The Kentucky Derby appeals to casual sports fans as well as hard-core horse players. There are other big horse-racing events during the year—including the other two Triple Crown races and the Breeders' Cup—but it is the Run for the Roses that pumps up the American sporting public.
The race has typically given long-shot players a number of horses to consider who can bring about a huge payout for bettors. That trend has not been in play in the last few years, but the memory of a 50-1 shot like Giacomo lives on for those who love to best long shots.
Giacomo won the Kentucky Derby in 2005 and he paid $102.60 on a $2 bet. The exotics were huge in that race as well, as the $2 exacta paid $9,814.80, the $2 trifecta paid $133,134.80 and the $1 superfecta paid a remarkable $864,253.50.
There are no guarantees that a long shot will win the 2018 Kentucky Derby, and if one does, it's unlikely the payoffs will reach those 2005 proportions. Here's a look at the odds for this year's field.
1. Firenze Fire (50-1)
2. Free Drop Billy (30-1)
3. Promises Fulfilled (30-1)
4. Flameaway (30-1)
5. Audible (8-1)
6. Good Magic (12-1)
7. Justify (3-1)
8. Lone Sailor (50-1)
9. Hofburg (20-1)
10. My Boy Jack (30-1)
11. Bolt d'Oro (8-1)
12. Enticed (30-1)
13. Bravazo (50-1)
14. Mendelssohn (5-1)
15. Instilled Regard (50-1)
16. Magnum Moon (6-1)
17. Solomini (30-1)
18. Vino Rosso (12-1)
19. Noble Indy (30-1)
20. Combatant (50-1)
Odds obtained from kentuckyderby.com.
Justify is the 3-1 favorite and appears to be a strong horse, but look for challenges from Mendelssohn, Magnum Moon and Bolt d'Oro among the top-ranked horses.
However, Vino Rosso, Hofburg and Solomini appear to be longshots that have a good chance to make a run at one of the top three spots on the board.
Justify did not race as a two-year-old, but this Bob Baffert-trained horse has won all three of his starts this year. Jockey Mike Smith is a formidable pilot who should be able to avoid trouble from his favorable No. 9 post.
No horse has won the Kentucky Derby that did not race as a two-year-old since Apollo did it 136 years ago, so Baffert and Smith are battling that trend.
Mendelssohn is a powerful opponent and must be taken seriously in this race. Mendelssohn won the UAE Derby by 18-and-a-half lengths, and that kind of powerful performance opened eyes throughout the racing world. However, trainer Aidan O'Brien and jockey Ryan Moore still have quite a bit to overcome.
O'Brien is Europe's top thoroughbred trainer, but no horse that won the big race in Dubai has even hit the board in the Derby. Shipping overseas is a difficult task, and O'Brien must be at his best if Mendelssohn is going to break that trend.
Magnum Moon has much in common with Justify because he is also trying to break the Apollo curse. Trainer Todd Pletcher had this horse in top form in winning the Arkansas Derby, and he deserves consideration.
Bolt d'Oro has been trained well by Mick Ruiz and jockey Victor Espinoza, and he did pick up a victory in the San Felipe (through disqualification), but he was not impressive in the Santa Anita Derby. If Bolt d'Oro is going to have a strong race, he must be fully engaged. That was not the case in the Santa Anita.
Long-shot Vino Rosso has a chance to come up with a big effort, but the post position draw was not favorable. Vino Rosso will start from the No. 18 hole, and horses that start that far outside are at a disadvantage if they don't get off to sharp starts. That outside post position could force jockey John Velazquez to take Vino Rosso on a much longer trip than he would like in the one-and-a-quarter-mile race.
Vino Rosso was victorious in the Wood Memorial, and while that race was at one time a great indicator of contention in the Run for the Roses, it hasn't been in recent years.
Barbara Livingston @DRFLivingston
Nice to see HOFBURG (by Tapit-Soothing Touch, by Touch Gold) out this morning for trainer Bill Mott. The #KentuckyDerby hopeful has just three starts, his most recent being a solid runner-up finish in the G1 Florida Derby, for breeder/owner @JuddmonteFarms . https://t.co/7AcPjpmd3M
Hofburg should be taken seriously as a 20-1 shot. Trained by William Mott, Hofburg has not seen a lot of action to this point in his career. However, he finished just three lengths behind Audible in the Florida Derby, and he looks the part of a potential contender. Irad Ortiz Jr. is a clever jockey who can find the holes and guide his charge through them.
Baffert has Solomini racing in the Derby in addition to Justify. He looked like a solid contender in the BC Juvenile when he finished in second place. However, he has not been as impressive in the races that have followed, and that could be an indicator that Solomini has peaked.
Mendelssohn is a powerful horse who looks quite dominant when he is at his best. O'Brien is one of the best trainers in the world, and the belief here is that if Mendelssohn runs to his best form, he will be the top horse in this race.
Mendelssohn wins the Kentucky Derby, while long-shot Hofburg makes an excellent run and does just enough to finish second.
Magnum Moon will be charging at the end, and he will find a way to finish third in the Run for the Roses.