Promises Fulfilled Odds to Win the 2018 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
Remember the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? It will come in handy when you handicap Promises Fulfilled heading into the Kentucky Derby. Depending on the race, he can look like a world-class speed horse that could cause headaches for the best horses in this field, or he could look like a totally immature mess of a horse that is in so far over his head that it is ridiculous. The trick for us here it to figure out if the good version of the colt or the bad is likely to show up. It's not an easy and obvious question, but the answer might not be that difficult to come by in the end.
Last race: This was where the bad version of this colt came out, and man was it ugly. The colt looked washed out heading to the gate, like the monster inside of him was trying to escape. He took the lead out of the gate like he likes to do, but what followed was just idiotic. Strike Power locked into a duel with him, and instead of letting that horse go he locked in and got caught up in a crazy, suicidal speed duel. They went far, far too fast in the first six furlongs, and they were completely spent at that point. The race was over for the horse, and he still had three eighths of a mile to go. By the end he was dead last and so far behind the leaders that he was essentially in another time zone. It was just an awful effort. I blame the horse for a lack of maturity, the jockey for a passive ride, and the trainer for a poor game plan. He didn't need the race to make the Derby field, and he would have been better off skipping the race than running it like he did.
Prior experience: The race before that we saw the good side of this colt. In the Fountain of Youth he again took the lead, but he wasn't pushed from behind and he showed maturity to set much more reasonable fractions. When the stretch came, then, he had a lot left to give, and he widened his lead, winning by almost three lengths over Strike Power, the horse that ran him into the ground in the Florida Derby, and Good Magic, who will be among the favorites in Kentucky. It was a very professional effort. The one striking difference between this race and the next one was the jockey. Jose Ortiz was aboard for this race, and he is arguably the top jockey in the country right now. Robby Albarado, who was aboard for the Florida Derby, is, to be kind, not as good as Ortiz. The last time he rode a race I liked on a horse I liked was in 2008 aboard Curlin - and I give the horse all the credit for that. He's a mess of a rider who rode to his ability in the Florida Derby. Before the Fountain of Youth he was a decent enough third after setting the pace in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs as a two year old, and before that he won his first two races - a maiden at Churchill and an allowance at Keeneland. So, what he we learned? He likes the Churchill surface well enough, and he can run a solid race, but he needs a sharp rider on his back to keep him focused.
Trainer: Dale Romans was born in Louisville and essentially grew up on the Churchill Downs backstretch. He wants to win the Kentucky Derby more than anything because it's his backyard race. The closest he has come is third with Paddy O'Prado and fourth with Shackleford, who went on to win the Preakness in 2011 - and later sired this horse, as we will discuss later. Most recently, Romans has been best known for training Keen Ice, who beat American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers after that colt had won the Triple Crown. Romans, who also has the very underwhelming Free Drop Billy in the Derby, is a very solid trainer, but I don't feel like he has this horse entirely figured out.
Jockey: Corey Lanerie is aboard, which makes the fourth different jockey in four races. At this level of racing that is just a disaster. Lanerie knows the track at Churchill as well as anyone, having won meet titles there 10 times. But he has only five Grade 1 wins among his nearly 4,400 career wins, and he does not often play at the highest levels of the sport. He has run in the Derby only three times but came very close to winning the race last year, winding up second with Lookin at Lee. Lanerie isn't the best rider in the field by any means, but he is a massive improvement over Albarado, and Ortiz would never wind up on a horse like this in the Derby - he's on Good Magic.
Breeding: Like I said earlier, Promises Fulfilled is a son of Shackleford. Shackleford is a well-bred colt, who, despite the Preakness win, was at his best at a mile or shorter. He's early in his stallion career and has yet to have a big breakthrough. Damsire Marquetry is a great source of speed but not stamina. Two of his sons - Artax and Squirtle Squirt - were both champion sprinters. His presence, coupled with Shackleford's strength at a mile or less, explains both why Promises Fulfilled likes to lead and why his ability to stay is far from guaranteed. Distance is a real concern here.
Odds: He sits at 80/1 in current futures odds. That's about right, and there is no value there.
Can Promises Fulfilled Win the 2018 Kentucky Derby?: No. He needs to lead at a reasonable pace, and there is no chance of him getting an unchallenged lead in the Derby. That just doesn't happen in the Derby, and that's especially true this year with so many top-quality horses who like to be near the early speed. This is not the horse that will get Dale Romans his Derby.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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