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Complete breakdown of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 03: Jockey Victor Espinoza guides California Chrome #5 to the finish line to win the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Saturday’s Kentucky Derby should be one of the more wide open events we have seen in recent years. The favorites all have question marks, and there are several horses capable of jumping up and winning.  The Derby is one of the hardest races to make money on, because luck is much more of an element in a 20-horse field. The weather could be a factor, too. We will attack the race from several angles in hopes of getting a monster score.

At the bottom of this you will find some thoughts on how to play the race. They require some knowledge of the game (hopefully by now you have listened to Acing Racing 2016). We have scored in 10 of the last 12 Triple Crown trifectas, but full disclosure both misses came in the Derby. So if we fail you here, stick around for two weeks from now. (We did actually lose money on one of the ones we hit, so 9 of 12 if you want to use that standard, which is what I do).

For more content, catch my Triple Crown podcast on with the incomparable @rjinvegas here.

For more detail on this year’s race, we did a separate podcast here.

Finally, my premium trifecta plays and undercard plays are available at

Here we go:



Odds: 20-1

Post position: 1

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Trainer:  Steve Asmussen

Race record: 9 starts, 2 wins, 2 seconds, 2 thirds.

Why he can win: I loved this horse until the post draw. He is a durable closer who always gets involved late and has faced some of the best in his generation. The switch to Lanerie is a huge plus, and the distance hits him right between the eyes.

Why he can’t: The rail is impossible in a 20-horse field. Since 1963, there has been ONE rail winner. Hitting the board is almost as rare. Was all set to pound him, but reality is he is done. Will still play him small across the board and tie him up in some exactas, but not going to go crazy now. Simply not worth the investment.


Odds: 20-1

Post position: 2

Jockey: Christophe Soumillon

Trainer:  Saeed bin Suror

Race record: 8-4-2-0

Why he can win: He has reeled off three impressive efforts in a row, including a win in the UAE Derby over some nice horses.

Why he can’t: Dubai horses simply have made almost no impact on the Derby. The long travel after such a grueling race generally is too much. Worth using on some plays but would be a mild surprise.


Odds: 50-1.

Post position: 3.

Jockey: Channing Hill

Trainer:  Michael Maker

Race record: 6-3-1-0

Why he can win: He runs the race of his life, and no one else shows up.

Why he can’t: He simply has not beaten much and won the weakest prep of the Derby season. Might hang around for a while but will be surprised if he is still in the mix at the end.


Odds: 30-1

Post position: 4

Jockey: Ricardo Santana

Trainer:  Steve Asmussen

Race record: 6-1-3-1

Why he can win: He has that hang around kind of style that tends to translate to 1 1/4 miles.

Why he can’t: He is not really bred for distance and qualified by nibbling at purses in the Rebel, Risen Star and Lecomte. Does not seem to want to go this far and would need massive improvement.


Odds: 5-1

Post position: 5

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer:  Todd Pletcher

Race record: 5-3-1-1

Why he can win: He has been outstanding since switching to two turns, and his Florida Derby win was a thing of beauty. He has a running style that should play very well on Saturday, and he should have no excuses.

Why he can’t: Pletcher is 1 for 45 in 16 Derbies. That is not a fluke number. He runs his horses hard in the preps, and this one was pushed along as well. We might have seen his best on Florida Derby Day, and a regression would keep him out of the winner’s circle.


Odds: 30-1

Post position: 6

Jockey: Jose Lezcano

Trainer:  Mark Casse

Race record: 10-1-4-2

Why he can win: He is a speedball who has hung around against tough company all winter long. He might find himself with the early lead here, and he always shows some guts in the stretch and won’t go away without a fight.

Why he can’t: That one win in 10 starts sort of jumps off the page. He is always in the mix, but never seals the deal. Would take a career effort.


Odds: 15-1

Post position: 7

Jockey: Mike Smith

Trainer:  Joe Sharp

Race record: 4-3-1-0

Why he can win: He has done little wrong in winning two solid races at Fair Grounds in relatively impressive fashion. Fair Grounds horses have fared well in making the trifecta in the past few Derbies.

