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Kentucky Derby Futures: New No. 1 and More Baffert Buzz

One of the most exciting pit stops on the Road to the Triple Crown involves laying down some cash on a futures pick for the 2018 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. Through April, America’s Best Racing will bring you up to date with the changing odds and notable entries at the pre-eminent Kentucky Derby future wager bookmaker on the Las Vegas strip – Wynn Las Vegas.

We’ll revisit these odds when new sheets are released (usually after a major prep race is completed). With each passing prep race, the number of viable Derby contenders will shrink, but as of now there are still dozens of horses out there that carry the dreams of owners and gamblers alike to find the Churchill Downs winner’s circle somewhere around 7 p.m. ET on May 5.

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Last weekend, five horses gained 10 or more points via the Road to the Kentucky Derby series of qualifying preps – Bravazo (50) for winning the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford along with runner-up Snapper Sinclair (20) and third-pl

kentucky derby 2018

ace finisher Noble Indy (10); Paved (10) in the El Camino Real Derby (the filly is not expected to target the Derby); and My Boy Jack (10) in the Southwest Stakes. The upcoming weekend features no preps offering Derby qualifying points, but there will still be a few minor stakes and allowance races of note featuring 3-year-olds that have an outside chance of joining the First Saturday in May fray in the coming weeks.

Wynn’s latest futures sheet does reveal a shift at the top of the betting choices, as Bolt d’Oro moved from 7-1 to 14-1 while his connections target the March 10 San Felipe Stakes for this 3-year-old debut. Former second-ranked McKinzie, who may also race next in the San Felipe, is now the odds board leader at 8-1.

Feb. 19 Wynn Odds Leaders:

1. McKinzie (8-1)

2. Good Magic (12-1)

3. Bolt d’Oro (14-1)

4. Audible (15-1)

5. Mask (18-1)

Notable Changes:

Bravazo: Odds dropped from 125-1 to 40-1 at Wynn following his game win in the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford. That score improved his record as a 3-year-old to a perfect 2-for-2, and the 50 points earned most likely guaranteed him a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Given that Brad Kelley’s Calumet Farm sent three horses to last year’s Derby, he’s a shoo-in to start if healthy – and based on the way he’s run this year, if he continues to progress in his next, and probably his final, prep he could be one of the favorites. Read more about this D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt bred on the same cross as 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow in Mike Curry’s latest Making the Grade blog.

Snapper Sinclair: Validated his fine third-place finish in the Jan. 13 Lecomte Stakes with an even better runner-up effort to Bravazo in the Risen Star, in which he came up a nose short after setting a contested pace. He earned a 110 Equibase Speed Figure in the Risen Star (same as Bravazo), a new career high. I’ve kept tabs on this horse since watching him win a turf stakes at Kentucky Downs last fall and can’t wait to see him on the lawn again, but given his last two starts and the Derby points (22) accumulated, who can blame his connections keeping him on the trail? His pedigree and stretch runs in these last two races suggest that 1 1/16 miles could be his limit, on dirt at least, but for those who think otherwise he’s sitting at 85-1 odds at Wynn now, down from 150-1 a week ago.

My Boy Jack: Romped in the Southwest Stakes under a very well-timed and well-placed Kent Desormeaux rail ride, and one couldn’t help thinking about the last star colt to race for trainer Keith Desormeaux and his Hall of Fame brother, 2016 Preakness winner and off-track specialist Exaggerator, when watching him churn through the Oaklawn Park mud. He’s expected to make just one more start before the Derby, and he’ll need to snag additional points, but he’s proven to be very consistent – although aside from the Southwest, his best races have all come on turf. Other than in his debut last summer, he’s only been soundly beaten once, by current future-book favorite McKinzie in the Sham Stakes. His odds dropped a cool century mark at Wynn, from 150-1 to 50-1.

Flameaway: The Sam F. Davis Stakes winner’s odds slipped from 60-1 to 35-1 at Wynn after horseplayers had another week to consider his qualifications as a Kentucky Derby contender after his impressive effort at Tampa Bay Downs. They were aided by the knowledge that owner John Oxley will nominate him to the Triple Crown. His versatility and consistency make him a very attractive future book bet, although, as with Snapper Sinclair, I think ultimately that turf will be his showcase surface.

New York Central: This Steve Asmussen-trained Tapit colt outfinished Transgress to win a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming event one race after the Feb. 19 Southwest Stakes, winning by a neck. With the win, he improved on a runner-up effort in his 3-year-old debut, in which he finished three-quarters of a length behind a local buzz horse named Higher Power on Jan. 13 as the 1-2 favorite. This colt is now 2-for-4 in his career, and his odds have slipped from 100-1 to 85-1 on Wynn’s latest sheet (Transgress sits at 150-1). He is from the female family of 2005 Kentucky Derby runner-up and Haskell Invitational Stakes winner Peace Rules. Note: This race’s final time was a shade over one second slower than the Southwest’s, held at the same distance.

