Using Stats to Pick the 2018 Kentucky Derby Winner

The field in the 2016 Kentucky Derby hits the homestretch, with eventual winner Nyquist (purple cap) vying for the lead. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve is one of the toughest races to handicap, involving a big field of young racehorses, usually running the longest race of their career. There are many methods of deciding who to bet on, but one of the most entertaining is hunch bets. That’s right, hunch bets: based on the weather, or your grandmother’s birthday, or the name of your first childhood dog. They require very little (if any) actual handicapping, and if your horse is a longshot you can win a decent chunk of change.

Here, I take a shot at a statistical hunch bet for the 2018 Kentucky Derby, narrowing down 21 horses (including the also-eligible Blended Citizen) to just one potential winner using Derby statistics and facts. Follow my “logic” below, but be sure to take it all with a grain of salt – this method is far from scientific!

If you’re keeping track, the field has now been trimmed in half, with 10 contenders remaining. Continuing …

  • Trainer Steve Asmussen is winless from 18 Kentucky Derby starters so we will scratch off his entrant, Combatant.
  • Horses with the first initial of “E” have just a 4.1 percent win rate and are winless since 1918. That means we can remove Enticed from consideration.
  • Since 1991, there has only been one sire with more than one Derby winner, so we can eliminate Magnum Moon, whose sire Malibu Moon won the Derby in 2013 with son Orb.
  • Only one New York-bred has ever won the run for the roses, so Audible probably won’t.
  • No Kentucky Derby winner has ever exited gate 17, so Solomini can be crossed off our list.
  • The UAE Derby has never produced a winner, so we will eliminate Mendelssohn from win consideration.

We have our superfecta: Bolt d’Oro, Good Magic, Hofburg, and Justify.

  • No horse has won the Derby without previously winning a graded stakes race since Giacomo in 2005, so we can remove Hofburg from the list.
  • The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes has served as the final prep race for 23 Derby winners but just one since 1995, so Good Magic is eliminated.
  • The last horse who won the Derby without racing as a 2-year-old is Apollo, in 1882. It’s unlikely Justify can overcome 136 years of history, so we’ll remove him from consideration.

That leaves us with the 2018 Kentucky Derby winner. Based on statistics and a few hunches, Bolt d’Oro will wear the roses on Saturday. But remember, as George Canning said, “I can prove anything by statistics, except the truth.”

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