Kentucky Derby is just a few days away and the morning sports betting lines have been released. It's time to get serious about making some picks in horse racing's biggest event of the year.
A full field of 22 of the best three-year old thoroughbreds in the nation is expected to be in place for this Saturday’s $2 million “Run for the Roses” on the dirt at Churchill over a distance of 1 ¼ miles and my job is to find the three horses that can come together to form the winning trifecta pick.
Favorite to Win
I have no choice to go chalk for the third year in a row in the Kentucky Derby given what I have already seen from +300 favorite on the morning line Nyquist. This three-year old Kentucky-bred colt has done nothing but win in his young racing career. Trained by Doug O’Neill with jockey Mario Gutierrez slated to get the ride, he will break from the No. 13 post on the dirt at Churchill in pursuit of his eighth victory in a row. His latest win came in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream where outdueled favored Mohaymen over a distance of 1 1/8 miles on April 2.
Nyquist comes into this race ranked seventh among active thoroughbreds by Horse Racing Nation and he has the highest rating in the field at 8.71. You knew this horse was going to be special following his victory in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland last October.
Favorite to Place
There is a handful of contenders that should be able to give Nyquist a good run for his money, but my betting pick to place second in this year’s Kentucky Derby is Gun Runner at +1000 betting odds on the morning line. This three-year old Kentucky-bred colt just so happens to be the next highest ranked entry in this race at No. 16 and his HRN rating stands at 8.43. Trained by Steve Asmussen with jockey Florent Geroux aboard for the ride, he drew a favorable No. 5 post for Saturday’s race which is huge plus in a very crowded field.
Gun Runner established himself as a legitimate Derby contender with four victories in five events including the biggest win of his career in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 26 over a distance of 1 1/8 miles. He also won the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at that same track in late February.
Favorite to Show
In an effort to stretch the value in the odds a bit, I am going with famed trainer Todd Pletcher’s Outwork as my third choice in Saturday’s race. He opened at +1500 on the morning line at Churchill after drawing the No. 15 post in Wednesday’s draw. Veteran jockey John Velazquez will once again get the call after guiding this three-year old Kentucky-bred colt to an impressive victory in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct over a distance of 1 1/8 miles on April 8.
A pedigree of Uncle Mo, he is not one of the highest rated horses in the field at 7.15, but he has been able to finish in the top two spots in four previous events including a second-place finish to Destin in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in his three-year old debut.
Morning Line Odds for Other Notable Contenders
Exaggerator has been opened as a +800 second favorite and he will break from the No. 11 post. Joining Gun Runner at +1000 is Mohaymen (No. 14) and Creator (No. 3) and next on the list at +1200 odds are Mor Spirit at No. 17 and Brody’s Cause breaking from the No. 19 post.