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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, April 29, 2018 at 12:32 PM

Jim Hurley’s Derby Doings
Saturday, April 28

Today I’ll take a few more minutes to produce the “second” half of my ANNUAL DERBY TOP 10.

If you’ve been with me over the years you know that this “Top 10” is a bit different in that it consists actually of two separate TOP 5 LISTS.

First is the list of the 5 Derby Horses that are likely to draw the large percentage of the betting pool. I previewed these horses Friday and they are available on these pages.

The second “Top 5” are the “outsiders” that I find plenty of reason to give more than just a little love to.

While bettors have recently been treated to five straight winning Kentucky Derby favorites…
2017 – Always Dreaming - $11.40
2016 – Nyquist - $6.60
2015 – American Pharoah - $7.80
2014 – California Chrome - $7.00
2013 – Orb - $12.80

…it has been the surprise three year olds during those 5 years and the surprise horses overall in recent Derby history that have created the kind of payoffs which make the “Run For The Roses” into the “Run For The Jackpot.”

Take a look at the “outsiders” which have contributed to Derby Fortune Hunting the last 10 years.

Lookin At Lee – 2nd (33.2-1)…Battle Of Midway – 3rd (40-1)
Gun Runner – 3rd (10.6-1)…Mohayman – 4th (11.8-1)
Commanding Curve – 2nd (37.8-1)
Golden Soul – 2nd (34.5-1)
I’ll Have Another – W (15.3-1…Dullahan – 3rd (12.1-1)…Went The Day Well – 4th (30.6-1)
Animal Kingdom – W (20.9-1…Shackleford – 4th (23-1)
Ice Box – 2nd (11.7-1)…Paddy O’Prado – 3rd (12.3-1)…Make Music For Me – 4th (30-1)
Mine That Bird – W (50-1)…Musket man – 3rd (19-1)…Papa Clem – 4th (12.2-1)
Eight Belles – 2nd (13.1-1)…Dennis Of Cork – 3rd (27.2-1…Tale Of Ekati – 4th (37.4-1)

Before I move on to my preview of my “OUTSIDE TOP 5” I’ll leave you with another way I will point out how wide open the Derby has always been (even when there are 5 straight winning favorites,) especially for exotic players or straight players who are willing to back up their “long shot plays” in the place and show pools.

In the last 10 years the average off odds and payoffs for the place and show finishers have been as follows:
Place Horse – Average Off Odds – 16.4-1…Average Payoffs – Place ($15.30)…Show ($9.25)
Show Horse – Average Off Odds – 15.1-1…Average Payoff – Show ($8.75)


Keep in mind, much will transpire over the course of the next 7 days and these lists are not in any way to be considered my “FINAL 4 DERBY HORSES.” But these lists will give you an idea of just how much there is to consider between now and around 6:45 PM on Saturday, May 5.

Since I have no intention of listing the highly competitive Top 5 in preference order I am producing the commentary in alphabetical order.


FLAMEAWAY – Naysayers will look at his lone race at Churchill Downs in the Iroquois last fall and consider that he doesn’t like the surface. Naysayers will look at his last two races in which he was not able to finish the job and as has been the case with recent Blue Grass graduates will eliminate him because of the poor record that race has of moving 3-year olds forward in the Kentucky Derby.

These are definitely considerations. But that is why he will be an “Outsider” on Derby day. All I know when I look at this son of Scat Daddy both on paper and on the track, I see tremendous heart and versatility. He has won 5 of 9 races with a pair of second place finishes. He has raced a 7 different tracks and from dirt to turf, fast and sloppy, raced over 5 different surfaces at 6 different distances. When I watch him show up every time he reminds me of where Gin Runner was at this point in his career…hard trying and consistent. He might not turn into a Gun Runner, few will, and might not win the Kentucky Derby, but eliminate him from the exotics and you might kick yourself.

HOFBURG – The Bill Mott trainee is lightly raced and still eligible for non-winners of two races lifetime after three career starts. But he will likely be one of the “buzz” horses in the Kentucky Derby based on his very visible rally for second place behind one of the projected top 3 Derby favorites, Audible.

