Kentucky Derby Contenders and Pretenders

The field, post position, and odds have just been announced for the 148th Kentucky Derby. Before you get every single person on the internet’s plays and hunches, we’re here to simplify a few things for you. The Kentucky Derby from a racing perspective can be summed up quite simply as of late. If you aren’t within 2 lengths of the front of the pack as you reach the top of the stretch, odds are you won’t be going into the infield winner’s circle as the champion three-year-old. To say Churchill Downs has a speed bias is an understatement. Early speed rules the day. Since the implementation of the Kentucky Derby points system, the true speedsters usually don’t get into the Run for the Roses so those who have tactical speed and can run decent early fractions make it that much easier to come with one big run down the stretch. 


Let’s talk about post position, which can ruin your chances within a blink of an eye. Churchill Downs does have a newer Australian-style gate which does even the playing field a bit. You still do not want to be on the rail though (positions 1-4), and you do not want the far outside posts either (18-20). The first turn comes fast in the Kentucky Derby, and if you get smooshed on the inside, or caught six or seven lanes wide into the first turn from the outside, you’ll be caught behind too many good runners. The sweet spots are slots five through seventeen, even if post position 17 has never had a winner come from it. You can manage from there to get over and get to the rail to try and get to the shortest way around the oval. Horses have won from the far outside recently (Authentic, Country House, Big Brown) and they all had to come flying down to get good position into the first turn. The far inside hasn’t produced a winner in some time. 

One thing that will be mentioned a ton is the fact that Bob Baffert was not allowed to be listed at the trainer for any horses this Kentucky Derby. Medina Spirit won last year’s Kentucky Derby, by finishing first. He then tested positive for a banned substance. Bob Baffert then was suspended and the true winner of the derby still hasn’t been decided. Whether Bob holds/held/is tied/owns the record for most Kentucky Derby wins, depends on pending court cases and personal opinion. He has moved two runners, two of the favorites for sure, Taiba and Messier to his old assistant trainer Tim Yakteen. Under Yakteen, Taiba and Messier went first and second in the Santa Anita Derby. That race has led to a ton of recent derby victories with horses such as Authentic, Medina Spirit, and Triple Crown Winning Justify all coming out of the race. Baffert’s aura looms over horse racing and the way he came after “cancel culture” and blamed everyone but himself could be the reason he is suspended from running in every jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the two runners coming from the Baffert/Yakteen are not to be messed with. They both are true contenders.


Now to the odds and betting. Betting the favorite has actually worked out this century when talking about derby favorites. The post time favorite has won the last 6/10. The nice part about the favorites are the prices they’ve paid. The Kentucky Derby favorite will be going off at around 3/1. With TVG, you can bet the favorite or a longshot and get a Risk-Free Bet up to $200, plus get cashback for second or third on select races for new players this Derby weekend. If you are a sports bettor, you are usually paying a -110 vig on that $200 bet to net a total of $380. $200 on the favorite here would get you $800 with TVG. 

Exotic wagering is even better. Betting an exacta, top two finishers, and trifecta, top three finishers, can pay out in the hundreds and even thousands. Even putting a few favorites into those sequences garners a nice expected payout. So many novices are putting money into these pools that the payouts can get ridiculous on some of the most common outcomes. There are four real favorites in this race: Epicenter (won all the major preps in Louisiana), Taiba (won the California prep in only his second start), White Abarrio (won the Florida preps) and Zandon (won the big Kentucky prep). The fifth choice in my eyes is Messier who was just beaten by Taiba but is a former Baffert with a ton of talent. After the post draw, I’ve highlighted my top contenders and pretenders.

We’ll be back Thursday with our final picks, live longshots, and an overview of the entire field.

Top 5 contenders: (3) Epicenter, (12)Taiba, (10) Zandon, (6) Messier, (15) White Abarrio
Top 5 pretenders:(4) Summer is Tomorrow, (14)Barber Road, (18)Tawny Port, (20) Ethereal Road, (11) Pioneer of Medina