$5,464. Favorites may have won the last five renewals of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (gr. I), but the average payoff for the trifecta over that time frame has still been a hefty $5,464, because let’s face it—hitting the trifecta in a race with twenty horses isn’t easy.
That said, I think the task could be more manageable this year because I feel strongly that #7 Justify stands above his rivals and will be very tough to beat.
I’ve already outlined most of my thoughts on Justify in my weekly Kentucky Derby Top 10 posts, and after Justify drew perfectly in post position seven, I listed him as “fair value” at his morning line odds of 3-1. Trainer Bob Baffert has won the Derby four times before, and in this day and age—with horses racing less and less—the fabled “Apollo Curse” doesn’t scare me. I think it’s just a matter of time before a horse that didn’t race as a two-year-old wins the Derby, and Baffert nearly brought the curse tumbling down with Bodemeister in 2012.
And you can certainly make a case that Justify is a better horse than Bodemeister. Three starts, three easy victories. In the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), he achieved the uncommon feat of posting triple-digit BRIS speed figures in all four categories: E1 (100), E2 (105), Late Pace (117), and overall speed (114). The horse he casually defeated by three lengths was the two-time Grade 1 winner Bolt d’Oro.
Obviously Justify will need a bit of racing luck in the Kentucky Derby, but that’s true for every horse in the field, and Justify’s post draw should give him every opportunity to work out a perfect trip stalking #3 Promises Fulfilled and #4 Flameaway through the early stages of the race. From there, I think it will be very difficult for anyone to run him down.
#11 Bolt d’Oro is arguably the second-fastest horse on paper, but will be a bit of a price thanks to his runner-up effort in the Santa Anita Derby. I like his chances to finish on the board, along with #5 Audible, 2-for-2 this year including a late-running score in the Florida Derby (gr. I), and #6 Good Magic, who defeated Bolt d’Oro in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year. All three of those runners will be making their third start of the season in the Kentucky Derby, an angle that has worked for eight of the last eleven Derby winners.
My trifecta strategy is as follows: I’ll single Justify on top and key Bolt d’Oro, Audible, and Good Magic underneath. I’ll also add a few bigger prices to the mix, including #10 My Boy Jack and #20 Combatant, while also adding a saver exacta using Justify in second place:
$5 trifecta: 7 with 5,6,11 with 5,6,11 ($30)
$2 trifecta: 7 with 5,6,11 with 2,9,10,16,19,20 ($36)
$1 trifecta: 7 with 2,9,10,16,19,20 with 5,6,11 ($18)
$5 exacta: 5,6,11 with 7 ($15)