The Kentucky Derby has a reputation for being the race that’s good for the longshots. With it’s 20-horse field—roughly double of what will run in the Preakness and Belmont in the coming weeks, the potential for unpredictability is much higher. That reputation was solidified in a stretch from 2001-05 when four of five winners had odds in double-digits, and then the crown jewel of upsets came when Mine That Bird cashed a 50-1 ticket in 2008.
But lately the trend has been in another direction. The last five years have seen horses with odds in the single-digits end up wearing the garland of roses by early Saturday evening at Churchill Downs. That includes a three-year stretch where California Chrome, American Pharaoh and Nyquist won at prices close to 2-1.
If that trend is to continue, it means one of these five horses, ranging from 3-1 to 8-1 will end up winning. Here’s a look at all five…
Justify (3-1): He’s only run three races in his career, but he’s won all three. That includes the Santa Anita Derby, the most prestigious of the qualifying “prep races” in the west. The fact Justify is trained by the great Bob Baffert and has another all-time great, Mike Smith, in the saddle, further explains his status as the favorite.
Mendelssohn (5-1): At the age of three, he’s seen the world. Bred in the United States, Mendelssohn has been under the care of Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien and the horse has won big races in the Emerald Isle. And his biggest win came at Meydan earlier this year, in Saudi Arabia in the presence of the sheiks.
Magnum Moon (6-1): Trained by the well-financed Todd Pletcher, Magnum Moon opened his career with a couple wins in low-level races down in Florida. Pletcher then sent him to Arkansas, where he promptly won two significant preps, the Arkansas Derby and the Rebel Stakes. He’s 4-for-4 in his career.
Bolt D’Oro (8-1): Victor Espinoza, the jockey that rode American Pharaoh to the Triple Crown in 2015, is aboard Bolt ‘d Oro, who hasn’t been unbeatable, but very consistent. Bolt has gone to the post six times and each time at least finished in the money. This includes a second-place finish to Justify at the Santa Anita Derby.
Audible (8-1): Another Pletcher horse, Audible is ridden by veteran jockey Javier Castellano, one of the best in the East. After a third-place finish in his maiden race, Audible has ripped off four straight wins. That includes the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream in Florida and more important, he won the prestigious Florida Derby, the biggest of all the prep races.
I don’t know that I’ll end up picking one of the favorites to win. The fact we’ve had five straight years of low-priced horses winning this event suggests to me that maybe it’s time for the trend to move in the other direction. I’ll release my official picks, including exotics, in tomorrow’s weekend report. Be sure to check that out so you know what *not* to bet on. In the meantime, if you’re in a pool where you just have to pick the winner, you could do worse than winding up with any of these five.