Kentucky Derby Futures: Lightly Raced Contenders Make Their Move

Fans at the 2018 Rebel Stakes. (Eclipse Sportswire)

One of the most exciting pit stops on the Road to the Triple Crown involves laying down some cash on a futures pick for the 2018 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. Through April, America’s Best Racing will bring you up to date with the changing odds and notable entries at the pre-eminent Kentucky Derby future wager bookmaker on the Las Vegas strip – Wynn Las Vegas.

We’ll revisit these odds when new sheets are released (usually after a major prep race is completed). With each passing prep race, the number of viable Derby contenders will shrink, but as of now there are still a few dozen horses out there that carry the dreams of owners and gamblers alike to find the Churchill Downs winner’s circle somewhere around 7 p.m. ET on May 5. 

Last Saturday, highly regarded Magnum Moon earned 50 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby with an impressive win in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, vaulting to a top-tier position among Derby contenders. At Turfway Park, California shipper Blended Citizen nabbed 20 points when winning the Jeff Ruby Steaks, and may target the run for the roses for two-time Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill.

The upcoming weekend brings two more prep races offering qualifying points to the Derby. Saturday’s Louisiana Derby is the first 170-point race, distributing on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers. On Sunday, the Sunland Derby offers 85 points to the top four horses, with a distribution of 50-20-10-5 to the top four.

March 18 Wynn Odds Leaders to Win the Kentucky Derby:

1) McKinzie (7-1)

2) Bolt d’ Oro (8-1)

3) Magnum Moon (10-1)

4) Good Magic (11-1)

5) Justify (12-1)

5) Solomini (12-1)

March 18 Wynn Odds Leaders to Win the Triple Crown:

1) Bolt d’Oro (25-1)

1) McKinzie (25-1)

3) Justify (40-1)

4) Good Magic (45-1)

5) Magnum Moon (60-1)

Notable Changes:

Magnum Moon: He now sits in third at 10-1 odds among Wynn’s top Derby choices, down from 20-1 last week, and who’s to argue after his powerful win in the Rebel Stakes? This colt is now 3-for-3 in his young career, and didn’t make his first start until Jan. 13. That puts him square up against the “curse of Apollo” (no horse has won the Kentucky Derby without racing at age 2 since Apollo in 1888). He’s won by open lengths in each start and has a stalk-and-pounce racing style that’s perfect for what’s always a crowded Derby field. Todd Pletcher aims to send him back to Hot Springs for the April 14 Arkansas Derby as his final prep, and if he backs up his Rebel performance with a similar run, he’ll likely be the top East Coast contender to match up against the California-based brigade at Churchill come May 5 – curse be damned.

Solomini: Odds dropped from 20-1 to 12-1 as he fought on to finish second in the Rebel Stakes after having to steady entering the stretch. He was no threat to Magnum Moon but showed grit when edging Combatant (50-1 at Wynn) for runner-up honors. Justin Zayat of co-owner Zayat Stables tweeted afterward that this son of Hall of Famer Curlin will ship to New York for the April 7 Wood Memorial as his final Derby prep. He may be a cut below Bolt d’Oro, McKinzie, and now Magnum Moon, but he’s yet to run a bad race, and would already have a Grade 1 win over McKinzie and Lecomte Stakes hero Instilled Regard if not for some late-stretch bumping and a DQ in the Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity last December. With 34 qualifying points accumulated already, he should have a safe spot in the Derby field no matter how he runs in New York.

King Zachary (Leslie Martin/Coglianese photo)

King Zachary: ABR correspondent Joe Kristufek pegged this Dale Romans trainee as one to keep an eye on a few weeks back, and he picked up some new backers at Wynn with an easy win in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park on March 18. Before that breakthrough, in which he stalked a slow pace and drew clear late to win by 7 ¾ lengths, he finished third in two prior starts, including his 3-year-old debut going seven furlongs at Gulfstream when he had to check sharply in the early stages and fell well back before rallying late. Another Curlin colt, he’s got a pedigree on his dam’s (mother’s) side that is somewhat inscrutable, with most of his stakes-winning relatives coming in Europe and in races ranging from sprint-level to mile distances. He’s getting 85-1 odds on Wynn’s book now, which seems more than a bit low for a horse that earned his first career win with seven weeks to go before the Kentucky Derby, but Romans said after the Gulfstream win that an April Derby prep will be his next target.

