Happy Derby! I am so glad to see the Derby back on the first Saturday of May, after last year's September running won by the impressive champion Authentic. It's always my great pleasure to share my annual Kentucky Derby selections and commentary. First, let's start off with an updated table of past Derby winners below, with their speed ratings and final tune-up race. My analysis of past data indicates that horses with strong 100+ speed ratings in preparatory races have a better probability of winning the big race. The weather in Louisville on Saturday is expected to be perfectly sunny for the 1-1/4 mile classic.
|Derby Winner||BRIS Speed Rating||Last race (# weeks before Derby)|
Haskell Invitational (6 weeks)
Santa Anita Derby (4 weeks)
|ALWAYS DREAMING||102, 84||Florida Derby (5 weeks)|
|NYQUIST||97, 103||Florida Derby (5 weeks)|
|AMERICAN PHARAOH||102, 99||Arkansas Derby (4 weeks)|
|CALIFORNIA CHROME||106, 102||Santa Anita Derby (5 weeks)|
|ORB||97, 102||Florida Derby (5 weeks)|
|I'LL HAVE ANOTHER||98, 102||Santa Anita Derby (4 weeks)|
|ANIMAL KINGDOM||97, 96||Turfway Spiral (5 weeks, poly)|
|SUPER SAVER||92, 94||Arkansas Derby (3 weeks)|
|MINE THAT BIRD||96, 98||Sunland Derby (5 weeks)|
|BIG BROWN||106, 104||Florida Derby (5 weeks)|
|STREET SENSE||98, 101||Bluegrass Stakes (3 weeks, poly)|
|BARBARO||104, 104, 97, 97||Florida Derby (5 weeks)|
|GIACOMO||100, 96, 98, 96||Santa Anita Derby (4 weeks)|
|SMARTY JONES||105, 109, 101, 103||Arkansas Derby (3 weeks)|
|FUNNY CIDE||111, 103, 97||Wood Memorial (3 weeks)|
|WAR EMBLEM||109, 105, 88, 94||Illinois Derby (4 weeks)|
|MONARCHOS||108, 108, 106, 98||Wood Memorial (3 weeks)|
|FUSIACHI PEGASUS||110, 103, 100, 98||Wood Memorial (3 weeks)|
|CHARISMATIC||104, 94, 94, 94||Lexington (2 weeks)|
|REAL QUIET||107, 103, 73||Santa Anita Derby (4 weeks)|
|SILVER CHARM||102, 98, 105||Santa Anita Derby (4 weeks)|
|GRINDSTONE||101, 102, 93||Arkansas Derby (3 weeks)|
|THUNDER GULCH||98, 103, 106||Blue Grass (3 weeks)|
|GO FOR GIN||104, 105, 99, 100||Wood Memorial (3 weeks)|
|SEA HERO||96, 85, 77||Blue Grass (3 weeks)|
|LIL E. TEE||102, 96, 107, 100||Arkansas Derby (2 weeks)|
|STRIKE THE GOLD||109, 100, 99, 87||Blue Grass (3 weeks)|
|UNBRIDLED||108, 101, 104, 98||Blue Grass (3 weeks)|
This year's race shows only 1 horse that meets my criteria for 2 straight 100+ speeds ratings coming into this Run for the Roses. And it's not the favorite! I tend to bet against the favorite in the Derby in most cases anyway, as this first leg of the Triple Crown is typically jam packed with up to 20 horses and so plenty of racing luck is needed for a smooth trip. I like to find value in the 5-1 to 20-1 range typically for the greatest 2 minutes in sports.
My pick to win the Derby is:
Highly Motivated (Post Position 17, 10-1 odds) is the likely victor, with Brisnet speed ratings of 102, 102 and 102 in his last 3 starts. How's that for consistency?! While these speed numbers are not as high as some past Derby winners, no other horse in the field has a rating higher than 102 and none has 2 100+ readings in a row. Highly Motivated has 3 in a row. Trainer Chad Brown is right there with Bob Baffert for best trainers in the game today, though Brown is looking to get his first Derby win. The rap on the horse is more about no horse ever having won from the 17 post position. But last year Authentic won from the 18 hole as Churchill Downs installed a new starting gate. I think Highly Motivated will break through tomorrow in impressive fashion as he ran a game 2nd by a neck to 2-year-old champion Essential Quality in the Blue Grass Stakes.
Super Stock (PP 18, 30-1): This Arkansas Derby winner is getting no respect from that victory, as his closer style is assumed to have created a fluke win there when 2 front runners went head to head and burned each other out. But that closing style is just what's needed to win the 1-1/4 mile Derby, a distance none of these youngsters has ever travelled before in a race. He will be near the back of the pack in the early going but don't be surprised if he's flying fast towards the front at the wire.
Rock Your World (PP 15, 5-1): After winning the Santa Anita Derby and posting a speed rating of 102 (and 91 and 92 in his prior 2 races), this horse is trending up. I just don't see great value there at 5-1 but will use him in exotic bets.
Essential Quality (PP 14, 2-1): Here you have a wonderful champion from last year that ran gamely to stay undefeated in his last start at Keeneland. I just don't see the value relative to potential traffic trouble and better value elsewhere. Use in exotics.
Midnight Bourbon (PP 9, 15-1) and Medina Spirit (PP 8, 11-1) both could finish strongly late.
Here's my plays I plan to make for the 147th Kentucky Derby: