Flameaway Odds to Win the 2018 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
In a year when so many of the storylines are about a shortage of experience and what impact that will have on the race, it is somewhat refreshing to see a grinder like Flameaway come along. That's three times as many starts as Justify, and only My Boy Jack has run more. This colt has done a little bit of everything, too, which certainly has given him exposure to a whole lot of different things. He hasn't had the shiny success that some top runners had, but he's well bred and has strong connections. Can he overcome his shortcomings and deliver some big value at a fat price? Or will he fall short?
Last race: Flameaway pressed a reasonably sturdy early pace in the Blue Grass Stakes, taking over the lead reasonably early and holding on much of the way. When Good Magic asserted himself, though, it was clear who the best horse was. Flameaway yielded to Good Magic but was clearly second best on that day. It was simultaneously enough to earn him an unquestioned spot in this race, and it was also an effort that probably made it tough to believe he was good enough to win the Derby.
Prior experience: This horse really has done a bit of it all. He debuted way back in May at Woodbine at just 4.5 furlongs on a synthetic track. It is the earliest debut of any horse in this field, and it means little given the surface and the distance. But he did win. He was off again until August, when he won a listed stakes race on a muddy track. Then he jumped into graded stakes company and stretched out, and it went poorly - he was sixth. A month later he tried it again and got another off track, and this time he won - a sign that we should pay more attention to this colt if the weather is lousy in Louisville. Then it was another right turn. He tried the turf twice - a dismal eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and then a win at a shorter distance at Gulfstream to start his season this year. That was an experiment that wasn't stuck with, though, as he then turned again and wound up on the Derby trail. He won the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay and then finished a respectable second in the Tampa Bay Derby before the Blue Grass. There are some things to like in that whole mess, but the frantic experimentation of it all is a little unsettling. And we also can't ignore that his speed figures, while respectable, just don't measure up with the best of this group.
Trainer: Mark Casse is a personal favorite and one of the best trainers in the country. He dominated Canadian racing for a long time and has had plenty of success since moving south. His horses have won three Eclipse Awards the last three years, and he has won four Breeders' Cup races. He's fallen short with his best horses in the Derby - fifth with Danzig Moon is 2015 and fourth last year with Classic Empire - but he is certainly capable of winning one and is likely to take one at some point in my eyes.
Jockey: Jose Lezcano is a nice rider but one who feels a little like he has slid past his prime even though he just turned 33. He has three Breeders' Cup wins, but the closest he has come to a Triple Crown race win was second on Ice Box in 2010. Lezcano is far from a bad rider, but there will be a lot in this race that I will be more excited about.
Breeding: Like Justify and Mendelssohn, Flameaway is a son of Scat Daddy. There is a sad story there - Scat Daddy is having an incredible year at stud, but he died far too early at just 11 years of age, and this is his last crop of horses. So, he died just as we got a peek of how good he could have been at stud. And Flameaway's damsire is Fusaichi Pegasus, a very impressive Kentucky Derby winner. The breeding works for this horse - perhaps the most impressive aspect of him.
Odds: At +4500 at BetOnline this is unquestionably a long shot. As much as I like the trainer and the breeding, though, I just can't get too excited about him. He's a decent horse, but there are so many good runners this year that I just don't quite think he measures up. There certainly isn't a ton of value here.
Can Flameaway Win the 2018 Kentucky Derby?: Probably not. His best so far has been as good as several horses in the field. On his best day he could get a piece of things, but probably a smaller one. He's certainly not a top contender, and bettors aren't likely to disrespect him regardless of how little attention they give him.
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