Kentucky Derby Odds 2016: Latest Betting Lines and Predictions
Here we are again. It feels like it was yesterday when Firing Line gave American Pharoah the ultimate test down the homestretch of Churchill Downs before the latter pulled away to win what was the first of all three legs of the Triple Crown: the Kentucky Derby.
Now that Pharoah has reset the clock on Triple Crown winners, we can focus on the latest crop and analyze its chances at an encore.
Secretariat kick-started a wave of Triple Crown winners* in the 1970s. Will American Pharoah similarly vault Nyquist or Gun Runner into similar levels of immortality and legend?
That’s why we’re here: to break down this field and see who rises as the only one who could challenge for the Triple Crown.
We’ll look at running style and past performances to determine how these horses will fare in Louisville on May 7.
Because you’re a savvy horse player (and because Odds Shark uses money-line wagering as its default) we’ll be using a slightly different system to designate favorites and long shots.**
Read on for a look at the latest betting lines and early predictions for the Run for the Roses.
*Yes, we know that one Triple Crown winner has nothing to do with the other.
**Take Nyquist, the favorite, at +333. A $100 wager will return $333, so he’s basically at 3-1. Odds Shark explains it well.
Current Odds: +1600
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: 20th
Corey Lanerie somehow retains the mount on Mo Tom for the Kentucky Derby. If ever there were a time for a jockey change, now would be it.
Lanerie’s handling of Mo Tom in his past few races begs for a seasoned Derby rider in the irons. He took the horse down to the fence in the Louisiana Derby prompting its trainer, Tom Amoss, to question the jock.
Per Katherine Terrell of Nola.com, Amoss said:
I was just puzzled as to why (Corey) went down to the rail. I just hope he didn't hurt my horse. I am surprised. There were other choices and I don't understand why he did what he did. Watching this was like going to the schoolyard and watching your kid get beat up by another kid.
I just hope he didn’t hurt my horse! What!?
Mo Tom will want to circle horses, so if Lanerie can keep him out of traffic, maybe he has a shot. But if the jockey choked in Louisiana in March, faith in him on the first Saturday in May may be misplaced.
Current Odds: N/A
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: 19th, 40 points
Most horses enter the Kentucky Derby with at least one win. Trojan Nation enters the Derby with five career races and zero wins to his credit. Yes, we have a maiden among the ranks.
He earned his points by rallying from another zip code to finish a neck shy of Outwork in the Wood Memorial. It was a painfully slow renewal of the Wood, but he did get up for enough of a piece to earn a spot in the Derby gate.
"He ran good in the Wood and we earned the points, so the owner said 'Should we give it a shot?'" trainer Patrick Gallagher said in Jeremy Balan’s BloodHorse.com story. "He knows we're a long shot, but he's optimistic about it."
Imagine a horse breaking his maiden in the Kentucky Derby. No…me neither.
Current Odds: N/A
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: 18th, 40 points
Here’s the big knock on Majesto: It took him five tries to break his maiden.
After doing that on February 27, his trainer, Gustava Delgado, entered him in the Grade 1 Florida Derby where he finished second to the likely Derby favorite Nyquist.
Per the Courier-Journal, his jockey at the time, Javier Castellano said:
The good thing about him is I was saving ground and when a hole opened, he went through and finished really well. I think he’s going to be good going to the Derby. He has the points and he’s late-developing. He’s going to start getting really good. I am looking forward to him as he gets older.
Now Majesto gets the services of jockey Emiss Jaramillo. Not an upgrade.
It’s hard to endorse Majesto as anything other than a road block for the contenders.
My Man Sam
Current Odds: +2500
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: 17th, 40 points
My Man Sam has just four races on his CV, with his runner-up effort in the Blue Grass Stakes being his one soiree into stakes company.
"He's only run in one stakes race, and he ran terrific from the 14 post in the Blue Grass," trainer Chad Brown said, per the Courier-Journal. "He was lucky enough to get up for second and get the points to be in this position. A rapidly developing horse with a lot of talent who should get a mile and a quarter."
He’ll do his running late in the race, but there are far more capable horses in this crowded field of three-year-olds.
Current Odds: +5000
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: 16th, 44 points
This horse has two things going for it.
No. 1: He has a nice two-year-old base, six races to be precise.
No. 2: He has Dallas Stewart as his trainer, someone who knows a thing or two about getting a bomb into the exacta. Golden Soul and Commanding Curve were his two place horses from the 2013 and 2014 Kentucky Derbys.
He also saddled Macho Again to a runner-up effort in the 2008 Preakness Stakes against Big Brown.*
Tom’s Ready got up for second in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at 30-1 odds. He’ll be at least that in Kentucky, but Stewart is fine with that.
