Finnick the Fierce – Clever horse draws the rail, reuniting with Martin Garcia who rode him to third-place finishes in both the Arkansas Derby (G1) and an allowance race at Churchill that produced Art Collector. One of only two horses to have crossed the wire ahead of Tiz the Law in his career thus far. Potential superfecta inclusion.
Max Player – Deep closer makes first start for Asmussen barn, after a pair of late runs in Belmont (G1) and Travers (G1). This one will be looking to pick up the pieces given a pace meltdown. Use underneath.
Enforceable – Son of Tapit has been relatively quiet since competing in the preps at the Fair Grounds. However, connections are awfully familiar with the classics, and will be another one moving late. Use underneath.
Storm the Court – This underdog has been searching for his identity since his miraculous upset in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 45-1. Connections have looked for softer spots and even turf in his last outing. While they are taking another shot with an entry into the big dance, this one should have probably stayed on the sidelines. Toss.
Major Fed – Showed signs of life in most recent start in the Indiana Derby, but carries only a maiden score to his name. Likely overmatched here, though bullet works over the Churchill surface may say otherwise. Toss.
King Guillermo – His nearly 50-1 victory in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) looked like less of a fluke after his runner-up finish to Nadal in the Arkansas Derby (G1). However, connections have shied away from competition since the first Saturday in May, which may be his downfall. Will be looking for a stalking trip. On-the-board candidate.
Money Moves – Todd Pletcher sending one horse into the Derby starting gate is rare. What’s even more rare? A runner making his stakes debut in the Kentucky Derby. Despite his lack of experience, largely due to an illness after his impressive allowance score at Gulfstream, this may be one to take seriously. As they say, bet against Pletcher, leave in a stretcher. Use underneath.
South Bend – This last-minute entrant into the Derby field is a typical Bill Mott maneuver. With plenty of race experience under his belt, albeit mainly over the turf, he ran surprisingly well in the Travers last out. Will need to improve significantly to make a dent here, but he has shown that he can run on the dirt throughout his career. Toss.
Big News – Another “Why Not” member of the field has yet to have stood up to the top competition, though this one may develop into a nice older horse. His win at Oaklawn was as impressive as it was unexpected, though may not be up to the task here. Toss.
Thousand Words – In the earliest stages of the Derby trail, this colt looked to be Baffert’s potential superstar, though faded out of the limelight when Charlatan, Nadal, and Authentic came into the picture. He benefited tremendously from some time-off and came back to defeat the Derby second choice Honor A.P. in his most recent start. Depending on the strategy under new rider Florent Geroux, he could be a major factor. In-the-money contender.
Necker Island – This colt emerged as a $100K claim, and frankly the gate isn’t going to fill itself. However, he doesn’t merit a second look. Toss.
Sole Volante – This sneaky runner from the Biancone stable has serious turf prowess, and touts turf works exclusively over the past month. He has done his best running in Florida and may not have what it takes to compete in the far more regulated state of Kentucky. Toss.
Attachment Rate – Dale Romans has been longing for a Derby win for his entire life. Unfortunately, that will be not happening here. This colt has yet to put the pieces together since his maiden voyage but has been relatively close on several occasions. Toss.
Winning Impression – While Dallas Stewart’s gelding is no stranger to top level stakes, he has not shown form worthy of a strong Derby performance. Toss.
Ny Traffic – The buzz horse of the year may very well be Ny Traffic, whose tremendous rally in the final strides of the Haskell was unsuccessful yet unforgettable. With Paco Lopez aboard, Saffie Joseph is doing the island of Barbados proud with his first Derby starter. Moreover, he may have the perfect setup here. Win contender.
Honor A. – When Money Mike Smith says it’s Easter, then you better paint your eggs. Honor A.P. will be running when they turn for home, he says. A stunning son of Honor Code, he has been held in the highest regard by those on the West Coast and beyond. Win contender.
Tiz the Law – Serious racehorse. He has been untouchable. But when 18 three-year-olds break from the gate on the first Saturday in September, the yellow brick road may not be as golden for this brilliant first crop son of Constitution. Will likely be one of the shortest priced favorites in Derby history. Heavy favorite.
Authentic – Despite a nearly unblemished race record, this powerful son of Into Mischief has needed some maturation for Baffert. He has still been somewhat green in his victories. Will play a serious role in dictating the pace, especially given his outside post position. Johnny V should be the perfect fit for Authentic. Win contender.