Kentucky Derby Odds Update After Scratches Change the Field
The field for the 149th Kentucky Derby changed significantly in the last 24 hours, the result of three scratches and a suspended trainer.
Out of the field are Santa Anita Derby winner Practical Move, Wood Memorial winner Lord Miles and Japan-based horse Continuar. Those defections opened the door for the three horses on the also-eligible list to join the field: Cyclone Mischief, Mandarin Hero and King Russell.
The chain reaction started Thursday afternoon when trainer Tim Yakteen announced that Practical Move, the fourth betting choice on the morning line, would not run after spiking a fever.
Later in the day, Churchill Downs suspended trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. indefinitely after the sudden death of two of his horses earlier in the week at the Louisville track. The ban means Joseph’s Kentucky Derby entry Lord Miles will not be permitted to run.
“We feel these measures are our duty and responsibility,’’ Churchill Downs saId in a statement, adding “The safety of our equine and human athletes and integrity of our sport is our highest priority.’’
The track said the suspension of Joseph, who trains primarily in South Florida, will continue until details of the two deaths “are analyzed and understood.’’ Lord Miles was listed at 30-1 on the morning line.
Continuar, the least highly regarded of the three Japanese horses in the field, was scratched on Thursday night, with trainer Yoshito Yahagi saying he wasn’t satisfied with the horse’s fitness level.
Cyclone Mischief, Mandarin Hero and King Russell were on the also-eligible list because they did not accumulate enough points to qualify for the Derby field. None of the three were expected to run until Thursday's unexpected developments.
Last year, Rich Strike worked his way into the Derby field similarly. He was the first horse on the also-eligible list and gained entry only when Ethereal Road was scratched the morning before the race. Rich Strike went on pull off a stunning upset at 80-1 odds.
Mandarin Hero is likely to be the most impactful of the three new additions to the race. The Japan-based horse made his U.S. debut in the Santa Anita Derby and finished second, beaten only a nose by the now-scratched Practical Move. The three new additions will start from the three outermost post positions.
The revised Kentucky Derby 149 field:
About Kentucky Derby 149
When: Saturday, May 6
Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.
Post time: 6:57 p.m. (ET)
Purse: $3 million
Kentucky Derby Selections
Predicted top-four order of finish:
More often than not, the Kentucky Derby is won by a horse who has the lead entering the stretch or is in striking position, no worse than third. Verifying has the stalking, tactical running style to be in one of those two positions, provided he breaks cleanly from the No. 2 post. He’s fast enough to win. The bigger question is his ability to handle the Derby distance. At his morning-line odds of 15-1 or higher, he’s worth the risk.
2. Two Phil’s
The Jeff Ruby Steaks is not generally considered one of the more significant Kentucky Derby preps, but Rich Strike parlayed a third-place finish to a Derby victory last year. Two Phil’s dominated the 2023 Jeff Ruby Steaks on Turfway Park’s synthetic surface and has a far more impressive resume than Rich Strike did. Even if Two Phil’s is a synthetic track freak, his prior dirt races make him a solid contender, possibly at double-digit odds.
3. Derma Sotogake
The trend is not your friend for the winner of the UAE Derby, a race that has consistently produced Kentucky Derby pretenders, not contenders. Derma Sotogake is one of the more accomplished UAE runners to try the Derby and Japanese horses are winning more than their share of top international races. His growing bandwagon means he’s likely to be sent off at far lower odds than he should be.
4. Mandarin Hero
A last-minute addition to the field is another Japan-based horse who must be taken seriously. Faced weaker competition in Japan than Derma Sotogake. But Mandarin Hero’s U.S. debut last month, a runner-up finish in the Santa Anita Derby, was outstanding. He’s still a bit of a mystery, but his lone U.S. speed figure puts him squarely in the mix.
Our selections include none of the top three morning-line betting choices. While all three are clearly capable of winning, the value isn’t there. The second betting choice Tapit Trice seems better suited to winning the longer Belmont Stakes, and the stretch-running colt may need to pass the entire field to win this …. Favored Forte has won six of seven races, but his speed figures were faster last year. He may not be moving forward and offers limited value. … Angel of Empire is clearly improving, but has lower speed figures and will need to take another step forward to win this.
As for long shots to include on exotic tickets, Skinner finished only a half-length back of Practical Move in the Santa Anita Derby, He flattened out in the final yards of last two races, but his speed figures are competitive. … Hit Show and Sun Thunder will be big prices and may be worth including on the bottom of the trifecta and superfecta tickets. Both figure to be passing horses late
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