Kentucky Derby Futures: Shifting Leaderboard, and ‘Gronk’ Joins the Fray

Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing

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 Saturday’s lineup of three 85-point preps brought some clarity to the list of Kentucky Derby contenders, and it appears that this year will fall into line with roughly the last five or six in that the Southern California 3-year-old contingent looks to be stronger than any other.

Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie laced ’em up in the stretch and dueled like Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in a thrilling renewal of the San Felipe Stakes, won by Bolt d’Oro after a controversial steward’s ruling denied McKinzie the victory. Across the continent in New York, Enticed rebounded from a nonfactor fourth in the Holy Bull Stakes to score a visually impressive win in the Gotham Stakes. And on Florida’s Gulf Coast, under-the-radar Quip turned his sophomore debut into a lucrative Derby points grab by gamely taking the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby.

This Saturday, two more points races are on tap: the 85-point Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, and the 36-point Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky.

The third Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool offered by Churchill Downs also was held last weekend, and closed Sunday with a somewhat surprising individual leader in 6-1 Justify (the “all others” mutuel field closed at 4-1 odds).

March 12 Wynn Odds Leaders to win the Kentucky Derby:

1) McKinzie (7-1)

2) Bolt d’Oro (8-1)

3) Good Magic (11-1)

4) Audible (12-1)

4) Justify (12-1)

5) Enticed (15-1)

March 12 Wynn Odds Leaders to Win the Triple Crown:

1) Bolt d’Oro (25-1)

1) McKinzie (25-1)

2) Justify (40-1)

3) Good Magic (45-1)

4) Audible (60-1)

4) Enticed (60-1)

Notable Changes:

Enticed: Odds dropped from 75-1 to 15-1 after his win in the one-mile, one-turn Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, in which he overhauled pacesetter Old Time Revival in midstretch and drew off to a 2 ¾-length score. He was geared down late by Junior Alvarado, and should have plenty in the tank for a possible start in the April 7 Wood Memorial Stakes. This striking, dark bay Godolphin colt checked all of the boxes as a live Derby contender after he concluded his 2-year-old season with a game win in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes – a race that has sent several horses on to win Derby points races this year. His pedigree is well suited for the Kentucky Derby’s mile-and-a-quarter distance, and if you discount his fourth-place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes last month as simply a case of rust removal after a two-month layoff, he’s right there with the top contenders. He earned a 113 Equibase Speed Figure in the Gotham, easily his career best.

Quip: This talented colt validated the potential he showed in his first two starts as a juvenile with a one-length win in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, and his odds plummeted from 125-1 to 25-1 on Wynn’s book as a result. He’s 3-for-4 in his still inexperienced racing career, with the only loss a seventh-place effort in the aforementioned Kentucky Jockey Club last November. If he moves forward off of his Tampa performance in his final prep, he could at the very least be a major pace factor in the Kentucky Derby, as his three wins – including a two-turn allowance last fall at Keeneland – have all come when racing either on the lead or settling just off of it. This son of Distorted Humor (sire of Funny Cide) could bring young trainer and Bill Mott protégé Rodolphe Brisset to his first Kentucky Derby, which would be one of the best storylines of the year.

Old Time Revival: He’s a new entry on Wynn’s book at odds of 60-1 after a good runner-up effort in the Gotham Stakes at odds of 35.50-1. In that race, his first start outside of Laurel Park, he jumped out to a clear lead and held on into midstretch before yielding to Enticed, but still finished four lengths ahead of Free Drop Billy. He’s a Florida-bred from the first crop of sire Brethren, and his dam (mother) is a half-sister (same dam, different sire) to 2010 champion juvenile filly Awesome Feather. Based on his six-race career, he has the makings of a very good miler, but success at any distance longer than that would be a surprise. Still, he did pick up 20 Kentucky Derby qualifying points in the Gotham. 

Four to Watch:

Autostrade (Lauren King/Coglianese Photo)

Autostrade: A new entry in Wynn’s book at 250-1 odds, as befits any 3-year-old who debuts in March and thus faces a forbiddingly short calendar, along with many other obstacles, in terms of making the Derby. This one looked very impressive in his first-out win, though, scoring by five lengths in six-furlong race on March 11 at Gulfstream Park for Todd Pletcher and earning a 102 Equibase Speed Figure. He’s by top sire Giant’s Causeway and from the female family of Grade 1-winning filly R Heat Lightening. Given Pletcher’s propensity to be patient with his horses, expect this one to target an allowance next at Gulfstream or Keeneland and then possibly point to the Preakness or Belmont Stakes.

