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Kentucky Derby horse-by-horse analysis 2019

A horse gets a bath after an early-morning

A horse gets a bath after an early-morning workout at Churchill Downs Tuesday, April 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. Credit: AP/Charlie Riedel

A look at each horse in the 2019 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, listed in post position order. (The number next to the horse’s name denotes their program number.)

1. WAR OF WILL

Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Record: 8-3-1-1

Last 3: 9-1-1

Post: 1

Odds: 15-1

Was No. 1 on some Derby lists before flopping in the Louisiana Derby, finishing ninth as the 4-5 favorite after stumbling badly when the ground broke out from under him a few strides out of the gate. Falls short on speed figures, and never faced the 3-year-old heavyweights. Post 1 is winless since 1986, and he won’t end that drought.

2. TAX

Trainer: Danny Gargan

Jockey: Junior Alvarado

Record: 5-2-2-1

Last 3: 2-1-3

Post: 2

Odds: 20-1

Former maiden claimer always shows up and was a solid second to highly rated Tacitus in the Wood. Gelding has blossomed for Gargan with three strong figs in stakes. Pedigree says he should handle 1 1/4 miles, and his big price could inflate the trifecta and superfecta. Hasn’t beaten a standout, though, so I can’t see him winning.

3. BY MY STANDARDS

Trainer: Bret Calhoun

Jockey: Gabriel Saez

Record: 5-2-2-1

Last 3: 1-1-3

Post: 3

Odds: 15-1

Came out of nowhere to upset Louisiana Derby at 22-1 after breaking his maiden in his fourth start. Speed figure was good, with final furlong a quick :12 2/5 after rally from midpack. Positives: Never been out of the money, and training brilliantly at Churchill. Negatives: Not on short lists of likely winners, and hasn’t faced any top 3-year-olds. Maybe third or fourth, but that looks like his ceiling.

4. GRAY MAGICIAN

Trainer: Peter Miller

Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke

Record: 8-1-3-2

Last 3: 2-2-5

Post: 4

Odds: 50-1

Ran second in a very weak U.A.E. Derby, which earned him 40 Derby points. That’s too bad, because many of the horses who didn’t qualify are much better than this guy. His only win was at a mile in November at Del Mar, and his speed figures are poor. Don’t give him a second look.

5. IMPROBABLE

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Record: 5-3-2-0

Last 3: 2-2-1

Post: 5

Odds: 5-1

Serious buzz about him lessened after close seconds in the Rebel and Arkansas Derby. Stamina questions arose after he was caught late by Long Range Toddy and failed to overtake Omaha Beach. City Zip not known for siring distance types, although Improbable’s dam is by Belmont winner A.P. Indy. Pedigree expert Lauren Stich doesn’t like this underlay’s chances, and neither do I.

6. VEKOMA

Trainer: George Weaver

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Record: 4-3-0-1

Last 3: 1-3-1

Post: 6

Odds: 15-1

Exploited a strong speed bias to cruise by 3 1/2 lengths in a so-so Blue Grass, whose winner hasn’t taken the Derby since 1991. Never has run a bad race, and can’t argue with anybody who likes him at 20-1. His company lines are unimpressive, and my gut feeling is he doesn’t class up with the top 3-year-olds. Won’t be betting on him.

7. MAXIMUM SECURITY

Trainer: Jason Servis

Jockey: Luis Saez

Record: 4-4-0-0

Last 3: 1-1-1

Post: 7

Odds: 8-1

Speedy colt is 4-for-4 by 37 3/4 lengths, so how can you knock him? C’mon, this is the Derby, where nothing is ever taken at face value. Former maiden claimer stole the Florida Derby on an easy lead, and that won’t happen Saturday against all the other quality speed. I think he’ll run strongly to the top of the stretch and fade, but I can’t fault you if you think he’ll keep going. Siding against him.

8. TACITUS

Trainer: Bill Mott

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Record: 4-3-0-0

Last 3: 1-1-1

Post: 8

Odds: 8-1

Hall of Famer Mott is 0-for-8 and never in the money in the Derby, but this colt represents his best chance ever. Imposing gray by top sire Tapit has a strong distance pedigree, and this midpack runner has strong late-pace figures. Seems very likely to handle 1 1/4 miles, and count on the brilliant Ortiz to deliver a smart ride. A serious contender, and I’ll be happy with 7-1 or 8-1. My pick to win.

9. PLUS QUE PARFAIT

Trainer: Brendan Walsh

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Record: 7-2-1-2

Last 3: 1-13-5

Post: 9

Odds: 30-1

Struck it rich in Dubai by winning the $2.5 million U.A.E. Derby after running 13th and 5th in minor preps in New Orleans. Dubai field was very weak (runner-up Gray Magician is 1-for-8). Plus Que Parfait was second in a stakes at Churchill last fall, so at least you know he likes the track. That won’t be nearly enough. Throw him out.

