Improbable Odds to Win the 2019 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
Bob Baffert had to find a way to follow up a Triple Crown win this year. That is very tough to do. When he followed up his first Triple Crown in 2015, he brought just one horse in 2016, and Mor Spirit was far from a serious contender. But this year Baffert is loaded, with three entrants - which could very well be among the top four favorites by post time. For a long while it seemed like Improbable could be the best of the group. Now he probably stacks up third of the three stablemates in the eyes of most people. But that doesn't mean that he isn't a real contender. Can Improbable win the Kentucky Derby?
Last race: A month ago, one star of Bob Baffert's stable, Game Winner, lost to Omaha Beach in a race in Arkansas. Now, in the Arkansas Derby, it was this Baffert star's turn to finish in second place. This colt was well back early but was up in second entering the second turn and stayed there. The front two were far ahead of the rest of the field. It was a solid effort, though this horse was clearly second-best. If you are the type who likes to look for excuses for a horse, then there are some here. The track came up sloppy, and it was the first time on an off track for this colt. Omaha Beach had previously run big on a sloppy surface. He had issues in the gate that had an effect. He was in blinkers for the first time and didn't love them - enough that Baffert quickly said he would lose them for the Derby. This all isn't to take anything away from Omaha Beach - he's a legitimate horse. But we likely haven't seen the best of this colt yet.
Prior experience: Improbable broke his maiden in his first try last September at Santa Anita, beating Gray Magician, who he is scheduled to face again in the Derby. It was a narrow win, and it felt like the six furlongs was too short for him. Next, he headed to Churchill Downs on the undercard of the first day of the Breeders' Cup in the Street Sense, and he won in dominating fashion. Then it was a jump into the big time as he won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity, again in strong fashion. After going unbeaten at two, he was given some time off before returning in the Rebel Stakes - a week after his intended return due to the issues at Santa Anita Park. He took the lead in the stretch that day, but had too much rust to knock off, and was caught by longshot Long Range Toddy - who he will again face in the Derby. Being beaten twice in row is a concern, but the horse still has clear talent.
Trainer: Bob Baffert has won two Triple Crowns in the last four years and had won the Derby three more times before that - not to mention five prior Preakness wins and a Belmont win. There has been no better modern trainer when it comes to winning Triple Crown races. And with three top contenders heading to Louisville this year, he has a very good chance to add to his total.
Jockey: We have seen some interesting developments in this saddle the last couple of races. Baffert has had no experience with the Ortiz brothers, but in short order he has gone through both of them. Jose Ortiz rode the colt in the Arkansas Derby, but he is on Tacitus in the Derby. His brother, Irad Ortiz Jr., now climbs into this saddle, riding for the first time for Baffert. Ortiz has connections with the owners of this colt, though - he rode Creator to a Belmont win in 2016 for Winstar Farm. Ortiz is one of the better jockeys in the country, and he's an asset here.
Breeding: Improbable was sired by City Zip, who was notable early on as a half-brother to Horse of the Year Ghostzapper. City Zip won the Hopeful as a two-year-old but started his stud career in New York. He eventually moved up to Kentucky and became more than just the sprint sire he started off as. He died in 2017, but he went out with a bang, with offspring winning four Breeders' Cup races in the last three years of his life. Improbable's damsire is the great A.P. Indy, a Belmont winner who is a son of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, and a grandson of Triple Crown winner Secretariat. That blood is as blue as it gets. A.P. Indy has sired a Preakness and a Belmont winner and has six more Classic winners in his sire line. The breeding here is enough to get Improbable to the finish line in good shape.
Odds: Before the Arkansas Derby, Improbable closed as the fourth choice in the final Kentucky Derby futures pool at 8/1. And after his runner-up finish in his last prep he sits at +900 in early futures action at BetOnline, behind Omaha Beach and his two stablemates.
Can Improbable Win the 2019 Kentucky Derby?: Yes. He has not found his full game this year yet, but he showed a lot of talent last year, and he has looked solid in defeat both times. His connections are sound, and the race shape he favors is a good one for the Derby. He is absolutely a contender.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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