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Submitted by John Conte on Friday, April 19, 2019 at 4:37 PM

John Conte, National Race Masters
Thursday, 4/18

Every year more money is bet (by far) on the Kentucky Derby than any other North American horse race. It is no secret why. Literally millions of people who might bet horses three or four times a year seem to feel an obligation to bet this race. As though it is un-American if they don’t.

I can’t tell you how many people come up to me at an OTB, at the track, even on the street and want to discuss the Kentucky derby. I have to admit that every once in a while their questions might even try my patience, especially if I’ve just come off a tough beat with a big price horse.

However, it is never lost on me that these amateur bettors are an important part of the life-blood of our game and some might, in time, and with a few winners, come to be regular and better informed bettors.

It is with this in mind that I address a few questions that I have been repeatedly asked regarding the Kentucky Derby.

(Is It Important That The Derby Winner Had Won His Final Prep?)

Of late, yes…but a longer range look (I went back to 1991) says no.

Horses do not go into the Kentucky Derby without conditioning. Beginning with the 139th Kentucky Derby in 2013 there was a switch from the most Graded Stakes earnings to designated prep races which allot qualifying points as the determining factor as to which 20 runners get a starting spot in the Run for the Roses.

Since that switch, beginning with Orb in 2013, each Derby winner had won his last prep race and in addition, each of the six was the Kentucky Derby post time favorite.

In the six running’s of the race prior to 2013 the Kentucky Derby winner had only won his final prep 3 times and over those same six years only 2 post time favorites won the Run for the Roses.

It is also worth noting that prior to the switch to qualifying points in 2013, we had a mixed bag of winners and non-winners of their final prep capturing the Kentucky Derby.

Those Kentucky Derby winners who had won their final prep race are:  

(2018) Justify (Santa Anita Derby)…(2017) Always Dreaming (Florida Derby)…(2016) Nyquist (Florida Derby)…(2015) American Pharoah (Arkansas Derby)…(2014) California Chrome (Santa Anita Derby)…(2013) Orb (Florida Derby)…(2012) I’ll Have Another (Santa Anita Derby)…(2011) Animal Kingdom (Spiral Stakes)…(2008) Big Brown (Florida Derby)…(2006) Barbaro (Florida Derby)…(2004) Smarty Jones (Arkansas Derby)…(2002) War Emblem (Florida Derby)…(2000) Fusaichi Pegasus (Wood Memorial…(1999) Charismatic (Lexington Stakes)…(1991) Strike The Gold (Blue Grass Stakes.)

Those Kentucky Derby winners who did not win their final prep race are:
(2010) Super Saver (2nd Arkansas Derby)…(2009) Mine That Bird (4th Sunland Derby)…(2007) Street Sense (2nd Blue Grass Stakes)…(2005) Giacomo (4th Santa Anita Derby)…(2003) Funny Cide (2nd Wood Memorial)…(2001) Monarchos (2nd Wood Memorial)…(1998) Real Quiet (2nd Santa Anita Derby)…(1997) Silver Charm (2nd Santa Anita Derby)…(1996) Grindstone (2nd Arkansas Derby)…(1995) Thunder Gulch (4th Blue Grass Stakes)…(1994) Go For Gin (2nd Wood Memorial)…(1993) Sea Hero (4th Blue Grass Stakes)…(1992) Lil E. Tee (2nd Arkansas Derby.)

Over the last 28 years 15 Derby winners had won their final prep race and 13 others had finished between second and fourth.

So if you are someone who relies on recent angles as a governing factor you would want your Derby runner to come from a group of that includes Tacitus (Wood Memorial)…Omaha Beach (Arkansas Derby)…Vekoma (Blue Grass Stakes)…Plus Que Parfait (UAE Derby)…Roadster (Santa Anita Derby)…By My Standards (Louisiana Derby)…Maximum Security (Florida Derby)…and Cutting Humor (Sunland Derby.)

Obviously there is considerable status and promise attached to those wins…and the recent success of last out winners sounds loud. However, it is also noteworthy that while Vekoma and Maximum Security did dominate their wins by a 3 ½ length margin respectively in the Blue Grass and Florida Derby, the other six winners had a margin of between 1 ¼ lengths and a head. So I would say that you should not just have the last out prep win as your standalone angle.


(Check It Out Here…Find Out How Much Money You Can Make)

(Will Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher continue to have an impact on the Kentucky Derby in 2019…Or Will A New Shooter Share In The Riches?)

Yes, they are Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher.

Baffert, who has won two of the last four Kentucky Derbies with Triple Crown winners Justify last year and American Pharoah in 2015 is represented by the trio of Roadster, Improbable and Game Winner. Six weeks ago, Improbable and Game Winner were considered 1-2 on just about every pundit’s Top Derby, but after a pair of runner-up efforts in their last two preps (their only two 2019 efforts) by each, it is Roadster, the Santa Anita Derby winner who might be best representing the stable.

Todd Pletcher, who won the Derby in 2017 with Always Dreaming is rather quietly represented this year as his two contenders, Cutting Humor (the winner of the Sunland Derby) and Spinoff (the runner up in the Louisiana Derby) are likely to be down somewhat in win bet support. House rider John Velazquez, who rode each in their last race is committed to Code Of Honor for Shug McGaughey so the trainer will use Manny Franco for Spinoff and is still at this point searching for a pilot for Cutting Humor.

As to sharp, accomplished trainers in their own right, yet are not generally associated with Kentucky Derby success, this year presents a different scenario.

As difficult as it is to believe, for all his decades of success with Stakes Race Winners, Bill Mott has never won the Kentucky derby. But this year he might be better equipped than he has ever been to break through.

In Tacitus, who has rung up professional looking back-to-back wins in the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood memorial and Country House, who has picked up minor awards with late interest in the Risen Star Stakes, Louisiana Derby and Arkansas Derby in his last three, the trainer will draw plenty of interest.

Other recognizable and accomplished trainers that will be looking to topple the reigning Kentucky Derby kings are Richard Mandella, who might actually find Omaha Beach as the post time favorite in the Kentucky Derby and George Weaver, who sends Vekoma to Louisville after that one’s Blue Grass victory.

Another individual who is well respected by the conditioners colony is Danny Gargan. While the hard boot trainer might not be a recognizable name to the perimeter bettor, he could very well be leading an upset winner into the ring on the first Saturday in May with Tax, a hard trying son of Arch (Kris S) and the Giants causeway mare Toll. Those blood lines suggest he has the blood and foundation on both sides to carry his tactical speed as far as necessary.

Make sure to check with me early next week as I’ll have more lead up info for Kentucky Derby 145 and as I begin to pare down my list I’ll have a preliminary Top Ten.



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