While the field hasn't quite been set yet and the odds are sure to change right up until the morning of the race, we already have a pretty good idea of which horses will be favored and which jockeys come into the Kentucky Derby with the most decorated pedigrees.
Below, I've picked three horses that I believe are this year's safest bets and three jockeys that have been so successful in their careers, they're already in the Hall of Fame. You could do worse than align yourself with these horses and riders.
Sure, we haven't seen a horse that didn't race as a two-year-old win at the Derby since 1882, when Apollo pulled off the feat. But Verrazano has won all four of his races this year and is a big, physical specimen that his trainer, Todd Pletcher, likes to call the LeBron James of horses.
Verrazano is a versatile runner that can run a number of styles depending on his place on the pole. He has the speed to get out as a sprinter and hold off the pack, but he can also settle in behind the leaders and make his push late.
He'll likely go into the morning as the favored horse.
Orb is sure to be a betting favorite, as he comes into the Derby on four straight wins and has looked very impressive in his practice runs.
Orb is more likely to hang back a bit and make his move late, so unlike Verrazano, his starting position will be very important. But if he comes out of the opening stretch only trailing the lead pack of five or six horses, look out—his ability to strike late is scary.
Revolutionary has a major disadvantage coming into this race—unlike Verrazano and Orb, he's only won three straight races. I kid, I kid—Revolutionary is an incredibly strong horse that should be a major factor in the Derby, if not the winner.
Like Orb, however, he likes to come from behind and win the race by chasing down the leaders, so he'll have to avoid early traffic if he wants to succeed. Keep a close eye on his poll position, but don't underestimate his ability to close.
He has the type of ability to go wide around the turn and still have the stamina to win in the end.
A Hall of Fame rider, he has won three times at the Kentucky Derby and also took home the Preakness Stakes in his legendary career. He'll be riding Revolutionary, meaning one of the Derby's most talented horses is paired with one of its most accomplished jockeys.
That's a scary combination.
Like Borel, Velasquez is a Hall of Famer and is riding a race favorite, Verrazano. He nearly won the Triple Crown with Animal Kingdom in 2011 and has won the Belmont Stakes in his career. In other words, he's at his best on the biggest stages.
Another Hall of Famer, Smith has won the Preakness and Belmont Stakes and a total of 17 Breeder's Cup races. He'll be riding Palace Malice, a very intriguing horse with far more favorable odds than the ones listed above. I'm a fan of Palace Malice, in case you were wondering.
Probable Field and Odds (via All Horseracing)
|Fear The Kitten||40/1|
|Lines Of Battle||20/1|
|Will Take Charge||20/1|