Five to Watch:

Gold Town: He won the United Arab Emirates Two Thousand Guineas Sponsored by Al Tayer Motors for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Godolphin empire on Feb. 15, romping by 10 ½ lengths at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, and his odds at Wynn sit at 75-1 as he targets the March 31 United Arab Emirates Derby. That race offers 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner, and sent the skittish Thunder Snow to Louisville last year. This gelding has won three races in a row by open lengths after a mediocre five-race start to his career, including both starts on dirt this year in Dubai. He’s by the late stallion Street Cry, sire of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, the legendary Zenyatta, and current Australian megastar Winx, among others. On his dam’s (mother’s) side, he’s related to champion turf female and Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Dank along with several other international long-distance turf horses. No Dubai-based horse has made much of a showing in the Kentucky Derby through the years, but its mile-and-a-quarter distance shouldn’t be a problem for this one if he’s good enough to make the trip.

Heck Yeah: Improved his career record to an unblemished 3-for-3 with an impressive 1 ¼-length win in the California Cup Derby at Santa Anita Park on Presidents Day. That was his first start around two turns, and co-owner and breeder Michael Pageler told BloodHorse that he would not dissuade trainer Bob Baffert in targeting a Kentucky Derby points race for this colt’s next start. All three of his wins have come in races restricted to California-breds, but as recent memory recalls, 2014 Kentucky Derby hero California Chrome started his ascent to superstar status on the same path. He’s a new entry to Wynn’s sheet at 75-1 odds, and is by the young sire Acclamation, a West Coast star during his career and the 2011 Eclipse Award winner as champion older male.

Justify (BENOIT photo)
Justify: Another Derby futures update brings more Baffert buzz, and in addition to Heck Yeah, the Hall of Fame four-time Derby-winning trainer sent this Scat Daddy colt out to post a 9 ½-length career debut win going seven furlongs at Santa Anita on Feb. 18. In the race, he set a contested, swift pace into the turn, drew clear entering the stretch under minimal urging, and then accelerated smoothly when given his cue by Drayden Van Dyke in a very impressive showing. He earned a 103 Equibase Speed Figure in the win, but he only defeated four horses – and to urge a further word of caution, his pedigree, while decent, does not pack top-level Derby stamina punch. His connections may send him straight into a Derby points race for his next start, as Baffert told the Santa Anita press office that “it’s not too late” to target the first leg of the Triple Crown. Note: He sits at 300-1 odds on Wynn’s Feb. 19 sheet, but those odds may have changed in the past 48 hours. If they haven’t….

Machismo: This More Than Ready colt brings 75-1 odds at Wynn, reflecting his dominant performance in a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 3. Making his fourth career start, he put it all together with an 11 ½-length score that was worth a 98 Equibase Speed Figure, his career best by nine points. Given that nine of his 10 opponents in that race were making their first career starts, 75-1 seems a bit low for a Derby futures play on a maiden winner, and his female family is not exceptional (although his dam, by Smart Strike, was a five-time winner in route races). He does have name appeal for some good-natured chest-beating should you put some money down and he trains on to win the Derby, regardless of your gender.

Magnum Moon: Along with Justify, this Todd Pletcher trainee generated the most chatter among Derby watchers last week when looking beyond the qualifying stakes races. Making his second career start after a 4 ½-length debut win in January at Gulfstream, this Malibu Moon colt cruised to a two-length win at 1-10 odds in a one-mile and 40-yard allowance optional claiming race at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 15. In the race, he displayed a nice, fluid stride while settling off the pace through the backstretch, and then shifted four-wide entering the stretch before easily putting away the three horses in front of him with while not being asked by jockey Luis Saez. Malibu Moon has already proved capable as a Kentucky Derby sire with 2013 victor Orb, and this colt’s female family includes Arkansas Derby winner and sire Graeme Hall among several other graded stakes winners. Wynn has him at 30-1 odds, and while the Fountain of Youth Stakes (on March 3) and the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (March 10) may be too soon for his anticipated step up onto the Kentucky Derby trail, the Louisiana Derby (March 24) and the Florida Derby (March 31) most certainly are not.

Ten horses to watch as Kentucky Derby 2018 approaches

With 11 weeks until the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 5 at Churchill Downs, several 3-year-olds have started to emerge as front-runners to win the Run for the Roses.

