Kentucky Derby Futures: Market Movement Ahead of Key Preps

Fans pack the track apron at Gulfstream Park for the Fountain of Youth 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 dozens of 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 week, Promises Fulfilled validated his name with a smashing 3-year-old debut performance at 18.20-1 odds in the Fountain of Youth Stakes to earn 50 qualifying points and join the Derby contenders’ parade. This Saturday will bring the Derby prep season into far greater focus, with three 85-point races: the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct; the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs; and the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park. The San Felipe is expected to draw two of the three current future-odds favorites at Wynn Las Vegas, McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro.

In addition to the Vegas action, Churchill Downs will offer the third pool for its Road to the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, running from Friday, March 9 at noon Eastern to Sunday, March 11 at 6 p.m. Eastern. Oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has Bolt d’Oro and the “All Others” field entry listed as co-favorites on the morning line at 6-1 odds.

March 5 Wynn Odds Leaders:

1) McKinzie (7-1)

2) Good Magic (9-1)

3) Bolt d’Oro (11-1)

4) Audible (12-1)

5) Justify (15-1)

Notable Changes:

Promises Fulfilled: This impressive Fountain of Youth Stakes winner made trainer Dale Romans look like a Kasparov-esque chess master after he withdrew what was generally deemed to be his top Derby contender in Free Drop Billy from the Fountain of Youth and pointed him to the Gotham instead. The Shackleford colt returned after a three-month break following his only loss as a juvenile in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, was hustled to the lead in the Fountain of Youth from his outside post by Irad Ortiz … and then kept going. He had set the pace in all three of his 2-year-old races as well, and battled into the stretch of last fall’s Kentucky Jockey Club before yielding to Enticed and Tiz Mischief, but his Fountain of Youth performance was a cut above to the tune of a career-best 115 Equibase Speed Figure. Romans sees more than a bit of his sire, another dead-game speed horse, in Promises Fulfilled, and is pointing to the March 31 Florida Derby to see if another sixteenth of a mile is within this one’s ability. He’s now sitting at 25-1 odds at Wynn, down from 65-1 last week. ABR’s Mike Curry looks deeper into Promises Fulfilled’s Derby chances in his new Making the Grade blog.

Strike Power: The Swale Stakes winner was asked to settle off of the pace for the first time in his third career start in the Fountain of Youth, as well as try two turns for the first time, and although he didn’t win the race, it’s safe to say he earned a solid “B” in both tests. He tracked Promises Fulfilled throughout and did not give up in the stretch while settling for second, and he easily bested third-place finisher Good Magic in that champion’s 3-year-old bow. He’s earned triple-digit Equibase Speed Figures in each of his three career starts (with a career-top 112 in the Fountain of Youth) and has the rarefied look of a Grade 1 winner – maybe even a multiple Grade 1 winner – down the road. But questions about his stamina remain with regard to the Derby’s mile-and-a-quarter distance. His odds slipped from 40-1 to 28-1 at Wynn.

Vino Rosso: Last seen checking in third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 10, this highly-regarded Curlin colt’s odds dropped from 30-1 to 18-1 in advance of his planned return to Tampa Bay Downs in Saturday’s Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. He’s expected to face Sam F. Davis winner Flameaway (35-1 at Wynn) as well as Holy Bull Stakes third-place finisher Tiz Mischief (60-1) and turf graded stakes winner Untamed Domain (85-1) in what shapes up to be a competitive race. Profiled in an earlier edition of this blog, he’s got the pedigree to improve at longer distances. Curlin already has sired a Belmont Stakes winner in Palace Malice, and Vino Rosso’s dam (mother) is a half-sister (same dam, different sire) to 2014 Belmont Stakes close runner-up Commissioner.  

Maraud: This Blame colt’s odds dropped from 125-1 to 85-1 at Wynn following his neck win over Speed Franco in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes on the Fountain of Youth undercard. That was his third win in five career starts, all on turf, and trainer Todd Pletcher said after the race that he was considering turf races at Gulfstream or Keeneland for the colt’s next start. Maraud’s pedigree on his dam’s (mother’s) side also leans toward turf, featuring several graded stakes winners on grass and synthetic courses.  

