Nunnsense | KY Derby 144 Preview And Contenders

Photo: Jeff Nunn

I want all of you to win money. In order to do that you need 2 things. 1) Knowledge 2) Luck. No matter how much you know, you still need a little bit of luck. Also keep in mind that an uneducated bet has very little chance of returning a profit. That’s where I come in. I want to give you enough information (without getting too technical) to make an educated wager that will improve your chances of making money this Derby.

If you google Ky Derby picks, you will find numerous top 10 lists. Be advised that those lists are all based on different criteria. Some lists will give you the horses that people think are the best based on what they have accomplished so far while other lists will give you who that expert thinks will do the best in the KY Derby. Those are two totally different things so be advised when reading expert rankings or top 10 lists.

Another thing to note are trends that pertain to the KY Derby. Here are a few current trends and horses that fit those trends.

  • Curse of Apollo – Since Apollo in 1882, no horse has won the KY Derby without making a start at age 2.  Most recently, Curlin (3rd in 2007) and Bodemeister (2nd in 2012), have been the closest to break that curse. This year there are 2 horses that did not race at 2 – JUSTIFY and MAGNUM MOON. It is my belief that the curse will be broken very soon, if not this year. Look at the other curses or crazy unthinkable things that are happening in sports. A 16 seed just beat a 1 seed for the first time ever. The Cubs and Red Sox both won the World Series. At odds of 5,000-1, Leicester City Football Club won the English Premier League. 2 NBA teams came back from a 3-1 game deficit to win a series. The curse will be broken soon but until it happens, many handicappers will not bet on a horse that qualifies for the curse.
  • 100 Point Prep Race – The past 5 KY Derby winners have all won a prep race where the winner receives 100 points. 5 years doesn’t seen like much of a streak but the prep race points system was initiated for the 2013 Ky Derby, so this is a pretty good predictor of the winner. The horses who have won a 100 point prep race are; NOBLE INDY, MENDELSSOHN, AUDIBLE, VINO ROSSO, GOOD MAGIC, JUSTIFY and MAGNUM MOON.
  • Post Positions – No position has produced more winners (ten winners) than post #5 (including last year with Always Dreaming) Post #10 has nine wins overall. The place to be in recent years has been anywhere outside No. 12. In reverse order back to 2008, such winners include Nyquist (No. 13), American Pharoah (No. 18), Orb (No. 16), I’ll Have Another (No. 19), Animal Kingdom (No. 16), Big Brown (No. 20).
  • Undefeated At 3 – The last 5 KY Derby winners have all been undefeated while racing as a 3-year-old. This year these horses include, Justify, Magnum Moon, Audible and Mendelssohn.

If you want to deduct a winner solely on those trends then you would be betting Audible or Mendelssohn. If you want to take it a step further, Mendelssohn is the UAE Derby winner and no UAE Derby winner has ever won the KY Derby. Therefore,  New York bred Audible would be your winner – Unless you use the stat that NY bred horses are 1-21 in Ky Derby’s.

Basically, there is a stat or trend to include or preclude almost every horse in the race.

So choose your trend/stat accordingly.

Now that you are confused, let’s look at the contenders for KY Derby 144.

Photo: Jeff Nunn

Here are the contenders:

Justify – When this race is over we could all be sitting there in complete awe. He could win this race in amazing fashion and nobody would be totally shocked. He is a beautiful, long striding horse who probably will be the best 3-year-old when the season is over. However, he has a lot of question marks. He didn’t race as a 2-year-old – He has only raced 3 times and in those 3 races he has only faced 1 good horse – He has not raced outside of southern California – He has beaten a total of 14 horses in his lifetime and will need to beat 19 on the first Saturday in May. But this horse is extremely talented and it’s hard to bet against Bob Baffert. I’m not sure he will win but I’d be a fool to leave him off my exacta and trifecta tickets as he will likely be your favorite at 3-1.

Bolt d’Oro The Bolt Show is the horse I have been following for a long time. I thought he was the best 2-year-old and with a little bit of improvement, he could easily win the KY Derby. I have not seen that improvement that I needed to see. He lost to Justify in his last race. He is the most seasoned horse in the field and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit the board. Probably won’t use him on top of my exotics but he will be on the tickets. 8-1

Mendelssohn – This horse won the UAE Derby by an eye-popping 19 lengths. The Europeans are betting him like crazy. He was a turf horse and he won the Breeders Cup Juvenile turf race. He is a fast horse and should be part of the early pace. I like what I see out of him after making the transition to dirt. But I don’t trust any horse flying in from out of the country and he won’t fly in until Tuesday giving him time for only 1 work over the Churchill track. He did fly into California to win the BC Juvenile turf so maybe the traveling won’t affect him. Until a UAE Derby winner does something in the KY Derby, I will not bet them. They have fooled me before and I’m not biting this year. If he wins, then I’ll tip my cap and say “good game.” He is a nice horse but holds no betting value as he will be over-bet. Probably second choice by bettors at post time. 4-1

