Kentucky Derby Picks – Top Contenders

by | Apr 15, 2019

Updated Friday, May 3, 2019

Game Winner, Tacitus, horses to beat in 2019 Kentucky Derby, but big longshots enticing

Kentucky Derby-G1, Churchill Downs
Race 12, Saturday, May 4, 2019
Age: 3-Year-Olds Distance: 1 1 1/4-miles. Surface: Dirt. Purse: $3 Million

2019 Kentucky Derby Picks

  1. Tacitus
  2. Game Winner
  3. Roadster
  4. Vekoma
  5. Code of Honor

Kentucky Derby Superfecta, Trifecta, Exacta Longshots and Overlays: Plus Que Parfait, Spinoff, Bodexpress

2019 Kentucky Derby Entries

1. War of Will (20-1)

Jockey: T. Gafflione
Trainer: M. Casse

2. Tax (20-1)

Jockey:J. Alvarado
Trainer:D. Gargan

3. By My Standards (20-1)

Jockey: G. Saez
Trainer: W. Calhoun

4. Gray Magician (50-1)

Jockey:D. Van Dyke
Trainer:P. Miller

5. Improbable (6-1)

Jockey:I. Ortiz, Jr.
Trainer:B. Baffert

6. Vekoma (20-1)

Jockey:J. Castellano
Trainer:G. Weaver

7. Maximum Security (10-1)

Jockey:L. Saez
Trainer:J. Servis

8. Tacitus (10-1)

Jockey:J. Ortiz
Trainer:W. Mott

9. Plus Que Parfait (30-1)

Jockey:R. Santana, Jr.
Trainer:B. Walsh

10. Cutting Humor (30-1)

Jockey:M. Smith
Trainer:T. Pletcher

11. Haikal SCRATCHED
12. Omaha Beach (SCRATCHED)
13. Code of Honor (15-1)

Jockey: J. Velazquez
Trainer: C. McGaughey III

14. Win Win Win (15-1)

Jockey:J. Pimentel
Trainer:M. Trombetta

15. Master Fencer (JPN) (50-1)

Jockey: J. Leparoux
Trainer: K. Tsunoda

16. Game Winner (5-1)

Jockey: J. Rosario
Trainer: B. Baffert

17. Roadster (6-1)

Jockey: F. Geroux
Trainer: B. Baffert

18. Long Range Toddy (30-1)

Jockey: J. Court
Trainer: S. Asmussen

19. Spinoff (30-1)

Jockey:M. Franco
Trainer:T. Pletcher

20. Country House (30-1)

Jockey:F. Prat
Trainer:W. Mott

21. Bodexpress (30-1)

Jockey:C. Landeros
Trainer:G. Delgado

Kentucky Derby Horse-by-Horse Analysis (Sorted by Program No.)

With rain in the forecast, it appears that the 2019 Kentucky Derby will be run over a muddy track, which means anything could happen. Of course, just about anything that could happen usually does in the Kentucky Derby, and trying to predict how the race will run on a fast track is tough enough, let alone mud city.

The thing we like most about this year’s Kentucky Derby is that almost any horse could win it, and there are a few massive longshots with a chance to slip into the exacta. This is our kind of horse race!

Read through the horse-by-horse analysis below, pick a few logical horses and longshots, bet the horses with the best overlay odds to win, and start boxing to your heart’s content.

This could pay big!

No.1 War of Will (20-1)

Winner of the LeComte Stakes-G3 and Risen Star Stakes-G2 at Fair Grounds, War of Will has been training like a bearcat since taking a scary bad step in the Louisiana Derby-G2 and finishing ninth. He’s better than that and had a legitimate reason not to fire. Showed quite a bit of talent before that race and he looks like he’s back on track again, but these are tougher than what he’s beaten, and he might have to be used early from Post No.1. Trainer Mark Casse says they’re sending him early, but he actually doesn’t need the lead to win. He can be very tough when on his game, but he will likely have company up front if he sends and that will definitely hurt his chances going 1 1/4-miles. Also of note, he broke his maiden on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs, and rain is expected for this year’s Derby. If you’re looking for an angle on this horse, that would be it.

No.2 Tax (20-1)

You have to give this former $50,000 claimer and the trainer who claimed him, Danny Gargan, all the credit in the world for clawing their way into the Kentucky Derby, but now they’re really going to get tested for class. Won the Withers Stakes-G3 two starts ago but was really no match for possible Derby favorite Tacitus in the Wood Memorial even though he was only beaten 1 ¼-lengths. Will likely find himself a spot on the rail in mid-pack and hope the pace collapses, but while we can’t see him winning, he could slip into the Kentucky Derby Superfecta with a dream trip.

