Kentucky Derby Futures: New Contenders Emerge as Prep Season Builds

The field for the Dec. 8 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity nears the first turn, with eventual race winner Improbable (white jockey cap) along the rail in fourth position. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The prep season for the 145th Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve is in full swing with recent qualifying points preps in New York, California, and Oklahoma, and the road to the May 4 Derby will, as it always does, take plenty of unexpected twists and turns as contenders rise and fall with each passing prep race.

Forecasting the 20-horse field – and even taking an early stand on a potential winner backed by a future wager – is an annual highlight of Derby season, and the bookmakers at William Hill are keeping tabs on the major contenders for Derby 145. Below is our latest look at William Hill’s future-book odds for the Kentucky Derby, highlighting some key horses that have recently raced.

Dec. 16 William Hill Odds Leaders to Win the Kentucky Derby:

1) Game Winner (5-1)

2) Coliseum (10-1)

2) Improbable (10-1)

2) Instagrand (10-1)

5) Maximus Mischief (15-1)

Notable Changes:

Improbable (Eclipse Sportswire)

Improbable: This talented colt was already highly regarded in the futures market, and his stock only went up (and his odds down, from 15-1 to 10-1 at William Hill) after an easy five-length win in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity on Dec. 8. Improbable’s the most visually impressive Derby contender I’ve seen so far, and although his pedigree on first glance appears to be more limited to middle distances – his sire, the late City Zip, was a sprinter-miler – there’s some stamina deeper in his bloodlines that bodes well for the longer Derby preps in the coming months. Learn more about him in Mike Curry’s profile.

Maximus Mischief: Here’s another colt who, like Improbable, is undefeated in three starts and keeps getting better as the competition level increases. His odds at William Hill dropped from 20-1 to 15-1 based on a 2 ¼-length win in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes on Dec. 1 at Aqueduct. That was his first start away from his home base of Parx Racing, and he stretched out from two races at 5 ½ and seven furlongs to handle the Remsen’s mile-and-an-eighth distance. He is also the subject of a recent Mike Curry profile for ABR – read about him here.

Long Range Toddy: After scoring a late-rallying, 18.60-1 upset win in the Dec. 16 Springboard Mile at Remington Park, this Steve Asmussen-trained colt earned 10 qualifying points for the 2019 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and also saw his future-book odds at William Hill drop from 125-1 to 100-1. He had raced three times prior to the Springboard Mile, all at Remington, where he ran fourth in his debut but then won a one-mile maiden (held around two turns at Remington) and took the seven-furlong Clever Trevor Stakes. He’s a son of Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy and his grandsire (paternal grandfather) is legendary stamina sire A.P. Indy. His female family is highlighted by his second dam (maternal grandmother), Pleasant Song, who was a multiple stakes winner in turf races held at distances of a mile and a mile and a sixteenth. Long Range Toddy earned a career-best 98 Equibase Speed Figure in the Springboard Mile and it will be interesting to see where he appears next on the Derby trail.

Bankit: This colt, also trained by Asmussen, was closing fast in the Springboard Mile and nearly caught Long Range Toddy, only to lose by a head. A New York-bred son of Central Banker, he first turned heads last summer at Saratoga, where he broke his maiden in his second career start by 6 ¾-lengths and then finished second by a nose in a listed stakes. He next ran fourth in another stakes at Belmont Park after breaking through the gate prior to the race before winning the one-mile Sleepy Hollow Stakes by 5 ¾ lengths at the same track. Those four races were all restricted to state-breds, and he handled the trip to Oklahoma and the step up in competition well in the Springboard Mile. Pedigree-wise, he’s from the first crop of Central Banker, a good sprinter, and his dam’s (mother’s) pedigree has a variety of stakes winners through the first three generations, including Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Action This Day. He’s co-owned by Willis Horton Racing (who also owns Long Range Toddy) and Winchell Thoroughbreds, who are no strangers to the Triple Crown trail, and could be directed back to his home state and a January or February prep at Aqueduct for his next start. His odds dropped from 125-1 to 100-1 at William Hill.