The top two contenders based on their form as 2-year-olds are Good Magic and Bolt d’Oro.

Good Magic, trained by Chad Brown, won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and is scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut on March 3 in the $400,000, Grade II Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.

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Bolt d’Oro, trained by Mick Ruis, was the heavy favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but finished third. A pulled muscle has slowed his training, but he’s expected to return to racing on March 10 in the $400,000, Grade II San Felipe at Santa Anita Park.

Saturday’s $400,000, Grade II Risen Star at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds will mark the first race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby schedule that offers 85 points, with 50 going to the winner, 20 to the runner-up, 10 to third place and five to fourth place. Instilled Regard, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, is the 8-5 morning-line favorite for that race.

The list of top Kentucky Derby contenders will inevitably change, but here are 10 horses to watch over the next few weeks:


Trainer: Todd Pletcher.

Owner: WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing.

Jockey: Javier Castellano.

Sire: Into Mischief.

* Dam: Blue Devil Bel, by Gilded Time.

Bred in: New York.

Career record: 3-0-1 in four starts.

Career earnings: $287,720.

Road to the Kentucky Derby points (ranking): 10 (12th).

Wynn Las Vegas odds: 15-1.

Last start: Won the Grade II Holy Bull on Feb. 3 at Gulfstream.

Next start: $1 million, Grade I Florida Derby on March 31 at Gulfstream.

Notable: “We thought he had a shot to win, but I didn’t think he’d blow everybody away like that,” Pletcher said of Audible’s 5 1/2-length victory in the Holy Bull. “I was happy to see it.” Audible’s pedigree suggests the Kentucky Derby’s 1 ¼-mile distance may be longer than he wants to go.


Trainer: Mick Ruis.

Owner: Ruis Racing.

Jockey: Javier Castellano.

Sire: Medaglia d’Oro.

Dam: Globe Trot, by A.P. Indy.

Bred in: Kentucky.

Career record: 3-0-1 in four starts.

Career earnings: $576,000.

Road to the Kentucky Derby points (ranking): 14 (fourth).

Wynn Las Vegas odds: 7-1 (favorite).

Last start: Third in the Grade I Breeders Cup Juvenile on Nov. 4 at Del Mar.

Next start: $400,000, Grade II San Felipe on March 10 at Santa Anita.

Notable: Corey Nakatani rode Bolt d’Oro in his first four career starts, but Ruis announced Castellano will get the mount in his 3-year-old debut in the San Felipe. Ruis said he was disappointed with Bolt d’Oro’s third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, when he endured a wide trip throughout the 1 1/16-mile race as the 7-10 favorite. A pulled muscle kept Bolt d’Oro from making his 3-year-old debut in last Saturday’s San Vicente at Santa Anita.


Trainer: Jonathan Thomas.

Owner: Robert LaPenta and Madaket Stable.

Jockey: Manny Franco.

Sire: More Than Ready.

Dam: Song of Bernadette, by Bernardini.

Bred in: Kentucky.

Career record: 3-1-0 in five starts.

Career earnings: $354,000.

Road to the Kentucky Derby points (ranking): 14 (seventh).

Wynn Las Vegas odds: 25-1.

Last start: Finished second behind Flameaway in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday.

Next start: $1 million, Grade II Louisiana Derby on March 24 at Fair Grounds or $1 million, Grade I Florida Derby on March 31 at Gulfstream.

Notable: Started his career as a turf runner and finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Made the switch to dirt in December and won the Remsen at Aqueduct, beating Avery Island. Thomas said he’s leaning toward the Florida Derby for Catholic Boy’s next start. “I might have been a little light on him from a training perspective, but we’re anticipating a long spring,” Thomas said. “We’ll probably try to have one more prep, and if he’s good enough he will earn his way into (the Kentucky Derby).”


Trainer: Dale Romans.

Owner: Albaugh Family Stables.

Jockey: Luis Saez.

Sire: Union Rags.

Dam: Trensa, by Giant’s Causeway.

Bred in: Kentucky.

Career record: 2-3-0 in six starts.

Career earnings: $495,220.

Road to the Kentucky Derby points (ranking): 14 (fifth).

Wynn Las Vegas odds: 40-1.

Last start: Finished second behind Audible in the Grade II Holy Bull on Feb. 3 at Gulfstream.

Next start: $400,000, Grade II Fountain of Youth on March 3 at Gulfstream.

Notable: Free Drop Billy has the tendency to lather prior to a race. “I’d rather him not do that, but he does it and that’s just him,” Romans said.


Trainer: Chad Brown.

Owner: E Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables.

Jockey: Jose Ortiz.

Sire: Curlin.

