Kentucky Derby 2019 Contenders and Picks

The big day is finally here and the 20 best young horses in the USA (and Japan?) are going to battle it out at Churchill Downs.

Unfortunately, the favorite, Omaha Beach, has been scratched and another contender, Haikal, as well.

A race that was already wide open is now even harder to predict and the addition of rain in the forecast will certainly not help. (3pm UPDATE: Rain is still in the  forecast but the track is fast. Rain ability might not be needed to succeed)

Even the pace scenario is unclear…

There is little early speed and only one horse looks like a true early speed type, now that Omaha beach has scratched. The Kentucky Derby is an awfully long race, with a lot of pressure, for a horse to manage to go wire to wire so this pace scenario is unlikely but the longshot victory of Serengeti Express in the Kentucky Oaks yesterday shows that it is not impossible…

A likelier scenario though, it that we will see horses well placed in the leading third of the pack emerge in the stretch to battle for the roses. The question is who, as there are many contenders in this 2019 Kentucky Derby.

The race is wide open and there is no true standout horse so it might be worth taking a gamble on longshots or swing for the fences with Exactas and Trifectas.

In this article, we cover every horse and highlight the true contenders and favorites in the 2019 Kentucky Derby.

Analysis and picks for the 2019 Kentucky Derby:

Number 1, WAR OF WILL (20-1) had a poor last race in the Louisiana Derby with some excuses but looking at the previous races, it is clear that he is a step behind the field in terms of Racing Class. WAR OF WILL has some early speed so he will probably be able to dig himself out of the 1 hole but based on the previous races and the speed figures he managed to earn in those. I don’t think that he is one of the contenders in this race.

Number 2 TAX (20-1) is another horse with dubious credentials but the fact that he is coming back from a layoff is somewhat encouraging. He should be sharper than in his loss last month. Still the class is very much in question, having only beaten a Grade 3 crowd once and being a Maiden Claimed horse. Tax has a bit of early zip so he might be well placed throughout, but I don’t think that he has much of a chance come the stretch.

Number 3, BY MY STANDARDS (20-1) was the surprising winner of the Louisiana Derby and he will try to make it three wins in a row. The pace profile and post position are perfect. BY MY STANDARDS should be able to stay close to the leaders and deploy his late speed. If he can improve from the Louisiana Derby, he has a chance, but the workouts are not very encouraging, and he does not seem to like racing in the rain as two of his worst races where on the slop…

Number 4, GRAY MAGICIAN (50-1) has not won as a three years old and he actually has won only once in his life, a Maiden Special Weight race last year. He did manage to finish a close second in the UAE Derby with a blazing finish and, as this race is run on a similar distance as the Kentucky Derby, there is something to like there. His usual jockeys are riding other horses however, so I am not sure it is a great sign… At 50 to 1 morning line odds, it is not insane to have him on the deep exotic bets but his chances are limited.

Number 5 IMPROBABLE (6-1) has yet to win at three years of age. Despite this blemish, he is labelled as one of the favorites for the 2019 Kentucky Derby. His post position is perfect for his pace style: some early speed to get well placed close to the leaders by the first turn. In terms of past performances IMPROBABLE has a good track record and amongst the best speed figures in the field. Workouts appear strong so IMPROBABLE is ready to go and should have a good race scenario unfolding for him. He has not done too poorly in the rain and he is bred for it so should it pour come Saturday, IMPROBABLE should be ok. At low odds, I don’t think he is a great bet for the win, there is just too many other contenders. But it is a good idea to have him on the Exacta and Trifecta.

Number 6, VEKOMA (20-1) is one of the few horses with a propensity to go fast early. Being slotted for post position 6 is perfect for him and he should have a pretty clear shot at the lead by the first turn. VEKOMA has some late speed potential too if he his star jockey does not manage to clear the lead. VEKOMA is a clear Kentucky Derby Contender in my book and should the odds remain high, he is definitely worth having on the exotic bets.

Number 7, MAXIMUM SECURITY (10-1) is the only true speed horse in the field and starts from a perfect post position to try to make it work to his advantage. The only issue is that in all of his races, MAXIMUM SECURITY was basically offered the lead and an easy pace by his competitors. The Kentucky Derby field is unlikely to be so kind and MAXIMUM SECURITY will most likely face maximum pressure throughout. It is very hard to go wire to wire in such a competitive race and MAXIMUM SECURITY is not tested for pressure, so I don’t like his chances at all. He will go out as one of the favorites on the back of his strong speed figures, but I think that he is a good bet-against here.

Number 8, TACITUS (10-1) has proven his ability to take advantage of a hot pace and he is likely to get a good setup in the Kentucky Derby too. Starting from post position 8, he should be able to get placed decently in the field to pounce in the stretch. The jockey knows how to handle him and hopefully TACITUS will have an easy trip today. If he does, he should be one of the main agitators in the stretch and he is definitely a strong contender for the win in the 2019 Kentucky Derby. The possible rain is not too much of a concern as he has won on a wet surface, but it was not that great a performance so still a bit of a question mark…

Number 9, PLUS QUE PARFAIT (30-1) had to travel abroad to find love and came back from the desert with a sack full of gold. The win at the UAE derby is interesting consider that the race distance matched today’s more or less but based on races states-side prior to that win, you can wonder if PLUS QUE PARFAIT has a chance here. His recent jockeys don’t seem to think that it is the case so it might be better to follow their lead and get on another horse.

