A Degenerates Guide to the Kentucky Derby

The most popular horse race in the world is quickly approaching. The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby is known to many as the “Run for the Roses” and the “Fastest 2 minutes in Sports” as a full field of 20 3-year-old horses run 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs in Louisville on the first Saturday in May. This year it’s Saturday, May 5.

By Chad Cooper

Twitter @thechadcooper

A racing fan celebrates a winner at the 2016 Kentucky Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The official post position drawing is not until April 30, but degenerates like you and I have already begun to handicap the race. Once the posts are drawn next week, we’ll take a comprehensive look at every horse in the field and give you reasons why, or not, to use them in your betting wagers. 

Here are the horses that are grabbing early betting attention from future wager gamblers:

Game Winner (9-2) – This colt went undefeated last year as a 2-year-old and was named “2 Year Old Champion” after a dominating win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. But his return to the racetrack in 2019 has been consecutive second place finishes – once to Omaha Beach by a nose and half-length loss to Roadster, both of which are in this race. Major player.  


Omaha Beach (4-1) – Losing his first four starts, this colt found another gear in February and has gone on to win his last three starts, two against Game Winner and Improbable. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith won three races aboard Roadster, but chose to ride Omaha Beach. Smith won the Derby last year on Justify, who has similar front running speed like Omaha Beach. 


Roadster (5-1) – Roadster is the second of three Bob Baffert-trained runners in the Derby, but will get a new jockey for the first time in his four-race career in Frenchman Florent Giroux, who is looking for his first Derby win. As you read with Omaha Beach, jockey Mike Smith has been in the saddle all four times for Roadster yet he bailed. Roadster has never raced out of California so this will be a big test for him. 

Horse Racing Nation

Improbable (5-1) – This colt, also trained by Baffert, won his first three starts of his career then finished second in his next two races to Long Range Toddy (who is also in the Derby) and Omaha Beach. Jockey Jose Ortiz rode Improbably in his last start, but jumped ship to ride Tacitus, so his brother Irad Ortiz gets the call. This horse has slipped out of good graces with me, though he will be used in my exotics. 

Horse Racing Nation

Maximum Security (5-1) – Undefeated with a perfect 4-4 record, but every race was at Gulfstream Park in Florida. He hasn’t had much competition has he won those four races by a combined 37 lengths. He has plenty of early speed, but unless he gets out at a snail’s pace, I don’t think he wins this race. The owners of this horse, Gary and Mary West, also own Game Winner. 

Horse Racing Nation

Tacitus (8-1) – This colt comes to Kentucky with a record of 3 wins in 4 starts. Jose Ortiz has been aboard him in each of those races, which included victories in the Wood Memorial and Tampa Bay Derby. I usually love this type of horses – big, strong and closers – but there isn’t a lot of early gas in this year’s race. 

Daily Racing Form Photo by Tom Keyser

Vekoma (12-1) – There is some “wise guy” buzz about this horse. Vekoma has won 3 of 4 races and his lone loss came in the Fountain of Youth Stakes where he was beaten by more than 3 lengths by Code of Honor, who also enters the Derby. Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano will need to use this colt’s early speed to gain good position around the first turn with 19 other horses lurking. 

Instagrand winning the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar – © BENOIT PHOTO

Let’s revisit the Kentucky Derby next week when the official posts and morning line odds are set so we can cash in.

As the O’Jay’s and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony once told us – For the Love of Money!