"He stepped up big today coming out of a bad race," Stewart said, per Nola.com after the Louisiana Derby.
He’s in over his head here, but so were Golden Soul and Commanding Curve and look where that got us.
*A year later, Macho Again finished a neck behind Rachel Alexandra in the 2009 Woodward Stakes. She won Horse of the Year that year. I ought to know.
Current Odds: +5000
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: 15th
If you watch the replay of the Arkansas Derby, you’ll notice a horse taking the scenic route turning for home. That was Suddenbreakingnews. But there was another horse, not quite as wide, running strong.
That horse? Whitmore, and he finished third despite running several paths out from the fence.
If you’re a herd-dynamic handicapper, you may look at this performance and see that he’s a horse who doesn’t want the lead. He brushed flanks with Creator, the eventual winner, and didn’t keep pace.
But Whitmore’s trainer, Ron Moquette, watched his horse train and he noticed something.
"He thinks he's a bad man," Moquett said, per Jonathan Lintner of the Courier-Journal. "I'm not telling him differently."
Whitmore does not have a stakes win to his credit, but that will change this year. It just won’t be in the Derby.
Current Odds: +2500
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: 14th, 50 points
He won the Gotham Stakes, but beyond that all he has is a maiden race and an allowance race to his credit.
Shagaf is trained by the wunderkind Chad Brown, who isn’t too far away from winning his first Derby.
What Shagaf has in his corner is experience in the saddle. His new jockey, Joel Rosario, won the Derby back in 2013 aboard Orb.
And another thing in Shagaf’s favor? He’s taking too Churchill Downs.
Per the Courier-Journal, Brown said:
He continues to really train well over Churchill’s surface,"I’ve been very impressed with this horse and how he’s handling Churchill’s track. He just tends to be the best work horse out of the three (including Kentucky Oaks contender Lewis Bay). He tends to work a little bit faster in the mornings.
This horse has a bright future and a top 10 feels like a victory for this son of Bernardini.
Current Odds: N/A
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: 13th
The prosecution of Oscar Nominated looks like this: Odds Shark didn’t even give this horse a money line. Second, Ken Ramsey waited until the third deadline to nominate this horse for the Triple Crown.
The first deadline in January costs $600. The second in March, $6,000. The third? $200,000.
He won the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park’s Polytrack. Polytrack is one of the last vestiges of the synthetic surface boom of the mid-2000s. It closely resembles turf in terms of play.
Oscar Nominated has never run on dirt either. So there’s that. If it were possible, this horse would get laughed off the playground. His 82 Beyer Speed Figure is
junior varsity freshman ball at best.
Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman wrote:
It’s tough to make a serious case for Oscar Nominated, though. He has yet to run on dirt, has a turf pedigree top and bottom (he’s out of a Theatrical mare), and his figure in this race was soft, inferior even to the 90 earned by He’ll Pay when winning the less-prestigious Rushaway earlier on the card.
Ramsey has a tendency to enter colts better suited for the grass in the Derby because, hey, it’s the Derby.
It's hard to blame him, but at some point someone needs to take him aside and say, “Not this year, buddy. Quit breeding them for grass if you ever want to win the Run for the Roses.”
Current Odds: +1600
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: 12th, 50 points
Suddenbreakingnews will be racing from the clouds in the Kentucky Derby. He’ll get a hot pace, which nearly every Derby has. But will he have a clear shot at the leaders? Will he be the leader late in the race?
Per the Courier-Journal, trainer Donnie Von Hemel said: “There are 10 million variables in the race, so I can’t predict what’s going to happen. We hope we have a good pace to run at and a clean trip when we do get to run. But those are probably two pretty big hopes. This horse is the right kind of horse, I think.”
Nothing stands out—on paper—that would suggest this son of Mineshaft has what it takes to hit the board. With so many quality horses that can get to the front and control the tempo of the race, it’s unlikely this colt has what it takes to win this race.
Maybe a race with less traffic could suit his running style better. Twenty horses render this closer—a closer without enough speed—a mid-pack finisher at best.
Current Odds: +1400
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: 11th, 51 points
Three horses posted 100-plus Beyer Speed Figures, and Destin—the winner of the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby—is one of them.
Destin’s win was validated by his stablemate Outwork, who went on to win the Wood Memorial.
In order to win the Derby, Destin will have to do it off an eight-week layoff. This is unheard of, unprecedented. When Barbaro won the Derby in 2006, he did it off a five-week layoff and people just about lost their minds.
Todd Pletcher, Destin’s trainer, has saddled 45 Derby starters with only one win to show for it. With Destin, he’s got the chance to try something new.
