Shapiro's Final Verdict: Kentucky Derby 2018

Profile Picture: Scott Shapiro

May 2nd, 2018

We are just a few days out from the world-famous Kentucky Derby set to go to post at 6:50 local time on Saturday evening.

The first leg of the Triple Crown has been as enjoyable as ever to analyze starting months ago given the talented crop set to break from the gates in the twelfth race on Saturday’s 14-race card at Churchill Downs.

So without further ado, here is my Top 3 and price horses to consider underneath for the 2018 “Run for the Roses:”

#5 Audible

The New York bred colt has improved in each start for trainer Todd Pletcher. The son of Into Mischief may not have the pedigree to get the mile and a quarter distance, but I have seen no signs that he will struggle to get the ten furlongs on Saturday afternoon.

What I like most about the $500,000 FTF March 2017 purchase is his versatility. If the pace is moderate early he has the ability to stay close, but if they go at it on the front end he can sit well off and make a big run on the far turn like he did in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. also possesses the ability to make multiple moves, a trait that may be needed to beat a field of 20.

At 8-1 on the line he should offer fair value in the Win pool and has a huge shot to give jockey Javier Castellano his first Derby win.

#7 Justify

The son of Scat Daddy is the likeliest winner in this year’s Derby coming in off of three impressive victories at Santa Anita Park for Hall of Famer . The $500,000 Keeneland September 2016 purchase posted a monster 114 BRIS speed rating last time out in the Santa Anita Derby when he was allowed to set a moderate early pace before prancing home to a three length victory under jockey Mike Smith.

Justify’s early speed should allow him to settle just off the lead of likely pacesetter # 3 Promises Fulfilled and put him in a great spot when they hit the far turn. The only question regarding the Kentucky bred colt is how he will handle adversity. He has never raced away from home and has never been in a battle in the lane. Granted, a horse like Justify creates his own trip much like American Pharoah and California Chrome, but the Derby can often be a different animal.

If he is able to sit just off a moderate tempo he will be very tough to beat in the lane, but if they go quick early I have some concerns with his ability to finish the deal. Therefore taking 3-1 is just not something I am willing to do. However, there is no way I am going to completely a toss a horse that has done nothing wrong and is likely to sit a dream trip barring a poor break.

#6 Good Magic

The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner clearly needed his first start off the bench in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth where he finished an unimpressive third. He bounced back with a better effort last time out in the Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass where he sat four and a half lengths off the early pace and pulled away late to beat a modest fourteen-horse field at Keeneland.

The son of Curlin makes his third start of the form cycle for trainer Chad Brown, much like he did in his career best effort at Del Mar last November and appears to be thriving at the right time. I would be extremely surprised if does not run his race, but I tend to think there will be one or two horses better than him even on his best.

I love the idea of using Good Magic as a key horse underneath in the exotics and will not let him beat me in the horizontals. I do not know if he will be 12-1 when they break from the gates, but he will offer enough value to build your vertical wagers around.

Price horses to consider underneath in exotic wagers:

#19 Noble Indy is almost certain to take the least support of the four Todd Pletcher runners, but he is not without a chance. The son of Take Charge Indy was extremely game in his neck victory in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby racing against the flow. If Florent Geroux can avoid a wide voyage from his extreme outside post he should outrun his odds.

#9 Hofburg is one of the “buzz” horses coming into the Derby for Hall of Famer Bill Mott. He ran huge in his first start against winners in the Florida Derby and has looked the part in the mornings. His lack of experience concerns me, but the talent is there to hit the board.

#10 My Boy Jack is probably not fast enough to win the Derby, but he has the profile of a horse that can “pick up the pieces” at a mile and a quarter. If Kent Desormeaux can time his ride right on Saturday he can certainly finish third or fourth.

#13 Bravazo did not run his race in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, but I expect him to do so on Saturday. He may be a cut or two below this group, but I expect him to sit fourth or fifth early. If the pace is modest, he could grind out a minor share for D. Wayne Lukas.

#8 Lone Sailor ran a 100 BRIS speed rating in the aforementioned Louisiana Derby. Trainer Tom Amoss does not get the same stock as the top trainers in the land, but he is as capable as anyone. If James Graham can move a bit later than he did in the runner-up effort in NOLA he can pick up paycheck on Saturday.

Just 3 more days from the big one!