Here it is folks! It’s finally Kentucky Derby weekend!! Churchill Downs has put together a stellar racing card for Kentucky Derby Day and although the defection of morning line favorite Omaha Beach has dampened some spirits a bit, everyone’s looking forward to finding out who this year’s Kentucky Derby winner will be. Let’s take a look at a few races happening on Saturday.
Churchill Downs – Race 8 – The Churchill Downs Stakes (Grade 1)
A solid field of Grade 1 sprinters line up here. Unfortunately, we lost an entrant when it was learned that Limousine Liberal (morning line 5-1) had been injured and retired. We wish him well and move on with eleven others here and while most people see this as a rematch between Mitole and Whitmore with Promises Fulfilled joining the party fresh off a run in the Dubai Golden Shaheen.
I like Do Share to spoil the party at a nice price. Do Share recently blew the doors off a field at Aqueduct in the Grade 3 Tom Fool. Do Share had a perfect setup that day but also won off by 6 ½ lengths while the other closers (who also had nice setups) couldn’t match strides with him. Trainer Michael Maker has recently improved his game with his sprinters as evidenced by California Night’s win today at Belmont Park against a tough field. I will take Do Share to upset with Whitmore running a valiant second.
Churchill Downs – Race 10 – The Pat Day Mile (Grade 3)
This year’s running of the Pat Day Mile is SUPER interesting as many people are going to be singling the 6-5 morning line favorite Instagrand on multi-race bets and he is without a win further than 6 furlongs.
I’m swinging for the fences this weekend and going with Market King at 15-1 to blow up the tote board. Market King was actually my longshot pick to win the Blue Grass a month ago but it was a bit further than he wanted to go. Market King is impeccably bred and today he gets the services of Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and I think he takes it to Instagrand and wears him down. Hog Creek Hustle will not be anywhere near his 30-1 morning line and he’s another that can take this with the right trip. My picks: Market King (15-1), Hog Creek Hustle (30-1), Frolic More (20-1).
Churchill Downs – Race 11 – The Old Forester Turf Classic (Grade 1)
The Turf Classic always ends up being a corker of a race and this year should be no different. I’m going with Bricks and Mortar to once again reign supreme here and improve his record to 8 for 10. He’s better than these and although in his last he almost got nipped by Markitoff who he meets again here, Markitoff had a favorable pace setup and should get more pressure today. Synchrony should give a good fight and looks like the only one with a chance to take down the likely favorite.
My Picks: Bricks and Mortar (5-2), Synchrony (8-1), (8-1)
Churchill Downs – Race -12 – The Kentucky Derby (Grade 1)
The Kentucky Derby turned out to be an extremely difficult race this year with 20 of the most evenly matched horses I’ve seen in my 26 years following the sport. Vekoma should be the early leader but I don’t think he can stay the grueling 1 ¼ distance and for the last few weeks I’ve been poring over race replays and past performances to figure out who the right one is.
I’m going with Code of Honor to win the Kentucky Derby. I saw Code of Honor break his maiden up in Saratoga last year and his trainer Shug McGaughey has brought him along the Derby trail perfectly. His trainer won this race a few years ago with Orb and Code of Honor seems to have the best closing kick of anyone. In his most recent prep, a 3rd place finish in the Florida Derby, he ran deceptively well. That race had one of the strongest closing fractions in a grade 1 race in the last twenty years. That should help his price and the fact that he’s got a hall of fame rider in John Velazquez in the saddle is something that makes me want to root even harder.
Tacitus had been my Derby horse since before the Tampa Bay Derby and I think he also rates a great chance to win. He withstood severe traffic trouble in the Wood Memorial only to win easily. Experience like that is a good thing in preparation for a race like the Kentucky Derby where horses can get banged around like bumper cars. I like Country House to finish a closing third. Country House actually has the strongest closing figure of anyone in the race, I’m just unsure of his class at this point. Cutting Humor is my choice to round out the superfecta. My Picks: Code of Honor (15-1), Tacitus (10-1), Country House (30-1), Cutting Humor (30-1)