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Kentucky Derby: Early Odds and Analysis

2019 Kentucky Derby - Horse Racing at Churchill Downs

Before we get to the main event that everybody wants in the Kentucky Derby, these beautiful animals go through a pretty tough process in the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

If you’re not familiar with the process, the Road to the Kentucky Derby is a series of qualification races — points are awarded to the top four finishers. The top 20 are then entered into the Kentucky Derby field, with four additional “also eligibles” thrown into the mix in case of late withdrawals. 

The season started on September 15, 2018 with The Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. Here are the top four finishers from each race so far in the 2018-19 prep season in North America:

Main Road to the Kentucky Derby (NA) Results

IROQUOIS AT CHURCHILL DOWNS (09/15)

  • 1ST: Cairo Cat
  • 2ND: Tight Ten
  • 3RD: Pole Setter
  • 4TH: Tobacco Road

AMERICAN PHAROAH AT SANTA ANITA (09/29)

  • 1ST: Game Winner
  • 2ND: Gunmetal Gray
  • 3RD: Rowayton
  • 4TH: Jefe

CHAMPAGNE AT BELMONT (10/6)

  • 1ST: Complexity
  • 2ND: Code of Honor
  • 3RD: Call Paul
  • 4TH: Aurelius Maximus

BREEDERS’ FUTURITY AT KEENELAND (10/6)

  • 1ST: Knicks Go
  • 2ND: Signalman
  • 3RD: Standard Deviation
  • 4TH: Sombeyay

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE AT CHURCHILL DOWNS (11/2)

  • 1ST: Game Winner
  • 2ND: Knicks Go
  • 3RD: Signalman
  • 4TH: Mr. Money

KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB AT CHURCHILL DOWNS (11/24)

  • 1ST: Signalman
  • 2ND: Plus Que Parfait
  • 3RD: Limonite
  • 4TH: King For A Day

REMSEN AT AQUEDUCT (12/1)

  • 1ST: Maximus Mischief
  • 2ND: Network Effect
  • 3RD: Tax
  • 4TH: Bourbon War

LOS ALAMITOS FUTURITY AT LOS ALAMITOS (12/8)

  • 1ST: Improbable
  • 2ND: Mucho Gusto
  • 3RD: Extra Hope
  • 4TH: Dueling

SPRINGBOARD MILE AT REMINGTON (12/16)

  • 1ST: Long Range Toddy
  • 2ND: Bankit
  • 3RD: Dunph
  • 4TH: Tone Broke

JEROME AT AQUEDUCT (01/01)

  • 1ST: Mind Control
  • 2ND: Our Braintrust
  • 3RD: Family Biz
  • 4TH: Gates of Dawn


Remaining Schedule

PREP SEASON

  • JANUARY 5: Sham at Santa Anita
  • JANUARY 12: Lecomte at Fair Grounds
  • JANUARY 25: Smarty Jones at Oaklawn
  • FEBRUARY 2: Holy Bull at Gulfstream
  • FEBRUARY 2: Withers at Aqueduct
  • FEBRUARY 2: Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita
  • FEBRUARY 9: Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay
  • FEBRUARY 16: El Camino Real Derby at GG
  • FEBRUARY 18: Southwest at Oaklawn


CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES EVENTS

FIRST LEG OF SERIES

  • FEBRUARY 16: Risen Star at Fair Grounds
  • MARCH 2: Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream
  • MARCH 9: Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay
  • MARCH 9: Gotham at Aqueduct
  • MARCH 9: San Felipe at Santa Anita
  • MARCH 16: Rebel at Oaklawn
  • MARCH 24: Sunland Derby at Sunland Park

SECOND LEG OF SERIES

  • MARCH 23: Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds
  • MARCH 30: UAE Derby at Meydanuae
  • MARCH 30: Florida Derby at Gulfstream
  • APRIL 6: Wood Memorial at Aqueduct
  • APRIL 6: Blue Grass at Keeneland
  • APRIL 6: Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita
  • APRIL 13: Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park

“WILD CARD” EVENTS

  • MARCH 16: Jeff Ruby at Turfway
  • APRIL 13: Lexington at Keeneland

There are also other ways to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, mainly for internationals in the European Road to the Kentucky Derby and the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Here are the top four finishers from the 2019 European Road to the Kentucky Derby races up until this point:

European Road to the Kentucky Derby

ROYAL LODGE AT NEWMARKET (09/29)

  • 1ST: Mohawk
  • 2ND: Sydney Opera House
  • 3RD: Cape of Good Hope
  • 4TH: Victory Command

BERESFORD AT NAAS (09/30)

  • 1ST: Japan
  • 2ND: Mount Everest
  • 3RD: Power of Now
  • 4TH: Sovereign

PRIX JEAN-LUC LAGARDERE AT LONGCHAMP (10/7)

  • 1ST: Royal Marine
  • 2ND: Broome
  • 3RD: Anodor
  • 4TH: Biotron

VERTEM FUTURITY TROPHY AT DONCASTER (10/27)

  • 1ST: Magna Grecia
  • 2ND: Phoenix of Spain
  • 3RD: Western Australia
  • 4TH: Circus Maximus


Remaining Schedule

  • MARCH 6: Conditions at Kempton Park
  • MARCH 8: Patton at Dundalk
  • APRIL 11: Cardinal Condition at Chelmsford City

Here are the top four finishers from the 2019 Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby races thus far:

Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby Results

CATTLEYA SHO AT TOKYO (11/24)

  • 1ST: Make Happy
  • 2ND: Kingen
  • 3RD: Johann
  • 4TH: Romantico

ZEN-NIPPON NISAI YUSHUN AT KAWASAKI (12/19)

  • 1ST: Nova Lenda
  • 2ND: Derma Louvre
  • 3RD: Gal Vihara
  • 4TH: Make Happy


Remaining Schedule

  • FEBRUARY 17: Hyacinth at Tokyo
  • MARCH 31: Fukuyru at Nakayama

Now that we’re up to date on the current results and the remaining schedule, let’s go over the current points standings in the main 2019 Road to the Kentucky Derby (North America), European Road to the Kentucky Derby and Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby:

*Horse Name (Points)

MAIN ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY
NORTH AMERICA EUROPE JAPAN
1. Game Winner (30) 1. Royal Marine (10) 1. Make Happy (10)
2. Knicks Go (18) 2. Magna Grecia (10) 2. Kingen (4)
3. Signalman (18) 3. Mohawk (10) 3. Johaan (2)
4. Long Range Toddy (10) 4. Japan (10) 4. Romantico (1)
5. Mind Control (10) 5. Phoenix of Spain (4)
6. Complexity (10) 6. Broome (4)
7. Improbable (10) 7. Sydney Opera House (4)
8. Maximus Mischief (10) 8. Mount Everest (4)
9. Cairo Cat (10) 9. Andor (2)
10. Gunmetal Gray (4) 10. Western Australia (2)

Now that we’ve gotten that clear, let’s go over the new year’s first odds for the favorites to win the 2019 Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 4 — the fastest (and most exciting) two minutes in sports.

Before we get to our early picks for the race, be sure to check out our Top Horse Racing pages:

The Favorites to Win the 2019 Kentucky Derby

GAME WINNER (+700)

  • OWNER: Gary and Mary West
  • TRAINER: Bob Baffert
  • BRED: Summer Wind Equine
  • PEDIGREE: Candy Ride – Indyan Giving

The Breakdown

Currently the top favorite to win the Kentucky Derby at +700 odds, Game Winner is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. In four starts this season (MSW, Del Mar Futurity-G1, American Pharoah Stakes-G1 and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1), the colt has gone perfect. His trainer, Baffert, is the winner of the Kentucky Derby five times. In the last four years, he’s also swept the Kentucky Derby twice — American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018.

Game Winner’s father is Candy Ride, the sire of the 2017 Horse of the Year: Gun Runner. His dam is Indyan Giving, the daughter of A.P. Indy and champion mare Fleet Indian. Fleet Indian would also win the Eclipse Award in 2006, along with several other stakes wins.

Game Winner is already a lock for the Eclipse Award himself, and will now try to become the sixth Kentucky Derby winner overall for trainer Bob Baffert. He’s also Baffert’s first to compete in the Juvenile at the same time throughout the Derby process.

