Roadster Odds to Win the 2019 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
It's no surprise that the comparisons to Justify are flying hot and heavy when people talk about Roadster. It's a bit of a lazy comparison, but there is enough in common between the two horses for it to make sense. They are both trained by Bob Baffert. They both won the Santa Anita Derby impressively after being very lightly raced. Both are ridden by Mike Smith, and both have the magical chemistry with the rider that only he can have.
There are more differences than similarities, but Justify was so darned impressive that it makes sense people want to recapture the magic. And in a Derby prep season that has really lacked pizazz or cohesiveness, the urge to grab onto any flash of brilliance we see is, if you will pardon the painful pun, justified. But Justify's shoes are impossibly large to fill. Can Roadster even come close? Is he even the best horse in his barn this spring?
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Last race: Roadster was the second choice in the six-horse Santa Anita Derby, just ahead of Instagrand, and far behind his odds-on stablemate, Game Winner. The track has been incredibly slow since the renovations due to the breakdown of too many horses this spring, so early fractions were very modest despite the talent in the field. Roadster was well back in fifth for the first six furlongs and up to third at the top of the stretch. But his forward movement was sustained, and he fought his way to the win over the other Baffert horse. It was a very impressive race, though it wasn't dominant - Game Winner ran further due to a longer path through the turns. It sets up a heck of a rivalry heading into the Derby - like American Pharoah and Dortmund if you want to make another lazy Baffert comparison that probably piles too much pressure onto this horse and the rest of the stable.
Prior experience: Unlike Justify, Roadster raced as a two-year-old. He made his debut at the end of July at Del Mar, winning convincingly at six furlongs. The race opened eyes, and Baffert started to make Justify comparisons - it's his fault that this all started. He came back in the Del Mar Futurity, clashing with Game Winner for the first time. But Roadster encountered troubles and wound up third as the solid favorite. It turned out that his issues were in his throat, and he had surgery to make repairs. That kept him out of action all the way until March 1, where he returned in an allowance race over a mile at Santa Anita. He was the second choice behind Nolo Contesto, who he beat up in the Santa Anita Derby, and he was far the better horse.
Trainer: Bob Baffert has won the Triple Crown twice since 2015. I could say much, much more about him, but I surely don't need to. He's good at this game. One of the best ever when it comes to three-year-olds in the spring.
Jockey: Mike Smith has been aboard for every race so far. And while at this point he also rides Omaha Beach, I would bet a dollar that he ends up on this mount. He's 53 - an age when many riders have lost their edge - but he just won a Triple Crown. And while he doesn't ride a very busy schedule, he just keeps showing up and dominating big races. When he has chemistry with a horse - as he clearly does here - he's very tough to beat.
Breeding: Roadster's sire is Quality Road, who won the Florida Derby in 2009 before missing the Triple Crown due to injuries. He scratched in the gate as a three-year-old in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but came back to win the Donn Handicap in track record time at Gulfstream and then won the Woodward at Saratoga. He was an impressive horse. His most impressive offspring is Abel Tasman, the champion filly who won the Kentucky Oaks in 2017. Quality Road was sired by Elusive Quality, who also sired Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones. Roadster's damsire is Silver Ghost, a long-deceased son of Mr. Prospector, who was best known for being incredibly hard to handle.
Odds: The final Kentucky Derby futures pool closed the day after the Santa Anita Derby, and on the strength of the impressiveness of the effort the colt was made the 6/1 favorite in that pool, just ahead of two, including Game Winner, at 7/1. BetOnline has him as the third choice at +1000, behind stablemates Game Winner and Improbable. If you like this colt, then you should jump on that price - it's much better than what we will see at post time.
Can Roadster Win the 2019 Kentucky Derby?: Sure. There is going to be speed in this race - Maximum Security guarantees that, and he won't be left alone on the lead. This horse likes to settle off the pace, and that is a race shape that works well in the Derby as long as he can avoid traffic trouble. The lack of racing this spring is a concern, and with these connections he'll get bet down below the level of any value, but he is absolutely among the top contenders. At the very least he is going to be a big part of my exotics.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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