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Louis Saez crossed the wire aboard Maximum Security nearly two lengths clear of the field in Kentucky Derby #145. The stewards elected to strip the duo of the victory and award the garland of roses to a horse that was never going to get past the winner under any circumstance. Saez’s career has continued to flourish in the two years since that controversial punch to the gut. He now counts Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai amongst his frequent benefactors, and Saez will attempt to earn the Emirati ruler’s Godolphin operation its first victory in the Run for the Roses when he takes to the post aboard favored Essential Quality in front of an Andy-sized Derby crowd at 6:57 EST Saturday night. That story line and several others will play out under the twin spires as a fantastic race card featuring 7 graded stakes takes place on its traditional first Saturday in May. Here’s a gander at the races that comprise the pick six:
Race 7: the Grade 1 Derby City Distaff
Race 8: the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile
It looks like a very quick pace will develop in this one-turn mile for sophomore colts. Lean toward stalking types and closers with the proven stamina to see out the demands of the distance. Defunded is a closer cutting back off a 4th place effort in the Santa Anita Derby. Baffert strikes at 42% when removing the shades and gets white hot Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle. Prevalence cuts back to one turn off a disappointing effort in the Wood Memorial, but he was quite impressive in his two prior efforts around a single turn. Dream Shake looks like the best of these on paper. Peter Eurton rarely leaves California, so assume this horse is up to the task. He exited his 3rd place effort in the Santa Anita Derby with a 5 furlong bullet in :59 and 1 and has the ideal running style for the predicted pace set-up.
Race 9: the Grade 2 American Turf
This feels like a fairly wide open affair where almost no one would be a huge surprise. Annex has done nothing wrong in 3 starts, and his closing style should be effective in a race that looks to have some heat up front. It’s quite rare to see Bob Baffert with a grass runner in a stakes race, especially outside California, but Du Jour doesn’t seem to be out of place in this spot. However, this is certainly a step up from what he’s faced in his last two. Scarlett Sky was quite impressive capturing the Transylvania at Keeneland last month. He may yet need to take another step forward to turn the tables on Annex after missing by a head to that rival in the Palm Beach at Gulfstream. The post draw did him no favors. The same can be said for Palazzi, a strong runner-up in the Transylvania who breaks from the outside post today. Disregard Brad Cox and Mike Maker at your own risk. Royal Prince and Chess’s Dream generally find themselves in the photo, and both are capable of getting into the winner’s enclosure with their best performance here. Winfromwithin has been a different animal since switching to the grass two starts back. His tour de force in the Columbia at Tampa was quite fast. He just might be the one wild card in this race that could run the rest of the field off their feet.
Race 10: the Grade 1 Churchill Downs
Quite possibly the toughest race to decipher on the card, there is surprisingly very little pace signed on here for a top level dirt sprint. If you can figure out who will get to the front, that’s probably the way to go. The all-button would be required to have any level of confidence in the horizontal exotics. Basin may be worth a flyer in the win pool and as a key in the verticals. He moved forward when returning to sprints after an extended stay on the Derby trail last year. The son of Liam’s Map had a nice confidence builder in the Sir Shackleton last time out, and his Sheet numbers stack up well with most of the field. He’s eligible to improve in his second start as a 4-year old.
Race 11: the Grade 1 Turf Classic
In another contest with seemingly very little pace, Smooth Like Strait may well take this field gate to wire. If the nine panels are too much for him, and they may well be, the race opens up quite a bit. Digital Age, the incumbent from last September, is a very logical favorite, but hasn’t run since the Breeders’ Cup. Ivar has perhaps the most impressive display of Beyer figures and Sheet numbers in the field. This is his first time going a mile and an eighth. Colonel Liam is 4 for 5 on the lawn against seemingly weaker competition. Count Again could be the value play, but needs some pace to chase down the lane.
Race 12: the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby
No one in history has deployed more resources into the thoroughbred industry than Sheikh Mohammed. For years he has relentlessly pursued Derby glory, but has never come closer than 4th. For a good bit of time it looked like last year would be his year, but then yesterday’s Alysheba winner Maxfield suffered an injury that knocked him off the Derby trail. Brad Cox grew up in the shadows of the Twin Spires. Twice in the last 4 years he has tasted victory in the Oaks, but his first Derby starters will head to the post just prior to 7pm tonight. Louis Saez knows what it feels like to ride a Derby winner, and to have it all taken away 22 minutes later. Together these three will try to do what none of them has (officially) done before when Essential Quality loads into the gate as the favorite for the 147th Run for the Roses. The Tapit colt is perfect thus far in his career. He has the versatility required of a Derby winner, and he appears to have the stamina as well. Fate beckons. The moons have aligned. A homebred colt from the global racing and breeding empire that is Godolphin will finally wear the garland of roses on the first Saturday in May.
The $0.20 pick 6 play:
Race 7 – 4
Race 8 – 4,5,8
Race 9 – 2,4,13
Race 10 – All
Race 11 – 2 – 7
Race 12 – 14, 17
Total = $259.20
Best of luck and Happy Derby Day!