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Kentucky Derby horse-by-horse analysis

Ed McNamara’s look at each horse in the 2018 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, listed by program number.

Kentucky Derby hopeful Justify runs during a morning

Kentucky Derby hopeful Justify runs during a morning workout at Churchill Downs Tuesday, May 1, 2018, in Louisville, Ky. Photo Credit: AP / Charlie Riedel

1. FIRENZE FIRE

Trainer: Jason Servis

Jockey: Paco Lopez

Record: 9-4-1-0

Last 3: 4-4-2

Post position: 1

Odds: 50-1

Comment: Sprinter-miler type has no business going 1 1⁄4 miles against the best distance types of his generation. More suited for the Pat Day Mile on Saturday’s undercard.

2. FREE DROP BILLY

Trainer: Dale Romans

Jockey: Robby Albarado

Record: 8-2-3-2

Last 3: 4-3-2

Post position: 2

Odds: 30-1

Comment: Looked like a horse with a future when he dominated a stakes at Churchill last October, but he’s lost four in a row since. Was bothered badly in the stretch of the Blue Grass, when he was moved up to third on a disqualification, but he wasn’t going to threaten winner Good Magic. Doesn’t class up with the top colts.

3. PROMISES FULFILLED

Trainer: Dale Romans

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Record: 5-3-0-1

Last 3: 9-1-3

Post position: 3

Odds: 30-1

Comment: Need-to-lead type should have company up front and will have to work hard. Could make a major impact on the race by pushing Justify for a mile, but it will be a shock if Promises Fulfilled isn’t a pace casualty.

4. FLAMEAWAY

Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: Jose Lezcano

Record: 9-5-2-0

Last 3: 2-2-1

Post position: 4

Odds: 30-1

Comment: Next to My Boy Jack, he’s the most experienced horse in the race, so the foundation for a grueling test is there. Out of the money only twice, but gives the impression he’s a one-turn dirt miler and/or a grass horse. Should win some good races, but not on Saturday, when he should be prominent early before fading.

5. AUDIBLE

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Record: 5-4-0-1

Last 3: 1-1-1

Post position: 5

Odds: 8-1

Comment: Versatile Florida Derby winner has won stalking, from midpack and from far back. Has outstanding late-pace figures, and few can work out a trip better than four-time Eclipse Award winner Castellano. A very logical alternative to Justify, Magnum Moon and Mendelssohn, and it will be no surprise if this New York-bred colt wins.

6. GOOD MAGIC

Trainer: Chad Brown

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Record: 5-2-2-1

Last 3: 1-3-1

Post position: 6

Odds: 12-1

Comment: Two-year-old champion rebounded from a disappointing season debut by beating a weak Blue Grass field. Negative trends: No Blue Grass winner has taken the Derby since 1991, and Good Magic’s speed numbers at 3 are uninspiring. Either he has stopped improving or the masterful Brown has him ready to peak in his third start of the year. Price will be tempting, and he’s been working very well. Worth a bet because of who trains him.

7. JUSTIFY

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Mike Smith

Record: 3-3-0-0

Last 3: 1-1-1

Post position: 7

Odds: 3-1

Comment: Grand-looking chestnut colt has dazzled since debuting Feb. 18, and maybe his talent can overcome the absence of a 2-year-old foundation. Should face pace pressure he’s never encountered, and never has had more than six opponents. If any trio can overcome The Curse of Apollo, he, Baffert and Smith are prime candidates, but do you want to take a relatively short price against 135 years of history? Could be Baffert’s next American Pharoah, or is he just another inexperienced colt who will find the Derby too much, too soon?

8. LONE SAILOR

Trainer: Tom Amoss

Jockey: James Graham

Record: 8-1-3-1

Last 3: 2-2-9

Post position: 8

Odds: 50-1

Comment: Just missed behind Noble Indy in the 1 1⁄8-mile Louisiana Derby after not showing much in his first seven races. Maybe more distance is what he wanted, and he’s training brilliantly at Churchill. Won’t win but might be third or fourth with a perfect trip.

9. HOFBURG

Trainer: Bill Mott

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Record: 3-1-1-0

Last 3: 2-1-4

Post position: 9

Odds: 20-1

Comment: Running second by 3 lengths to Audible in the Florida Derby, only his third start, showed much potential. He was almost 8 lengths clear of the third horse. Mott, an all-time great renowned for patience, wouldn’t put him in the Derby if he didn’t think highly of him. Great distance pedigree (top sire Tapit, a Touch Gold mare), and has room to improve. Worth a small saver bet.

10. MY BOY JACK

Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

Jockey: Kent Desormeaux

Record: 10-3-3-2

Last 3: 1-3-1

Post position: 10

Odds: 30-1

Comment: Deep closer with powerful kick would benefit from likely quick pace, and he belongs underneath in exotics. Came from 10 lengths behind to take the Lexington by a head in the final stride. His speed figures aren’t great, but if the pace collapses, he’ll be passing lots of horses late.