Four to Watch:

Super Steed (Coady Photography)

Super Steed: Trained by Larry Jones, this son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver made his debut at Keeneland on Oct. 25 in a six-furlong maiden and took a brief lead late before losing by a head. In a sign of confidence, Jones brought Super Steed back in a 6 ½-furlong allowance optional claiming race at Churchill Downs on Thanksgiving Day, placing him up against winners rather than in another maiden race. The colt was jostled after the start and settled back early, but exploded at the top of the stretch to win by six lengths. Super Steed is entered this Saturday, Dec. 22, in the six-furlong Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds. Having been on-site at the track for both of his career starts, I can tell you that this colt definitely looks the part, and his win at Churchill was one of the best performances of the track’s November meet, which focuses on 2-year-olds. Still, he’s listed at 18-1 odds on William Hill’s book, which is too low for a colt that’s so far raced at sprint distances. He’s definitely one to keep tabs on, however, as his pedigree is suited for route races. His dam is a half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to million-dollar earner Majestic Harbor, who won the 1 ¼-mile Gold Cup at Santa Anita in 2014, and also to Danza, who won the Arkansas Derby and finished third in the Kentucky Derby that same year.

Bourbon WarThis son of leading sire Tapit makes his debut on William Hill’s book at odds of 100-1. He has only two career starts for trainer Mark Hennig, winning first out by 2 ¼ lengths in a one-mile maiden at Aqueduct and then running fourth in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes won by Maximus Mischief. He wasn’t much of a factor in the Remsen, racing three-wide through the far turn and then fanning out even wider in the stretch, but again, that was only his second career start. His dam, My Conquestadory, was a talented filly running in route races on turf and all-weather tracks during 2013-14, winning a Grade 1 stakes and earning over $500,000. And his name will guarantee popular appeal in Kentucky if he’s still on the Derby trail come next spring.

Final Jeopardy: This Jason Servis-trained colt is another new addition to William Hill’s book at 100-1 odds. He made his first career start on Dec. 9 at Gulfstream Park and rallied strongly to win a six-furlong race by 5 ¼ lengths, good for a 95 Equibase Speed Figure. It was an auspicious debut, to say the least, and there’s a lot to like here. He’s owned by Gary and Mary West, who campaign current William Hill future book leader Game Winner and owned such stars as West Coast and New Year’s Day. And his pedigree is very well suited to a mile and a quarter: his sire is 2007 Kentucky Derby hero Street Sense and his dam’s family includes such notables as Frosted, Midshipman, and Fast Cookie, all Grade 1 winners at 1 1/16 miles or longer. What’s the final Jeopardy category, Alex? This one’s connections have fingers crossed for “Kentucky Derby Winners.”

Kingly: Game Winner is trained by Bob Baffert. So is Improbable. Coliseum, the headliner in the prior edition of this blog and a smashing debut winner who earned a 104 Equibase Speed Figure in his debut, is yet another from Baffert’s barn. Suffice to say, the crop of 2019 Kentucky Derby contenders is shaping up to be another Baffert-dominated bunch, which is par for the course every year, it seems. So there should be no surprise that the silver-haired Hall of Famer has another to add to the mix in Kingly. A son of Tapit owned by Clearview Stable (the racing stable of breeder Clearsky Farms), this colt won on Dec. 1 at Del Mar in an eye-opening fashion, facing pressure while dueling for the pace while racing on the inside and then gamely turning back two challengers in the stretch to post a three-quarter-length victory in a six-furlong race. He earned a 102 Equibase Speed Figure for the win, putting him in Coliseum’s orbit, and he’s been added to William Hill’s book at 100-1 odds. Kingly’s a full brother (same sire [father] and same dam [mother]) to four-time Grade 2 winner Mohaymen, a top Kentucky Derby contender during 2013-14 who finished fourth in the ’14 run for the roses. He is also a half-brother (different sire [father], same dam [mother]) to abovementioned New Year’s Day. Clearsky Farms bred champion Arrogate and bred and co-owned recently-retired Abel Tasman, and Baffert’s track record, of course, has set the standard for Derby success over the past quarter century. Stay tuned …

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