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5 Favorites For the Kentucky Derby

Posted by Webster Washington on 5/1/2016 7:01:13 AM

One of the great things about the Kentucky Derby is the wide-open field. Twenty horses are likely for the gate, and about half of them have a good chance of donning the roses on May 7. With the big field and the quality of competition, there are plenty of chances for a nice payout. But you'll have to try to cover the bases with more than one horse and put exotics to good use. I've honed down my top favorites, which I'll relay to you in this post and the next. Keep in mind that these picks are before the post positions have been drawn, and that will have some bearing. But I'll update you later in race week for those, too.


Nyquist has done nothing wrong in his undefeated seven-race career. After capturing the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last October, he came off a long layoff to win the San Vicente Stakes in February, then romped home in the soaking-wet Florida Derby in early April. He has four Grade 1 wins, more than anyone in the field. And he actually seems to be improving. As the son of Uncle Mo, he's in a fast family. He's also hooked up with the connections that brought us Derby winner I'll Have Another, trainer Doug O'Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez. This horse is a versatile runner who should be the favorite.


Mohaymen was for weeks considered the favorite until Nyquist whipped him in the Florida Derby. You could draw a line through that mucky outing, though, because he didn't get too good a trip. He was unbeaten in six races up to that time, including four Grade 2 wins, so he has otherwise been consistent all along. His speeds have been consistently good, too. A stalker with good closing speed, he should be in it down the stretch. But he'll need a favorable post position and a good trip to be there.

Gun Runner

Gun Runner is three lengths from being undefeated. Just off triumphs in the Risen Star Stakes and the Louisiana Derby, his only loss in five races was last November in a stretch drive in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. He's another that may need a 1-10 post position, because he likes to stalk, then close. Though Louisiana runners haven't done that well in the Kentucky Derby lately, a solid trainer such a Steve Asmussen, should make this an exception.


Exaggerator is a fast closer who jumped back into favoritism when he blew by the field in the Santa Anita Derby a few weeks ago. He hasn't been the consistent winner the others have, but he's competed in seven graded stakes, winning three of them and in the money in three others. So he's used to good competition. Plus he posted the best speed figure (103) of any in the Derby field in his win at Santa Anita. I think his closing style will work to his favor in Louisville. If he can work through or around traffic, he'll get a call in the stretch.

Mor Spirit

Mor Spirit was second in his last two outings, but beaten by good horses. Exaggerator just topped him in the Santa Anita Derby. He still has Grade 1 and Grade 3 wins to his credit. Furthermore, he's a Bob Baffert horse with Gary Stevens aboard. That has to be worth something. I'd say an exotic. Another stalker who doesn't need to be crowded out.

Since Nyquist and Mohaymen will probably be the favorites, I expect them to go up at around 3-1, which would bring a nice exacta return, with so much money going into the pool. I'm looking at Exaggerator, and if he's off at 5-1 or better, I'd try to beat the favs. The others should be good enough to fill out trifectas or superfectas. I'll probably have one of them across the board or laddered, if they go up at 10-1 or better. But these guys aren't the whole story. There will be some others who could be sneaky good, and bring even better returns. We'll list those next week.

The Kentucky Derby will offer a lot of good horses at good prices. Here are the top-tier runners expected to be in the stretch run.
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