Here we go, time for the main event and the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby.
Pushed to September last year because of the pandemic, the Derby returns to its traditional spot on the calendar and the first Saturday in May. Something about that just feels good, along with some fans in the stands at Churchill Downs and millions of others set to tune into the great spectacle that the late Hunter S. Thompson dubbed “decadent and depraved.” Surely you’ve read his seminal piece; if not fire up the Google machine and get to work.
Back to the task at hand. Derby Day starts early and goes late – first post at 10:30 a.m. and last post at 8:30 p.m. – so you’ll need to stay hydrated and fueled up throughout. If you’re looking to pad the bankroll, hopefully we can help.
The eight-headed handicapping team from all things ST Publishing and This Is Horse Racing is back with selections for the seven stakes including the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve. The Derby attracted its typical full field of 20 3-year-olds and goes as the 12th on the 14-race card with post time set for 6:57 p.m.
The race will be broadcast live by NBC during coverage from 2:30 to 7:30. Horse Racing Radio Network will also carry the race live from 5-7:30 p.m.
A new twist to the Derby this year – the 10-furlong classic and lead-off jewel of the Triple Crown will be run Lasix-free. Half of the field have never run on Lasix while the others didn’t in any of their graded stakes preps.
The handicappers fared well on Friday’s Kentucky Oaks Day card, coming away with winners in each of the six stakes. Newcomer Jessica Paquette and Rob Whitlock, who crushed his bets in the Oaks Day Betting Challenge, picked three winners apiece. Jessica wound up the lone handicapper with Kentucky Oaks winner Malathaat on top, along with Maxfield in the Alysheba Stakes and Shedaresthedevil in the La Troienne. Rob scored huge with Obligatory in the Eight Belles – a $35 winner – along with Shedaresthedevil and Fast Boat in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint.
Paul Halloran (Gift List in the Edgewood and Maxfield), Sean Clancy (Maxfield and Shedaresthedevil) and Charles Bedard (Shedaresthedevil and Fast Boat) came away with a pair of winners apiece. Tom Law and John Shapazian both picked Maxfield for their lone winner and Joe Clancy was blanked.
Here are the picks for Derby Day. Take care, be safe and good luck.
Longines Distaff Turf Mile Stakes (G2). $500,000, fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up, 1 mile, turf. Post time 1:14 p.m. ET.
Loaded renewal of traditional Derby Day fixture with Zofelle, Got Stormy, Blowout, New York Girl and She’s Got You in the field of seven. And don’t count out the other two, Jakarta and Abscond.
Joe: New York Girl, Got Story, Zofelle.
Jessica: New York Girl, Got Stormy, Zofelle.
John: Zofelle, Got Stormy, Blowout.
Tom: Got Stormy, Blowout, Zofelle.
Charles: New York Girl, Abscond, Blowout.
Rob: Jakarta, Got Stormy, New York Girl.
Sean; Blowout, Got Stormy, New York Girl.
Paul: Zofelle, Blowout, Got Stormy.
Derby City Distaff Stakes presented by Kendall-Jackson Winery (G1). $500,000, fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up, 7 furlongs. Post time 1:56 p.m.
Gamine sparkled in her 2021 debut, winning the Grade 3 Las Flores to run her one-turn record to an official 6-for-6, including the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, Acorn and Test. She’ll be tough in return to Churchill but gives weight to four of her five opponents.
Joe: Gamine, Hibiscus Punch, Bell’s The One.
Jessica: Bell’s The One, Gamine, Sconsin.
John: Gamine, Bell’s The One, Unique Factor.
Tom: Gamine, Hibiscus Punch, Bell’s The One.
Charles: Gamine, Bell’s The One, Sconsin.
Rob: Gamine, Bell’s The One, Sconsin.
Sean: Gamine, Bell's The One, Estilio Talentoso.
Paul: Gamine, Bell’s The One, Sconsin.
Pat Day Mile Stakes presented by LG&E and KU (G2). $500,000, 3-year-olds, 1 mile. Post time 2:48 p.m.
This one always seems to produce a crazy result so perhaps it’s no time to settle for a short price. Jackie’s Warrior figures to be favored and he’s won at the 1-mile trip, in the Grade 1 Champagne no less, so very deserving. But if he’s vulnerable perhaps it’s the third and fourth from the Santa Anita Derby in Dream Shake and Defunded, respectively, or maybe Wood Memorial also-ran Prevalence, Bay Shore runner-up Whiskey Double or Lexington third Starrininmydreams.
Joe: Jackie’s Warrior, Prevalence, Defunded.
Jessica: Whiskey Double, Jackie’s Warrior, Joe Frazier.
John: Dream Shake, Jackie’s Warrior, Prevalence.
Tom: Prevalence, Dream Shake, Starrininmydreams.
Charles: Jackie’s Warrior, Starrininmydreams, Prevalence.