Why he can’t: An untimely foot injury last week is a cause for concern. If he is right, he is a legit contender at a more than fair price.


Odds: 15-1

Post position: 8

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer:  Steve Asmussen

Race record: 6-2-1-1

Why he can win: His Sunland Derby win was impressive, and flattered when Conquest Mo Money ran a sharp second in the Arkansas Derby. A repeat would make him a contender.

Why he can’t: Hard to see where that race came from. He had really showed nothing other than a close maiden win in the slop at Oaklawn, but maybe he figured it out. Kind of have to use him out of fear but hard to play him confidently.


Odds: 20-1

Post position: 9

Jockey: Mario Gutierrez

Trainer:  Doug O’Neill

Race record: 8-1-3-1

Why he can win: O’Neill and Gutierrez are a dangerous team, and brought you I’ll Have Another, among others. This horse ran his best when running the longest race of his career and gets more distance today.

Why he can’t:  He was a maiden when he shocked the world in the Blue Grass, but he had some prior solid efforts in stakes company before that. Unlikely here, but would not be shocked if he hangs around for a piece at a monster price.


Odds: 15-1

Post position: 10

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer:  Anotonio Sano

Race record: 9-4-2-1

Why he can win: He has run some monster races, including the Fountain of Youth and Delta Jackpot. Even his losses in Florida  can be excused to pace and post position issues. Always seems to fire, has been on a sloppy track before and if the pace is solid and he gets a clean trip, look out.

Why he can’t: Closers in 20-horse fields are subject to all sorts of things that need to go their way. He will have to get lucky in terms of trip and also get a decent pace in front of him. He should get the former. The latter will determine if he can get it done. Like this horse a lot.



Odds: 30-1

Post position: 11

Jockey: Flavien Pratt

Trainer:  Jerry Hollendorfer

Race record: 4-2-1-1.

Why he can win: He did all the dirty work in the Santa Anita Derby and never gave up. He has improved since stretching out and should be prominent early.

Why he can’t: Not racing at 2 is a serious negative. He simply does not have enough of a background to be a Derby winner. But he does not quit and would not be a surprise to see him in the mix somewhere.


Odds: 50-1

Post position: 12

Jockey: Kent Desormeaux

Trainer:  Keith Desormeaux

Race record: 10-0-4-2

Why he can win: He is a stone closer but his connections brought you Exagerrator last year so you know he will be sitting on a good effort.

Why he can’t: He has not won yet in 10 tries. It would be quite a feat to get win No. 1 here. Still, he has been running at the end in all of his starts, has raced at several different venues and should get the distance. Another potential trifecta bomber.


Odds: 20-1

Post position: 13

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer:  Dale Romans

Race record: 6-2-1-1

Why he can win: Romans horses are usually ready to fire and this guy has a couple nice scores on his resume.

Why he can’t: He just doesn’t seem to run the same race when he gets in the deeper waters, and this is about as deep as it gets. Will be leaving out.


Odds: 4-1

Post position: 14

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Trainer:  Mark Casse

Race record: 7-5-0-1

Why he can win: He is the most accomplished and talented runner in the field. If he brings his A game, someone will have to improve significantly.

Why he can’t: He is a bit of a head case, and often freaks out. With 150,000-plus in the crowd, that could easily happen. Plus he has raced just twice this year, so is he really 100 percent cranked up? Love the horse and will use him, but no one will blame you for taking a stand against him.


Odds: 15-1

Post position: 15

Jockey: Brian Hernandez

Trainer:  Ian Wilkes

Race record: 5-4-0-1.

Why he can win: Perfect at Churchill in three starts. His only loss was in his last start when his trainer admitted he was not 100 percent cranked up. A serious contender.

Why he can’t: Foot problems slowed his progress, and he took a step back in the Blue Grass. But if he is on his game today, he will be right there. A must use.


