn’t win those 1 1/4-mile races, which came on grass. Kudos to Master Fencer’s connections for being sporting. But he wasn’t even the best horse in the Japanese series of Derby-qualifying races that weren’t even Japan’s top events.

Notable

Master Fencer is the first Japanese-born horse to compete in the Derby. Two other Japanese-based horses have run in the race, with Ski Captain (14th in 1995) and Lani (ninth in 2016). The last time a horse won the Kentucky Derby after making his prior start outside North America was Canonero II in 1971. Julien Leparoux’s best finish in 10 prior Derby mounts was fourth in 2017 on Classic Empire. Only two horses have won from post 14 in the starting-gate era, the last being Carry Back in 1961 — the longest drought for any post except the winless No. 17.

Program #16 (post 15) GAME WINNER (9-2)

Owner: Gary and Mary West

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Sire: Candy Ride

Dam: Indyan Giving, by A.P. Indy

Record: 6—4-2-0

Earnings: $1,846,000

Last race: 2nd, Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita Park

Fastest Bris speed figure: 103, 11/2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 97, Santa Anita Derby, 9/29 G1 American Pharoah

Final fractions in last race: 12.99, 39.13

Why Game Winner can win

His name says it all. Street Sense, Nyquist and American Pharoah took away the so-called, 2-year-old champion jinx. He’s a “change of venue” horse, one who runs well on his home circuit but can really show his best talent when he gets away from California, as when Game Winner captured the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. Only two horses have ever finished in front of Game Winner, one being now-sidelined Omaha Beach in the Rebel Stakes. Game Winner became the 9-2 morning-line favorite with Omaha Beach out, and the favorite has won all six years under the Derby’s points system of qualification.

He has Maximum Security, the Florida Derby winner who also is owned by Gary and Mary West, in as a rabbit to set up his closing kick.

Why he won’t

He doesn’t appear to have made the advance forward from 2 to 3 necessary to win the Derby. He might not be able to beat his Bob Baffert-trained stablemates Roadster or Improbable. Or Maximum Security, also owned by Gary and Mary West. Under the points-qualification system, all six winners won all their points races and were unbeaten at 3. He’s 0 for 2.

Notable

A win would give trainer Bob Baffert a record-tying sixth Kentucky Derby victory. Jockey Joel Rosario won the 2013 Derby aboard Orb. Game Winner could join Street Sense in 2007 and Nyquist in 2016 are the only Breeders’ Cup winners to also take the Kentucky Derby. Gary and Mary West haven’t had a Derby starter since 2005, their best finish with three runners being Dollar Bill’s 15th in 2001. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015 and Orb from 2013 are the most recent winners out of post 15.

Program #17 (Post 16) ROADSTER (5-1)

Owner: Speedway Stable

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Sire: Quality Road

Dam: Ghost Dancing, by Silver Ghost

Record: 4—3-0-1

Earnings: $706,200

Last race: 1st, Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita Park

Fastest Bris speed figure: 98, Santa Anita Derby

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 98, Santa Anita Derby

Final fractions in last race: 12.79, 38.27

Why Roadster can win

He is trained by one of the greatest Triple Crown horsemen of all time in Bob Baffert. California-based horses have won four of the last five Derbys and five of the last seven. Derby history is littered with jockeys who took off the Derby winner to ride another horse, as Mike Smith did in choosing the now-sidelined Omaha Beach over the horse upon whom he won the Santa Anita Derby. Karma is with him as he got out of the winless post 17 — the only starting position that has never produced a Derby winner — and moved into 16 with Omaha Beach’s scratch.

Why he won’t

Other than his maiden race, Roadster has faced no more than five rivals in a race, and he won’t know what’s coming at him in the large Derby field. There’s a reason that Smith, one of the most intelligent riders in the game, thought Omaha Beach was a better fit for the Kentucky Derby.

Notable

Florent Geroux, who picked up the mount on Roadster when Smith opted to ride Omaha Beach, has been in three prior Derbys, finishing third on Gun Runner in 2016. The Santa Anita Derby has produced 18 Kentucky Derby winners. Post 16 has produced four winners in the starting-gate era, the last being Animal Kingdom in 2011.

Program #18 (Post 17) LONG RANGE TODDY

Owner: Willis Horton

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Jon Court

Sire: Take Charge Indy

Dam: Pleasant Song, by Unbridled’s Song

Record: 8—4-1-1

Earnings: $854,459

Last race: 6th, Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park

Fastest Bris speed figure: 97, 3/16 Rebel (1st)

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 95, Rebel

Final fractions in last race: 14.13, 40.00

Why Long Range Toddy can win

The racing gods, themselves pretty long in the tooth, are rooting for 58-year-old Jon Court, who will be the oldest jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby, according to the Kentucky Derby Museum. He beat one of the leading Derby contenders in Improbable in winning a division of Oaklawn Park’s Grade 2 Rebel Stakes.