Gronkowski: After winning the one-mile Road to Kentucky Conditions Stakes at Kempton Park on March 7, this colt is currently tied with Mendelssohn and Saxon Warrior (who is not Triple Crown nominated) in the points standings for the European Road to the Kentucky Derby with 20. That division offers a guaranteed spot in the starting gate to the horse who earned the points from a seven-race series in Europe, but Gronkowski’s connections have already said they are sending him to the states to compete in either the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes or the Wood Memorial on April 7, which both offer 100 Derby points to the winner. This Kentucky-bred son of Lonhro has won his last three starts, all on synthetic all-weather surfaces (there are no dirt racetracks in England, Ireland, and France). Lonhro raced in Australia and has been a top sire there, and this colt’s unraced dam (mother) is a half-sister to Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap winner Flashy Bull and another U.S. stakes winner. And, last but not least, since his name honors New England Patriots tight end and 2015 Kentucky Derby attendee Rob Gronkowski, this one is a cinch to be a pop-culture attention magnet should he make this year’s run for the roses. He sits at 100-1 odds on Wynn’s sheet. 

McKale: Here’s the latest 3-year-old to emerge from Bob Baffert’s seemingly bottomless barn and post a debut win with time dwindling before the Derby. He took a March 10 six-furlong maiden at Santa Anita Park by 2 ¼ lengths, good for a 97 Equibase Speed Figure, and is offered at 250-1 odds by Wynn. He races for the same ownership team of Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman that campaign top Derby contender McKinzie, and this Congrats colt has more of a miler’s pedigree. This colt was not an early nominee to the Triple Crown, and his owners have until Monday, March 19, to put up $6,000 and get him on the nomination list. After that date, the price tag jumps to $200,000. And, of course, he’d still need roughly 25-30 qualifying points to ensure a spot in the race. Stranger things have happened.

Ruler of the Nile: The second Todd Pletcher maiden winner on this list is added to Wynn’s book at 250-1 odds following a 7 ¼-length win in a seven-furlong maiden special weight race at Tampa Bay Downs on March 10. A long-striding colt, he raced a bit greenly in his debut but still outclassed the competition. Owners Robert and Lawana Low (who also own Rebel Stakes entrant Magnum Moon) bought him for a cool $1 million last spring at the OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training, and he is, as you may have guessed, a son of Pioneerof the Nile, the sire of 2015 Triple Crown hero American Pharoah. His female family is good, including 2016 Wood Memorial winner Outwork. As with McKale, this colt was not nominated early to the Triple Crown.

Upcoming Derby Preps: The $900,000, Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, held at 1 1/16 miles, offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers on a 50-20-10-5 scale. The $200,000, Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks (formerly the Spiral Stakes) held at 1 1/8 miles on Turfway Park’s synthetic Polytrack surface offers points to the top quartet on a 20-8-4-2 scale. Post time for the Jeff Ruby is at 6 p.m. ET, and the Rebel’s post time is 7:09 p.m. ET. Here are Wynn's future-book odds on the entrants both races, listed in post-position order:

Rebel Stakes:

1) Title Ready (85-1)

2) Curlin’s Honor (60-1)

3) Solomini (20-1)

4) Magnum Moon (20-1)

5) Higher Power (125-1)

6) Pryor (225-1)

7) Sporting Chance (45-1)

8) High North (150-1)

9) Zing Zang (125-1)

10) Combatant (60-1)

11) Bode’s Maker (not offered)

Jeff Ruby Steaks:

1) Sky Promise (not offered)

2) Cash Call Kitten (not offered)

3) Archaggelos (not offered)

4) Pony Up (not offered)

5) Magicalmeister (175-1)

6) Mugaritz (not offered)

7) Hazit (300-1)

8) Blended Citizen (not offered)

9) Dreamer’s Point (275-1)

10) Zanesville (not offered)

11) Ride a Comet (not offered)

12) Arawak (not offered)

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