Best Bet on the Kentucky Derby 2019
The horses are all in Louisville. The draw has been made, and the morning line is set. Now all we can do is wait until post time of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. In the meantime, we can start to think about how to bet on the race and how to make sense of what is a very deep and wide-open race.
One good exercise to do at this point in the week is to look at who the best bet is based on the morning line odds. This isn't necessarily the most likely winner, but the horse that best offers value in their price. Last year, for example, I was very confident that Justify was the top pick, that he was most likely to win, and that he would be my strong choice in the race. But when I did this exercise looking for the best bet on the Kentucky Derby, he was the first horse I ruled out. He was a 2/1 at the time, and though his price climbed nicely to almost 3/1 by post time, it was hard to embrace a price that low in a 20-horse field for a colt who had run only three times. He was a freak, but not a value-packed one.
The best bet in my eyes, in terms of value, was Good Magic at 8/1 at the time. He wound up second at almost 10/1, completing a very nice exacta - at least considering that the horse that won was everyone's pick. So, which horse stands out as the best bet this year? It's a tough question:
Omaha Beach (4/1): The colt is predictably and deservedly the favorite, having won three straight, including two in a row under Mike Smith. And the fact that Smith chose this ride over that of Santa Anita Derby winner Roadster - trained by Smith's Triple Crown partner and Triple Crown race savant Bob Baffert - is a major endorsement. But in a race as wide-open as this one , I would have to be opposed to any favorite at this kind of price regardless of who it was. The colt drew the 12 hole, which isn't necessarily ideal and hasn't produced a lot of winners. He doesn't have any clear early speed outside of him, so the trip is likely to be better than it could be, but he still has a lot of ground to cover early on. And he has made only two stakes starts, and both have come on the same Oaklawn Park track, so he isn't hugely proven. I like the colt, and I respect his chances, but there is no value in this price.
Game Winner (5/1): I am a huge Bob Baffert guy, so all three of his horses are going to figure prominently into my selections and bets. But while both American Pharoah and Nyquist, in 2015 and 2016, respectively, won the Derby after claiming Two-Year-Old Champion honors, that has not been the trend for this award. More often, winners have been good at three, but not as good as they were. And so far, that has been the case for Game Winner . He has looked good in both of his races, and he has certainly not embarrassed himself in any way, but he also hasn't won either race, and he has been edged in both cases by horses he is facing again here. He's also a horse that would be best set up by a fairly aggressive early pace, and I'm not certain that is going to happen here . I really like the horse, and I will bet him, but the value isn't here at this price.
Roadster (6/1): He's the top Baffert horse in my eyes, and I will be all over him. But the biggest thing he has going against him is that the 17 hole has never produced a winner of this race. He doesn't need to be near the lead, and that certainly helps him, but the draw didn't do anything to add to his value.
Tacitus (10/1): In the love affair with Omaha Beach and the three Baffert horses - attention they all deserve - Tacitus has been a relatively forgotten horse. In different circumstances he would get a lot more love - and he would earn it. He has been nothing but professional in two stakes wins against pretty strong fields. Jose Ortiz, among the best riders out there right now, chose this colt among several options, including Improbable. He is bred to run forever. He doesn't need the lead or anything close to it and isn't particularly dependent on pace to set up his race. He breaks from the eight hole, which is a pretty good spot to be in this race. The connections are strong beyond Ortiz - trainer Bill Mott is a master, and owner and breeder Juddmonte Farms have been named the nation's top owner four times and top breeder five times. If this colt goes off anywhere near this price - and there is a good chance he'll rise above it by post time - then there is definite value here. He may not be as likely a winner as Omaha Beach, but if you think his chances of winning are 2.5 times worse - as the odds suggest - then you are watching something different than I am.
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