Why he won’t

He was a well-beaten sixth in the Arkansas Derby, and you go back to Iron Liege in 1957 to find a Kentucky Derby winner who was worse than fourth in its prior start - and that was a fifth place. He landed in the winless (out of 40 starters) post 17 with the scratch of Omaha Beach. If Long Range Toddy was part of Asmussen’s A team, his first four starts wouldn’t have been at Remington Park.

Notable

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen literally has won everything but the Kentucky Derby. Owner Willis Horton won the 2006 Kentucky Oaks with 47-1 shot Lemons Forever. This is his third Derby starter. Court’s best finish in three prior Derbys was eighth on the Horton-owned Will Take Charge in 2013.

Program #19 (Post 18) SPINOFF (30-1)

Owner: Wertheimer and Frere

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Manny Franco

Sire: Hard Spun

Dam: Zaftig, by Gone West

Record: 4—2-1-1

Earnings: $260,000

Last race: 2nd, Louisiana Derby, Fair Grounds

Fastest Bris speed figure: 102, Louisiana Derby

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 95, Louisiana Derby

Final fractions in last race: 12.64, 37.94

Why Spinoff can win

He’s a really good horse who didn’t have the best of trips when a close second to By My Standards in the Louisiana Derby. He has improved every race and another jump forward puts him right there. Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher’s prior 52 Derby starters is a record that he acquired with his four-horse entry last year, including third-place Audible.

Why he won’t

He won’t get the needed trip from post 18. Jockey Manny Franco will either have to ask him too much at the start to get a good position in a field full of horses with his running style, or take him back much farther than he’s ever been before. The 11-horse Louisiana Derby aside, he doesn’t have a lot of experience in traffic, having faced only four and three rivals in his two prior starts. The last winner whose first official stakes victory came in the Derby was Alysheba, though he finished first in the 1987 Blue Grass, only to be disqualified to third in a five-horse field for interference.

Notable

The Louisiana Derby has produced three Kentucky Derby winners, the last being Funny Cide in 2003. In his only prior Derby mount, Manny Franco was 17th in 2015 on Tencendur. Alain and Gérard Wertheimer come from an internationally prominent racing family from France, but this is their first Kentucky Derby starter. The family has been in racing and breeding for more than 100 years. Since 1981, the Saratoga Special has launched only one Derby winner, that being Swale in 1984. Gato Del Sol in 1982 remains the only horse to win from post 18 out of 32 attempts, though it has produced four seconds.

Program #20 (Post 19) COUNTRY HOUSE (30-1)

Owner: Mrs. J.V. Shields Jr., E.J.M. McFadden and LNJ Foxwoods

Trainer: Bill Mott

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Sire: Lookin At Lucky

Dam: Quake Lake, by War Chant

Record: 6—1-2-1

Earnings: $260,175

Last race: 3rd, Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park

Fastest Bris speed figure: 95, Louisiana Derby

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 91, Arkansas Derby

Final fractions in last race: 12.73, 37.60

Why Country House can win

He’s a big, strong horse who looks the part and will be rolling at the end. If the pace is hot enough, he could roll right into the winner’s circle. The racing gods want to make amends after his sire, champion Lookin At Lucky, got a trip from hell when breaking from the rail, finishing sixth after being shuffled back to 18th in the 2010 Derby.

Why he won’t

Some amends! The racing gods balanced things out by giving Lookin At Lucky’s son post 20 (now post 19 with Omaha Beach out). The last Derby winner who had only a maiden victory going into the race was Alysheba, who did finish first in the 1987 Blue Grass only to be disqualified to third.

Notable

Hall of Famer Bill Mott was Churchill Downs’ all-time winningest trainer for more than 31 years until his then-702 victories were surpassed on Nov.12, 2017, by Dale Romans. Mott’s only win in a Triple Crown race was in the 2010 Belmont Stakes with Drosselmeyer, who the next year gave the trainer his second victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, following Cigar in 1995. I’ll Have Another in 2012 is the only horse to win from post 19 out of 27 starters.

Program #21 (Post 20) BODEXPRESS (30-1)

Owner: Top Racing and Global Thoroughbred

Trainer: Gustavo Delgado

Jockey: Chris Landeros

Sire: Bodemeister

Dam: Pied a Terre, by City Zip

Record: 5—0-3-0

Earnings: $208,700

Last race: 2nd, Florida Derby Gulfstream Park

Fastest Bris speed figure: 98, Florida Derby

Fastest Beyer speed figure: 96, Florida Derby

Final fractions in last race: 12.75, 36.53

Why Bodexpress can win

He beat Code of Honor in the Florida Derby. Chris Landeros is riding with a lot of confidence. His sire, Bodemeister, was second in the Kentucky Derby. He’s ahead of the game just by getting into the race with the scratch of Omaha Beach.

Why he won’t

No horse has broken its maiden in the Derby since Brokers Tip in 1933. Bodemeister was second; he didn’t win. Big Brown in 2008 is the only Derby winner from post 20. News flash: He’s no Big Brown.

Notable

This is Chris Landeros’ Derby debut. Trainer Gustavo Delgado was 18th with Majesto in 2016 in his only other Derby appearance.

Copyright 2019 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.