Per Jonathan Lintner of the Courier-Journal, he said:
We've tried a number of approaches, as you know, and we were only successful with one horse in terms of winning it. One of the things we've looked at over the years, we've just wondered if we had one too many races going into the Derby and sometimes left our best race four weeks or three weeks out.
Pletcher’s immense skill as a trainer gets horses to the Derby, which keeps earning him more and more clients. He hasn’t taken roses as much as he and his owners would like, so this experiment is interesting.
Destin set a track record at 1 1/16th miles in that win in the Tampa Bay Derby. When Animal Kingdom won the Derby off a 42-day layoff that was the longest.
Destin has yet to run more than 8.5 furlongs. The extra 1.5 furlongs at the Derby could be his undoing.
We’ll see if Pletcher’s experiment was worth the wait.
Current Odds: +2500
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: 10th, 60 points
This is a nice horse. By all accounts, he breezes like a dream. Then again, most of these horses breeze with ease.
In the Santa Anita Derby, Danzing Candy set blazing fractions. That can’t happen in the Kentucky Derby.
Per Jeremy Balan of the Blood-Horse, rookie Derby trainer Cliff Sise said: “It was way too fast. If I see 45 1/5, I'm going to start walking back to the barn."
A scenario could unfold where Danzing Candy gets sucked into a speed duel. If that’s the case, he’ll be cooked with four furlongs to go.
Current Odds: +800
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: Ninth, 80 points
Mohaymen went from buzz to bust after the muddy Florida Derby handed him his first loss.
You can look at it two ways: Draw a line through it, or call it dispiriting. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who conditions the horse for Shadwell Stables, opts for the latter.
"We just were unlucky Florida Derby day with a funny day, and a funny track, and a funny trip, and we hope we won't have all those things Saturday,” he said, per Claire Novak of the Blood-Horse. “He has always been in the game, he has always trained great, he has never had any issues, never missed a day of training.”
But it’s something else McLaughlin said that should be a red flag for backers of Mohaymen. The horse has been seriously pulling on the bridle in the morning. McLaughlin’s not concerned, but maybe you should be.
"He has been really keen with other horses around and galloping strong, so we're trying to pick a quiet time (for him to train)," McLaughlin said.
And what is the Kentucky Derby except the most crowded field with the biggest crowd surrounding him? That could lead to a tired, stressed-out colt.
Mohaymen could do great things but to expect that on Derby day may lead to frustrated bettors at day’s end.
Current Odds: +1800
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: Eighth
Trainer Bob Baffert is back. How do you go on after winning the Triple Crown the year before?
You have a live horse like Mor Spirit. Never worse than second prior to the Santa Anita Derby, he got dusted by Exaggerator there last month, but that could have had more to do with the off track.
So what does Gary Stevens, Mor Spirit’s Hall of Fame jockey, have to say?
“I can't get the horse tired and that's a good thing when you're going a mile and a quarter," Stevens said, per John Cherwa of the Los Angeles Times. "I don't think that distance is going to be a problem, but he's coming along at the right time. This has been the focus since last year in December. We've been pointing to the Derby."
There isn’t a better campaign ticket than Baffert/Stevens with a combined seven Kentucky Derby wins between them.
The two haven’t combined for a Derby win since 1997 with Silver Charm. Maybe Mor Spirit will deliver an encore for Baffert in 2016.
Current Odds: +3000
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: Seventh, 100 points
Is Lani the type of horse that can snap the Dubai-to-Kentucky winless streak?
Lani won the UAE Derby at Meydan to punch his Derby ticket, but will that carry him to roses? His daddy is Tapit and he’s out of a Sunday Silence mare, so Lani’s breeding is top notch.
He hails from Japan and isn’t the type of horse than necessarily wants to race all the time. Take it from trainer Yutaka Take.
Per the Courier-Journal, he said: “He's not a horse with a temperament willing to run always, so I cannot tell you if he wants to run on Derby day. If he does, we have a big chance."
Given the choice, a horse has every excuse not to perform on Derby Day.
Current Odds: +2000
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: Sixth, 110 points
Creator made a huge move from last to first to win the Arkansas Derby. He got a dream trip in while the entire field zipped away in the opening quarter-mile.
This is great for a 14-horse field, but for a 20-horse field? Not so much. Sure, there’s usually a hot pace in the Derby, but closers don’t fare well because of the traffic they will undoubtedly face.
“Creator leapfrogged lots of talented sophomores with his comprehensive last-to-first Hot Springs score,” wrote HRI.com’s John Pricci. “He might love Oaklawn, or he might be getting good at just the right time.”
Creator is trained by Steve Asmussen, a trainer with two Preakness scores but no Derby win…yet.
Creator’s 96 Beyer Speed Figure is one of the best in the entire field, and let’s not forget that closers aren’t immune to winning the Derby. Street Sense and Mine That Bird come to mind.
