2019 Kentucky Derby Longshots Betting: Do Any Sleepers Have a Shot in the Mud?
Jamie Rhodes, USA Today Sports.
- The 2019 Kentucky Derby will begin on Saturday, May 4 at 6:50 p.m. ET on NBC, with a potential sloppy track.
- Game Winner (5-1) is the favorite to win the Run for the Roses, but this is a wide-open race where longshots could cash.
- Adam Staple provides a few betting strategies and suggests a Pick 4 for Derby Day.
If you’ve been following the lead up to the Kentucky Derby you know that this race is going to be a wide-open affair. You could make an argument for any horse in the field.
There’s a lot of volatility in this race and the forecast, which is calling for rain, will only add to the uncertainty. Handicapping how these horses will hand an off-track makes picking a winner even more difficult.
One thing I think that has made handicapping a little easier, however, is the scratching of Omaha Beach, the likely favorite before his withdrawal.
If you read my analysis about the Kentucky Oaks, the reason I was off the favorite — Bellafina — was that I thought she would have a tough time with a hotly-contested pace. And if we take a deeper look at the Derby field, there’s one thing missing without Omaha Beach: A hotly-contested pace.
What’s so fascinating about this 19-horse field is that most people, including my colleagues at the Action Network, will tell you that this race has a lot of early speed and that almost always ensures that the winner will likely come from off the pace.
You could argue that last year’s winner, Justify, won on the lead — but he actually didn’t. He was sitting a very comfortable second when longshot Promises Fulfilled conceded the lead at the half-mile mark.
To be able to go wire-to-wire at the Kentucky Derby requires an extraordinary amount of luck, not only to break well from the gate, but to also not get side-swiped right away from the mass of horses around you.
Even if that happens, the horse would still need to get clear on the field without using too much energy since you’re running a distance you’ve never tried before. So, how can that happen here?
What made Omaha Beach so interesting to bettors is his consistency once he got on the lead. In his two most recent stakes wins he didn’t break especially well, but still took the lead pretty quickly and out-ran fairly large fields.
The Case for Maximum Security
His main competitor for the lead on Saturday was going to be No. 7 Maximum Security (10-1), who went wire-to-wire in the Florida Derby, his only graded-stakes race. Everybody knows what this horse’s strategy will be Saturday but WHO is going to stop him?
Most likely it will be No. 1 War of Will (20-1), No. 2 Tax (20-1), No. 4 Gray Magician (50-1), No. 5 Improbable (6-1), No. 6 Vekoma (20-1), No. 16 Game Winner (5-1), No. 17 Roadster (6-1) and No. 19 Spinoff (30-1). That group of horses all want to be near the lead but none have shown that they want to control the pace.
This is going to give Maximum Security and jockey Luis Saez every opportunity to dictate the pace if they are able to grab the lead. Whether Maximum Security is actually able to get on top is a whole other story.
Many things can happen in the Kentucky Derby that will stop a horse from getting the position he prefers into the first turn. It will be pivotal for Saez to get Maximum Security to the front by that turn and if he does, Saez is a master at controlling pace. If he can get fractions of 23+ and 47+ early then there may be no catching this guy.
Another thing to keep in mind is that only nine of the 19 horses in this field have ever been on a wet track. Of those nine, only two have won in wet conditions. One of those two is Maximum Security. Either way, assuming Maximum Security can get the lead by the first turn, I think this guy will have everything his way and win the Derby.
What If There’s No Pace?
Even though I believe Maximum Security will get the lead by the first turn, I am planning for the possibility that he will not.
If this race isn’t influenced by pace then I am looking at No. 8 Tacitus (10-1). Wood Memorial winners have not fared well in the last few Runs for the Roses, but this horse has all the makings of a contender.
He is royally bred and his world-class trainer, Bill Mott, is having a fantastic 2019. Tacitus has improved immensely in his 3-year-old campaign, winning the both the Tampa Bay Derby and the Wood Memorial in dominating fashion. His win in the Wood was even more impressive considering he had a nightmare trip. He overcame heavy bumping out of the gate and nearly clipped heels in the first turn. If he’s allowed to sit in the right position, a couple of lengths off the pace, he will be a very serious threat.
