LOUISVILLE. Ky. – Here’s a sure thing for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby: The track will be wet. On Thursday afternoon, weather.com was saying 90-percent chance of rain. But how wet? Will the track be rated muddy, sloppy or good? Hey, I can’t predict the future.
Wait, sometimes I can. If you boxed my three picks – Justify, Good Magic, Audible — in last year’s Derby, a $2 exacta box returned $69.40 and a $2 trifecta box paid $282.40. On NBC’s telecast, you will be reminded that its excellent handicapper, Eddie Olczyk, also selected the top three. Well, this Eddie wants equal time even if he doesn’t make TV money.
It will be difficult to pull off an encore, but duty calls. At least there’s lots of wet-track form, even if the best mudder, Omaha Beach (2-for-2), was scratched. Of the field of 20, seven have won on a track not rated fast – War of Will, Master Fencer, Maximum Security, Tacitus, Haikal, Win Win Win and Spinoff – and seven others have run on one – Country House, By My Standards, Improbable, Plus Que Parfait, Long Range Toddy, Cutting Humor and Bodexpress.
I’m picking Tacitus to win because he’s done that on a “good” surface, can sit in midpack off a likely hot pace and can cope with a rough trip (watch the chaotic run to the first turn in the Wood Memorial). His pedigree (top sire Tapit out of champion mare Close Hatches) says he’ll handle 1¼ miles, and his trainer, Bill Mott is an all-time great.
Even though Game Winner and Roadster, both trained by five-time Derby champion Bob Baffert, haven’t run on off going, their bloodlines say they’ll handle it. Mott’s other entry, deep closer Country House, clunked up for third in the sloppy Arkansas Derby. He’ll be passing tired horses late.