Kentucky Derby 2018: Top Contenders and Unheralded Horses in Lineup Field

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2018

OZONE PARK, NY - APRIL 07: Vino Rosso (KY) #9, ridden by jockey John Velazquez, wins the Wood Memorial Stakes on Wood Memorial Stakes Day at Aqueduct Race Track on April 7, 2018 in Ozone Park, New York. (Photo by Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images

Justify, Mendelssohn and Magnum Moon are among the top contenders to win the 2018 Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 5, at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

Yet, while oddsmakers such as OddsShark love this trio, there are less heralded horses worth keeping an eye on in the Run for the Roses, including Bolt d'Oro, named after Usain Bolt. There's more than just a famous name to this horse.

Meanwhile, Good Magic, Enticed and Vino Rosso shouldn't be easily overlooked.


Justify a Worthy Joint-Favourite

Described as a "superior racehorse" by trainer Bob Baffert, per Jeremy Balan of BloodHorse.com, Justify is a worthy joint-favourite, along with Mendelssohn. Bafftert also applauded how the talented colt "does things easy."

Justify's speed and power are why the horse is favoured. The controlled running style means Justify should always retain plenty in reserve for a late sprint to leave the rest of the field trailing.

Jockey Mike Smith has the experience to get the most from a horse entering this race with three career wins in a row to its credit.

Smith knows how to guide Justify to victory.
Smith knows how to guide Justify to victory.Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images

The 52-year-old discussed how Justify's potential is frightening for the rest, per Jason Frakes of the Louisville Courier-Journal: "He's got so much room to grow and to even get better. If he moves forward off this race, which he should, then it's even kind of scary to talk about."

A winner in the Santa Anita Derby, Justify is Kentucky bred and seems as close to a certainty to dominate at Churchill Downs as any recent entrant.


Magnum Moon and Good Magic in Strong Form

Magnum Moon is one of the more notable contenders beyond the favourites. Along with Good Magic, Moon will enter the 144th Run for the Roses in excellent form.

For Moon, good form means winning the Arkansas Derby by five lengths. Similar to Justify, Moon has not endured a heavy workload, having won all four races he's entered, according to InsiderLouisville.com's Bill Doolittle.

Magnum Moon was a winner in Arkansas.
Magnum Moon was a winner in Arkansas.Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Good Magic is also a winner recently, having finished first in the Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland in April. This colt is surrounded by men who know their way around Churchill Downs.

Trainer Chad Brown has started four derby horses, while jockey Jose Ortiz has ridden in three different editions of the race.

Both of these horses have the talent and pedigree to upset Justify.


Enticed and Vino Rosso

There is some sketchy recent history between Enticed and Vino Rosso entering this race. The latter beat Enticed to win the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in April, but the victory wasn't without controversy.

Bumping late down the stretch meant Vino Rosso's win was only confirmed after an inquiry, per another report from Frakes. Enticed has the talent to go one better at Churchill Downs, provided jockey Junior Alvarado can coax a fast start from the Kentucky-bred colt.

Yet Vino Rosso may be the better-prepared horse. The preparation comes from trainer Todd Pletcher, who has trained two former winners in Kentucky.

Pletcher-trained Vino Rosso is one to watch.
Pletcher-trained Vino Rosso is one to watch.Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images

Pletcher's victories came thanks to Always Dreaming in 2017. Vino Rosso has the potential to be Pletcher's third winner, even though his recent form is far from ideal.

Vino Rosso couldn't win the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, where he "ran more like vinegar than red wine," per Dick Powell of TwinSpires.com (h/t the race's official website).

Neither of these horses will be fancied by many, but both have the backing and talent to beat the more heralded contenders.


Bolt d'Oro Can Surprise

Bred from the notable Medaglia d'Oro sire, this young colt can upset Justify and Mendelssohn. Not only does the horse have the right pedigree, but jockey Victor Espinoza is also an asset.

Espinoza is a three-time winner at Churchill Downs and will be riding a horse with the reserves and quickness to stalk the leaders and break late. The speed was evident during workouts, when Balan noted the horse was able to "complete seven furlongs in 1:24 1/5."

Bolt d'Oro is capable of surprising the favourites.
Bolt d'Oro is capable of surprising the favourites.Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images

Many may feel this is one big race too soon for Bolt d'Oro. However, the winning attributes are already obvious in the colt who put early pressure on Justify at Santa Anita.

Finishing second behind the favourite is good preparation for Bolt d'Oro and must build confidence between Espinoza and trainer Mick Ruis, who will make his own Run for the Roses debut, the horse can go one better this time.


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