One of America’s premier horse racing events, the Grade I, $3 million Kentucky Derby, is set for Saturday at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/4-mile classic drew 21 entrants, but the defections of favored #12 OMAHA BEACH (4-1) and longshot #11 HAIKAL (30-1) saw that number shrink to 19. The “Run for the Roses,” which goes as Race 12 of 14, will still have a large field and offer solid wagering opportunities when it goes off at approximately 6:50 p.m. Eastern. See my selected undercard analysis here!
#8 TACITUS (10-1) has won three straight starts for trainer Bill Mott dating back to his maiden victory in November. He showed no signs of rust when he took the Tampa Bay Derby off a four-month layoff before turning back TAX in Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial. TACITUS could be sitting on a peak effort in his third start of 2019. His pedigree is impeccable, as he’s by Tapit out of multiple Grade I-winning mare Close Hatches. Jose Ortiz will have this one rolling late.
#5 IMPROBABLE (6-1) will try to get back in the win column in the biggest start of his career. He was a perfect 3-for-3 at age two, including an easy score in the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity. When he returned off a layoff in the Rebel, he sacrificed too much ground to hold off LONG RANGE TODDY. Then IMPROBABLE acted up at the gate with blinkers added for the Arkansas Derby, raced keenly and was defeated by OMAHA BEACH. He sheds the blinkers in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Bob Baffert and gets a rider change to Irad Ortiz Jr.
#6 VEKOMA (20-1) won Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes by 3 1/2-lengths, and though the quality of the field was suspect, this price appears too high. VEKOMA seemed to need a race to shake off the rust when he checked in third in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. His Blue Grass victory hearkened back to the brilliance of his Nashua win at age two that prompted many to put him on their early Derby watch lists. Javier Castellano has the call on the live longshot.
#2 TAX (20-1) will be running on late under Junior Alvarado. His pedigree indicates that 1 1/4-miles is well within his scope, and he showed enough talent when winning the Withers and grabbing the place in the Wood Memorial to prove he can compete in the Kentucky Derby.
The play: $2 exacta 5,8/2,5,6,8, $2 win 2,6 ($16)