My top ten for the Kentucky Derby

Florida Derby winner Audible: he has shown the greatest tactical versatility in the field. Photo: Lauren King

As the culmination of our Road To The Kentucky Derby series, it is time to pull all the threads together and rank the top ten contenders by their chance of winning. This is a subjective, personal probability based on a projection of the race, rather than horses in order of their betting odds.

The jockey listed under each horse is merely the rider for the colt’s latest start; the odds is a consensus of bookmakers’ ante-post quotes.


1. Audible

Jockey: John Velazquez (TRC Global Ranking #20)
Owner: China Horse Club Et Al (#9)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (#11)
Sire: Into Mischief (#38)
Odds: 7/1

Analysis: He confirmed the merit of his G2 Holy Bull Stakes win at Gulfstream when taking the G1 Florida Derby at the same track by three lengths from Hofburg. He looked the winner every step of the way there and has shown the greatest tactical versatility in the field. A top-class colt in the making.

2. Justify

Jockey: Mike Smith (#4)
Owner: China Horse Club Et Al (#9)
Trainer: Bob Baffert (#2)
Sire: Scat Daddy (#7)
Odds: 5/1

Analysis: A tremendous specimen with a relentless stride, he has the highest ceiling in the race. Unraced as a juvenile, he won the G1 Santa Anita Derby by three lengths from Bold D’Oro on only his third start. Has not yet encountered adversity and will need to learn fast during the opening few furlongs of a frantic heat.

3. Good Magic

Jockey: Jose Ortiz (#10)
Owner: Stonestreet Stables Et Al (#13)
Trainer: Chad Brown (#4)
Sire: Curlin (#10)
Odds: 12/1

Analysis: He did not need to reproduce his G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile form to win the G2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland by one and a half lengths from Flameaway. He had earlier disappointed at Gulfstream. A very solid colt usually who goes well in big fields and should have the race run to suit. Can go close.

4. Hofburg

Jockey: Jose Ortiz (#10)
Owner: Juddmonte Farms / Prince Khalid Abdulla (#5)
Trainer: Bill Mott (#35)
Sire: Tapit (#17)
Odds: 20/1

Analysis: He is the dark horse of the race and an excellent each-way bet at the current odds. Still looked inexperienced when running on three-lengths second to Audible in the G1 Florida Derby – a tremendous run. Should relish the distance and should give a good account, if handling the big field on fourth career start.

5. Mendelssohn

Jockey: Ryan Moore (#1)
Owner: Coolmore Partners (#1)
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien (#1)
Sire: Scat Daddy (#7)
Odds: 5/1

Analysis: A massively impressive winner of the G2 UAE Derby by more than 18 lengths, he shipped to Del Mar last year to win the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Clearly very robust to travelling and could be a brilliant dirt horse, but was helped by a powerful, rail-favouring bias in Dubai. Second race on dirt and needs to break sharply.

6. Bolt d’Oro

Jockey: Javier Castellano (#6)
Owner: Ruis Racing LLC (#144)
Trainer: Mick Ruis (#282)
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro (#11)
Odds: 10/1

Analysis: Put up the best performance of 2017 on many figures when beating Solomini by almost eight lengths in the G1 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita. Working back around to that, but soundly beaten three lengths by Justify in G1 Santa Anita Derby. More pace up front in this will suit but now has a gap to bridge.

7. Magnum Moon

Jockey: Luis Saez (#54)
Owner: Lawana & Robert Low (#484)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (#11)
Sire: Malibu Moon (#23)
Odds: 9/1

Analysis: Should be in top three in terms of talent – a very good horse with a great engine. The trouble is his tendency to edge persistently right ,which appeared ingrained when he won the G1 Arkansas Derby by four lengths from Quip. If keeping straight, isn’t second to anyone, but could present major navigation problems in a big field he cannot dominate.

8. Enticed

Jockey: Junior Alvarado (#120)
Owner: Godolphin (#2)
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin (#24)
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro (#11)
Odds: 25/1

Analysis: A good shot to stay on pedigree, and circumstance has made him look short on stamina. Up with strong pace when mugged three lengths by Vino Rosso in G2 Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct latest. Has some unrealised potential but form is significantly short of those above.

9. Solomini

Jockey: Flavien Prat (#19)
Owner: Coolmore Partners Et Al (#1)
Trainer: Bob Baffert (#2)
Sire: Curlin (#10)
Odds: 25/1

Analysis: Placed on several occasions behind top horses, notably when second to Good Magic in G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Has some strong form and keeps giving impression he hasn’t produced his ‘A’ race. Hard to project him as a winner but could certainly outrun his odds.

10. Vino Rosso

Jockey: John Velazquez (#20)
Owner: St Elias Stables Et Al (#55)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (#11)
Sire: Curlin (#10)
Odds: 16/1

Analysis: Strong stayer – out of a mare by Street Cry – who is a lazy-but-game type. Rather ambushed Enticed in the G2 Wood Memorial off strong fractions but is developing nicely and one to bear in mind for races like the Belmont and Jockey Club Gold Cup – whatever happens here.

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