IMPROBABLE (+1000)

  • OWNER: WinStar Farm LLC – China Horse Club International Ltd. – SF Racing LLC
  • TRAINER: Bob Baffert
  • BRED: G. Watts Humphrey Jr. – St. George Farm LLC
  • PEDIGREE: City Zip – Rare Event

The Breakdown

Did you really think Bob Baffert was only going to have one horse in the race? (No pun intended) Baffert has yet another colt in Improbable, who is rather probable of winning the Derby coming second in the odds at +1000. In three starts this season (Los Alamitos Futurity-G1, Street Sense and MSW), Improbable has also gone undefeated like his counterpart Game Winner.

Improbable is co-owned by WinStar Farm, also co-owners of last year’s Triple Crown champion Justify. Another interesting tidbit is that Improbable was bought by WinStar for $200,000 at the same auction that Justify was obtained at (and through the same connections) for $500,000 the year earlier.

Improbable’s sire is City Zip, the half-brother to Hall of Famer colt Ghostzapper. City Zip also sired seven champions — including five Breeders’ Cup winners. Champions Dayatthespa, Work All Week, Finest City and Catch a Glimpse are just some of City Zip’s work. His dam is Rare Event, a four-time winner herself and daughter of Hall of Famer A.P. Indy — she’s also half-sister to another million-dollar horse, Hard Spun. They’re also related to 1974 Preakness (G1) and Belmont (G1) champion, Little Current.

MAXIMUS MISCHIEF (+1500)

  • OWNER: Cash Is King LLC – LC Racing
  • TRAINER: Robert E. Reid Jr.
  • BRED: Martha Jane Mulholland
  • PEDIGREE: Into Mischief – Reina Maria

The Breakdown

Another unbeaten, Maximus Mischief comes in as the third odds-favorite at +1500 here in January. The colt got his victories at the Remsen (G2), Allow and MSW to go 3-0 so far in the prep season.

Co-owner Cash Is King LLC is best-known for champion Afleet Alex. Maximus Mischief’s trainer, Robert “Butch” Reid, hasn’t had a Kentucky Derby runner as of yet throughout his career, but his products have made appearances in the Poseidon’s Warrior (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2).

Maximus Mischief has had good showings, earning an insane 104 Brisnet Speed rating and earning a new-career high at 108 later on in the season. He clearly has ability, but the lack of elite pedigree makes him a scary pick to be the top favorite in the Kentucky Derby’s long distance race.

SIGNALMAN (+2000)

  • OWNER: Tommie M. Lewis – Magdalena Racing LLC
  • TRAINER: Kenneth G. McPeek
  • BRED: Monticule
  • PEDIGREE: General Quarters – Trip South

The Breakdown

Coming in as the fourth favorite at +2000 odds, Signalman comes in with appearances in five races where he would get at least a top-three finish in each — winning two. He would win the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and MSW, have second place finishes in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and MSW, and a third place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).

Signalman originally was viewed as an oversized, immature colt and a late developer, but success on the track has made him one of the early favorites to win the Derby. His sire General Quarters hasn’t had much success with his products, but himself would take wins at the Blue Grass (G1), Sam F. Davis (G3) and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1). Signalman’s dam hasn’t produced any elite talent other than one horse winning two races in Russia — this colt has already surpassed his immediate pedigree.

The overachieving horse was bred by Monticule, who are responsible for the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1) champion Big Brown. Overall for his career, Signalman has a record of 5-2-2-1 with earnings of $448,990.

KNICKS GO (+2000)

  • OWNER: KRA Stud Farm
  • TRAINER: Ben Colebrook
  • BRED: Angie Moore
  • PEDIGREE: Paynter – Kosmo’s Buddy

The Breakdown

Like Signalman, Knicks Go comes in with +2000 odds due to the similar resumes between the two. Two wins and a flurry of top five finishes lead the way. Victories were taken at MSW and the Breeders’ Futurity (G1), while a runner-up performance happened in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). A third place finish would come in the Arlington-Washington Futurity, while he would finish fifth in the Sanford (G3). A weird 11th place finish would happen in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) — maybe a fluke? The odds right now say so.

