2018 Derby Day picks

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The day everyone’s been waiting for is here and the Kentucky Derby, America’s greatest horse race and one of the world’s most sought-after prizes, goes down for the 144th time Saturday at Churchill Downs.

The weather forecast continues to improve for the monster 14-race card that starts early and ends late – first post is 10:30 a.m. EDT and last post is 8:20 p.m. That’s roughly a 10 1/2-hour day, so best to stay hydrated and the bankroll flush.

Another full field of 20 is expected to face the starter for the $2,192,000 Kentucky Derby with undefeated Santa Anita Derby winner Justify, Irish invader and UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn, undefeated Arkansas Derby winner Magnum Moon, champion and Blue Grass winner Good Magic and Florida Derby winner Audible vying for favoritism.

The Derby goes off at 6:46 p.m. and will be televised live on NBC from 2:30 to 7:25 p.m. EDT with our friends at the Horse Racing Radio Network handling the radio broadcast from 5-7 p.m.

Six big stakes are set to run before the main event, including the Grade 1 Humana Distaff and the Grade 1 Old Forester Turf Classic. The first stakes of the day is the Humana Distaff at 1:13 p.m.

Results for the handicappers during Friday’s Kentucky Oaks Day card were varied, with Joe leading the way with a pair of winners in Mia Mischief in the Eight Belles and Backyard Heaven in the Alysheba. John Cox also picked Backyard Heaven and John Shapazian picked Monomony Girl in the Kentucky Oaks. Sean and Tom were blanked. Here’s the team’s picks for Kentucky Derby Day. Enjoy and good luck.

Humana Distaff (G1). $300,000, 4-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 7 furlongs. 1:13 p.m. EDT.

Finley’sluckycharm earned first Grade 1 victory last time out in Madison at Keeneland and bids for another on a track where she’s 6-for-6. She drew the rail in field of eight that will reduce by one with the scratch of Friday’s Grade 1 La Troienne winner Salty. Lewis Bay and American Gal both ran well to be third and fourth, respectively, in the Madison.

Joe: American Gal, Ivy Bell, Lewis Bay.
Sean: American Gal, Finley’sluckycharm, Lewis Bay.
Tom: Finley’sluckycharm, American Gal, Lewis Bay.
John Shapazian: Lewis Bay, American Gal, Finley’sluckycharm.
John Cox: Finley’sluckycharm, Lewis Bay, American Gal.

Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2). $300,000, 4-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 mile, turf. 1:55 p.m. EDT.

Chad Brown looks to continue powerful spring – particularly on the grass – with Dream Awhile in her fourth start here in the U.S. Second last time in the Grade 3 Suwanee River, daughter of War Front cuts back to a mile the first time in her career. Loaded field also includes Grade 1 winners Dream Dancing and La Coronel from Mark Casse’s barn and graded stakes winners Madam Dancealot, Proctor’s Ledge and On Leave.

Joe: On Leave, La Coronel, Res Ipsa.
Sean: Dream Awhile, Proctor’s Ledge, Res Ipsa.
Tom: Dream Awhile, Proctor’s Ledge, La Coronel.
John Shapazian: Dream Awhile, La Coronel, Madam Dancealot.
John Cox: La Coronel, On Leave, Dream Awhile.

Churchill Downs (G2). $500,000, 4-year-olds and up, 7 furlongs. 2:45 p.m. EDT.

Limousine Liberal is back to defend title in race he won on wet track last year. He’s 5-for-7 at Churchill and almost always runs his race. Matches up with several familiar foes in here in Whitmore, Warrior’s Club, Awesome Saturday and Awesome Slew. Imperial Hint will go off as the favorite and it’s hard to knock last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up coming off solid prep at Tampa.

Joe: Imperial Hint, Whitmore, Limousine Liberal.
Sean: Imperial Hint, Whitmore, Outplay.
Tom: Limousine Liberal, Whitmore, Imperial Hint.
John Shapazian: Imperial Hint, Awesome Slew, Limousine Liberal.
John Cox: Limousine Liberal, Imperial Hint, Warrior’s Club.