Current Odds: +1200
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: Fifth, 114 points
If you watch the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland, you’ll notice a colt making a big sweeping move at the 3/8ths pole below jockey Luis Saez.
That was the Dale Romans-trained Brody's Cause.
Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman is a bit lukewarm on BC, and he wrote: "Less encouraging is that Brody’s Cause got only a 91 in this race, and that represents his career best. He will need better than that to win the Derby. But at least he’s headed in the right direction as the first Saturday in May approaches."
That’s exactly right. Heading in the right direction is where the horse needs to be. It can’t have already arrived, if that makes any sense.
Per Alicia Wincze Hughes of the Lexington Herald-Leader, Romans said:
For a 14-horse field and for a horse to come from behind, that gives you a lot of encouragement going into (the Kentucky Derby) where you’re going to have a 20-horse field. He had a little adversity on the first turn. (Saez) said he got knocked off his feet but he overcame it, gathered himself up and fought back. And a horse has to do that to win the Kentucky Derby.
A Blue Grass winner hasn’t taken roses in Louisville since Strike the Gold did in 1991. Should Brody's Cause pull it off, he will pay gold.
Current Odds: +2000
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: Fourth, 120 points
Hailing from the Pletcher Industrial Complex, Outwork was the gritty winner of the Wood Memorial, a race that saw him battle on a muddy track for the win.
That time of 1:52 and 4/5th seconds is what we call in handicapping circles a “wicked bummer,” but he showed a certain sense of competitiveness you want/need to see in any Derby contender.
Outwork recorded a sparkling five-furlong breeze in 1:01 as his final drill before the big race.
"He can sometimes, as he did in the Wood Memorial, when he gets past the last horse he tends to idle a bit," said Pletcher, per Jonathan Lintner of the Courier-Journal. "Today I thought he was much more professional, focused, concentrated throughout the gallop out."
Outwork’s speed figures pair up nicely from his Tampa Bay Derby to Wood Memorial. That could mean a forward move off the Wood, and that may put him at the top of this field.
Current Odds: +800
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: Third, 126 points
Exaggerator exploded in the Santa Anita Derby coming from 9 ½ lengths off the pace at second call to win by 6 ¼ lengths.
But in the words of HorseRaceInsider.com’s John Pricci, “[He] doesn’t have to prove that the slop is what made him freak in Arcadia, but he must show he can put that effort back-to-back.”
The only time this son of Curlin won back-to-back races came as a two-year-old after he broke his maiden at Del Mar and then won the Saratoga Special three weeks later.
In his three-year-old season, he hasn’t finished worse than third. That top-side pedigree is killer. The question is whether jockey Kent Desormeaux (a three-time winner of the Derby) can keep Exaggerator out of trouble in that second or third flight of horses.
If so, this colt will figure in the trifecta.
Current Odds: +333
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: Second, 130 points
Nyquist has what American Pharoah had going for him a year ago: plenty of rest.
Now, American Pharoah raced in the Arkansas Derby three weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby—close by modern standards. But what we see with Nyquist and American Pharoah are only two 2016 prep races heading into Kentucky.
Nyquist, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, takes it one step farther: Of his two prep races only one was around two turns, the Florida Derby, which he handled with aplomb over the previously unbeaten Mohaymen.
The son of Uncle Mo won the Florida Derby with ease and has been galloping beautifully with all signs pointing to a big, big effort on Saturday.
Per Ron Mitchell of the Blood-Horse, Jack Sisterson, assistant to trainer Doug O'Neil, said:
Although he's just jogging, you think what can you see just jogging. But it was fantastic. It was scary good how good he went this morning. It leaves you kind of speechless, just being in a position with a horse like this. He teaches us something every day. It's an honor to be around a horse like this. He amazes us with how good he is.
Nyquist threw down a lung-expanding one-mile breeze at nearby Keeneland Friday, so it appears he’s ready for the biggest effort of his career.
Current Odds: +1000
Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Rank: First, 151 points
Gun Runner sits atop the leaderboard as the most accomplished colt heading into the Run for the Roses, but is he the best?
If we’ve learned anything from this crop of sophomores, it’s that they aren’t very fast. Like at all.
Only three horses registered 100-plus Beyer Speed Figures in all of the prep races. Gun Runner’s best effort? A 91.
Gun Runner has a tactical running style that can put him the first wave of attack on the speed in the Derby. Or, if the pace is tepid, he could go up there and the lead the race.
“He's very talented,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, per Nola.com. “(The Kentucky Derby) is what we're dreaming about."
No winner of the Louisiana Derby—as Gunner is—has ever won the Kentucky Derby, let alone after six weeks’ rest.
Gun Runner will take a lot of money opening the door for longer shots with better payouts.