Odds: 20-1

Post position: 16

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer:  Todd Pletcher

Race record: 6-3-1-0

Why he can win: Toss the last when he failed to get out of the gate and he has a solid if not spectacular record.

Why he can’t: Pletcher again. The difference is this guy did not run much in his final prep, so maybe he is ready to go today. Will be using him in several plays as a potential outsider.


Odds: 6-1

Post position: 17

Jockey: Rajiv Maraugh

Trainer:  Graham Motion

Race record: 5-4-0-0

Why he can win: He has bested both Classic Empire and Gunnevera (although he made an easy lead on a speed favoring track that day) and many thought he was the Derby favorite after his Holy Bull win. Motion is a terrific trainer.

Why he can’t: He has caught speed favoring tracks in his two biggest wins, and the Wood was not a great group. Still think he needs the lead to beat these, and don’t really see that happening. Of the favorites, this is the one I like the least.


Odds: 15-1

Post position: 18

Jockey: Victor Espinoza

Trainer:  John Shirrefs

Race record: 6-4-0-0

Why he can win: He loves to win races and grinded out a tough win in the Santa Anita Derby. California-based horses have won four of the last five Derbies.

Why he can’t: Twice when he faced top-level horses — Classic Empire and the injured Mastery — he folded. The SA Derby was pretty weak. Like the horse and connections but not sure he is up for this.


Odds: 20-1

Post position: 19

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer:  Chad Brown

Race record: 6-3-2-1

Why he can win: Solid connections, and he did finish ahead of McCraken in the Blue Grass. Needs to improve but usually shows up as part of the exacta.

Why he can’t: He is winless at races over  mile, and had every chance to go by Irap in the Blue Grass. Looks to have distance limitations. Still, talented enough to throw in some plays.


Odds: 30-1

Post position: 20

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer:  Todd Pletcher

Race record: 3-1-2-0.

Why he can win: The one-eyed colt ran a nice one in his first stakes action behind Girvin and has every right to improve.

Why he can’t: Only three career starts, all this year. This is simply too much, too soon. Might be a nice colt down the road and hopefully he does not get ruined here. Tempted to use him on deeper plays but not on top.



Odds: 20-1

Post position: 21

Jockey: Gary Stevens

Trainer:  John Shirrefs

Race record: 6-2-2-1

Why he can win: Doubtful he can, even if he gets in.

Why he can’t: He needs a horse to scratch. Then make an easy lead from the outside. At least he has Stevens going for him


Odds: 50-1

Post position: 22

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer:  Todd Pletcher

Race record: 5-2-1-1

Why he can win: Closed well in Dubai in the mud and maybe that form translates.

Why he can’t: Very unlikely to draw in. Interesting trifecta factor if he does.

As far as plays, I will approach this race with three strategies: One will be keying Classic Empire, Gunnevera and McCracken on top, adding Always Dreaming, Lookin at Lee, Hence and Girvin on the second tier and as many horses as possible in third. I will have a second ticket keying Gunnevera in first and second, and finally a third with Lookin at Lee in the 2/3 spots. Small across the board wagers on Lookin at Lee and bigger ones on Gunnevara. For exactas, I will be using the Classic Empire, Gunnevera and McCracken keyed 1/2 with several of my price horses.

5 Comments on Complete breakdown of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby

  1. Fred – do you have a link to your bets on Went there and I can’t find them. Love the writing – thanks for all you do!


  2. Fred Faour // May 6, 2017 at 12:27 pm // Reply

    Waiting to get a link from RJ and will add that and repost once I have it. Will also tweet it out.


  3. Anonymous // May 6, 2017 at 1:32 pm // Reply

    great podcast with R J Bell loved it


  4. sportsruss // May 6, 2017 at 3:11 pm // Reply

    great stuff Freddie …. Anything change for you with the track conditions — muddy or sloppy??


  5. Anonymous // May 6, 2017 at 6:00 pm // Reply

    Looks pretty sloppy


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