Let’s put a bow on an incredible running of the 144th Kentucky Derby. Justify will head to Pimlico with a big shot to win once again, while several other horses will be sitting out the Preakness and waiting for the Belmont Stakes. Here are my thoughts on the trips and performances of all 20 Kentucky Derby runners, as well as what the future holds for each horse.
1st: Justify – It wasn’t the trip that we envisioned for him, as he was closer to the pace than expected, but it worked out in the end. His :45.77 1/2-mile was scary, but jockey Mike Smith slowed it down in the third 1/4-mile, which basically won the race. The key was breaking well, and once he did, he was just too good to let anyone get past him. He came back without any mud on him, while the rest of the field was totally covered. With this kind of tactical speed, it’s going to be nearly impossible to beat him if he’s on his game.
2nd: Good Magic – Trainer Chad Brown had to be extremely proud of his colt, yet also disappointed. At the top of the lane, it looked as though Good Magic was going to win after a great ground-saving trip on the inside, but Justify was up for the challenge. Good Magic laid it all on the line down the stretch but just couldn’t make up ground on the winner. Brown is yet to decide if his colt will head to the Preakness, but it’s hard to see him turning the tables on the winner in that spot.
3rd: Audible – This horse proved to be a warrior after dropping to mid-pack early and getting up for third, losing out on second by a head-bob. Jockey Javier Castellano saved a ton of ground, hugging the rail for most of the race. This has been a hard horse to figure out all year long, but he looks to be all heart. He will likely head to the Belmont Stakes for his next start, where he could be dangerous.
4th: Instilled Regard – That’s what is called outrunning your odds. After dropping back to 17th early on, Instilled Regard was probably an afterthought to most, and he had his fair share of trouble when making his move, like most closers do in this race. After nearly getting stopped by a fading Bolt d’Oro, the horse continued to make up ground and finished fourth. There are no current plans, but you have to think that his connections will try one more spot along the Triple Crown trail.
5th: My Boy Jack – He did exactly what everyone thought he would do, which is drop back and make one run. The trip was eventful; he had plenty of problems and had to swing eight-wide for the run down the lane. This is why winning with a closer in the Kentucky Derby is so hard to do. The Belmont Stakes is his likely next target.
6th: Bravazo – This was the other big shock of the day, as the D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt outran his odds in a major way. Despite being hung five-wide for much of the race, this horse still finished up very well and proved that his Grade 2 Louisiana Derby incident was a fluke. Lukas said that he’ll head to Baltimore for the Preakness, where the field is shaping up to be much easier.
7th: Hofburg – This will be the most talked-about horse moving forward. With just three starts under his belt, playing this horse was a little dicy, but he handled himself well despite getting knocked around several times during the race. He nearly clipped heals two different times, causing him to lose any momentum that he had going. Despite all of the trouble, he still managed to come with a late run and will be better as he gains experience. It’s encouraging that the horse never quit.
8th: Lone Sailor – Jockey James Graham got him to the rail as quickly as possible after a poor break and the horse saved ground for most of the way. When the real running got started, he tipped to the outside with a long sustained move, but it was nothing that was overwhelmingly impressive. This horse is still learning with each race and will hopefully get better and better.
9th: Vino Rosso – He’ll be one to watch next time out because he had zero chance of winning after a very wide trip all the way around the track. That kept him from making much of a rally; he was gassed down the stretch. Still, he fought on hard to at least hold a decent position and should bounce back in the Belmont Stakes, where he’ll be dangerous.
10th: Solomini – This lunatic continued his wild ways. He shot to the rail out of the gate, but he really didn’t want to do it, as he fought jockey Flavien Prat as they passed the wire for the first time. After dropping back to last, he made a mild rally in the stretch to split the field, but there was nothing in this race to give you confidence for the future. He still has major growing to do.
11th: Firenze Fire – Like many predicted, Firenze Fire showed speed from the rail, and also like many predicted, he didn’t have much of a chance in the race, no matter what he did. He didn’t get a poor trip, but he just needs a cut back in distance and a drop in class.
12th: Bolt d’Oro – He simply got his heart broken in this race after trying to get to Justify for the second straight time with no luck whatsoever. He sat a solid trip for most of the race, but when asked to run, he simply could make up no ground on the eventual winner, while Good Magic passed him like he was standing still. He threw in the towel after that and completely quit.
13th: Flameaway – Many felt that he would be stalking Promises Fulfilled with Justify just behind him, but instead, that was flip-flopped. That allowed Flameaway to get a nice stalking trip on the inside, but he simply had no response after being a little too close to a hot pace. He needs a class drop, and he’ll likely get one as he targets a summer campaign at Woodbine.
14th: Enticed – He broke alertly right out of the gate but just never could get great positioning. He was also in between horses for nearly the entire race, and they pin-balled off of each other for most of the way around. When asked to run, he lacked any kind of response. He looked to be a bit outclassed against this sort of company.
15th: Promises Fulfilled – This horse did exactly what everyone expected: set the early pace, then faded as they entered the far turn. At this point, he’s a horse that can win a race if you leave him alone on the lead, but he needs that trip to have any chance. He has no interest in rating behind horses.
16th: Free Drop Billy – He sat a bit closer to the pace than projected, but he did get a ground-saving trip all the way around the track. When it was time to run, he came up empty with no rally at all. The horse likely needs a drop in class, but he may not get it – his trainer, Dale Romans, likes to run in big races.
17th: Noble Indy – They tried to get him going early on, and he did secure a halfway-decent spot (fifth) going into the first turn. However, breaking from the 19 hole did him no favors, as he was five-wide most of the way around the track. When the real running began, he failed to come with any sort of kick. He probably could use a little time off. He was asked to develop rapidly and still has some growing to do.
18th: Combatant – The wide post seemed to do him in, as he was at least five-wide the entire way around the track. This horse needed a lot of things to go right in order to have a shot at making an impact, and nothing went his way. He will likely get a class drop after this performance, which is what he needs at this point.
19th: Magnum Moon – He came out of the gate wildly and took a hard left straight into Mendelssohn. Past the grandstand for the first time, he continued to bump with Mendelssohn, and it seemed like he hated the track for most of the race. It looks like they’ll give him a freshening off of this effort, which could be good – he got beat up in this race.
20th: Mendelssohn – For the second straight year, the Group 2 UAE Derby winner was a total disaster in the Kentucky Derby. Mendelssohn as least finished the race, but he was basically taken out right away by Magnum Moon. After falling way too far back because of that, he basically spun his wheels all the way around the track. When asked to run, he had no response, though jockey Ryan Moore didn’t really try. He’s said to be pointing towards a return to Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup Classic later in the year.