Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports.
- Paul Lo Duca breaks down his power rankings for all 19 horses in the 2019 Kentucky Derby field.
- It should be a wide-open race, so Lo Duca breaks it down by horses with a chance and horses without one, and gives out his favorite longshot.
The 2019 Kentucky Derby is going to be a little different from what we’re used to on the first Saturday of May. Normally the Derby features a clear-cut favorite. That is not the case for the 145th Run for the Roses.
The field was already wide open but things got thrown into flux even more when morning-line favorite Omaha Beach was scratched from the race thanks to an issue with his throat.
Omaha Beach’s scratch turns this race further on its head, so let’s dive into my power rankings to try and find the best value for this year’s Derby.
HORSES THAT CAN’T WIN THE 2019 KENTUCKY DERBY
Post: No. 20
Bodexpress scratched into the Derby field after Omaha Beach was pulled out due to a Trapped Epiglottis. It’s tough to give this 3-year-old much of a look given the late entry, so I’m steering clear of using Bodexpress on my card.
19. Master Fencer
Post: No. 15
There is a new path created by Churchill Downs that will allow a Japanese contender to make a run for the roses. This year that horse is Master Fencer. The son of Just a Way began his career on the turf finishing 2nd and 4th, respectively. In December his trainer switched him to dirt, which resulted in his first career victory.
After another win on the dirt in an allowance race in January, Master Fencer took on his first stakes field in the Hyacinth. He settled at the back of the back and wheeled out wide to make only a mild rally for a non-threatening 4th. His final start before the Kentucky Derby was a runner-up effort in late March at Nakayama Racecourse in Japan.
Master Fencer has taken the long voyage to Churchill Downs and will be disregarded by the American betting public. There have been much stronger international shippers in recent years.
If Master Fencer can finish in the Top 10 it will be a respectable run.
18. Gray Magician
Post: No. 4
So far there has only been one winner’s photo taken in Gray Magician’s career. He showed promise in the fall as a two-year-old finishing 3rd, 2nd, and 3rd behind the likes of Derby contender Improbable. After a change in trainer and ownership Gray Magician was ready to stretch out to two turns for the first time for new conditioner Peter Miller.
In that November maiden race at Del Mar, Gray Magician recorded his only win to date. He won by nine widening lengths and confirmed the early signs that he was showing, even in defeat. His first Derby Points race try was in the Sham Stakes to start the new year. He ran an even 4th that day. They tried to gun him to the lead in his next start in an allowance race over a sloppy track. He tired to 5th after the new tactics failed.
Peter Miller and Eclipse Thoroughbreds kept faith that this was a stakes colt so they decided to ship him to Maryland for the Miracle Wood Stakes. He ran a credible 2nd to Alwaysmining who will ride a win streak into the Preakness.
The traveling continued as Gray Magician took the long flight to Dubai for the UAE Derby. Despite his very wide trip he was able to finish 2nd to Plus Que Parfait in a bunched up finish.
Gray Magician will get a new jockey in Drayden Van Dyke for the Kentucky Derby. Last year, Van Dyke road Instilled Regard who was the longest shot in the whole field to a 4th-place finish. Gray Magician will be one of the longest shots in the field for this year’s running as well.
17. Country House
Post: No. 20
It will be said many times this Derby Week that Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has never won this race. Wood Memorial winner Tacitus would be the Mott trainee who most handicappers would point to if Mott were to win his first Run for the Roses. Mott, however, has a pair of entrants in Derby 145 with Country House being his other.
While Tacitus has multiple stakes wins, Country House has shown promise finishing behind some of this year’s top contenders. After an easy maiden win to start the year at Gulfstream, he was 2nd to War of Will in the Risen Star. He then was 4th behind By My Standards in the Louisiana Derby and most recently he was 3rd behind Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby.
While Country House lacks a key win he has shown promise with his moves from well off the pace. He is a tall chestnut who has way more stamina than speed. He churns along with a consistent run and his speed figures have improved with each start.
Country House is by the sire Lookin at Lucky. Last fall Churchill Downs held the Breeders Cup Classic going a mile and a quarter. A son of Lookin at Lucky, Accelerate, won the race as the favorite. Country House has only one win but looks to be improving with each start.
Post: No. 19