Number 10, CUTTING HUMOR (30-1) disappointed his backers at the start of the three-years old season but finally delivered, barely, in the Sunland Park Derby. He was of course helped by a collapsing pace and barely managed to win it. But a win is a win and the speed figure was not terrible. Still, it was only a Grade 3 and not a dominating effort so when you combine that with previous disappointing races, you don’t get the sense that CUTTING HUMOR is a contender here, despite the blazing workouts. Mike Smith gets the late ride so that helps a bit but not enough in my book.

Number 11, HAIKAL, has been scratched

Number 12, OMAHA BEACH, has been scratched

Number 13, CODE OF HONOR (15-1) basically had the race from hell in the Florida Derby, with both  a very  slow pace, unfavorable to his style, and a bumped start. But the smart handicappers knew that his Fountain of Youth win previously was, on the other hand, perfectly set up and therefore to be taken with  a grain of salt too. The pace should definitely be hotter in the Kentucky Derby but with so much traffic, it is not likely to be a smooth ride throughout… CODE OF HONOUR is a contender but he will be one of the favorites on the tote board and I don’t think I like his chances so much based on trip handicapping. He is a bet against today at low odds.

Number 14, WIN WIN WIN (15-1) has mostly been losing recently. He did place in a couple of competitive graded stakes races, earning the points he needed to get into this Kentucky Derby, but he did not do it in very fast times, and he would need to improve markedly to have a chance today. Combine that with a late running style which will require him having some good luck and it sounds like a bad bet to WIN WIN WIN

Number 15, MASTER FENCER (50-1) is the only foreigner trying his luck in the 2019 Kentucky Derby and based on social media, the connections are having fun with it. Racing in Japan is a serious business, but MASTER FENCER has not been killing it of late, so I am definitely not sure he has what it takes to be here. Some in the USA are angry that he came in as there are obviously better local horses, but it will add a little flavour to the race, I guess…

Number 16, GAME WINNER (5-1) is probably going to start as the favorite in this Kentucky Derby which goes to show how thin the field is in terms of dominating horses. This is not to take anything away from GAME WINNER, but he has not won in 2019 and did not finish second in such blazing times either. He definitely has the right pace profile for this race, and he is starting from the outside so the superstar jockey should be able to navigate to the stretch easily. Still it is hard to like a Kentucky Derby favorite who has not won as a three years old so, to me, GAME WINNER is a bet against and I will look for value elsewhere.

Number 17, ROADSTER (6-1) is the one who beat Game Winner last out, in the Santa Anita Derby. He did so in a decent time but nothing truly impressive. Prior to that victory, ROADSTER had only won his Maiden and return race at a lower class in March, after a surgery in his late 2 years old career. In his third start of the year, ROADSTER could progress more. He also has the right running style and post position to be a true contender in this Kentucky Derby. As one of the morning-line odds favorites, I am not sure I like the price, however. This is a pretty evenly matched group and there will be better value elsewhere.

Number 18, LONG RANGE TODDY (30-1) looked good on paper in the Arkansas Derby but was eaten alive by the stronger competition who he faces again today. He benefitted from an easy trip in the Rebel win in March and might get a good setup again today, starting from the outside with decent early speed, but based on class it looks like a tall order today.

Number 19, SPINOFF (30-1) is one of the few horses with good early speed so we should see him gun from the start. He did not manage to hold on to the win in the Louisiana Derby and today would be even more difficult in that scenario. That kind of explains the long morning-line odds. Hard to see SPINOFF as a true contender here but he is not so improbable in my book so it might be worth considering him on the superfecta.

Number 20, COUNTRY HOUSE (30-1) has not won a race since his Maiden win earlier this year and he is pretty far behind the field on the Speed figures scale. This deep closer would need a lot of luck as well to have a chance in this race so it looks pretty unlikely all things considered.

Number 21, BODEXPRESS (30-1) will start the race thanks to the scratch of Omaha Beach. The connections are counting themselves lucky, I bet, considering that BODEXPRESS has never won a race. You read that right. BODEXPRESS has never won a Grades stakes race, never won an allowance and never won even a Maiden race, despite 4 tries at this basic level. He tracked the eventual winner in the Florida Derby and with such a slow pace, no one caught him for second… BODEXPRESS has even less reasons to be here than the Japanese horse. I kind of hope that he wins to witness history being made, but if he does the racing world will really be upside down…


In a race of 20 young horses, you need a lot of luck, both as a racer and as a bettor. Today’s Kentucky Derby is even more unpredictable than usual.

Whereas there are usually a few clear favorites in the race, we have here a bunch of decent longshots and a few contenders, all with valid credentials.

For this reason, I am going to forego betting on the winner and try to get lucky with Exactas and Trifectas.

The main contenders in the Kentucky Derby are in my opinion


Number 6: VEKOMA

Number 8: TACITUS

Number 17: ROADSTER

I also like the chances of these longshots:


Number 19: SPINOFF

I wish I could narrow it down more, but these horses all have a decent shot at finishing on the board…

I will therefore box them in the exacta, trifecta and superfecta.

These are pricey tickets but if we can get lucky, it will pay off handsomely.


Exacta Box 5, 6, 8, 17, 3, 19

Trifecta Box 5, 6, 8, 17, 3, 19

Superfecta Box 5, 6, 8, 17, 3, 19