10. CUTTING HUMOR

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Mike Smith

Record: 6-2-2-1

Last 3: 1-7-2

Post: 10

Odds: 30-1

His career highlight was winning the Sunland Derby on the New Mexico/Texas border. John Velazquez, Pletcher’s main guy since the Nineties, jumps off to stick with Code of Honor, which isn’t much of a recommendation for this colt. Ruling out Pletcher at a huge price is risky, but I don’t think he’ll bring him his third Derby trophy.

13. CODE OF HONOR

Trainer: Shug McGaughey

Jockey: John Velazquez

Record: 5-2-1-1

Last 3: 3-1-4

Post: 12

Odds: 12-1

Trouble-prone colt had no chance behind slow fractions in Florida Derby, where he closed OK after rough start. Weak speed figures, and if his connections weren’t Hall of Famers Shug and Johnny V., he’d be an even bigger price. Had a perfect set-up rallying off hot pace in Fountain of Youth, his best race. Seems better suited to shorter distances than to 1 1/4 miles.

14. WIN WIN WIN

Trainer: Michael Trombetta

Jockey: Julian Pimentel

Record: 6-3-2-1

Last three: 2-3-1

Post: 13

Odds: 12-1

Deep closer slipped into the field by passing tired horses in Tampa Bay Derby (third) and Blue Grass (second). His best race was a romp in an ungraded 7-furlong stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in January. If you’re spraying around with longshots in trifectas and supers, he might be worth using for third and fourth, but don’t waste your money on a win bet.

15. MASTER FENCER

Trainer: Koichi Tsunoda

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Record: 6-2-2-0

Last 3: 2-4-1

Post: 14

Odds: 50-1

He’ll be the first Derby runner bred in Japan, and it doesn’t sound as if his trainer is aiming high. “I hope he comes back from the race safely most of all,” Tsunoda said. “I feel lucky to be able to race my horse in Kentucky.” Japan’s passionate bettors will put many yen on him, and they won’t get any back. He deserves a participation trophy for making the 13,000-mile round trip.

16. GAME WINNER

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Record: 6-4-2-0

Last 3: 2-2-1

Post: 15

Odds: 9-2

The 2-year-old champ and winter-book Derby favorite lost some luster after close seconds in the Rebel and Santa Anita Derby. Maybe they’ll set him up to peak on Saturday, or maybe he’s not the star many thought he was. Doubting a gritty Baffert horse is dangerous, but this colt’s grinding style rarely wins the Derby. I’ll use him in exactas, but I think he’s more likely to be second or third than first.

17. ROADSTER

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Record: 4-3-0-1

Last 3: 1-1-3

Post: 16

Odds: 5-1

Surged late to win Santa Anita Derby with change-of-pace tactics. The word last summer was that he was Baffert’s best 2-year-old before throat surgery ended his season prematurely. Solid pedigree for 1 1/4 miles, and should be ready to peak in third race off layoff. He’s extremely dangerous, even if post 17 is 0-for-40 all-time. Would be no surprise if he gave Baffert a record-tying sixth Derby.

18. LONG RANGE TODDY

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Jon Court

Record: 8-4-1-1

Last 3: 6-1-3

Post: 17

Odds: 30-1

Few had heard of him until he jumped up and upset Bob Baffert’s highly touted (and probably overrated) Improbable in a division of the Rebel. A distant sixth in the Arkansas Derby, failing to cope with post 11 and a sloppy track. Looks like a one-hit wonder, because besides the Rebel he hasn’t dazzled or run very fast. Throw him out.

19. SPINOFF

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Manny Franco

Record: 4-2-1-1

Last 3: 2-1-3

Post: 18

Odds: 30-1

Speedy colt’s game second in the Louisiana Derby got him to Louisville. He’s never won beyond a mile and 40 yards, and that was in an optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs. Should be involved in the early pace, but he’ll be up against a lot of high-quality speed. Never faced a first-rate field, and looks like a pace casualty. Pass.

20. COUNTRY HOUSE

Trainer: Bill Mott

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Record: 6-1-2-1

Last 3: 3-4-2

Post: 19

Odds: 30-1

Full disclosure: After he was second despite trouble Feb. 16 in the Risen Star, I bet him at 29-1 in the future book. Now I bet he’ll be 35-1 or more at post time. Oh well. Since then he ran third and fourth by a combined 13 1/4 lengths, so my $10 is long gone. Deep closer is 1-for-6 but might pass tired horses late, get third or fourth and inflate the exotics. Sad to say I think that’s his ceiling.

21. BODEXPRESS

Trainer: Gustavo Delgado

Jockey: Chris Landeros

Record: 5-0-3-0

Last 3: 2-2-4

Post: 20

Odds: 30-1

Jogged behind a slow pace set by runaway winner Maximum Security and finished a clear second in the Florida Derby. He was 71-1, so to exacta players who wheeled Maximum Security, Bodexpress is their Horse of the Year. Winless after five starts and clearly doesn’t belong in the Derby.

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