The field for the Kentucky Derby consists of the “best of the best” when it comes to three-year old thoroughbreds and anytime you line-up 20 horses in the starting gate for a race anything can happen.
While most bettors will be focusing their handicapping efforts on the favorites, I will be taking a closer look at a few horses that are more than capable of playing the role of spoiler as longshots on Bovada’s futures betting odds board come Saturday afternoon in Louisville.
This horse was properly named when you take a look back at what he has accomplished so far in his racing career. After a successful season as a juvenile, Upstart broke onto the scene as a three-year old early in the prep race season with a solid victory in the $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in late January. He was back on the track a month later in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes. What appeared to be a second-straight victory at Gulfstream later turned into a second-place finish following a post-race inquiry that determined that he impeded with the eventual winner, Itsaknockout.
Trained by Rick Violette and ridden by Jose Ortiz, this colt’s next major stakes race was in late March when he ran in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream. He went head-to-head with Materiality for much of the way around the 1 1/8 mile track before falling to second. Despite taking the place position in this race his Beyer Speed Figure was still an impressive 108.
This three-year old colt may have benefitted from what was considered by many horse racing experts as a controversial decision in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, but he has proven since then that he belongs in this elite field. Trained by Todd Pletcher, he placed 11th in the final Kentucky Derby prep race standings with a total of 60 points.
Itsaknockout posted a Beyer Speed Figure of 105 in the Fountain of Youth and he returned to action in the Florida Derby only to finish a distant fourth behind Upstart and Materiality in what had to be considered a disappointing run. Look for Luis Saez to be on the mount this Saturday and while this horse will be flying under most bettor’s radar, I still think he has the ability to remain in the thick of things down the stretch at Churchill.
Ocho Ocho Ocho- 40/1
The bar was set pretty high for this horse as a juvenile after he placed first in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot at Delta Downs on Nov. 22 to remain unbeaten as a two-year old. Trainer Jim Cassidy decided to take a low-key approach to his development as a three-year old by continuing to groom him for larger stakes races as opposed to running him earlier in the year in some of the lower-level races on the Kentucky Derby prep race schedule.
When this colt finally did return to the track it was in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes on April 4 at Keeneland against the likes of Carpe Diem, which is one of the top three favorites sports picks to win this year’s Kentucky Derby. Ocho Ocho Ocho hung in there with the eventual winner with about five furlongs to go, but he faded down the stretch to finish third. His smallish size could work against him against some of the other heavyweights in the Derby field, but with veteran jockey Mike Smith expected to get the ride, this horse has already shown the heart to compete with the big boys.