New Kentucky Derby Contenders Rise in Vegas Futures

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 literally hundreds 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 – and some of them may have not even raced yet. 

Wynn’s latest odds update was released before the Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 15, but after the rescheduled Jerome Stakes and the Lecomte Stakes, which were both held on Jan. 13. All three races offered Derby points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 scale. The next three Road to the Kentucky Derby preps are set for Feb. 3: the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park, the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, and the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct. Those races also offer qualifying points in the same distribution.

Jan. 15 Odds Leaders:

1) Bolt d’Oro (7-1)

2) McKinzie (10-1)

3) Good Magic (14-1)

4) Solomini (18-1)

5) Enticed (20-1)

Notable Changes:

Firenze Fire: He eked out a gritty half-length win in the one-mile Jerome Stakes, where he cut into a soft pace set by Seven Trumpets (offered at 125-1 odds by Wynn) to defeat that leader in the final strides. This Jason Servis-trained colt, winner of the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes over Good Magic last fall, rebounded nicely from a no-show effort in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. There are still questions about whether his pedigree is suitable for the Derby’s mile-and-a-quarter distance, and that may explain why his odds only dropped slightly in Wynn’s latest book, from 75-1 to 65-1.

Instilled Regard: This California shipper looked much the best in the one-mile and 70-yard Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds, sitting in a perfect pace-stalking position and then drawing clear under Javier Castellano to win by 3 ¾ lengths over highly-regarded Principe Guilherme (25-1 at Wynn). That race followed his effort in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity, where many observers thought he was the best horse when he caught the worst of a rough finish between Bob Baffert-trained McKinzie and Solomini (he was elevated to second from third after Solomini was disqualified from first). His odds slipped from 65-1 to 30-1 on Wynn’s sheet, and it will be interesting to see where trainer Jerry Hollendorfer puts him next on the Derby trail. Read more about this rising star in Mike Curry's latest Making the Grade blog.

Noble Indy (Leslie Martin/Coglianese Photo)

Noble Indy: This Todd Pletcher-trained colt, profiled in an earlier blog, is now two-for-two in his career after stretching out successfully to two turns in a 1 1/16-mile Gulfstream Park allowance optional claiming race on Jan. 11. His odds dropped from 85-1 to 60-1 at Wynn. In the Gulfstream allowance, he set a contested pace and proved game in the stretch to turn back another intriguing colt in Mississippi (offered at 75-1 odds). Look for him to stay in Florida and move up to face graded stakes company for his next start, at Gulfstream or Tampa Bay Downs.

Reride: This Winchell Thoroughbreds-owned colt’s odds dropped from 100-1 to 85-1 at Wynn after he held on to win the seven-furlong Big Drama Stakes at Delta Downs on Jan. 13 by a nose. That was his first start as a 3-year-old after winning two out of three races as a juvenile, including a one-mile turf race at Keeneland. Trained by Steve Asmussen, he’s a son of top-level sire Candy Ride, and his dam (mother) is a stakes winner and a full sister to West Virginia Derby winner Tapiture from the productive Winchell breeding program. Delta Downs is off of the radar this year as a location for major Derby preps as the Delta Jackpot was not run last fall, but the bayou track has sent horses on to make noise on the Triple Crown trail in recent years, Exaggerator and Gunnevera being two examples.

Note: As mentioned above, Wynn’s latest update was released before the Smarty Jones Stakes was run on the Martin Luther King holiday card at Oaklawn Park. Wynn’s futures odds for impressive winner Mourinho (125-1) and runner-up Combatant (85-1) will likely be reduced substantially in the next update.

Four to Watch:

Life’s a Parlay: This cleverly-named colt for philosophizing horseplayers hit the starting gate and ran greenly in his debut when favored in a seven-furlong maiden at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 6. He finished third in that race, but obviously the potential is vast as he’s a $725,000 yearling purchase by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, who also own up-and-coming Derby contender Vino Rosso (profiled in an earlier blog). Todd Pletcher trains both colts, and he trained Life’s a Parlay’s sire and 2010 champion juvenile Uncle Mo for Mike Repole. His dam’s (mother’s) pedigree tilts toward speed, as she is related to two good Grade 1-winning sprinters from the 1980s. His odds sit at 65-1 on Wynn’s sheet.

Reride (right) wins the Big Drama Stakes, in which Bobby's Wicked Ride was elevated to second.
Reride (right) wins the Big Drama Stakes. (Coady Photography)

Bobby’s Wicked One: This Al Stall-trained colt was placed second in the Big Drama Stakes won by Reride as he was forced to check when original runner-up Double Star moved in and blocked his path. He gave a good effort in the Big Drama, which was his first start since winning his career debut in a six-furlong maiden at Fair Grounds last November. Despite being a son of champion sprinter Speightstown, his pedigree suggests that he could improve in two-turn races, as his dam (mother) is a half-sister to champion and Breeders’ Cup Turf winner English Channel, who excelled at long distances. He’s offered at 150-1 odds by Wynn.

Saxon Warrior: He’s the current leader among Europe-based horses on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, accumulating 20 points through four of the seven qualifying races (one spot in the Derby starting gate is up for grabs). Offered at 85-1 odds by Wynn, this Japanese-bred son of Deep Impact won two group stakes last year as a juvenile (equivalent to graded stakes in the U.S.). His dam (mother), Maybe, was a champion juvenile filly in England. He’s owned by the Coolmore group, trained by Aidan O’Brien, and is also getting a lot of attention at British bookmaking sites as a candidate for the Investec Derby next summer in England.

Supreme Aura: Trained by Mike Stidham, this Candy Ride colt made an eye-catching 3-year-old debut at Fair Grounds on Jan. 5, picking right up where he left off nearly five months earlier. He had not raced since romping a six-furlong maiden at Delaware Park in August, his career debut, but trained like a monster in Louisiana in December and then won a six-furlong allowance optional claiming race by 3 ½ lengths. His odds sit at 85-1 in Wynn’s book, and he’s related to Arkansas Derby winner Sir Cherokee and some other good stakes winners on his dam’s (mother’s) side.

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!