Horse Racing

Kentucky Derby 2019 – Contenders & Pretenders

With the untimely scratch of our Kentucky Derby favorite Omaha Beach, this field takes a slightly different turn for home.  While the predicted pace doesn’t look to have been changed by much, although Maximum Security will look to have a bit more breathing room without Omaha Beach running right with him, the odds have, with the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Game Winner the new favorite.  If he stays as the favorite come post time, he will be the first Kentucky Derby favorite not to have won on the year since Timber Country in 1995.

Now, as we take a look at the field, we need to see who is a contender and who is a pretender.  With the scratch of Omaha Beach, this has shaken things up and moved some talented horses up.

Pretenders

These are the horses that will be finishing the race way back.  None have a chance to win and few of them have a chance to even grab a piece of the exotic.

(4) Gray Magician: lots of late speed helps, but hard to catch up when he will be way back early.

(9) Plus Que Parfait: UAE Derby winner showed a lot in Dubai, but hasn’t done anything on this side of the Atlantic.

(10) Cutting Humor: looks like he peaked last time out in the Sunland Derby; not so sure he will have what it takes.

(15) Master Fencer: didn’t look like a winner in his home country of Japan; hard to see him as a factor as he travels here.

(19) Spinoff: probably the better of the two Pletcher’s, but doesn’t seem like he is ready here; looks like he may need this race but one to watch come June in the Belmont.

(20) Country House: if Mott does win his first Derby, it won’t be with this one; just a cut below the rest of the field.

On The Bubble

These horses look the part for the exotics, but could easily end up in the midpack.  Each has a high-high, but a low-low to boot.

(1) War of Will: he came away from the Louisiana Derby with a slight injury, which factored into his poor performance; since then, he has been sharp in the mornings and looks better than before, but his speed figures in winning put him below the top contenders.

(11) Haikal: has one big run in him each race, but needs a pace collapse up front to really make a big move; he did get a bit closer to that with Bodexpress drawing in, which may give him the chance to pick up the pieces late and sneak up in the exotics.

(14) Win Win Win: I was wowed by his big late kick ability and nearly found himself as a contender; but his trailing off form has me worried that this might be too tough and too long a spot for him to get the right run.

(16) Game Winner: although he is the favorite and reigning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, he is the only one from that field to make it to the First Saturday in May and has yet to win since then; his form is trailing off and his ability to pull away from quality horses is lacking.

(18) Long Range Toddy: was ultra impressive when chasing down Improbable in the Rebel, but ran up the track in the Arkansas Derby; he could easily grab a spot in the exotics as he almost always runs a good race and should care for the distance.

(21) Bodexpress: the new shooter after Omaha Beach scratched; has been improving with every start and stays on well – could sneak up late.

Contenders

These horse have a great shot of winning, but might need a bit of help to get to the winners circle.

(2) Tax: he just got beat by Tacitus in the Wood Memorial after running a class race; his win in the Withers was visually impressive and he has had three straight great races; he will need help getting a clean break from the gate, but is one that will be running well at the end.

(6) Vekoma: has trouble running straight down the stretch, but his wins in the Nashua and Blue Grass are like what you want from a top Derby contender; hard to see him not playing a roll down the stretch.

(13) Code of Honor: flashy winner of the Fountain of Youth with a turn of foot unlike any other in this field; he needed his last race to get ready for this and looks to be getting better.

(17) Roadster: he looked on paper like the Santa Anita Derby winner and did just that; after coming back from throat surgery, he has impressed heavily and looks the part of what was once Baffert’s next “American Pharoah/Justify” – he keeps getting better but the distance is surely the question.

Top Contenders

These horses are the ones to watch for on Saturday, each with the best shots to win.  None should be taken for granted.

(3) By My Standards: professional and mature in his Louisiana Derby win, he has been impressive in the mornings and has been looking better and better each passing day; his experience at the top tier is a question, but he looked the part last out.

(5) Improbable: although he is winless on the year, he has gotten better with each run and is looking like he is sitting on a big one; pace is setting up well for him.

(7) Maximum Security: ran away with the Florida Derby with absolute ease (rewatch that race and look how easy he moved on the far turn as opposed to runner up Bodexpress); sure his wins came on a speed favoring track, but he hasn’t really moved a muscle in his wins; stamina is a question, but talent is well in hand here.

(8) Tacitus: mature, professional, and gritty – all the qualities I like in a Derby horse; loved his wins in the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood Memorial and he looks like he just wants to keep on running; pace shapes up well for him, he is a battler, and he is ready to go the distance.

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