No.3. By My Standards (20-1)

Seems to be everybody’s “Wise Guy” horse in this year’s Kentucky Derby, and we always have one. Ran a strong race to win the Louisiana Derby-G2 in his last and looks like he is still improving, and although these are much tougher horses than he has faced, his numbers fit and he’s been working like a champ at Churchill Downs for solid trainer Brett Calhoun. Should be able to work out a decent trip just back the pacesetters and also looks like he’ll go the distance. Could make a bid in early stretch if he gets a good trip, but he’ll need some luck on that crazy run into the first turn, Churchill Downs seems to have an awfully long stretch on Derby Day, and the big boys will be coming hard late.

No.4 Gray Magician (50-1)

Runner up in the UAE Derby-G2 halfway across the world against easier horses, including the winner of that race, Plus Que Parfait, who he’ll meet again here. His Beyer Speed Figures seemed to have stalled in the 80 range before that race, and that’s not remotely close to being good enough to win this race. Should be okay with the distance, as the UAE Derby was at 1 3/16-miles, but we’re not so sure about the company. We’re going to guess he’s overmatched in this year’s Derby unless he’s some kind of slop monster, but he’s already run once over a very different sloppy surface at Santa Anita without a positive result.

No.5 Improbable (6-1)

One of three horses in this year’s Kentucky Derby trained by five-time Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert, you have to give him credit for his effort in finishing second to Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby-G1 in his last, but it appeared that jockey Jose Ortiz squeezed every ounce from him that day and it wasn’t enough. Nor was it enough to convince Jose Ortiz to abandoned possible Derby favorite Tacitus. Brother Irad Ortiz Jr. will be aboard this horse for the Derby, and he’s as good a rider as you can find in North America right now, so that gives him a shot at the Superfecta. Numbers and company wise, he fits, but his morning line odds seem too low at 6-1, and his last race left us wondering if he really wants to go the 1 ¼-miles of the Kentucky Derby. A couple of angles to note. He gets the blinkers taken back off after a one-race try with them in the Arkansas Derby, and he’s proven over a sloppy track, which that race was run on. Baffert and Ortiz Jr. could also be considered angles in his case, and a few lengths improvement have him making a bid at some point in the race. Can he keep it going though?

No.6 Vekoma (20-1)

At morning-line odds of 20-1 and trending higher, Vekoma could be the sneaky sleeper horse in this year’s Kentucky Derby. Not only does he have the top early pace numbers, but he also gets the services of star jockey Javier Castellano for underrated trainer George Weaver. He clearly tired in his first start off a four-month layoff in the Fountain of Youth Stakes-G2 and still managed to finish third. He then came back to win the Blue Grass Stakes-G2 by 3 ½-lengths over fellow Derby entrant Win Win Win after pressing the pace. While everyone expects the horse to his direct outside, Maximum Security, to take the early lead, Vekoma might simply be faster. If he wants to be. Either way, he doesn’t need the lead to win, and he could get a great trip just off the leaders if he decides to make that his game. He’s won three of four starts including last year’s Nashua Stakes-G3, he can give himself a great trip, and he looks like he’ll go the distance. He still has to answer the class question, but heck, at 20-1 at the morning line, he has a ton of positives going for him. We’re going to call him the best overlay in the field right now.

No.7 Maximum Security (10-1)

Almost everyone’s pick to go to the lead in this year’s Kentucky Derby, undefeated Maximum Security has been shocking people ever since breaking his maiden in a $16,000 claiming race in his first lifetime start by 9 ¾-lengths. He’s now won four races by a combined margin of 38 lengths including the Florida Derby-G1 in his last start, in which he wired the field while setting a tortoise pace. He won’t likely have the luxury of setting a slow pace in the Derby with Vekoma to his inside, but who knows. In his last race fellow Kentucky Derby, entrant Code of Honor was 3 ¾-lengths behind him after a half-mile in 48.8. Code of Honor could work faster than that with you sitting on him, and there were a bunch more in that race that were also well off the slow pace. He doesn’t need the lead to win, he’s already proven that, but with the scratch of Omaha Beach there just isn’t a lot of speed in this race. Tough to find fault with this guy, except maybe the fact that horses coming into the Derby off romping wins don’t generally get themselves fit enough to go 1 ¼-miles. Is a wire-job in the slop possible? Yes, but his likely underlay odds certainly don’t make this horse enticing.

No.8 Tacitus (10-1)

Has won three in a row including the Wood Memorial-G2 and Tampa Bay Derby-G2 in his last two starts and looks like he’s still improving for top trainer Bill Mott. Overcame trouble to win the Wood and proved he can handle the going when it gets rough, which could very well happen in the Kentucky Derby. More workmanlike than flashy, we love the work pattern he’s been on at Churchill Downs and jockey Jose Ortiz is solid in the saddle. He’s also ridden this horse in all four of his lifetime starts. By a top sire out of a champion mare, he also has an excellent stamina pedigree. Expect him to come with a long grinding rally to be in the win photo.

