The only thing we know for certain is that the 145th Kentucky Derby will be won by a top class thoroughbred, but given that they need to peak on this very day there is no set formula to decide on which of the current crop is the best.
True, the main contenders have had to show their hand to some degree in prep for this race as the most important trial’s are valuable Grade 1’s and you don’t win those at 80% fitness. That said, these top trainers will coax more improvement from their horses on the big day and no doubt prep won’t go well for all.
To decide for yourself what horses you think are the most likely Derby contenders, you could do worse than keep in mind the conditions of the race and the history of this event and the Triple Crown as a whole. Check out our Kentucky Derby Betting page for more details.
Much will change between now and the first Saturday in May but, based on what we know thus far, these superb thoroughbreds appear to be the main Kentucky Derby 2019 contenders for a place in racing history:
Code Of Honor (trainer: Claude McGaughey III owner: WS Farish)
Despite a disappointing start to the year, the balance of this horse’s form is pretty strong considering he was beaten only three lengths when still very much not the finished article in a Grade 1 event last season and he beat some top contenders in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream in early March.
Game Winner (trainer: Bob Baffert owner: Gary & Mary West)
Hall of famer Baffert oversaw an unbeaten juvenile season for this tough and admirable type, his winning debut being followed up by wins in the Del Mar Futurity, American Pharoah Stakes and then the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile itself.
Already a three-time Grade 1 winner Game Winner’s form is in the bag, the only slight negative at this stage being his breeding. Although his sire Candy Ride was top class over a mile-and-a-quarter, a lot of his progeny tend to show as much speed as stamina leaving some doubts as to whether he will last home coming off a fast pace.
Hidden Scroll (trainer: Bill Mott owner: Juddmonte Farms)
Prince Khalid has bred some of the world’s greats and after this colt’s debut in late January at Gulfstream where he won by 14 lengths, it was thought he could have another world class horse on his hands.
Some doubts were raised given the fact that the sloppy track may have helped him somewhat and indeed he was beaten next time in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. His performance was still strong though and he perhaps just set the fractions a little too fast so all is not lost with this good looking horse whose sire and damsire were both runners-up in the Kentucky Derby during their careers.
Improbable (trainer: Bob Baffert owner: Winstar Farm LLC, China Horse Club &
Given that this exciting colt beat Mucho Gusto easily, who then went on to defeat another Derby contender in the shape of Gunmetal Gray, Bob Baffert must feel like he has a pretty good handle on where this one sits in the rankings right now.
Unlike Game Winner, Improbable wasn’t ready to contest a Breeders’ Cup race in November but he did run in a lower grade event on the same card and was successful by an easy 7¼ lengths. He went on to become a Grade 1 winner himself on only his third start when he took the Los Alamitos Futurity in style and the form is very solid. One to watch.
Mucho Gusto (trainer: Bob Baffert owner: Michael Lund Petersen)
Bob Baffert’s Mucho Mucho Man colt started off his year with a good win at Grade 3 level at Santa Anita and is coming along nicely, however his heavy defeat behind stable companion Improbable last year perhaps makes him number three in his barn right now but his next prep will tell us much more.
Vekoma (trainer: George Weaver owner: RA Hill Stable & Gatsas Stables)
Having finished last season with a Grade 3 win at Aqueduct this son of Candy Ride, much like Game Winner, was one of the winter favorites for this race.
He was beaten into third place in the Fountain of Youth but he raced keenly on only his third race track start and given the presence of Hidden Scroll in fourth place, we may find ourselves looking back on that as one of the strongest trials of the year.
War Of Will (trainer: Mark Casse owner: Gary Barber)
Easily the most experienced contender so far having had seven goes around the track, War Of Will keeps improving but he will need to reach a new level to be involved at the business end of things when the big day comes.
Having won the Risen Star he is on the board as far as Kentucky Derby prep races go but as a son of War Front you would have to feel stamina could become an issue.
<h3>2019 Kentucky Derby Overseas Contenders
The two major racing powers in Europe, Godolphin and Coolmore, have tried and failed to find a Kentucky Derby winner in the last couple of years with Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn, trained by Saeed bin Suroor and Aidan O’Brien respectively.
Thunder Snow’s win in the Dubai World Cup and subsequent third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic show he had the quality, but was not prepared for the conditions or the crowd he encountered on Kentucky Derby day.
They are learning fast regarding how to prep these horses and while no contender stands out just yet, keep an eye on things over in Dubai as well as in England and Ireland as something could get emerge to challenge. We will list any horse we feel stands a chance of making the final field and landing a blow.
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