Every top juvenile thoroughbred with aspirations of earning a spot in the 20-horse field for this year’s Kentucky Derby turned three on New Year’s Day. Over the next four months through a series of major graded prep races, the actual field will start to take shape. Some of the early contenders have already made a name for themselves with an impressive two-year old campaign. Others are waiting in the wings for a chance to join this list with a strong showing in their three-year old debut.
The futures odds at BetOnline sportsbook to win this year’s Run for the Roses have recently been updated and the following is a look at trio of contenders that would be at the top of my early betting list.
Tracking the Top Contenders
Famed trainer Bob Baffert made history last season by guiding Justify to a Triple Crown title starting with a victory at Churchill Downs in early May. His best chance to make another run at one of the most exclusive titles in all of sports right now appears to be Game Winner. He is at the top of the list on the Kentucky Derby futures at +600 betting odds. This Kentucky-bred colt won two-year old ‘Horse of the Year’ honors for his victory in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile ahead of Knicks Go and Signalman at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2. He completed the 1 1/6-mile run on dirt in 1:43.17.
This followed a victory at Santa Anita in late September in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes at that same distance. His winning time in that race over Gunmetal Gray and Rowayton was 1:43.77. Prior to that, this son of Candy Ride won a pair of Maiden Special Weight races at Del Mar earlier in the year as part of his perfect 4-0 record racing as a two-year old.
I would also add Improbable to the short list of favorites at +1000 betting odds. This three-year old Kentucky-bred colt is also trained by Baffert. However, he does not have the same level of credentials as Game Winner on the two-year resume. What makes him a legitimate contender heading into this year’s prep season is a victory in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 8 at Los Alamitos Race Course. He covered that 1 1/16-mile run on dirt in a blazing 1:41.18 to open some early eyes. Second in that field was Mucho Gusto followed by Extra Hope.
This sire of City Zip also won the ungraded Street Sense Stakes at Churchill at a distance of one mile on Nov. 2. His winning time in that race over Trophy Chaser and Distant Shore was 1:35.61. He started his racing career with a victory in a six-furlong Maiden Special Weight race at Santa Anita in late September.
One to Watch
There are far more than one colt to watch when it comes to winning this year’s Kentucky Derby with contenders such a Instragrand (+1600) and Knicks Go (+2000) ranked high on the futures list. The colt that has recently caught my eye at even longer +2500 odds is Gunmetal Gray. I had this Kentucky-bred colt as my second choice last Saturday at Santa Anita in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes in his three-year old debut and he went on to win that race over Sueno and Much Better. He covered the mile on dirt at that track in 1:38.96.
Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, this son of Exchange Rate posted a fairly successful juvenile campaign highlighted by that second-place finish to Game Winner in the American Pharoah Stakes. He went on to finish fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.