2019 Kentucky Derby Longshot Pick
In terms of longshots, I am looking at No. 2 Tax (20-1). He’s been a very consistent horse in New York, finishing 3rd, 1st and 2nd in his last three races.
Tax should be able to sit a little further off the pace, and as long as he doesn’t run into heavy traffic of horses quitting in the stretch, he’s shown that he will show up.
His Beyer figures are some of the most consistent in the field and he could grab a big piece here at a very solid price.
2019 Kentucky Derby Pick 4
If you are looking for a potentially huge payout on Derby Day, you should consider playing the 50-cent Pick 4.
This wagers includes Saturday’s four stakes (Race 9, 10, 11 and 12) and culminates with the Kentucky Derby.
Race 9: The American Turf Stakes
If the rain comes as scheduled, expect the grass to be fairly soft. This race is made up of a lot of inexperienced 3-year-olds, so anyone with some history over a soft turf will be one to watch.
That includes No. 1 A Thread of Blue (3-1), No. 5 Seismic Wave (8-1), No. 8 Avie’s Flatter (6-1) and No. 9 War Film (15-1). Honestly, it’s not even worth further breaking down the Turf Stakes. It’s historically a very difficult contest to handicap and I would tell you to use those four and forget about it. Each of them have run very well on a soft-going and I think each of them have a legitimate chance to win.
If you’re looking for just one choice here, I’d go with No. 1 A Thread Of Blue. Much like the Kentucky Derby, this is one of the only horses who truly wants to be on the lead and Luis Saez should have no problem getting him there and having his way with this field as the likely favorite.
Picks: 1, 5, 8, 9
Race 10: Pat Day Mile
This race features the 3-year-olds who simply can’t get the Kentucky Derby distance (1 1/4 miles) or were not good enough to qualify for the Derby Field. What you usually end up with is a big field of horses not in peak form. It’s also the race most likely to create a big upset.
Sure, No. 10 Instagrand (6-5) is the logical choice since he just came up a bit short in the Santa Anita Derby against contenders Game Winner and Roadster, but he’ll be every small odds and I’m looking for more value with inexperienced horses whose trainers didn’t think were ready for the big stage.
No. 14 Last Judgment (5-1) fits the bill. He was supposed to run in the Florida Derby last month but a slight injury forced him out of the race. He doesn’t have much experience but he won in his last start and that tells me he just needed a bit more time. He’s done nothing wrong on the track so far other than being just be a bit behind schedule. He should be very live here.
No. 1 Durkin’s Call (15-1) is a live longshot who seems to relish both one turn AND going a mile. He hasn’t faced hard competition, but he hasn’t done much wrong either. Let’s give him a shot at a big price here.
Picks: 1, 10, 14
Race 11: Turf Classic
Once again, we are looking at horses with some experience on a soft-turf course.
This race wraps up neatly because I like all three Chad Brown entries in No. 2 Raging Bull (5-1), No. 10 Ticonderoga (8-1) and No. 12 Bricks and Mortar (5-2).
Raging Bull has run very well on a softer turf and was off for four months before running a close fourth at Keeneland last month, going only one mile. He might have needed that race as a tightener and I think the added distance will only help him here.
Ticonderoga has had terrible health issues throughout his career and is finally healthy enough for a high-profile race. That hasn’t been the case for nearly two years. Even though his recent races are sporadic, he always shows up ready and his win in Florida in March was very impressive.
Bricks and Mortar is the class of the field. He’s run three times this year with three wins including a big Grade I win on a soft-turf course in Florida in January. He’ll be very tough to beat here.
Picks: 2, 10, 12
Race 11 Kentucky Derby
I’ve already made the case for No. 2 Tax, No. 7 Maximum Security and No. 8 Tacitus, but I’m also going to throw in No. 5 Improbable and No. 17 Roadster to my Pick 4.
Picks: 2, 5, 7, 8, 17
How to Bet A Pick 4 at the Kentucky Derby
The Pick 4 is a 50-cent wager so, if you take the picks above, your wager will look like this: 1, 5, 8, 9/ 1, 10, 14/ 2, 10, 12/ 2, 5, 7, 8, 17. That is 180 combinations, so it will be a total commitment of $90.
Best of luck everyone!!