My Boy Jack Odds to Win the 2018 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
I want to write about this horse not because I think he is a factor in the Kentucky Derby - he absolutely isn't. But My Boy Jack did what I have been waiting for a horse to do - use the Lexington Stakes as a Derby springboard. He had had a decent-but-unspectacular spring and had 32 Derby points - which would have him right on the Derby bubble. Instead of hoping that that was going to be enough, or heading to a tough race in the Arkansas Derby, his connections sent him to a soft spot in the Lexington at Keeneland. He's not near the top of his class, but he's still easily good enough that he didn't have to have his A Race to finish first or second, and the points available for those spots would be enough to get him into the field. It's a smart move, and I like the horse more for having done it. Not nearly enough to bet on him, but more than I would have otherwise.
Last race: This is a horse that runs well off the pace early on, and that is certainly what happened in the Lexington. He was a touch slow out of the gate, but instead of fighting it, jockey Kent Desormeaux moved to the rail to save ground and wait for an opportunity. And eventually that opportunity came. There was nothing explosive about his race, but rather it was a consistent effort forward. He was ninth for the first half mile, had moved up to third at the top of the stretch, and was ahead by a neck at the wire. It was what you would call a professional effort. He was the best horse in the field, and he proved it. But he didn't show us anything we didn't know.
Prior experience: My Boy Jack will be the most experienced horse in the field - the extra start in the Lexington was his 10th career outing. He won three and was in the top three eight of 10 times. He's a horse with heart. He made his debut back in June at Santa Anita, finishing fifth in a five-furlong race that was clearly too short for him. He was second in two maiden races at a mile and then was second in his stakes debut before finally getting a win in October. His last four races had been on the turf, so it made sense that he finished his season in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. It didn't go well - he only rallied mildly late and wound up seventh. When we next saw him at three he was on the dirt, and he seemed to settle in there. He was third in the Sham at Santa Anita, though that was a flattering result because McKinzie absolutely humiliated that field in the win. Next he headed to Oaklawn for the best race he has run - a solid win in the Southwest. That was his stepping stone to the Louisiana Derby, and that was where we saw his limitations. In the stretch he had the race won. He had made a nice move and was clear and rolling. But then it looked like he was running in mud, and Noble Indy caught him at the wire. This is a horse that looks like he is born to run a two-turn mile, and it looks like he doesn't love distance beyond that. That makes him tough to love in the Derby.
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux had nearly 500 wins to his name before he started attracting owners who had money to spend. He made his first splash on the Derby trail back in 2013 when he won the Risen Star Stakes with I've Struck a Nerve at the impossible price of 135-1. Just one year later he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Texas Red. That horse was hurt on the Derby trail in 2015, but by 2016 Desormeaux was back on the scene. He finished second in the Derby with Exaggerator and then won the Preakness with the colt.
Jockey: Keith's brother Kent rides most of the trainer's top horses, and it is a relationship as complicated as many sibling relationships are. Aside from the win with Exaggerator, Desormeaux has had plenty of Triple Crown success. He won the Derby and the Preakness in 1998 with Real Quiet for trainer Bob Baffert and then did so again in 2008 with Big Brown. In 2000 he piloted Fusaichi Pegasus to a Derby win. And he won his lone Belmont Stakes in 2009 with Summer Bird. He has won seven Breeders' Cup races and has been the nation's top jockey twice as well, so he has no shortage of accomplishments. He's 48 now, so he is a long way from his prime. He's more than capable, though, and this partnership with his brother, along with a commitment to dealing with his addiction issues, has turned his career around in recent years. He's an asset for this colt.
Breeding: Sire Creative Cause was third in the Preakness in 2012 and third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile the previous year. He's a young sire, and he has yet to really break through. His biggest earner is Pavel, who was an also-ran in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic and was fourth in the Dubai World Cup in March. My Boy Jack is already his third-leading earner and will likely lead that chart at some point. Damsire Mineshaft was Horse of the Year in 2003 and hasn't yet been quite as exceptional in the breeding shed. There are horses in this field who are less suited to the Derby distance than this one, but the fact that this colt seems happier at a mile isn't a total surprise.
Odds: BetOnline has My Boy Jack at +3500 to win the Kentucky Derby, which places him behind 11 other colts. Frankly, both that price and that spot in the hierarchy are surprisingly generous to me.
Can My Boy Jack Win the 2018 Kentucky Derby?: Probably not. There is a lot of quality speed up front, so he will have a pace to run against. But he's chasing great horses and will be charging beside strong ones as well. He would need absolutely everything to go his way for him to win. He certainly won't be a value pick.
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