No.9 Plus Que Parfait (30-1)

Got into this year Kentucky Derby because of his win in the UAE Derby-G2 and he had to ship across the planet to do it because he wasn’t going to beat the best in the Derby preps here. He got blinkers on for that race and appeared to improve, but it’s impossible to tell how much because of the strength of the field behind him. He did defeat fellow 30-1 Derby entrant Cutting Humor when he broke his maiden, but he was soundly beaten by fellow Derby entrants War of Will and Country House in the LeComte-G3 and Risen Star Stakes-G2. There are, however, three big positives with this horse. He was beaten only a neck in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes-G2 last year at Churchill Downs, on a sloppy track, and he might be totally forgotten about on the tote board this year. A must use as an overlay, and who knows, you might just get lucky in the rain.

No.10 Cutting Humor (30-1)

Comes into this race off a win in the Sunland Derby-G3, but those horses were nowhere near the quality of the top tier in this year’s Kentucky Derby. He also loses top rider John Velazquez to Code of Honor, so what does that tell you? He did run a 95 Beyer Speed Figure in the Sunland race, and that would put him close with a little improvement. He also finished second in the slop at Belmont in his first lifetime start with Velazquez aboard, so that’s a plus on the track condition side. But we bet on him in that race, and he was lucky to beat the forced-to-wait Anotherwtisafate, who came back to finish a non-threatening second in the Lexington Stakes-G3. Trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Derby twice with horses we didn’t think were good enough, and one was a very lucky wire job, but we get the feeling this horse is going to be an underlay, and we’re not buying it. One more late note, last year’s Kentucky Derby-winning rider Mike Smith will replace the originally named Corie Lanerie on this horse. That’s still not enough to move him up more than a few lengths at most in our humble analysis.

No.11 Haikal (Scratched)

No.12 Omaha Beach (Scratched)

No.13 Code of Honor (15-1)

At 15-1 on the morning line Code of Honor is fair odds, but he also has a great trainer at the helm in Derby-winning trainer “Shug” McGaughey. Winner of the Fountain of Youth-G2 two starts ago he came back to run a rather dull third in the Florida Derby-G1 after being caught in Lala Land with the rest of the field behind the slow pace set by Maximum Security. Hall of Famer Velazquez stays in the saddle, so that will help, and the trainer will have him ready, but we’re thinking he’s going to need an absolute dream trip and a fast pace up front to finish in the top three. Could that happen? Sure, the connections are just too good to leave him out of your Kentucky Derby Superfectas.

No.14 Win Win Win (15-1)

While 15-1 seemed like fair odds on Code of Honor, the same can’t be said for Win Win Win. Third and second behind Tacitus and Vekoma in the Tampa Bay Derby-G2 and Blue Grass Stakes-G2 respectively in his last two starts, while also having a slight fitness advantage, he’s going to have to improve to beat those two in here. He did run a 99 Beyer Speed Figure while winning his first start as a 3-year-old in a minor stakes race going seven furlongs, but he has found the waters much deeper since then. He also finished second in a minor stakes over a good track in his start previous to that, so that’s a bit of bright spot considering the rain that’s predicted. And he has been keeping good company, but we’d still have to call this horse a longshot for the Kentucky Derby Superfecta at best, and his odds just aren’t good enough to entice us to do anything else with him.

No.15 Master Fencer (50-1)

Japanese shipper finished second in the $308,500 Fukuryu Stakes going 1 1/8-miles in his last and has never run outside of that country. Not only does he have to face the total bedlam that is Kentucky Derby Day, but he’s also likely moving up in class three or four notches. If this horse wins or even hits the board, he’ll be doing it without our money.

No.16 Game Winner (5-1)

Seemed to hang in his last two but we’re thinking that five-time Kentucky Derby-G1 winning trainer Bob Baffert hadn’t tightened the screws yet on his reigning champ. He’ll be tight on Derby Day. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1 winner (at Churchill Downs) was wide throughout in the Santa Anita Derby-G1 and also moved early before fighting on gamely to lose another photo he probably doesn’t even know he lost. Runner-up in the second division of the split Rebel Stakes-G2 in his previous start, he also lost a photo in that race after making a big run at the winner and former Kentucky Derby favorite Omaha Beach (now scratched from the Derby) and losing by a head bob. He may be the best horse in this year’s Kentucky Derby field, and he’s already a proven fighter with a win over the track, but he has very little margin for error, and he’s likely going to be wide again from Post 16.