If it were someone other than Bill Mott I would likely be very concerned with his light foundation. But Mott has always been patient with his young horses and the fact that he is considering the Kentucky Derby after just a trio of efforts makes me take notice. I also must admit that any time he see a son of leading magnificently productive sire Tapit I work in reverse to find elimination reasons.

The colt also sticks in my mind because when I go back and watch the replay of the Florida derby I see a colt who grabbed the bit when asked by Jose Ortiz…Jose will remain aboard Good Magic in the Derby but will be replaced by his brother Irad…and dropped his head to dig in like an aggressive race horse. He has every reason to move forward.

NOBLE INDY – With this one’s stablemates, Audible, Magnum Moon and Vino Rosso also among the Todd Pletcher trained quartet to choose from, I suspect that Noble Indy will be the least of the four to get public backing.

Like many of the others in this year’s edition he was a late starter and is lightly raced. But so are Justify and Magnum Moon, so if those two can be forgiven their lack of foundation, why not this son of Take Charge Indy? Yes his last race was 6 weeks ago, but Pletcher did ask for a 6 furlong drill on April 20 and then followed up on this past Friday with a sharp 5 furlong work. And his Louisiana derby win was a solid, no quit final 3 furlongs drive after he hit the gate and had to overcome tough early going. It is also worth noting that the two horses he beat in the Louisiana Derby will be in the gate this Saturday. Lone Sailor is getting buzz based on his terrific 5 furlong drill on April 19 and sharp half mile this past Friday while My Boy Jack got into the Kentucky Derby qualifying ranks with a professional Lexington Stakes victory.

And while Velazquez will stick with Vino Rosso, Noble Indy will be served well by 21% jockey Florent Geroux who just won the Keeneland Spring Meet jockey title.

PROMISES FULFILLED – I suspect that there will be considerable speculation that this dale Romans trained son of Shackleford will be a rabbit for the barn’s other entrant Free Drop Billy. Certainly the way he ran off and quit in the Florida Derby followed by his 5 furlong drill in :59 1/5 at Churchill on April 21 will lend support to that argument.

While there is no question that speed is his game and long term projection might find him competitive on his best for as far as he goes and then, like his sire, a rebound in the Preakness, I saw enough in the Fountain Of Youth victory (over Good Magic) to indicate he might be a lot more resolute a pace runner than he showed in the disastrous Florida Derby. And since he has already proven by his recent works and his solid third in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last fall, a race that has turned out to be a key provider of many Prep race wins, that he likes the Churchill surface, I see him as more than a suicidal pace setter or challenger.

While it is mentioned that he won the Fountain Of Youth under Jose Ortiz and loses that rider, it should be noted that Corel Lanerie has been a major producer over the years at Churchill, winning a handful of titles and that at 19% overall, the jockey is at a robust 26% with early speed type horses.

SOLOMINI – With his stablemate Justify getting all the attention and likely to be the post time favorite in the Kentucky Derby, that fact hasn.t kept Bob Baffert from continuing forward with this hard trying and recently slightly compromised son of Curlin.

Solomini chased Magnum Moon home in both the Rebel stakes and the Arkansas Derby in his two 2018 races. In each he was somewhat at the mercy of his trip. More so in the Arkansas Derby than in the Rebel. In the Oaklawn finale he was caught so wide much of the way that even though he checked in third, the sheet guys have him as running only a half point less than Magnum Moon. I also like the eye-test in that race in that when solid closer Combatant came on to poke his head in front of Solomini he battled back to take the show honors.

It is also noteworthy that in the Rebel, while he might not have caught Magnum Moon, Solomini was steadied at the quarter pole and still regrouped to come on for the place. And as I mentioned regarding Bolt d’Oro, I have long believed that sons of Curlin get better with distance and racing so the added furlong and third off the layoff might just play into a step forward.

There is plenty to digest and my work is truly getting into the final furlongs. Make sure you check back to these pages for all the week long pre-Kentucky Derby information.



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