Dam: Glinda the Good, by Hard Spun.

Bred in: Kentucky.

Career record: 1-2-0 in three starts.

Career earnings: $1,216,600.

Road to the Kentucky Derby points (ranking): 24 (first).

Wynn Las Vegas odds: 12-1.

Last start: Won the Grade I Breeders Cup Juvenile on Nov. 4 at Del Mar.

Next start: $400,000, Grade II Fountain of Youth on March 3 at Gulfstream.

Notable: Won the Eclipse Award for 2-year-old champion colt after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Was purchased for $1 million as yearling by Stonestreet.


* Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer.

Owner: OXO Equine.

Jockey: Javier Castellano.

* Sire: Arch.

Dam: Enhancing, by Forestry.

Bred in: Kentucky.

Career record: 2-2-1 in five starts.

Career earnings: $228,000.

Road to the Kentucky Derby points (ranking): 14 (ninth).

Wynn Las Vegas odds: 20-1.

Last start: Won the Grade III Lecomte on Jan. 13 at Fair Grounds.

Next start: He’s the 8-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s $400,000, Grade II Risen Star at Fair Grounds.

Notable: Was purchased for $1,050,000 at the Ocala Sale last March.


Trainer: Bob Baffert.

Owner: Karl Watson, Michael Pegram and Paul Weitman.

Jockey: Mike Smith.

Sire: Street Sense.

Dam: Runway Model, by Petionville.

Bred in: Kentucky.

Career record: 3-0-0 in three starts.

Career earnings: $270,000.

Road to the Kentucky Derby points (ranking): 20 (third).

Wynn Las Vegas odds: 8-1.

Last start: Won the Grade III Sham Stakes on Jan. 6 at Santa Anita.

Next start: $400,000, Grade II San Felipe on March 10 at Santa Anita or $900,000, Grade II Rebel on March 17 at Oaklawn.

Notable: Baffert named the horse after Brad McKinzie, a longtime friend of the trainer and a former executive for Los Alamitos Race Course. He died last August due to renal carcinoma.


Trainer: Bob Baffert.

* Owner: Phoenix Thoroughbred III.

* Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke.

Sire: Super Saver.

Dam: Sandi’s Ready, by More Than Ready.

Bred in: Kentucky.

Career record: 2-2-0 in four starts.

Career earnings: $154,360.

Road to the Kentucky Derby points (ranking): 10 (13th).

Wynn Las Vegas odds: 40-1.

Last start: Won the Smarty Jones on Jan. 15 at Oaklawn.

Next start: $500,000, Grade III Southwest on Monday at Oaklawn.

Notable: He’s named after Jose Mourinho, the manager of the Manchester United soccer team.


Trainer: Steve Asmussen.

Owner: Three Chimneys Farm.

Jockey: Florent Geroux.

Sire: Tapit.

Dam: Aubby K, by Street Sense.

Bred in: Kentucky.

Career record: 2-1-0 in three starts.

Career earnings: $101,800.

Road to the Kentucky Derby points (ranking): 4 (20th).

Wynn Las Vegas odds: 25-1.

Last start: Finished second behind Instilled Regard in the Grade III Lecomte on Jan. 13 at Fair Grounds.

Next start: He’s the 7-2 second choice – behind Instilled Regard – for Saturday’s $400,000, Grade II Risen Star at Fair Grounds.

Notable: Principe Guilherme is a Portuguese name that translates to “Prince William.” He’s a homebred for Three Chimneys Farm.


Trainer: Bob Baffert.

Owner: Zayat Stables.

Jockey: Flavien Prat.

Sire: Curlin.

Dam: Surf Song, by Storm Cat.

Bred in: Kentucky.

Career record: 1-2-1 in four starts.

Career earnings: $472,000.

Road to the Kentucky Derby points (ranking): 14 (sixth).

Wynn Las Vegas odds: 18-1.

Last start: Was disqualified from first to third in the Grade I Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity on Dec. 9 at Los Alamitos.

Next start: $400,000, Grade II San Felipe on March 10 at Santa Anita or $900,000, Grade II Rebel on March 17 at Oaklawn.

* Notable: The pace-setter in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Solomini ended up finishing second behind Good Magic in just his second career start.

Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046;; Twitter: @kyhighs. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:


When: Saturday, May 5. 

Where: Churchill Downs. 

Post time: TBA. 

How to watch on TV: NBC. 


Kentucky Derby : Results, Winner, Payouts

It was a near-perfect performance by Always Dreaming in the Kentucky Derby.

His smooth getaway despite the crowded field of 19 other runners was the essential part of the equation for trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez.