No.17 Roadster (6-1)

Tough to fault this guy off his latest win in the Santa Anita Derby-G1, in which he defeated stablemate Game Winner, and there’s still a chance he could be a decent price on Derby Day due to the presence of not only that horse but also Tacitus and Maximum Security. Horses that win the Santa Anita Derby do win the Kentucky Derby, and this horse should not be underestimated. The third of three Baffert trainees in this race, he was taken back off the pace in his last and came with a good late run to win. Baffert thought this horse was a star last year before he was sidelined with a breathing issue, and it seems that all systems are go now. Has enough speed to stay close and should get just the trip he needs to run his race. Has to be included in your Kentucky Derby Superfecta wagers and we couldn’t fault you if you bet him to win at a nice price.

No.18 Long Range Toddy (30-1)

We never thought this horse was a Kentucky Derby horse early, but he started to change our mind when he won the Rebel Stakes-G2. He then changed it back again with a dull effort in the sloppy Arkansas Derby-G1 behind Omaha Beach with no visible excuse. He finished sixth beaten 14 ¾-lengths in that race, his final prep for the Kentucky Derby. While he’s probably better than that, he clearly showed that when he had to start running with the good horses, he couldn’t do it. He may, in fact, have just peaked too early, and that is not a good way to come into the Kentucky Derby.

No.19 Spinoff (30-1)

Another horse that had his regular rider John Velazquez defect to fellow Derby entrant Code of Honor for this race, and that after finishing a good second beaten only ¾-lengths to Kentucky Derby wise guy horse By My Standards in the Louisiana Derby-G2. To his credit, Spinoff gave it everything he had in that race and just wasn’t good enough, and it was only his second start off a long layoff. His numbers are trending in the right direction and his sire Hard Spun was a gamer who finished second in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, so this horse does have an inkling of a possibility, at the very least as a flyer Kentucky Derby Exactor Wheel or Tri and Superfecta longshot at huge odds.

No.20 Country House (30-1)

The “other” Mott horse. How often have you seen a trainer with an entry in a race win with the less heralded of the two? Mott did it to us once before in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and he won’t catch us off guard again. Another flyer longshot that will likely get a little action on the tote board, Country House seemed to hang in his last two starts, finishing fourth and third respectively in the Louisiana Derby-G2 and Arkansas Derby-G1. His figures are improving slightly, but he doesn’t appear quite fast enough to win. He’d need a total pace meltdown, but because he has a top trainer in Mott in his corner, along with solid jock Flavien Prat in the saddle, he has to be left in your Kentucky Derby Superfecta mix.

No.21 Bodexpress (30-1)

There’s a good chance that maiden Bodexpress will be the longest shot on the board at post time for this year’s Kentucky Derby despite the fact that he finished second beaten only 3 ½-lengths by Maximum Security (one of this year’s Derby favorites), in his last start, the Florida Derby-G1. But he also beat Code of Honor by 3 ¼-lengths in that race. He finished closer to one of the Derby favorites than anyone else has, while also running a lifetime best Beyer Speed Figure of 96. Sure he was close to a slow pace, but he at least proved he could beat decent horses with a good trip. He has enough speed to stay close in the Derby, and if he moves forward off that race with a similar trip, who knows what could happen. Trainer Gustavo Delgado is 10-for-24 this year, so he knows what he’s doing, but history is not really on his side. Only three maidens have ever won the Kentucky Derby, the last one being Broker’s Tip in 1933. A flyer for sure, but he might be a legitimate one. At possible odds of 100-1, why not?
Go get ‘em!

2019 Derby Prep Picks and Recaps

2/16/19 Risen Star Fair Grounds 1 1/16 Miles War of Will
3/2/19 Fountain of Youth Gulfstream Park 1 1/16 Miles Code of Honor
3/9/19 Gotham Aqueduct 1 Mile Haikal
3/9/19 San Felipe Santa Anita 1 1/16 Miles N/A
3/9/19 Tampa Bay Derby Tampa Bay Downs 1 1/16 Miles Tacitus
3/9/19 Jeff Ruby Steaks Turfway Park 1 1/8 Miles  
3/16/19 Rebel Oaklawn Park 1 1/16 Miles Omaha Beach; Long Range Toddy
3/23/19 Louisiana Derby Fair Grounds 1 1/8 Miles By My Standards 
3/24/19 Sunland Derby Sunland Park 1 1/8 Miles  Cutting Humor
3/30/19 UAE Derby Meydan Racecourse 1 3/16 Miles  Plus Que Parfait
3/30/19 Florida Derby Gulfstream Park 1 1/8 Miles  Maximum Security
4/6/19 Wood Memorial Aqueduct 1 1/8 Miles Tacitus 
4/6/19 Blue Grass Keeneland 1 1/8 Miles Vekoma  
4/6/19 Santa Anita Derby Santa Anita 1 1/8 Miles Roadster 
4/13/19 Arkansas Derby Oaklawn Park 1 1/8 Miles  

Omaha Beach

4/13/19 Lexington Keeneland 1 1/16 Miles