Tuesday, 14 August, 2018

Kentucky Derby: How to Watch

Baffert back for more with latest star, Justice Kentucky Derby: Can Justify beat the Curses?
Nina Mathis | 04 May, 2018, 14:18

The countdown is on for post time at the 2018 Kentucky Derby, which means it's crunch time to assess the latest odds for the race and figure out which horses stand out in a crowded field.

Justify is a strong horse, but there is something about Mendelssohn's 18-and-a-half-length victory and excellent European connections-O'Brien is the continent's top trainer-that makes this a most unsafe combination.

The 144th Kentucky Derby starts this year's Triple Crown racing season, and the only time it can truly be topped is when the victor of the Run for the Roses also takes the Preakness, and attention shifts to the Belmont Stakes for a potential Triple Crown victor. Justify and Magnum Moon are the only two in this field that could end the 135-year-old curse. And that doesn't even get to Bolt d'Oro, who was the favorite going into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last November, or Mendelssohn or Justify.

The wild card here might be Mendelssohn, the horse from Ireland who has been pointed to this race by Aidan O'Brien, the superstar European trainer who a year ago set a single-season record with 28 Grade 1 or Group 1 stakes victories.

Justify is the plus-350 favorite, according to OddsShark, and he appears to be a strong competitor who has won all three of his starts.

It's the calm before the storm, as Lake Havasu City's only off-track betting location prepares for a wave of customers to descend on the bar and restaurant located off the lobby of the Quality Inn to place wagers on Saturday's 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, the first Triple Crown horse race of the year.

Then there's Florida Derby winner Audible, undefeated Arkansas Derby winner Magnum Moon, Wood Memorial winner Vino Rosso, and Louisiana Derby winner Noble Indy, all of whom are in top form and threats to capture the Run for the Roses.

Mendelssohn won the $2 million United Arab Emirates Derby by an astonishing 18 lengths - and that's just four of the 20 horses that will tackle the $2 million Kentucky Derby on Saturday.




If a full field of 20 starters, the gross purse of the Derby will be $2,192,000, with $1,432,000 going to the victor. "I'm more optimistic about our 2-year-olds who'll be turning 3 next year", Lukas said, forever imagining the future. "It always helps in these situations to have a little bit of seasoning, experience and (proven ability to) overcome some adversity".

"I have to deal with Apollo", lamented Baffert, before noting that times and horses have changed a lot since the days of Apollo.

"Derby" Bill Watson offers a quick assessment on every horse in the 2018 Kentucky Derby field for Richmond.com and gives his superfecta pick, led by his forecasted victor Mendelssohn coming from the No. 14 post. He's not good enough to beat Mendelssohn, but he is good enough to finish second. Air Forbes One finished seventh. "Lightly raced is the problem".

Post positions may not matter for the long haul, but they can make all the difference in the scrum at the beginning of the race. The Aidan O'Brien-trained colt, who won the UAE Derby by 181⁄2 lengths, does seem to have a lot more going for him than previous Dubai shippers. The new emphasis is on how you race in March and April before the Derby.

All the guesses and handicapping using various angles can be ignored as the gates open on Saturday, when more than 150,000 fans are in full throat and 20 horses barrel down the front straightaway at Churchill Downs just hoping to survive the crush that heads into that first turn.

Justify is a terrific horse with a Hall of Fame trainer and a superb jockey in Mike Smith.

Good Magic, trained by two-time Eclipse Award victor Chad Brown, is the "live" long shot in this race, with the Derby as the third start of his form cycle this year.

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