Kentucky Derby Picks and Analysis
This is one of the more impressive fields of 3-year-olds in recent years, and I completely understand why everyone is in love with Justify. The colt is drop-dead gorgeous and looks more mature than his age.
I never hold the size or quality of a field against a horse – they can’t help who they run against – so my argument against Justify isn’t that he’s only beaten 15 horses in his three career starts. My argument is that he has controlled every second of each of those races, and he’ll have to face more horses on Derby Day than he has ever seen on the track combined, each with their own agenda and talent.
Instead, I’m looking for horses with some ability to rate and/or some experience in traffic:
#16 Magnum Moon (6-1) – I fell in love with this horse in the post parade for the Rebel and he has been my top Derby pick ever since. He typically likes to be on the lead, but he has shown a little more flexibility to come from off the pace than some of the field, and he has seen fractions that range from blazing to pedestrian so I think he can handle what the Derby field throws at him. FWIW, he’s also one of only 3 horses in the field to have the same rider on him in every start.
#5 Audible (8-1) – Audible’s Florida Derby run was visually impressive and gave everyone the idea that he is a closer – but he has also won from off the pace and just off the lead, and that versatility is a critical skill for Derby Day that will be overlooked by bettors. If speed figures interest you, Audible has the best career Ragozin to date: 3.25, in his last start; Always Dreaming earned a 5 in the same race last year before winning the Kentucky Derby with a 4.
#6 Good Magic (12-1) – Not sure what this horse has done wrong to get double-digit morning-line odds, but I’ll take it. Unlike most horses in this field, he doesn’t need the lead nor is he a dead closer – he’ll hang back a couple lengths off the leader and stalk the pace, whether fast or reasonable. The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner will be making his third start off a layoff and his dam has won and placed in multiple two-turn dirt stakes.
#9 Hofburg (20-1) – Like Audible, everyone will look at the Florida Derby and see a closer, but also like Audible, Hofburg has some dimension. He has been forced wide and had to face traffic, giving him more experience than his three career starts might suggest. He improved dramatically between his second and third start and I don’t think Bill Mott has gotten to the bottom of this Tapit colt yet.