The 2018 Kentucky Derby field is set.
On Saturday, 20 horses will step into the gates at Churchill Downs. One will win the “Run for the Roses” and take the first step toward Triple Crown immortality.
It’s an incredibly talented field this year, with reasons to both love and doubt every horse entering the day with good odds.
Currently, seven horses stand out from the pack, including two that are undefeated and others that have dominated in their recent run of races.
Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about the favourites before placing your bets on this year’s Kentucky Derby.
Post position: No. 7
Current odds: 3-1
Why he can win: Justify, undefeated in his three career races, is a deserving favourite coming into the Kentucky Derby. He’s trained by Bob Baffert, who has helped four horses en route to Derby wins, most recently with the Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
Also, if you’re looking at trends to follow, the favourite horse has won the past five Kentucky Derbys – that’s a pretty good run for a 20-horse race.
Reasons to be wary: Justify would have to break the “Curse of Apollo” to win. Justify has never raced as a two-year-old, and no horse has won the “Run for the Roses” without doing so since Apollo in 1882. And because Justify has only three races under his belt, running in a packed field of 20 might be a bit new to him.
My Boy Jack
Post position: No. 10
Current odds: 5-1
Why he can win: My Boy Jack opened at 30/1 on the morning line, but has seen his odds fall all the way to the second favourite due to his experience winning on a wet track. With a muddy track at Churchill Downs, it feels good to trust a horse that has handled it before.
Reasons to be wary: There’s a reason he opened at 30/1 – there’s a lot of talent in this field, and if another horse can navigate the mud, My Boy Jack might find himself on the outside of the winner’s circle looking in.
Post position: No. 5
Current odds: 6-1
Why he can win: Audible has won four straight races coming into this one, and he’s racing out of the No. 5 post, which has produced a remarkable five Derby winners in the past 21 years.
Like Magnum Moon, Audible is trained by Pletcher, who has experience winning at Churchill Downs. An exacta box with the two Pletcher favourites feels like a fun bet to have in your pocket come Saturday.
Reasons to be wary: From BlackJack Fletcher at The Action Network: “My concern for Audible is his running style. He’s a closer. He likes to sit off the pace near the back and then make his charge. That is going to be very difficult for him to do in a 20-horse field on Derby Day. If he gets blocked in, hung out too wide or just gets a rough trip, he may have too much work to do before the wire.”
Post position: No. 14
Current odds: 7-1
Why he can win: Mendelssohn is a powerful horse – look no further than his win in March at the UAE Derby, where he beat the field by more than 17 lengths. He has run and won all over the world, and if he has a good race, he could pull away from the pack.
Reasons to be wary: While his win at the UAE Derby is one of the most compelling reasons to put your money on Mendelssohn, history tells a different story – winners of the UAE Derby have never finished higher than sixth in the Kentucky Derby. Whether it’s the travel or some trouble with their internal clock, many horses have shown signs of dominance on the other side of the world only to disappoint at Churchill Downs.
The more I look at this race, the more it feels like Mendelssohn will either win it running away or not be a factor in the finish at all.
Post position: No. 11
Current odds: 8-1
Why he can win: Bolt d’Oro gave chase to Justify at the Santa Anita Derby earlier this year before just falling off the pace.
His jockey, Victor Espinoza, has won two of the past four Kentucky Derbys – and after coming so close to handing Justify his first loss, he could know just the right way to push his horse to manoeuvre to yet another victory.
Reasons to be wary: Bolt d’Oro already lost to Justify in a solidly run race. He’s a strong horse, but Justify just might be stronger.
Post position: No. 6
Current odds: 9-1
Why he can win: Good Magic has never finished out of the money in his five career races, and is coming off of a win at the Blue Grass Stakes. He’s in as good of form as you can hope for entering the Derby.
Reasons to be wary: He’s already lost to horses in this field, and not even the favourites. He’s a solid addition to your trifectas, but will need the race of his life to win.
Post position: No. 16
Current odds: 13-1
Why he can win: Magnum Moon, also undefeated in his young career, has shown an ability to win while running different races, taking first both from the pack and leading wire-to-wire; in his most recent start, in the Arkansas Derby, he won by four lengths.
For some experts, he’s the strongest horse in the field, having never won a race by less than two lengths. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, knows how to coach a winner, having helped Always Dreaming to a first-place finish at the Derby last year.
Reasons to be wary: Magnum Moon has never faced a field like this. While that’s true for every horse racing on Saturday, it merits specific mention when touting a horse as undefeated.
Additionally, according to ESPN’s Chris Fallica, horses entering the race with the third-best odds on the morning line haven’t won the Derby since Strike the Gold in 1991.
More Kentucky Derby coverage:
- A beginner’s guide to betting the biggest horse race of the year
- Everything you need to know about the 20 horses racing in the ‘Run for the Roses’
- Post positions and odds for the first race of the Triple Crown
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