Exclamation Point: This Brad Cox-trained Concord Point colt is sitting at 100-1 odds, down from 125-1, after he improved his career record to 2-for-2 with a 1 ¼-length win in a one-mile Oaklawn Park allowance/optional claiming race on March 3. That followed a 2 ½-length score in a six-furlong maiden race in Hot Springs on Feb. 3. All of the historical odds are stacked against this one for the Derby, given his lack of seasoning, as discussed in an earlier analysis on this blog. But he’s been one of the buzz horses during the mornings at Oaklawn throughout the meet with his workouts, and although Cox said that the March 17 Rebel Stakes was out of the question for his next start, the trainer left the door open for this one to make a big class jump in the April 14 Arkansas Derby.

Three to Watch:

Telekinesis (Lou Hodges, Jr. /Hodges Photography)

Telekinesis: Mark Casse has this maiden winner slated for a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race at Fair Grounds on Friday as part of an entry. By Ghostzapper, he romped in a six-furlong maiden special weight in New Orleans on Feb. 9, winning by 3 ¼ lengths. He’s an Ontario-bred owned by Stonestreet Stables of Curlin, Rachel Alexandra, and Good Magic fame, and comes from a female family replete with stakes winners at a variety of distances. He’s currently offered at 85-1 odds by Wynn, which are certain to shift substantially one way or the other in the next update. (Stonestreet’s other part of the entry, Chaos Theory, is also a recent Fair Grounds maiden winner, taking a 5 ½-furlong race in his first career start by 1 ¼ lengths on Feb. 18. He’s by Curlin and is not listed on Wynn’s March 5 sheet.)

Demolition: This longshot has been added to Wynn’s sheet at 150-1 odds after he broke his maiden in his fourth career start by two lengths in a one-mile and 40-yard race at Tampa Bay Downs on March 3. That was a breakthrough performance from him, as he was no threat in his prior three starts against horses such as Principe Guilherme and Life’s a Parlay. Trained by Ian Wilkes, he’s from the fourth crop of Blame, best known for defeating Zenyatta in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic, and a stallion who hasn’t had a breakthrough Triple Crown trail horse yet in his brief stud career. A definite Derby outsider.

M G Warrior: Another new entry to Wynn’s book, this one sits at hefty 300-1 odds. Like Demolition, he broke through with his first win in his fourth start, taking a 1 1/16-mile maiden at Fair Grounds on March 1. He rallied to win that race by 1 ¼ lengths and posted a career-best 91 Equibase Speed Figure. He’d run well in his prior three starts, finishing second, fourth, and second, albeit against competition that hasn’t trained on to make any noise whatsoever on the road to the Kentucky Derby. So, 300-1 sounds about right for this Majestic Warrior colt with an unremarkable female side of the pedigree (although a personal fave of mine, the long-winded Kentucky-based turf stakes winner Silverfoot, shows up in his bloodline). On the positive side, he’s trained by Dallas Stewart, who has in recent years sent longshots Commanding Curve (2014) and Golden Soul (2013) to post runner-up finishes in the Kentucky Derby.

Upcoming Derby Preps: Three sets of Derby aspirants will compete on Saturday, starting in Queens, N.Y., where Aqueduct’s one-mile Gotham Stakes will be broadcast as part of the “FOX Sports Saturday At the Races” series. That afternoon broadcast will also include the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. In between, the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby will anchor TVG’s coverage. Here are Wynn's future-book odds on the entrants in all three races, listed in post-position order:

Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby:

1) Arazi Like Move (not offered)

2) Tiz Mischief (60-1)

3) Vino Rosso (18-1)

4) Grandpa Knows Best (225-1)

5) Flameaway (35-1)

6) Enticed (75-1)

7) Free Drop Billy (30-1)

8) World of Trouble (85-1)

9) Untamed Domain (75-1)

10) Quip (125-1)

11) Caloric (not offered)

San Felipe Stakes:

1) Bolt d’Oro (11-1)

2) Lombo (75-1)

3) Ayacara (100-1)

4) McKinzie (7-1)

5) Aquila (150-1)

6) Calexman (not offered)

7) Peace (75-1)

8) Kanthaka (35-1)

Gotham Stakes:

1) Dial Operator (not offered)

2) Cove Blue (100-1)

3) Beautiful Shot (150-1)

4) Whereshetoldmetogo (not offered)

5) Firenze Fire (60-1)

6) Free Drop Billy (30-1)

7) Old Time Revival (not offered)

8) Nine Route (not offered)

9) Enticed (75-1)

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