The Kentucky Derby, held annually on the first Saturday in May, is still a long, long way off. Though last year's hero American Pharoah was well-known and very highly-regarded at this time last year, it's just as common that the eventual Derby winner is either unknown or well out of the spotlight in January. That's what makes looking at Derby futures at this time of year so interesting. We know so little about these horses - most of which haven't even run as three year olds yet - that we can only make barely educated guesses about what will happen. It's crazy from a betting logic perspective, but it is incredibly fun to do. Here, then, is a very early look at nine of the more interesting horses in Kentucky Derby consideration at this point (futures odds are from BetOnline):
Mohaymen (+900): You might do a double take when you look at this horse if you followed the Triple Crown last year closely. He is a half brother of Frosted, the Colt who was fourth in the Derby and second in the Belmont. If you weren't paying close attention and you saw this colt, you would swear it was Frosted - they are dead ringers. So far, this colt has run like his half-brother, too. Better at this point, even. He has run three times and hasn't lost. The last two wins were in the Nashua and Remsen - two big stakes at Aqueduct in November. He's likely to run again at the end of January, so we will see how much he has grown and if he can keep his momentum rolling - something tougher than it seems like it would be for young runners who start their career strong. He's a son of Tapit, which doesn't necessarily inspire me to love him - sons of Tapit and the Derby distance aren't always the best of friends. He's also trained by Kiaran McLaughlin like Frosted was. McLaughlin is an excellent trainer, but others are better at the unique challenge of getting horses ready for the first Saturday of May than he is. Nice horse. Very nice horse. Just not worth a look at this price - not until we see him as a three year old, at least.
Nyquist (+1000): The comparisons between this horse and last year's Triple Crown winner American Pharoah are going to become very obnoxious - if they haven't already. They are both two-year-old champions. They both won the FrontRunner and the Del Mar Futurity to establish themselves as the class of the California field of challengers. He has a similar racing style to the champ, too. Nyquist offers more than just those similarities, though - and that doesn't necessarily inspire me. He won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile - and only Street Sense has managed to win both that race and the Derby. Trainer Doug O'Neill is successful but as slimy as a trainer can possibly be - something he proved beyond question when he scratched Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another leading up to the Belmont in shady circumstances. I'll pass at this price.
Songbird: I have to throw this horse in here even though odds aren't listed - which is a real shame. She is the two-year-old filly champion. She is also the best three year old in training right now, and I don't think it's even close. She's probably more likely to head to the Kentucky Oaks than the Derby, but with a strong spring she should make a case that she deserves a shot with the boys. I would love nothing more than to see that happen.
Flexibility (+1500): This is one we have already seen as a three year old - and I liked what I saw. After finishing second to Mohaymen last fall, he went out on Jan. 2 and won impressively. He is a son of Bluegrass Cat, who was second in both the Derby and the Belmont in 2006, so his breeding is a big plus. The connections are strong, too. He's certainly one to keep an eye on.
Brody's Cause (+1800): He hasn't run since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile when he finished third. He was closing fast in that race, though - fast enough to make a real impression. He is bred to run forever, and his connections are patient and strong. This is just the kind of horse I like to see at this point in the Triple Crown trail.
Mor Spirit (+1800): After Bob Baffert's incredible success in the Triple Crown last year, we can't overlook his horses this year. That being said, his stable isn't nearly as deep this year as it was last year, and the fact that this is his best horse at this point indicates that this might not be his year. This horse will need to improve substantially to be a factor. The trainer has this price far lower than it should be.
Swipe (+2000) and Exaggerator (+2500): I put these two together because they are both trained by Keith Desormeaux - trainer of 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red. These are both well-bred horses - Swipe is a son of Birdstone like Mine that Bird was, and Exaggerator is a son of the great Curlin. Swipe has finished second to Nyquist four times, but he should thrive with more distance. He has had minor ankle surgery, which should help him as long as he recovers well. Exaggerator was fourth in the Juvenile and moved forward from that to win the Delta Downs Jackpot impressively. Desormeaux has a nice one-two punch here.
Greenpointcrusader (+3000): This horse was a disappointing seventh in the Juvenile, but he had won the Champagne nicely before that, so I am willing to give him a bit of a pass. What makes him attractive at this price, though, is the breeding. He is a son of Bernardini - one of the best horses I have ever seen run when he was having a good day. That means that he is a grandson of the great A.P. Indy and a great-grandson of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. Add spectacular breeding to some clear talent and you have a horse to watch at a nice price.
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