Tenfold: Profiled in an earlier edition of this blog, he joined what is a larger-than-usual list of inexperienced, talented colts in the Kentucky Derby picture after scoring his second career win in as many starts on March 18. The Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred – yet another Curlin product – gamely outdueled Todd Pletcher’s well-regarded Florida shipper Navistar (100-1 at Wynn) in deep stretch to win by a neck. He looked more professional in his second start after racing a bit greenly in the stretch of his maiden win on Feb. 9, and earned a 100 Equibase Speed Figure, up from 96 in his debut. Tenfold’s odds dropped from 85-1 to 75-1 at Wynn, and Steve Asmussen’s plans for his next start are not confirmed as of March 19.

Four to Watch:

Blended Citizen: Added to Wynn’s sheet at 175-1 odds following his neck win in the Jeff Ruby Steaks. After being soundly beaten in his first three starts last year – all on dirt – he improved considerably when switched to turf, with one win, one third, and one fourth. His last two starts have been on synthetic surfaces – a third in the El Camino Real Derby on Golden Gate Fields’ Tapeta Footings main track, and then the Jeff Ruby win over Polytrack. This Proud Citizen colt has 22 points in the Kentucky Derby standings and his connections said they intend to pay $6,000 to nominate him to the Triple Crown by March 19. He’s got a good pedigree for dirt, as his sire Proud Citizen finished second in the 2002 run for the roses, and his half-brother Lookin At Lee (same dam [mother], different sire) did the same last year. But his racing record suggests he’d be much better served starting in the American Turf Stakes Presented by Ram Trucks on the May 5 Derby undercard at Churchill.

Alternative Route: Another Turfway winner, this Al Stall-trained Tiznow colt took the 1 1/16-mile Rushaway Stakes on the Jeff Ruby undercard by 1 ¾ lengths, notching his second win in four career starts. He only earned an 84 Equibase Speed Figure in that race, however, which makes his 150-1 new entry odds at Wynn seem too low. He’s another with a nice female pedigree, as he’s a full brother (same sire, same dam [mother]) to Grade 3 winner Enstone and is from the female family of champion and Hall of Famer Silverbulletday.

Ego Trip: Another late bloomer in a year full of them, this Bernardini colt owned by Gary and Mary West (who campaign this year’s Dubai World Cup favorite West Coast) rallied stoutly in the stretch to win a 1 1/8-mile maiden special weight race on the Rebel Stakes undercard at Oaklawn by a half-length. He’s a new entry at 200-1 odds at Wynn and based on his development (he’s only started twice and tallied an 89 Equibase Speed Figure for his March 17 win) he seems best assessed as a candidate for a 3-year-old stakes later this summer. This colt is closely related to Solomini on his dam’s (mother’s) side of the family, featuring standout stakes-winning relatives such as Frosted, Midshipman, and Fast Cookie (who is his second dam [maternal grandmother]).

Hyndford: Listed at 100-1 odds on Wynn’s book, this Todd Pletcher trainee is entered in the Louisiana Derby on Saturday. He’s won once from three starts, that win coming by a half-length in a one-mile maiden claiming race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 19. Since then, though, he finished a decent second to subsequent Rebel Stakes winner Magnum Moon in a one mile and 40-yard allowance optional claiming race at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 15. A son of the late stallion Street Cry, he’s owned by Jerry Crawford’s Donegal Racing, who sent Dullahan and Paddy O’Prado each to finish third in recent Kentucky Derbys. Look for a major odds shift, one way or the other, in Wynn’s next futures update.

Upcoming Derby Preps: The $1 million, Grade 2 Louisiana Derby held at 1 1/8 miles is the final Fair Grounds prep race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, and the 170-point event drew a field of 10 with a post time of 6:21 p.m. ET. Sunday’s $800,000 Grade 3 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park in New Mexico, also contested at 1 1/8 miles, is the final 85-point prep race in the series. Here are Wynn’s future-book odds on entrants in both races, listed in post-position order: Louisiana Derby:

1) Bravazo (30-1)

2) Noble Indy (30-1)

3) Marmello (not offered)

4) Givemeaminit (200-1)

5) Retirement Fund (150-1)

6) Hyndford (100-1)

7) Snapper Sinclair (60-1)

8) Lone Sailor (125-1)

9) My Boy Jack (40-1)

10) Dark Templar (85-1)

Sunland Derby:

(check back on March 22 after entries are drawn)

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