May 20, 2018

Kentucky Derby Report – Final Preview

Mendelssohn bids to make history for Aidan O'Brien as the first European-trained Kentucky Derby winner (c) Dubai Racing Club/Neville Hopwood

An outstanding field has been assembled for Saturday’s 144th running of the Kentucky Derby and the post position draw turned out remarkably well for the top contenders. I’ve been fortunate to watch all 20 horses train at Churchill Downs and a few horses have moved up in my estimation.

Let’s get right to my Kentucky Derby selections:

Top Selection: #14 MENDELSSOHN

Mendelssohn started on turf and defeated a strong group in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) last fall, but the Scat Daddy colt elevated his game switching to dirt for the U.A.E. Derby (G2), winning by 18 lengths with seemingly plenty in reserve. He showed good speed leading wire to wire and his tactical foot should serve him well in a 20-horse field where the start is critical. The outside draw benefits him – jockey Ryan Moore should be able to avoid kickback as he looks to settle just off the speed to his inside – and I think Mendelssohn will have more to offer in the Kentucky Derby.

2nd Choice: #5 AUDIBLE

Audible earned huge BRIS Speed ratings posting convincing wins in the Holy Bull (G2) and Florida Derby (G1), cornering extremely well before finishing powerfully through the stretch of both races, and the stalker is eligible to receive the right trip in midpack Saturday. I like how he’s trained locally in preparation, galloping out like a beast following a half-mile breeze last weekend, and Audible could be finishing fastest of all beneath Javier Castellano.

3rd Choice: #7 JUSTIFY

Justify will be tough to beat if he gets into the same rhythm from his first three starts, but the supremely talented colt has never had a horse to his outside during a race and didn’t break cleanly in any of his starts, leaving the starting a half-step slow in the first two outings and regathering his footing after the ground gave way beneath him at the beginning of the Santa Anita Derby (G1). He probably could’ve spotted the overmatched competition 10 lengths in those races – Justify has only faced a total of 14 horses while competing in small fields every time – but won’t have the same margin for error in the Kentucky Derby. If Justify gets the right trip, he’ll make a strong move on far turn and may prove impossible to run down. But it’s a lot to ask from an inexperienced colt at short odds.

4th Choice: #4 FLAMEAWAY

Flameaway has laid his body down and fought hard to the wire in all four starts this year, and he could be in position to grab a minor award in the latter stages here. I’ve liked the energy and enthusiasm he’s displayed at Churchill over the last two weeks, galloping out into the backstretch with gusto every time, and I will be including Flameaway in my exotic wagers.

5th Choice: #6 GOOD MAGIC

Good Magic will need to up his game to challenge following a Blue Grass (G2) win where he netted only a 98 BRIS Speed rating, but he’ll be making the third start off the layoff and looks poised to take another step forward. He’s made a favorable impression over the track during morning preparations and if Good Magic gets the right trip in behind the early leaders, he could make his presence felt in the final furlongs.

My entire top 10 is below:

Good luck in the Kentucky Derby!

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