The Kentucky Derby is the most prestigious and lucrative race in American horse racing therefore it holds a special place in the hearts of owners, trainers and jockeys attempting to win the crown.
A victory at the Churchill Downs is like no other, lifting the champion into the folklore of the sport. Last year Justify began his Triple Crown campaign with a triumph in the meet, putting forward a fine performance to defeat his nearest rival by two-and-a-half lengths.
A new horse will take its place in the winners’ enclosure and there are several fine contenders that will be vying for the crown. Justify was a class apart last season, but this year’s race appears to be an open affair with at least four quality horses that are capable of emerging with the victory.
We’ll now break down the form of the top horses for the event ahead of the contest on May 4.
Game Winner announced himself as a prime contender for the Kentucky Derby last year with a run of four victories on the bounce. However, his form in 2019 has dipped slightly, although he remains a quality competitor as trainer Bob Baffert pursues a sixth triumph in the race and for the second year on the bounce.
The American thoroughbred began his career at Del Mar last August and put forward a dominant performance to win his Maiden Special Weight by five-and-a-half lengths. He rose to the occasion in his next outing to triumph at the Del Mar Futurity, finishing comfortably ahead of a quality field. Game Winner was again imperious on the track on his bow at Santa Anita, winning the American Pharoah Stakes by four-and-a-half lengths.
Baffert’s charge was named the favorite for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile due to the quality of his performances. He was on form again as Joel Rosario guided the horse over the line ahead of the rest of the field, further enhancing his reputation. After a four-month break from racing, he returned to action at the Rebel Stakes, but was beaten by the pace of Omaha Beach down the stretch.
At Santa Anita last time out, Game Winner again failed to produce a strong enough surge, losing out to Roadster. Baffert’s charge has the credentials and an important win at the Churchill Downs giving the bookies cause to back him at +700, but his recent form is a concern.
Roadster has less experience than his rivals entering the contest, although he does have three victories under his belt. He is another horse out of Baffert’s yard, with the trainer boasting a number of talented horses to throw into the event. Roadster began his career at Del Mar and won his first race with a fine performance to see off his nearest rival Istanbul by four-and-a-half lengths. However, in his next outing at the Del Mar Futurity he was off the pace of his stable-mate Game Winner. Roadster placed in third at the seven-furlong race behind Game Winner and Rowayton, who finished in second place.
After a lengthy break he returned to action to face off against Nola Contesto at Santa Anita in a one-mile event. Roadster bounced back from his poor underwhelming outing at Del Mar with a fine run with Mike Smith in the saddle, easing to victory ahead of his rival. He proved his quality at the Santa Anita Derby as previously mentioned as he defeated his stable-mate Game Winner by half-a-length. Baffert has two excellent charges at his disposal, although Roadster could be the hot hand at +800 entering the Kentucky Derby.
Maximum Security is a horse that could enter the Kentucky Derby under the radar. He has only competed twice in his career, with both races coming at Gulfstream Park. Jason Servis’ charge dominated his first race against a limited field, clinching his maiden race by 18-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of his nearest rival. All eyes were on Hidden Scroll for the lucrative Florida Derby as he arrived at the race as the favorite for the crown.
However, Maximum Security with Luis Saez in the saddle put forward a dominant run to display his credentials for the Kentucky Derby. He surged away from his rivals to canter down the straight, finishing three-and-a-half lengths ahead of Bodexpress.
Servis’ charge does not have a lot of experience which will count against him at the Churchill Downs. There have been surprises in the past in the Kentucky Derby and Maximum Security could have the raw talent to win the race, especially in an open year when any result is possible. He’s certainly worth a shout as an outsider at the least with odds of +1200.
Oddschecker say: We were big fans of Omaha Beach before the three year-old pulled out but now we have to look at Roadster who offers us real upside despite little experience.