Rain, rain, go away. Feels like we echo the old nursery rhyme every year and of late we certainly do when it comes to Kentucky Derby Day.
Another wet one is on tap, following 2017 when Always Dreaming splashed to victory and last year when Justify started his historic run into the record books as an unbeaten Derby winner and soon-to-be Triple Crown winner. All eyes on Louisville – and The Weather Channel – again here the first Saturday in May for the 145th Kentucky Derby as the show goes on rain or shine.
The 2019 Kentucky Derby packs plenty of story angles, first with the defection of morning-line favorite Omaha Beach to Bob Baffert inheriting the favorite’s role – with three horses no less – in search of a record-tying sixth win, to two members of the field who prepped overseas and finally to winners of the Blue Grass Stakes and Wood Memorial looking to end runs of futility for those historic preps.
Rain fell long and hard early Friday to welcome Kentucky Oaks Day and is expected again Saturday, potentially wreaking havoc on the Derby and undercard stakes. The handicappers scoped out the weather and the past performances for the Derby and six undercard stakes and look to improve on Friday’s performance.
Ben Gowans led the way with three winners Friday - McKinzie in the Alysheba, She's A Julie in the La Troienne and World Of Trouble (via the scratch of Bound For Nowhere) in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint. Joe Clancy and Sean Clancy each tabbed two winners - Break Even in the Eight Belles and World Of Trouble - John Cox picked two with Break Even and McKinzie and John Shapazian picked two with McKinzie and World Of Trouble. Tom Law trailed with just a single, McKinzie.
Here are the Derby Day stakes picks from our team. Enjoy, be safe and good luck.
Humana Distaff (G1). $500,000, 4-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 7 furlongs. 1:13 p.m. EDT.
Small field for first stakes on the card. Are they all scared of Marley’s Freedom? She shortens back up to preferred one-turn trip but she’s only 2-for-6 at 7 furlongs. Spiced Perfection won the Grade 1 Madison and is a touch better at 7, winning three of six in her career. Shopping for a price? Talk Veuve To Me looked good winning comeback optional at Keeneland April 11.
- Tom: Marley’s Freedom, Talke Veuve To Me, Spiced Perfection.
- John S.: Marley’s Freedom, Talk Veuve To Me, