A Kentucky Derby Breakdown For Colorado Bettors

Written By Jack Flaherty on 05/03/2024
The 2011 Kentucky Derby

It’s that time of year.

It’s time for the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby. My oh my, does time fly. It seems like just yesterday I attended the 100th running, along with my brother Rick and Queen Elizabeth in 1974.

We were in the infield. The Queen was seated somewhere else.

The field has 20 thoroughbreds projected for the race, and none has raced as far as 10 furlongs. In other words, Saturday will be new to them. Keep an eye on the weather. There are a a few established “mudders,” as well as horses prefer it dry and fast.

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The 2024 Kentucky Derby lineup

Here’s a list of this year’s participants by their post positions. Below the pony’s name is additional information, including their odds to win and their best Beyer number. Beyer number is a speed rating for the fastest the horse has run so far.

Note the favorite, Fierceness, has a 110 Beyer. Which means on paper, he is the best.

1 – Dornock

Odds: 20-1
Trainer: Danny Gargan
Beyer Speed: 91

He was a hot horse earlier this year but has flattened with two recent mediocre efforts. Last week, he reminded me of War Emblem, the 2002 Derby winner. Now Dornock drew the dreaded #1 post, which means he has to jump all out and get to the first turn as the leader. Then hold on and don’t look back. His best race was winning the Remsen in the mud. If it rains, give him a closer look.

2 – Sierra Leone

Odds: 3-1
Trainer: Chad Brown
Beyer Speed: 98

The second favorite, with two recent impressive wins from behind. He is a big-time closer, and his record shows he should love the longer distance. The 2-post is not great but he should be ok, just lay back and wait for the race to fall apart then pick up the pieces. The 3-1 odds make me hesitate, but using him somewhere.

3 – Mystik Dan

Odds: 20-1
Trainer: Kenneth Mcpeek
Beyer Speed: 101

He has a mediocre 3rd in the Arkansas Derby but has a top trainer in McPeek. His best race was in the slop at the Southwest. A proven mudder.

4 – Catching Freedom

Odds: 8-1
Trainer: Brad Cox
Beyer Speed: 97

Won the Louisiana Derby last and has improved upon every race. He is Cox-trained and always makes an effort. A proven closer with an excellent 4 post to set up his tactical race plan. He’s my pick to win.

5 – Catalytic

Odds: 30-1
Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.
Beyer Speed: 90

Catalytic is lightly raced and came in a distant second in the Florida Derby to punch his Derby ticket. I’m not a Joseph fan. Thus, I’m not interested in this colt.

6 – Just Steel

Odds: 20-1
Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas
Beyer Speed: 95

Steel has had 11 starts but not too many wins. However, his second-place finish at Arkansas with an improved 95 Beyer proves he belongs here. Old school Hall-of Fame trainer D.Wayne Lukas believes in making his ponies race and earn their oats. Sentimental pick because of the trainer and has a puncher’s chance.

7 – Honor Marie

Odds: 20-1
Trainer: D. Whitworth Beckman
Beyer Speed: 96

I have liked this guy all year, with a credible second place in Louisiana most recently. He is training well and keeps improving but needs a dry fast track. I will have him somewhere as long as it doesn’t rain.

8 – Just a Touch

Odds: 10-1
Trainer: Brad Cox
Beyer Speed: 96

It is only his fourth start, but he has two recent second-place finishes in Gotham and BlueGrass. This is Cox’s second-best horse and is coming along nicely. Second place in a G3 and G2 is no hay. But I’m not quite convinced. He was in a position to win the last two but lacked the final zip to close it. It’s possible that 10 furlongs is not his preferred distance.

9 – Encino

Odds: 20-1
Trainer: Brad Cox
Beyer Speed: 94

Ecino earned a nice win in the Lexington Stakes. Like most Cox-trained horses, he is getting better and has the pedigree to compete. But his style won’t fit Saturday.

He likes to be up front early, but the first ½ mile in the Derby is always too fast. Saturday will be a closer’s race, so I’m looking elsewhere. However, I will have it in my Cox triple, hoping Encino can hang on.

10 – TO Password

Odds: 30-1
Trainer:  Daisuke Takayanagi
Beyer Speed: N/A

A Japanese colt with only two lifetime starts, both in Japan. This is just his third race and it will be in front of 150,000 people. During World War II, kamikaze pilots had a survival rate slightly above 0, but there were some. Those pilots had a better chance of survival than this horse has of winning.

11 – Forever Young

Odds: 10-1
Trainer: Yahagi Yoshito
Beyer Speed: N/A

Also out of Japan but coming through Dubai after winning the UAE Derby. He has tactical speed and may like the ten furlongs. Track-wise, guys here think he has a chance. They also said that last year and many years before that. Dubai starters are 0 for 19 in the Derby. Not to win, but 0-for-19  just to get on the board! (Top-4). My money is not fighting that jinx.

12 – Track Phantom

Odds: 20-1
Trainer: Steven Asmussen
Beyer Speed: 94

People liked him earlier this year but not so much now. He was fourth in the Louisiana Derby most recently following a second in the Risen Star.

He’s moving in the wrong direction. Adding blinkers for the first time on Saturday is not a good sign. There are better spots for my money.

13 – West Saratoga

Odds: 50-1
Trainer: Larry Demeritte
Beyer Speed: 85

He’s a synthetic specialist who faded down the stretch in his last four races. This is my pick to finish last. His owners won’t care since they paid $11,000 for him compared to the $1 million price tag usually on these horses.  Now, their horse brought them to the Big Dance, and the connections are thrilled.

14 – Endlessly

Odds: 30-1
Trainer: Michael McCarthy
Beyer Speed: 91

He won Jeff Ruby last, but another grass-synthetic specialist. Saturday will be his first test on dirt. His trainer had no plans, I am sure, to bring him Saturday to Race 12. But owners are owners, and the allure of Mint Juleps in Louisville is strong.

15 – Domestic Product

Odds: 30-1
Trainer: Chad Brown
Beyer Speed: 87

He won a weak Tampa Bay Derby in early March but has not raced since then. This is another no-chance pony whose owners are just happy to be here.

16 – Grad Mo the First

Odds: 50-1
Trainer: Victor Barboza
Beyer Speed: 87

After an OK second in Rebel and a distant third in Florida, this horse is just not fast enough to win.

17 – Fierceness

Odds: 5-2
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Beyer Speed: 110

This is the betting favorite. At least on paper, he is the best horse in Louisville.

He made mincemeat of the Florida Derby. But the big question is, will he feel like running Saturday?  This guy is inconsistent. He has never had two good races in a row.

No Cigar, that’s for sure. He runs like the wind when things go his way. But he may back off in the Derby with 19 competitors and dirt or mud being thrown in your face. I am not a fan of bullies.

18 – Stronghold

Odds: 20-1
Trainer: Philip D’amato
Beyer Speed: 89

In his most recent race, he had a nice win at the Santa Anita Derby. He’s a consistent finisher who always tries. But an 89 Beyer is just so-so. However, he knows how to rate and finish at the end. I don’t think he is fast enough, but I am putting him somewhere in my triples.

19 – Resilience

Odds: 20-1
Trainer: Bill Mott
Beyer Speed: 90

Most recently, he won the Wood Memorial. It was just an ok finish, but even Secretariat could not win that. Mott is a good trainer and as his name implies, his pony has shown resilience. He will try to stay close, but his 19-post won’t help. There is too much to overcome for a colt not to be overly quick.

20 – Society Man

Odds: 50-1
Trainer: Danny Gargan
Beyer Speed: 87

He punched his Derby ticket with a second-place finish in a weak Wood field. But from the 20-hole, this is my hell-freezes-over pick.

My personal picks

So there we have it, the field for Derby 150. I hope to return for 200, but I have about the same odds of doing that as Society Man winning. Here are my bets:

  • #4 Catching Freedom: Win/Place
  • #2 Sierra Leone: Win
  • Exacta 2-4 box

I would also place modest win bets or place bets on #1 Dornock, #7 Honor Marie, and #18 Stronghold. A trifecta cox box on 4-8-9. Lastly, I would build other trifectas around 2 and 4.

May your Derby Day be merry.

Photo by AP Photo / Charlie Riedel
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