The 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby is coming up, with a 20-horse field lining up to go 1 ¼ miles on the first Saturday of May at historic Churchill Downs.
It is one of the best races to wager on all year, but can the betting public get it right again?
The wagering favorite has won in each of the last four years. Orb ($12.80) started the streak in 2013, followed by California Chrome ($7.00), American Pharoah ($7.80) and Nyquist ($6.60).
The last time five betting favorites won in a row was in 1895, so surely, we can look beyond Classic Empire and Always Dreaming this year, right?
It’s never too early to start looking for value, and here are three live long shots I am going to be looking at in this year’s edition of the Run for the Roses:
J Boys Echo (+3300)
This colt, a generous 33-1 in early Kentucky Derby betting at Sportsbook, has the distinction of owning the highest Beyer Speed Figure earned this year by a Derby contender. He earned a 102 for his victory in the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct on the inner track back in March.
However, he could not duplicate that effort in his final prep where he was a disappointing fourth in the Blue Grass at Keeneland, beaten 6 ¼ lengths by Irap.
The colt made three starts as a juvenile, capping off his year with a fourth-place finish in the Delta Jackpot (G3).
His two best efforts were on the inner track at the Big A, but if he can come close to running back to his Gotham, he could be in the mix at a price.
His trainer Dale Romans will need to find a new jockey as Robby Albarado is out for at least a month after fracturing his ankle on April 23.
Albarado was the rider of Animal Kingdom in 2011 but lost that mount after suffering a broken nose in a spill a few days before the race and was replaced by John Velazquez.
Romans has started seven runners in the Kentucky Derby, with Paddy O’Prado (2011) and Dullahan (2012) the best finishes, each running third.
Hence won the Sunland Derby (G3) and while most Kentucky Derby Sportsbooks come out of Kentucky, New York, Florida or Southern California, let’s not forget about Mine That Bird, who used the race as a prep for his huge upset in 2009, and Firing Line, the Sportsbook of the 2015 Sunland Derby who came back to run second in the Run for the Roses.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, who is 0-for-15 with his Derby starters, the colt was a disappointing seventh in the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park in his stakes debut.
He came back with a career-best effort winning the Sunland Derby by 3 ¾ lengths and the form of that race is holding up. The runner-up Conquest Mo Money came back to run a good second in the Arkansas Derby (G1), the third-place finisher Hedge Fund came back to run a game second in the Illinois Derby (G3) and the fourth-place finisher Irap returned to win the Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland in his next outing.
The colt’s 97 Beyer Speed Figure stacks up nicely in the field, with only Irish War Cry (101 for his Wood Memorial and Holy Bull wins) and J Boys Echo (102 in the Gotham) earning higher numbers this year. (Three other rumens produced 97 Beyers this year — Gunnevera, Always Dreaming and Malagacy).
Practical Joke (+1400)
This colt had a very productive juvenile campaign, winning a pair of Grade 1 races, the Hopeful and Champagne. He then was beaten 7 ¾ lengths when third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) behind Classic Empire, the likely Derby favorite.
The Chad Brown trainee has made just two starts this year. He ran pretty well in a runner-up finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park behind Gunnevera off a four-month layoff.
He then came back to run a game second in the Blue Grass, unable to get to Irap in the stretch, coming up 3/4 of a length short.
The $240,000 Keeneland purchase is by Into Mischief out of the stakes-placed Halo Humor ($85,200).
Brown is considered one of the top trainers in the U.S. and won the Eclipse Award for top trainer in 2016. Known for grass runners, he has started just three runners in the Kentucky Derby, the best finish a fourth with Normandy Invasion in 2013.
Post positions and how this trio of long shots work over the next week will be a factor, but keep an eye on these guys on the first Saturday of May.
Handicapper Michael Dempsey will be covering the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown for OddsShark and his full card reports with selections, analysis, fair odds line and wagering recommendations for major tracks can be found daily at turfnsport.com.
While the undefeated juvenile champion Nyquist, Santa Anita Derby (G1) Sportsbook Exaggerator and four-time graded stakes Sportsbook Mohaymen have been garnering most of the attention in early betting for the Kentucky Derby (G1), this year’s race is highlighted by plenty of live longshots looking to pull off the upset.
We have seen three consecutive betting favorites win the Run for the Roses, but we have to go all the way back to 1972-1975 to find four consecutive favorites hitting the Sportsbook’s circle at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May.
Nyquist is the current favorite in early betting for the Kentucky Derby at Sportsbook at 3-1, with Exaggerator second choice at 8-1 and Mohaymen and Gun Runner listed at 10-1.
So who are some of the longshots that have a shot of pulling off the upset on Saturday?
Mor Spirit has drifted up to 18-1 at Sportsbook, a generous price considering he will be saddled by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who won his fourth Kentucky Derby last year with American Pharoah.
The colt is a Grade 1 Sportsbook, taking the Los Alamitos Futurity last December and then won the Robert B. Lewis (G3) to start his three-year-old campaign. He was second to Danzing Candy in the San Felipe (G2) and second as the beaten favorite in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) to Exaggerator in the slop, but expect Baffert to have this colt locked and loaded on Saturday.
Creator came from far out of it to rally for the victory in the Arkansas Derby (G1) last out at Oaklawn Park. The colt is currently at 20-1 in Kentucky Derby wagering at Sportsbook.
It took six tries for this guy to break his maiden, but he looks as if he is coming into the race in good form and looks capable of handling the 1 ¼ mile distance.
Outwork is coming off a win in the Wood Memorial (G1) and is at betting odds of 20-1 for the race at Sportsbook. The colt has just four starts under his belt and appears to have as much upside as anyone in the field.
His trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Eclipse Award for top trainer seven times, but has a mediocre record in the Kentucky Derby at 1 for 43, his Sportsbook Super Saver in 2010.
Mo Tom is currently at 16-1 and is coming off back to back brutal trips in his last two starts. He had to check sharply in the stretch in the Risen Star (G3) where he finished third and then the same thing happened in the Louisiana Derby where he should have finished better than his fourth.
Whitmore has lost three in a row, but he has shown good late run, rallying for second in the Southwest (G3) and Rebel (G2) and then was third in the Arkansas Derby.
If the colt gets some pace up front he should be rolling late, and worth tossing in the mix if he goes off near his current odds, which are 33-1 at Sportsbook.
Check out Sportsbook for the latest betting odds for the Kentucky Derby.