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 trials 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.
With the final gate positions now known, betting on the race is heating up and you can see where your favorite horse stands in the market on our dedicated Kentucky Derby odds page. Here is the final field with gate positions in brackets:
War Of Will (1) (trainer: Mark Casse owner: Gary Barber)
Not so many horses go well from gate 1 in this race so Mark Casse’s colt has it all to do, especially as one not fully proven at Grade 1 level.
Tax (2) (trainer: Danny Gargan owner: RA Hill Stable &
Just behind Tacitus in the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct, which was expected, and it’s unsure how much improvement we can expect but he is a son of Arch whose progeny tend to progress well.
By My Standards (3) (trainer: Bret Calhoun owner: Allied
The surprise winner of the Louisiana Derby back in March, Bret Calhoun’s runner is drawn in gate 3 and could run into trouble early in the race but as an inexperienced horse he could improve significantly.
Gray Magician (4) (trainer: Peter Miller owner: Wachtel
Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred & Gary Barber)
Ran behind Plus Que Parfait over in Dubai, a race that doesn’t inspire too much, and before that he had been beaten enough times in lower grade races to suggest this race is too hot.
Improbable (5) (trainer: Bob Baffert owner: Win Star Farm,
China Horse Club & Starlight Racing)
Bob Baffert’s star has been beaten twice this season, but both in hot prep races and the son of City Zip is of course a Grade 1 winner already.
HHe got home nicely last season over a mile and battled to the line when beaten by Omaha Beach (now scratched due to an entrapped epiglottis) in the Arkansas Derby, but six furlongs to a mile runs right through his pedigree so staying this mile-and-a-quarter distance after battling from gate 5 to get a good early position may not show him to very best effect.
Vekoma (6) (trainer: George Weaver owner: RA Hill Stable &
Although beaten in the Fountain of Youth by Code Of Honor, this horse has continued to progress throughout his early career and was striding home beautifully when winning the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
The progeny of Candy Ride have so far shown lots of speed but the sire himself was a very good Grade 1 winner over this distance and so there is plenty of hope that he can last home.Another improved showing would give Javier Castellano’s mount a great chance.
Maximum Security (7) (trainer: Jason Servis owner: Gary &
Having made all the running to win the Grade 1 Floriday Derby and braking from gate 7, Jason Servis’ runner has an obvious chance in this race but some say he got the run of the race back at Gulfstream and he cannot have things his own way in this event.
Code Of Honor didn’t perform that day and neither did favorite Hidden Scroll, but this son of a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner could do no more and he remains a chief contender for the crown.
Tacitus (8) (trainer: Bill Mott owner: Juddmonte Farms)
The top points scorer in the Road to the Kentucky Derby having been the only horse to have won two major preps, Bill Mott’s son of record breaking sire Tapit has been given a good gate position and is one of few colts who seems sure to improve on the day.
Jose Ortiz should be able to get a good toe in behind the leaders and will have enough in hand for the stretch run too to give himself a major chance of the win.
Plus Que Parfait (9) (trainer: Brendan Walsh owner: Imperial
Winner of the UAE Derby over in Dubai, he is here on merit but his overall profile is one of a colt who is somewhat behind many of the other contenders in the race.
Cutting Humor (10) (trainer: Todd Pletcher owner: Starlight
Despite winning the Sunland Park Derby back in March, it’s hard to see Todd Pletcher’s colt getting involved in the finish here.
Haikal (11) (trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin owner: Shadwell
After winning the Gotham Stakes Haikal was thought of as a proper Derby contender, but he was in receipt of weight that day and he didn’t really go on when finishing third to Tacitus in the Wood Memorial last time on the track.
It could be that the sloppy track helped him last time and even if the weather goes in his favor here, staying the extra distance could remain a problem
Code Of Honor (12) (trainer: Claude McGaughey owner: WS
Having won an unsatisfactory renewal of the Fountain of Youth and finished third in the Florida Derby, it’s fair to say he is not the main contender from that part of the country and will need to improve a lot to hit the board here.
Win Win Win (13) (trainer: Michael Trombetta owner: Live Oak
Having run behind Tacitus and Vekoma in prep races this year, it’s hard to believe he can get round this field from gate 14 fast enough to take the honors.
Master Fencer (14) (trainer: Koichi Tsunoda owner: Katsumi
Japan would love to win this race, especially for breeding purposes, but this horse simply doesn’t look good enough and his gate position doesn’t help matters.
Game Winner (15) (trainer: Bob Baffert owner: Gary & Mary
With 4 wins (including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile) and two seconds to his name, Bob Baffert’s money-spinning colt remains a leading contender but it’s unsure whether he can hit the Grade 1 heights he hit last year and from gate 16 he has his work cut out for him under Joel Rosario.
He did have to race wide last time also though and perhaps should have beaten Roadster in the Santa Anita Derby so he is not without a chance, especially after Omaha Beach’s withdrawal.
Roadster (16) (trainer: Bob Baffert owner: Speedway Stable)
Just when Game Winner and Improbable looked like disappointing him, Bob Baffert unearths another star and this son of Quality Road won the Santa Anita Derby last time in the style of a horse who will appreciate this extra eighth of a mile.
Let’s not forget that he was favorite to beat Game Winner in the Del Mar Futurity last year and certainly has more to offer, his wide gate being the only negative about him as we go into the weekend.
Long Range Toddy (17) (trainer: Steve Asmussen owner: Willis
This is the colt who beat Improbable in a division of the Rebel Stakes of course, but he was disappointing in the Arkansas Derby and has to break from gate 18.
Spinoff (18) (trainer: Todd Pletcher owner: Wertheimer &
He was a good second in the Louisiana Derby but he would be uncertain to turn around the form with By My Standards and he is drawn very wide.
Country House (19) (trainer: Bill Mott owner: Mrs JV Shields
Jnr, EJM McFadden Jr & LNJ Foxwoods)
Bill Mott’s runner has some solid form, but having run consistently behind many Derby contenders this year there is no real reason he should improve past them now from gate 20.
Bodexpress (20) (trainer: Gustavo Delgado owner: Top Racing, Global Thoroughbreds
& GDS Racing)
Drafted in at the 11th hour after the defection of favorite Omaha Beach, the Florida Derby runner-up needs to improve somewhat and has to make do with gate 20.
We have coverage and picks for all the big races including this one at Churchill Downs. Rest assured that our team will be on hand to offer their in-depth analysis and expert picks leading up to post time at Churchill Downs and remember, you can find out the odds for our picks on our dedicated Kentucky Derby odds page.
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