Solomini Odds to Win the 2018 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
There are many handicappers who are always drawn to the 'other' horse. They could very well be looking at Solomini. When a stable has one highly-touted horse in the field, and then the trainer slips another horse into the race, it seems a little amazing how often it is that other runner that pays off - and often at a big price. Bob Baffert runs multiple horses in lots of races, so he is a frequent target of such bettors. And with the very heavily, and legitimately by these eyes, hyped Justify towering over this field, Solomini is definitely the 'other' Baffert horse.
Earlier in the year it seemed like Baffert was going to outdo Todd Pletcher this year and enter five or six in the Derby. But a combination of a bad injury and some bad racing luck have limited him to just two. So, is this other Baffert horse worthy of any Kentucky Derby consideration?
Last race: I liked the Arkansas Derby, won by Magnum Moon, this year. And I just hated this horse's performance in that race. After sitting a comfortable sixth early on, and chasing fractions that were far from lightning fast, he made his move late in the final turn. He looked like he was bidding for more but settled for third when he ran out of gas. Actually, I'm not so sure he ran out of gas as he ran out of determination. It feels like this is a lazy horse - a horse that doesn't seem to care enough to put in the effort to access his significant talent fully. And in this race it looked like when the going got tough he figured he had done enough and started thinking of the hay awaiting him back in the barn. The effort was enough, but it felt like there was so much more to be had.
Prior experience: This colt has never been out of the money in six starts, which is proof that he has more talent than he chooses to display some days. He broke his maiden in August at Del Mar in his first try. Then he jumped into the deep end, tackling the Grade 1 FrontRunner at Santa Anita and finishing a well-beaten second behind Bolt d'Oro, who he will face again in the Derby. Next up was the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. There he got the best of Bolt d'Oro, who was third, but after dueling with Good Magic for a while was soundly beaten. Good Magic is also Derby bound - a recurring trend in that Solomini has only ever finished behind horses heading to the Kentucky Derby with him. He finished off his two-year-old season by winning the Los Alamitos Futurity over stablemate McKinzie, who would be in the Derby if he wasn't injured. But Solomini was disqualified and placed third in that race. As a three-year-old we first saw him in March in the Rebel after a bit of a freshening. In that race he settled a bit closer to the lead than he did in the Arkansas Derby, and he made a bid, but then seemed to decide that he didn't care to chase down Magnum Moon. He was solidly the best of the rest, though.
Trainer: Bob Baffert knows all about this race. He's the only active Triple Crown winner, and he has won the Derby four times in 27 starts - with three seconds and three thirds as well. He is on an absolute tear in recent years, with once-in-a-generation American Pharoah followed immediately into his stable by Arrogate, and now Justify potentially taking his place right behind. The guy earns his success, though, because he is masterful with horses - especially ones with natural speed. He's an asset to this horse - obviously. It's also worth noting that this is Baffert's first Derby horse owned by Zayat Stables since American Pharoah in 2015.
Jockey: Flavien Prat has been riding full time for only four years now, but he has already established himself as a nationally significant rider. He has won a Breeders' Cup race each of the last two years, and last year in his Kentucky Derby debut he had one heck of a ride to get Battle of Midway up for third, which was at the very high end of possible expectations for that colt. Prat and Baffert are working well together, and the jockey's best days are still ahead of him. He's an asset.
Breeding: Like Good Magic and Vino Rosso, Solomini is a son of the great Curlin. You could do worse than throwing an exacta box on that group. Curlin was too immature to handle the Derby, finishing third, but he won the Preakness two weeks later and then won multiple times at the classic distance, including the Breeders' Cup Classic and Dubai World Cup. He has sired horses such as Exaggerator, who was second in the Derby and won the Preakness in 2016, and Palace Malice, who won the Belmont. The sire is up to the challenge of this race. Solomini's damsire is the great Storm Cat. The two-time leading sire never sired a Triple Crown race winner, but he has produced endless quality and is prominent in the bloodlines of American Pharoah, among many others. This is a well-bred colt who can handle the Derby distance.
Odds: Solomini currently sits at 25/1, which has him sitting tied with Noble Indy and behind nine other runners. You don't have to squint too hard to see a little value there - especially for place or show betting, or further down the exotics.
Can Solomini Win the 2018 Kentucky Derby?: Yes. He is very talented and has beaten horses he will face here. But he will only win if somehow a switch can be flicked and he can come into this race with a determination we just haven't seen from him. I would be more likely to bet him to pick up a piece than to win, but if his price stays close to where it is now he'll be a value play one way or another.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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