Knicks Go was once also accused of having a fluke victory as well when he came into the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) on October 6 at 70-1 odds. He would pull the biggest upset in the history of the race, and hasn’t looked back since. The colt was produced by Paynter, who nearly took the 2012 Belmont Stakes (G1) before finally getting his most notable win in the Haskell Invitational (G1). Paynter was also received the 2012 NTRA Moment of the Year after defeating life-threatening colitis and laminitis.

Also an overachiever, Knicks Go has the ability and elite pedigree to steal wins and place, which gives him a great opportunity to win the pinnacle of horse racing.

Don’t Sleep on This Longshot

MOHAWK (+15000)

  • OWNER: Michael B. Tabor – Mrs. John ‘Susan’ Magnier – Derrick Smith
  • TRAINER: Aidan P. O’Brien
  • BRED: Whisperview Trading Ltd.
  • PEDIGREE: Galileo – Empowering

The Breakdown

Currently sitting with longshot odds at +15000, this Ireland-bred colt is one of the most slept-on horses in the field. He’s picked up a couple of wins over in Europe, along with three other top five finishes and another top ten finish. His victories came in the Maiden and Royal Lodge Stakes (G2). His top three finish came in the Futurity Stakes (G2) when he placed 3rd. The other top five finishes came in the Vincent O’Brien National Stakes (G1) placing 4th and a 5th-place Maiden finish. His top ten place came in the Dewhurst Stakes (G1), finishing 7th.

He hasn’t gone unnoticed by everyone though. After his win in the Royal Lodge (G2) at Newmarket, the first race on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby series on September 29, he was dubbed as a “European classic prospect for international powerhouse connections.” I have to concur. Mohawk is related to Australian sire Encosta de Lago and Empowering, who won the 2011 Leopardstown 1,000 Guineas Trial (G3) and 2012 Sweet Mimosa S.

With 10 points to his name on the European Table, his resume, and the pedigree that he’s associated with, this colt is a great bet to place as a possible longshot upset — and will provide a hefty payout as a result.

More of the Pack

  • Vekoma (+2500)
  • Roadster (+2500)
  • Network Effect (+3000)
  • Mind Control (+3000)
  • Coliseum (+3000)
  • Code of Honor (+3300)
  • Call Paul (+3500)
  • Garter and Tie (+4000)
  • Mucho Gusto (+5000)
  • Gunmetal Gray (+5000)
  • Avie’s Flatter (+5000)
  • Well Defined (+6000)
  • Tight Ten (+6500)
  • Rowayton (+6500)
  • Frosted Ice (+7000)
  • War of Will (+7500)
  • Tax (+7500)
  • Souper Jackpot (+7500)
  • Plus Que Parfait (+7500)
  • Mr. Money (+7500)
  • Henley’s Joy (+7500)
  • Bankit (+7500)
  • Alwaysmining (+7500)
  • Line of Duty (+8000)
  • Galilean (+8000)
  • Endorsed (+8000)
  • Super Steed (+8000)
  • Strike Silver (+9000)
  • Our Braintrust (+9000)
  • Not That Brady (+9000)
  • Current (+9000)
  • Classy John (+9000)
  • Bourbon War (+9000)
  • Big Drink of Water (+9K)
  • Aurelius Maximus (+9000)
  • Zenden (+10000)
  • Walking Thunder (+10K)
  • Uncle Benny (+10000)
  • Trophy Chaser (+10000)
  • Standard Deviation (+10K)
  • Sombeyay (+10000)
  • Pole Setter (+10000)
  • Long Range Toddy (+10K)
  • Lu Fuerza (+10000)
  • Kosciuszko (+1000)
  • Gray Attempt (+10000)
  • Gladiator King (+10000)
  • Blindwillie Mctell (+10K)
  • Ahead of Plan (+10000)


POWELL’S WINNER AND TOP FOUR
WIN: GAME WINNER
+300
PLACE: IMPROBABLE
+1000
SHOW: KNICKS GO
+2000
FOURTH: SIGNALMAN
+2000
POWELL’S LONGSHOT PICK
MOHAWK