Magnum Moon – I love the way this horse is progressing. I know he didn’t race as a 2-year-old but that doesn’t bother me. He trained to race but his debut was pushed back because of mild swelling in his ankles. His first race was on January 13th. If he had raced 14 days earlier there would be no discussion about the curse of Apollo. He veered out a little in the stretch in his last race and still won by 5 lengths. Trainer said it was because of tire tracks in the dirt but I’m not buying that excuse. Hopefully he learned from that last race. If he did, he could win. If he didn’t, it could cost him the roses. Veering out in the KY Derby could open up the lane for several closers to pass him and you don’t want to run any farther than you have to in a mile 1/4 race. I placed a future wager on him at 8-1 so I won’t bet him to win or place but he will be on top of all my exotic bets. He checks all the boxes for me and is my current top choice.  6-1

Audible – This horse scares the crap out of me. He hasn’t run a bad race but hasn’t beaten any really great horses either. Distance is also a concern for me. He has a great turn of foot and could be in the mix. I’m not really high on this one but I wouldn’t be shocked if he finished top 4. I don’t love him but I don’t hate him. He’s a good horse but doesn’t move the needle for me. I personally don’t like Pletcher horses who just run at Gulfstream Park. I know Always Dreaming beat me on this last year but Audible isn’t nearly the same type of horse as AD. I’ll either use him on the bottom of my trifecta ticket or I may just throw him out and take my chances. 9-1

Good Magic – The 2-year-old champ didn’t start out this year so great but keeps improving. If his 3-year-old campaign goes like his 2-year-old campaign, then he is ready for a really big race. I think he runs a big race. He has to improve from his last race because that race wasn’t good enough to win the KY Derby. He did get bumped on the first turn of his last race and he held his ground which is great experience for the KY Derby because you will get bumped in the KY Derby. I think he runs well in his 3rd race off a layoff and is in the mix as they turn for home. 8-1

Vino Rosso – I LOVE LOVE LOVE this horse. He is a fighter and doesn’t mind contact. He is perfect for this distance and this race. He will be coming from off the pace and should be in perfect position to make a run. Will he get there? Not sure but I think he will be close. A fast early pace will help his chances. He should improve coming off his last race and I will definitely be using him in all spots on my exotics. I feel pretty good he at least finishes in the money. Probably overlooked with such a wide open race. Best value in the field. 15-1

If It Rains 

My Boy Jack and Bolt d’Oro


Combatant, Hofburg and Flameaway


My Boy Jack, Vino Rosso, Lone Sailor and Hofburg

Race Predictions

Promises Fullfilled should go straight to the lead unless Justify decides he wants the lead. Either way those 2 should be 1,2 for most of the first half of the race. Sitting closely behind those 2 will be Mendelssohn, Noble Indy, Bravazzo, Flameaway and SolominiMagnum Moon, Good MagicBolt d’Oro, Audible, Enticed and Combatant will be stalking just behind the pace setters. When they turn for home, Justify should be in the lead just ahead of Mendelssohn with Magnum Moon and Vino Rosso starting to make a run. Then the fun begins. Justify or Mendelssohn could draw off and win by 10 lengths or they could fade depending on the early pace. If they fade, MagnumMoon, Vino Rosso, Good Magic or Audible could be wearing roses. Don’t be surprised if Flameaway sticks around to complete your superfecta.

Top 5 Beyer Speed Figures

  1. Justify -107
  2. Mendelssohn – 106
  3. Bolt d’Oro – 103
  4. Bolt d’Oro – 101
  5. Good Magic– 100

I’ll be out at Churchill Downs all week watching workouts, so if I hear or see anything that could change the race, I will update it here on this page.

** Update 5-2-18**

Observations from the backside – Audible is just not catching my eye. Not sure if he always works out poorly but I just don’t see it. –  Hofburg is the buzz horse this year. His works are great and he appears to love the track.  - I listened to trainer Tom Amoss talk for about 20 minutes as to how Lone Sailor has a legit chance. I believe him.  - Bolt D’Oro seems to be the forgotten horse but man does he look good.  - The more I watch these horses work, the more I like Vino Rosso. – Justify is a big horse. I have concerns that he can carry that weight a mile and !/4. – Mendelssohn has yet to hit the track. Not a big fan of these tactics. – This is the most talented field in a long time. There are about 8 horses with a legit chance to win. No matter who wins, It’s gonna pay big $$$. Hope you have some winning tickets!

If you want more information or opinions about the race, be sure to check-out the picks of Card Forever, David Levitch (@Paddock_Prince) or (@D_Lev23).



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