American Turf (G2). $300,000, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles, turf. 3:37 p.m. EDT.

Full field of 14 – with at least one of the two on the AE list expected to draw in with Rushing Fall already running Friday against fillies in the Edgewood – and back to the turf for Threeandfourpence. War Front colt won going 6 furlongs on the grass and exits races on synthetic and dirt for Aidan O’Brien. Captivating Moon and Admiralty Pier were no match for Analyze It in the Grade 3 Transylvania and are certainly thankful for that one’s absence here.

Joe: Threeandfourpence, Maraud, River Boyne.
Sean: Pont Du Gard, River Boyne, Untamed Domain.
Tom: Threeandfourpence, Untamed Domain, Captivating Moon.
John Shapazian: River Boyne, Untamed Domain, Maraud.
John Cox: Captivating Moon, Speed Franco, Untamed Domain.

Pat Day Mile (G3). $300,000, 3-year-olds, 1 mile. 4:28 p.m. EDT.

The handicappers are all over with another full field of 14 on tap. Several in here who would have run two hours later in the Derby if things went different this season, including Hopeful winner Sporting Chance, unbeaten Mask, Florida Derby third Mississippi, National Flag, Lombo, New York Central and Greyvitos.

Joe: Greyvitos, Mask, National Flag.
Sean: Mask, Madison’s Luna, Mississippi.
Tom: Givemeaminit, Restoring Hope, Mask.
John Shapazian: Mask, Restoring Hope, Madison’s Luna.
John Cox: Restoring Hope, Mask, National Flag.

Old Forester Turf Classic (G1). $500,000, 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles, turf. 5:25 p.m. EDT.

Beach Patrol just missed in last year’s edition of this race then went on to win two Grade 1s and place in two others, including the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Deauville won the Grade 1 Belmont Derby and finished second in the Arlington Million as a 3-year-old and has kept top company throughout his career for Aidan O’Brien. Ryan Moore’s third ride of the day.

Joe: Synchrony, Deauville, Beach Patrol.
Sean: Deauville, Beach Patrol, Yoshida.
Tom: Deauville, Yoshida, Beach Patrol.
John Shapazian: Deauville, Yoshida, Kurilov.
John Cox: Synchrony, Beach Patrol, Kurilov.

Kentucky Derby (G1). $2 million, 3-year-olds, 1 1/4 miles. 6:50 p.m. EDT.

The main event features all the makings of a memorable event with all the winners of the major preps in the field, a European invader, a few trying to break a so-called curse and representatives from some of the biggest and best stables in America. Justify is a legitimate favorite off three dominating victories for four-time Derby winner Bob Baffert and he’ll attempt to become the first winner of the race to not race as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882. Might be time to end that overused discussion. Undefeated Arkansas Derby winner Magnum Moon looks to do the same and he’s one of four with Audible, Noble Indy and Vino Ross for two-time Derby winner Todd Pletcher. Bolt d’Oro would have been odds-on if the race were in late September after he ripped off two Grade 1s in Southern California. He hasn’t crossed the wire first in three starts since, but he’s legit and improving when it counts. Mendelssohn carries the hopes of Ireland – and his Central Kentucky breeders who sold the half brother for $3 million – and might be the most valuable horse ever with a victory for Coolmore, Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore. The wise-guy horse is clearly Hofburg for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who is seeking his first win in America’s great race. Cases to be made for each of the 20 and almost as many questions for the group, too.

Joe: Hofburg, Mendelssohn, Bolt d’Oro, Justify.
Sean: Hofburg, Justify, Audible, Good Magic. 
Tom: Mendelssohn, Justify, Good Magic, Vino Rosso.
John Shapazian: Justify, Good Magic, Audible, Hofburg.
John Cox: Audible, Bolt d’Oro, Justify, Combatant.