A 20-horse field is always a huge challenge to handicap. But this year’s Kentucky Derby is even more challenging than most, as you can make a quality case for more than half the horses on the board to get over the line first.
In a race that’s generally wide open, this year it’s the full horizon at Churchill Downs. The favorite Epicenter drawing the uncomfortable No. 3 post position opens up the race even more, and with some of the rail horses having early speed we could see a tremendous bunching entering the first turn. While being in the pack down the backstretch isn’t a death sentence in a 10 furlong race, it’s not where you want to be either.
Your betting strategy seems to be either key the favorite in Epicenter and pick some horses underneath to cash the exotics, or find a favorite down stream and go for value. We’ll choose the latter because let’s make some big cash.
Taiba is 2-for-2 career, including a win in what might have been the deepest prep race on the calendar in the Santa Anita Derby. But the early money so far today has him bet down to a co-favorite at 5-1 with Epicenter, and that price isn’t as strong either.
But watch this close of White Abbario in the Florida Derby, and tell me this isn’t a horse that can beat any three-year-old in the world right now?
That’s an ugly trip but with plenty in the tank at the finish. Abbario was 10-1 on the morning line, but has been shorted up to 13-1 so far today. We like the value here.
And if we’re going to head down the board, check out Cyberknife the Arkansas Derby winner. While it wasn’t the best performance, he was strong and steady down the stretch. He also held off the Kentucky Oaks winner in Secret Oath without much issue.
We liked Cyberknife at the morning line of 20-1 much more than the 12-1 on offer presently, but there’s still value to be had even at the lighter number, which we think will tick back up closer to post time anyway.
Some of the other horses to throw in the mix would be Messier and the Blue Grass Stakes winner Zandon, who looked terrific in his win to get qualified for the race at Keeneland a month ago.