Rob: Defunded, Dream Shake, Whiskey Double.
Sean: Prevalence, Dream Shake, Joe Frazier.
Paul: Jackie’s Warrior, Prevalence, Defunded.
American Turf Stakes presented by Derby City Gaming (G2). $500,000, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles, turf. Post time 3:40 p.m.
Full field of 14 entered and another mixed bag with unbeaten Annex looking to collect first graded stakes victory over the likes of the Grade 3 Transylvania 1-2 finishers Scarlett Sky and Palazzi, California shipper Du Jour, stakes winner Winfromwithin and New York-bred first-time turfer Excellent Timing.
Joe: Annex, Scarlett Sky, Palazzi.
Jessica: Scarlett Sky, Annex, Holy Vow.
John: Du Jour, Annex, Winfromwithin.
Tom: Annex, Scarlett Sky, Winfromwithin.
Charles: Annex, Winfromwithin, Scarlett Sky.
Rob: Royal Prince, Annex, Scarlett Sky.
Sean: Scarlett Sky, Annex, Winfromwithin.
Paul: Excellent Timing, Annex, Scarlett Sky.
Churchill Downs Stakes presented by Ford (G1). $500,000, 4-year-olds and up, 7 furlongs. Post time 4:31 p.m.
The champ Whitmore returned to Louisville this week from his annual winter and spring sojourn home to Arkansas. He lost both starts at Oaklawn, finishing second to C Z Rocket in the Hot Springs and Grade 3 Count Fleet, but doesn’t face any of the like of that foe here. Last year’s champion male sprinter and Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner gives five pounds to the field, including last-out Grade 3 Commonwealth winner Flagstaff and Grade 1 winners Mind Control Basin and Hog Creek Hustle.
Joe: Flagstaff, Get The Prize, Endorsed.
Jessica: Tap It To Win, Whitmore, Hog Creek Hustle.
John: Flagstaff, Mind Control, Basin.
Tom: Whitmore, Tap It To Win, Hog Creek Hustle.
Charles: Phat Man, Whitmore, Flagstaff.
Rob: Get The Prize, Phat Man, Flagstaff.
Sean: Tap It To Win, Basin, Whitmore.
Paul: Endorsed, Flagstaff, Mind Control.
Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic Stakes (G1). $1 million, 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles, turf. Post time 5:27 p.m.
Colonel Liam looks to continue his run as North America’s best turf horse off victories in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf and Grade 2 Muniz Memorial against last year’s Grade 1 Hollywood Derby winner Domestic Spending, multiple graded stakes winner Smooth Like Strait and Grade 1 winner Ivar. Strong field per usual for lead-in to the main event. Enjoy it then pour a beverage because it will be about an hour and a half.
Joe: Colonel Liam, Ivar, Smooth Like Strait.
Jessica: Domestic Spending, Colonel Liam, Cross Border.
John: Colonel Liam, Ivar, Smooth Like Strait.
Tom: Colonel Liam, Smooth Like Strait, Domestic Spending.
Charles: Count Again, Colonel Liam, Ride A Comet.
Rob: Smooth Like Straight, Domestic Spending, Colonel Liam.
Sean: Colonel Liam, Domestic Spending, Ivar.
Paul: Digital Age, Colonel Liam, Ride A Comet.
Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). $3 million, 3-year-olds, 1 1/4 miles. Post time 6:57 p.m.
Everything might not be back to normal but America’s greatest race on the first Saturday in May certainly is a start. The main event, the one we’ve been talking and prognosticating about for months and a field of 20 of the best 3-year-olds still standing. The first three finishers from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile led by champion and morning-line favorite Essential Quality look to make the starting gate for the run for the roses – runner-up Hot Rod Charlie and third Keepmeinmind are also in the mix. They’re joined by unbeaten Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World, Todd Pletcher’s strong quartet led by Florida Derby winner Known Agenda and Wood Memorial 1-2 Bourbonic and Dynamic One and Steve Asmussen’s pair of Arkansas Derby winner Super Stock and Midnight Bourbon. Bob Baffert could become the all-time leading Derby-winning trainer if Medina Spirit can get it done with John Velazquez.
Joe: Rock Your World, Essential Quality, Known Agenda, Dynamic One.
Jessica: Rock Your World, Essential Quality, Bourbonic, Super Stock.
John: Essential Quality, Rock Your World, Known Agenda, Hot Rod Charlie.
Tom: Known Agenda, Dynamic One, Rock Your World, Hot Rod Charlie.
Charles: Hot Rod Charlie, Essential Quality, Highly Motivated, Known Agenda.
Rob: Known Agenda, Dynamic One, Midnight Bourbon, O Besos.
Sean: Rock Your World, Known Agenda, Helium, Bourbonic.
Paul: Essential Quality, Midnight Bourbon, Known Agenda, Hot Rod Charlie.