Saturday’s $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) lost a major player when Omaha Beach was withdrawn Wednesday due to an entrapped epiglottis. A foot abscess forced Haikal out on Friday, leaving a field of 19 for the Run for the Roses.
Bob Baffert will seek a record-equaling sixth Kentucky Derby victory with a powerhouse trio of Game Winner, Roadster and Improbable. The Grade 1-winning colts will be among the top five betting choices along with Florida Derby (G1) victor Maximum Security and Wood Memorial (G2) scorer Tacitus.
Here are my selections for Kentucky Derby 145:
1st Selection: TACITUS (#8) brings a three-race win streak into the Kentucky Derby, netting triple-digit BRIS Late Pace ratings in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Wood Memorial. He registered a field-best 103 BRIS Speed rating in the latter and the well-bred gray son of Tapit has progressed nicely at age 3 for Bill Mott. Tacitus possesses the tactical foot to avoid leaving himself too much to do and jockey Jose Ortiz will look to employ stalk-and-pounce tactics about the powerful finisher. Tacitus rates top billing.
2nd Selection: GAME WINNER (#16) never runs a bad race and certainly appears eligible to move forward upon a pair of close seconds this year. Baffert had the luxury to work backwards with the champion two-year-old and didn’t need to win either prep this year; he’s tightened the screws in recent weeks. Game Winner showed an affinity for the track posting a convincing win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) last November and has looked good training under the Twin Spires since arriving earlier this week. He could prove impossible to deny with Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Joel Rosario.
3rd Selection: CODE OF HONOR (#13) displayed a fine turn foot on the far turn of the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Florida Derby (G1), winning the former while rallying fast into contention, and appears to be thriving since arriving in Kentucky in April. He’s trained superbly on the slop and is bred to relish wet conditions on the dam side. Code of Honor can put himself into contention turning for home in the Kentucky Derby.
4th Selection: LONG RANGE TODDY (#18) must rebound from a disappointing performance in the Arkansas Derby (G1) but I liked the acceleration he displayed winning the first division of the Rebel (G2) two back. He’s improved significantly in recent months for Steve Asmussen, who finished second twice with a pair of longshots in the Kentucky Derby, and I give Long Range Toddy a solid chance to outperform his long odds Saturday.
Tacitus is my pick and I’ll play him to Win & Place. Will utilize a dutch approach to the exotics, boxing Tacitus and Game Winner in the exacta and keying both on top in trifecta wagers. By My Standards (#3), Improbable (#5), Maximum Security (#7) and Spinoff (#19) will be added underneath in trifectas.
$20 Win & Place #8 ($40)
$15 Exacta Box: 8-18 ($30)
$1 Trifecta Part-Wheel: 8,16 over 8,13,16,18 over 5,7,8,13,16,18,19 ($30)
Good luck in the Kentucky Derby!