The day everyone’s been waiting for is finally here. The 142nd edition of the Kentucky Derby, a race that carries with it a fast-food company sponsorship also seems to bring more significant questions than usual this year.
Nyquist looks to extend his unbeaten streak to eight races, a run that started 11 months ago at Santa Anita and continued through the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland to cap a championship campaign. He’s won twice this year, sprinting 7 furlongs and on a wet track in the Florida Derby against a quality opponent Mohaymen.
He’s the deserving favorite, yet many are looking for ways to knock him, or simply for reasons to play against him.
There’s certainly plenty of options, 19 of them in fact, with a full field expected for the main event a little after 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Before that there’s six big stakes, including a couple Grade 1s, and tremendous wagering opportunities. It might only take one on a day like this and the party can continue long after the ice in the mint juleps is melted at the bottom of your cup.
Our trio of handicappers look for a big day after not exactly lighting it up during Friday’s Kentucky Oaks card. They each picked a pair of winners. Tom tabbed Curalina in the La Troienne and Cathryn Sophia in the Oaks, Joe picked Carina Mia in the Eight Belles and Cathryn Sophia in the Oaks and Sean correctly picked Curalina and Catch A Glimpse in the Edgewood.
Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2). $300,000, 4-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 mile, turf. 1:13 p.m. ET.
Tepin continues to roll with five straight wins dating back to last year when she won the Breeders’ Cup Mile over males. She won this race last year and exits powerful score in Grade 1 Jenny Wiley three weeks ago at Keeneland.
Tom: Tepin, Isabella Sings, Rainha Da Bateria
Joe: Tepin, Rainha Da Bateria, Isabella Sings.
Sean: Tepin, Cash Control, Ticking Katie.
Churchill Downs (G2). $500,000, 4-year-olds and up, 7 furlongs. 1:55 p.m.
One of the best betting races on the card with Californians Kobe’s Back and Calculator taking their game to Kentucky to take on locals Barbados, Limousine Liberal and Holy Boss. Speightster and Salutos Amigos bring the heat from the East Coast.
Tom: Barbados, Limousine Liberal, Speightster.
Joe: Speightster, Salutos Amigos, Calculator.
Sean: Limousine Liberal, Kobe’s Back, Speightster.
Humana Distaff (G1). $300,000, 4-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 7 furlongs. 2:45 p.m.
Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Wavell Avenue could do no better than third against Sheer Drama and Stopchargingmaria last time in Grade 1 Madison and catches break without the presence of those two heavyweights in this spot. Bad news is Taris and Enchanting Lady are in from California, while Stonetastic ships up after the winter in Florida.
Tom: Wavell Avenue, Enchanting Lady, Taris.
Joe: Wavell Avenue, Taris, Stonetastic.
Sean: Taris, Wavell Avenue, Stonetastic.
American Turf (G2). $300,000, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles, turf. 3:25 p.m.
Airoforce was considered for the spring classics earlier this year even though he’s more suited for the grass. He’s back on the turf , where he won the Grade 3 Bourbon and finished second in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last season. A dozen others are entered, including impressive Transylvania winner Shakhimat, multiple stakes winner Dressed In Hermes and With Anticipation winner Azar.
Tom: Surgical Strike, Converge, Airoforce.
Joe: Airoforce, Shakhimat, American Patriot.
Sean: Shakhimat, Converge, Beach Patrol.
Pat Day Mile (G3). $250,000, 3-year-olds, 1 mile. 4:25 p.m.
The main event later in the day drew a full field and the race that’s for the not-quite-there group also attracts big field of 14. Pick and angle, any angle and it might work. American Freedom was impressive winning debut on Santa Anita Derby undercard for Bob Baffert and takes step up in class, while Unbridled Outlaw, Star Hill, Lookin For A Kiss, American Dubai, Fellowship, Gray Sky and Discreetness all tried Grade 1 company last time.
Tom: Fellowship, American Freedom, Cocked And Loaded.
Joe: Forevamo, Fellowship, Ralis.
Sean: Fellowship, Star Hill, Forevamo.
Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1). $500,000, 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles, turf. 5:25 p.m.
The hits keep coming and another strong betting race to lead into the main event. Field of 13 take to the grass, led by Grade 1 winners and Breeders’ Cup Turf third and fourth Big Blue Kitten and Slumber, respectively, and top Californians Bolo and Midnight Storm. Tourist showed a little rust last time finishing third behind the filly Miss Temple City and Heart To Heart last time in Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile. Those two aren’t in this spot and he should be tough second off layoff for Bill Mott.
Tom: Tourist, Big Blue Kitten, Divisidero.
Joe: Tourist, Big Blue Kitten, World Approval.
Sean: Bolo, Slumber, Danish Dynaformer.
Kentucky Derby (G1). $2 million, 3-year-olds, 1 1/4 miles. 6:34 p.m.
The one that matters most and the one that features the biggest differences of opinions virtually regardless of who you ask. Will Nyquist keep is unbeaten record intact and become the first undefeated 2-year-old champion to win the Derby since Seattle Slew? Will Mohaymen bounce back from unflattering loss to Nyquist in Florida Derby, the first of his career? Did Exaggerator peak in the Santa Anita Derby, or did he just relish the off track? How good were the 3-year-olds this winter in Hot Springs? Does the buzz make sense for Outwork? And what of Brody’s Cause? He’s lights out at Keeneland; can he be at Churchill, too?
Tom: Creator, Exaggerator, Whitmore.
Joe: Mohaymen, Nyquist, Outwork.
Sean: Nyquist, Suddenbreakingnews, Gun Runner.