Major Shifts in Vegas Kentucky Derby Futures, Plus Five to Follow

The stretch run from the 2017 Kentucky Derby. (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. 

Several prep races have occurred since the last edition of this blog in mid-January, and horses including Mourinho, Audible, and Avery Island have gained more backers in Vegas after notable performances. The next Road to the Kentucky Derby race on tap is Saturday’s Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, which offers qualifying points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 scale. Several intriguing contenders are also entered in the seven-furlong Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes, which does not offer Derby points but has sent horses such as Nyquist and Silver Charm on to Kentucky Derby glory in years past.

In addition to the ongoing Vegas future book adjustments, Churchill Downs will be offering its second Kentucky Derby Future Wager this upcoming weekend, starting at noon ET on Friday, Feb. 9, and closing at Sunday,  Feb. 11, at 6 p.m. ET. The “All Others” mutuel field option has been pegged by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia to lead the Future Wager’s morning line at 7-2 odds. McKinzie leads the 23 individual horses on the morning line at odds of 8-1.

Feb. 8 Odds Leaders:

1) Bolt d’Oro (7-1)

2) McKinzie (8-1)

3) Good Magic (12-1)

4) Audible (15-1)

5) Montauk (18-1)

5) Solomini (18-1)

*Update: Montauk has been declared out of consideration for the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs has suspended wagering on him for its Feb. 9-11 future pool.

Notable Changes:

Audible: Odds plummeted from 125-1 to 15-1, good for fourth overall among Derby contenders on Wynn’s sheet, after he romped in the Holy Bull Stakes by 5 ½ lengths over a well-regarded field. There are distance limitations in his pedigree, as Mike Curry examines in his latest Making the Grade blog, but he certainly passed the eye test when galloping out powerfully in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull.

Avery Island: The Withers Stakes winner’s odds slipped from 45-1 to 30-1 at Wynn. He has the look of a grinder who can run all day, perhaps lacking a swift turn of foot, but still a legitimate Derby contender for Kiaran McLaughlin. His pedigree is perfectly attuned to the Triple Crown races, as he’s by 2007 Derby winner Street Sense and out of an A.P. Indy mare, with a grandam (maternal grandmother) who was a champion long-distance racemare in Chile.

Lombo: Led all the way in the Robert E. Lewis Stakes and saw his future odds drop from 150-1 to 65-1. Post-race analysis from many observers has concluded that the Lewis field was the “B” team of West Coast Derby contenders, but this colt should be at the very least a major pace threat in the upcoming California preps and has a decent stamina foundation. He is from the first crop of Graydar, a very fast horse who won the 1 1/8-mile Donn Handicap and is by Arrogate’s sire Unbridled’s Song, although Lombo’s female side of the family tilts more toward milers.

Ayacara: The runner-up in the Robert E. Lewis actually drew more backers at Wynn, as his odds dropped from 250-1 to 50-1. He made up some real estate on Lombo in the stretch after a ground-saving trip. Some of his newfound support is likely due a sneaky-good distance pedigree as he’s by hot young sire Violence, whose racing career was brief but who showed a lot of talent as a 2-year-old, and out of a dam (mother) who’s by Pulpit (a very influential sire in recent Derby bloodlines) and from the family of some good route-distance stakes winners.

Strike Power: Profiled in an earlier edition of this blog, this Speightstown colt improved to 2-for-2 in his career with a blitzkrieg win in the seven-furlong Swale Stakes. Based on his abundant speed, he has the makings of H. Allen Jerkens Stakes or Woody Stephens Stakes victor this coming summer in New York rather than a classic winner, but as noted in my earlier analysis, his female pedigree gives him a good dose of stamina. His odds dropped from 60-1 to 40-1 at Wynn.

Five to Watch:

Ax Man: This Bob Baffert-trained Misremembered colt has not raced since obliterating nine opponents by 9 ½ lengths in his career debut going three-quarters of a mile at Santa Anita Park on New Year’s Day. He received a 108 Equibase Speed Figure for that effort, and has been working very well at Santa Anita since in advance of his start in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes on Saturday. He’s offered at 65-1 odds by Wynn, and is a half-brother to three stakes winners, including champion sprinter Indian Blessing.

Curly’s Rocket: The second Baffert charge on this list of fast risers finished a close second to his stablemate Nero (profiled in an earlier blog and slated to start in the San Vicente) in a January maiden race at Santa Anita, and then graduated to the winner’s circle in his next start on Feb. 3. He won that six-furlong test at “The Great Race Place” by 3 ¼ lengths and is another of several intriguing 3-year-olds sired by Into Mischief, one of the most productive young stallions in the business. On the female side, he’s related to a couple of graded stakes winners at the Derby’s classic 1 ¼-mile distance. He’s given 100-1 odds by Wynn. (Nero currently sits at 65-1)

Gotta Go (left) winning Street Sense Stakes. (Coady Photography)

Gotta Go: This Ian Wilkes trainee closed well to cut into Strike Power’s lengthy lead in the Swale Stakes and settled for second in his first start since a rough-trip 13th-place finish in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs last November. Prior to that, he won two consecutive starts around one turn – a maiden win at six furlongs and the one-mile Street Sense Stakes, both at Churchill. He may turn out to be best-suited to sprint distances, but he did post a career-best 105 Equibase Speed Figure in the Swale and seemed to just be getting into gear midway through the stretch, so another two-turn try should be in the offing soon. Offered at 100-1 odds by Wynn.

Mitole: This Steve Asmussen-trained Eskendereya colt broke his maiden in his third career start on Feb. 3 at Oaklawn Park after finishing third and second in his two prior starts. He dominated the six-furlong race at Oaklawn after breaking well and taking the lead at the outset, scoring by 10 lengths, and those impressed by what they saw are getting 100-1 odds from Wynn. Given that he was favored at 2-5, a win was certainly expected, but Asmussen has been known for developing his Derby horses a bit later than most and this one could be any kind.

Restoring Hope: This colt, yet another from Bob Baffert’s horde of Kentucky Derby contenders, put it all together in his third start on Feb. 2, taking a 1 1/16-mile maiden at Santa Anita by 3 ½ lengths with a sharp 108 Equibase Speed Figure. He’s owned by Gary and Mary West, who campaign West Coast, and his pedigree, while lacking in big-name stakes-winning relatives, is intriguing as he’s a son of the veteran stamina sire Giant’s Causeway and his dam (mother) is by leading sire Tapit. He’s sitting at 30-1 odds on Wynn’s book, indicating much respect from the future-bet cognoscenti.

Upcoming Derby Prep: Saturday’s Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs drew seven starters, led by Remsen Stakes winner Catholic Boy. Post time is set for 4:52 p.m. Eastern. Here are Wynn’s future odds for the field in post-position order:

1) Navy Armed Guard (not offered)

2) Flameaway (125-1)

3) Vino Rosso (30-1)

4) Septimius Severus (not offered)

5) Hollywood Star (75-1)

6) Catholic Boy (30-1)

7) Vouch (175-1)

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