11. BOLT d’ORO

Trainer: Mick Ruis

Jockey: Victor Espinoza

Record: 6-4-1-1

Last 3: 2-2-3

Post position: 11

Odds: 8-1

Comment: Should move up after chasing Justify through moderate fractions in the Santa Anita Derby. Faster pace in Derby will tilt the race shape in Bolt d’Oro’s favor, and his final-time and late-pace figures put him right there. Likely overlay could get first run on the closers, and his stayer’s pedigree (Medaglia d’Oro out of an A.P. Indy mare) is a major plus. A legitimate contender.

12. ENTICED

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin

Jockey: Junior Alvarado

Record: 6-3-1-1

Last 3: 2-1-4

Post position: 12

Odds: 30-1

Comment: Distance pedigree (Medaglia d’Oro and a Mineshaft mare) and victory last year at Churchill Downs (Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes) are pluses. Among his negatives are a lack of quick acceleration, and grinders rarely do much in the Derby. He’s also never beaten a top horse, and his figs are so-so. Might be better suited to the Belmont.

13. BRAVAZO

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Jockey: Luis Contreras

Record: 8-3-1-1

Last 3: 8-1-1

Post position: 13

Odds: 50-1

Comment: Showed nothing in the Louisiana Derby, only 1-for-5 in stakes and very light on the numbers. Don’t expect him to make the 82-year-old Lukas the oldest ever to train a Derby winner. Belongs against weaker.

14. MENDELSSOHN

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Jockey: Ryan Moore

Record: 7-4-1-0

Last 3: 1-1-1

Post position: 14

Odds: 5-1

Comment: O’Brien is one of the greatest trainers of all time, and the Derby is one of the few world-class races the low-key Irish wizard hasn’t won (0-for-5). Mendelssohn is considered by far his best Derby chance after coming off a record-breaking 18 1⁄2-length runaway in the UAE Derby in Dubai. High cruising speed, dirt pedigree and lots of class and stamina. Give him serious consideration.

15. INSTILLED REGARD

Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer

Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke

Record: 7-2-2-1

Last 3: 4-4-1

Post position: 15

Odds: 50-1

Comment: Made it into the field after early withdrawals of Quip and Gronkowski. Was a never-close fourth in the Santa Anita Derby. Hasn’t won past a mile and 70 yards this year, and his figures aren’t great. For stabbers.

16. MAGNUM MOON

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Luis Saez

Record: 4-4-0-0

Last 3: 1-1-1

Post position: 16

Odds: 6-1

Comment: Very impressive, undefeated and untested, just like Justify, the other standout who didn’t race last year. No Derby winner since 1882 lacked 2-year-old experience, but eventually, The Curse of Apollo will be broken, and maybe it will be this year. Problem is, if you think that will happen, do you bet on Magnum Moon or Justify? Led throughout a slow Arkansas Derby, coasting 6 furlongs in 1:13.39 before accelerating. Got the final furlong in a quick 11.99 seconds, but don’t expect the Derby to be slow early. Stalked in his first three races, which would be his best scenario. Drifted out badly while well clear at Oaklawn, which is a concern.

17. SOLOMINI

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Record: 6-1-3-2

Last 3: 3-2-1

Post position: 17

Odds: 30-1

Comment: Erratic grinder goofs around in workouts but tries hard and never has been out of the money. Chased Magnum Moon twice at Oaklawn and never came close to catching him. Would need a major move forward to contend. Post 17 never has produced a Derby winner.

18. VINO ROSSO

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: John Velazquez

Record: 5-3-0-1

Last 3: 1-4-3

Post position: 18

Odds: 12-1

Comment: Nassau County resident Mike Repole co-owns him and Noble Indy. Vino Rosso impressed two-time Derby winner Johnny V. enough in the Wood to make him jump off the more accomplished Audible. Vino Rosso came in twice in the stretch on runner-up Enticed, whose trainer and rider were angry that Vino Rosso wasn’t disqualified. Has a terrific distance pedigree (Curlin and a Street Cry mare), so 1 1⁄4 miles shouldn’t be a problem. With further improvement, he’ll be in the mix, but post 18 complicates matters.

19. NOBLE INDY

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Record: 4-3-0-1

Last 3: 1-3-1

Post position: 19

Odds: 30-1

Comment: Long Islander Fred Hart bred and owned Noble Maz, this colt’s dam. The fourth-ranked member of Pletcher’s crew showed great heart to re-rally and win the Louisiana Derby after dropping back to third in midstretch. Facing the best 3-year-olds for the first time and seems overmatched. Post 19 has produced only one Derby winner.

20. COMBATANT

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Record: 7-1-3-1

Last 3: 4-3-2

Post position: 20

Odds: 50-1

Comment: Closer wasn’t too far back when fourth and third behind Magnum Moon and second to My Boy Jack, but never looked like he had a chance to win any of those races. Winless beyond a mile, 0-for-3 around two turns, and would need a quantum leap to contend.

ALSO ELIGIBLE

Will draw into the race if there’s a scratch before 9 a.m. Friday.

21. BLENDED CITIZEN

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Jockey: Kyle Frey

Record: 9-2-0-2

Last 3: 5-1-3

Odds: 50-1

Comment: He’s 0-for-4 on conventional dirt, with his career highlight a Grade III stakes win on a synthetic surface at Turfway Park. O’Neill has two Derby wins (I’ll Have Another, 2012; Nyquist, 2016) but if this guy happens to draw in, no way he wins his third here.

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