Avoiding heavy traffic in the early going meant Always Dreaming was not going to get shuffled back in the pack, a fate that often confronts many Derby competitors.

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Always Dreaming was not bothered by the sloppy track, either. He was able to dig in and get a good grip, and he stayed close to the leaders for the first six furlongs without taxing himself.

Kentucky Derby Payout Information
Horse Horse Win Place Show
Always Dreaming Always Dreaming $11.40 $7.20 $5.80
Lookin At Lee Lookin At Lee $26.60 $15.20
Battle of Midway Battle of Midway $20.80
$2 Exacta (5-1) $2 Exacta (5-1) $1 Trifecta (5-1-11) $1 Superfecta (5-1-11-14) $2 Exacta (5-1)
$336.20 $8,297.20 $75,974.50 $336.20


He got the response he was looking for, as Always Dreaming quickly dispatched Irish War Cry and overpowered the field. He went on to win the race by 2 ½ lengths, and there was a feeling he had more to give if needed.

It was Pletcher’s second Kentucky Derby victory, and it brought the trainer a sense of relief. He had saddled 45 horses in previous Kentucky Derbys and had just the one triumph. He saddled three more this time around, and Always Dreaming brought him a much-needed win.

The trainer said he was especially glad to earn the success with Velazquez since those two have partnered for many key victories over the years.

“We have had a great relationship for a long time now, and we have won a lot of races together,” Pletcher said, per the Associated Press (h/t “This is the one we wanted to win together.”

Velazquez was equally glad to share the title with Pletcher.

“This is the best horse Todd and I have ever come to the Kentucky Derby with,” Velazquez said, per the same source. “Being behind me for 24 years together, a long time for him to still trust in me and give me the opportunity, it’s not very often it happens in this business.”

“We wanted our horse to run well, but we wanted to be the one whose horse runs the most well,” Bonomo said, per Tom Jicha of the Sun Sentinel. “Where we come from, we knew only one thing, to try to win. In Brooklyn, that’s what it was about.”

Always Dreaming was a 9-2 favorite, and he paid his backers $11.20, $7.20 and $5.80. Long shots Lookin at Lee and Battle of Midway finished second and third respectively. Lookin At Lee paid $26.60 and $15.20, while Battle of Midway paid $20.80.

2017 Kentucky Derby Order of Finish and Purse
Position Horse Jockey Trainer Purse
1 Always Dreaming John R. Velazquez Todd A. Pletcher $1,240,000
2 Lookin At Lee Corey Lanerie Steven M. Asmussen $400,000
3 Battle of Midway Flavien Prat Jerry Hollendorfer $200,000
4 Classic Empire Julien R. Leparoux Mark E. Casse $100,000
5 Practical Joke Joel Rosario Chad C. Brown $60,000
6 Tapwrit Jose L. Ortiz Todd A. Pletcher
7 Gunnevera Javier Castellano Antonio Sano
8 McCraken Brian Joseph Hernandez Jr. Ian R. Wilkes
9 Gormley Victor Espinoza John A. Shirreffs
10 Irish War Cry Rajiv Maragh H. Graham Motion
11 Hence Florent Geroux Steven M. Asmussen
12 Untrapped Ricardo Santana Jr. Steven M. Asmussen
13 Girvin Mike E. Smith Joe Sharp
14 Patch Tyler Gaffalione Todd A. Pletcher
15 J Boys Echo Luis Saez Dale L. Romans
16 Sonneteer Kent J. Desormeaux J. Keith Desormeaux
17 Fast And Accurate Channing Hill Michael J. Maker
18 Irap Mario Gutierrez Doug F. O’Neill
19 State Of Honor Jose Lezcano Mark E. Casse
20 Thunder Snow Christophe Soumillon Saeed bin Suroor DNF

Always Dreaming earned $1,240,000 for the win, while Lookin At Lee paid his owners $400,000. Battle of Midway’s payoff for his third-place finish was $200,000. Classic Empire rallied for fourth place to win $100,000, and Practical Joke finished fifth and took home $60,000.

With a win in the Run for the Roses, Always Dreaming is the only three-year-old who has a chance to win the Triple Crown. The next step is to go to Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on May 20 and win the Preakness Stakes.

The field will be smaller and the turns tighter, and Always Dreaming should have an excellent chance. He is the even-money favorite to win the Preakness, according to OddsShark.

Irish War Cry is the second choice in the event, at 11-2. Classic Empire is the third choice, at 13-2.

If Always Dreaming is successful in that race, Pletcher can attempt to get him ready for the Belmont Stakes. That grueling 1 ½-mile race is known to test a competitor’s endurance and championship mettle because of its length and the grind of the two previous Triple Crown races.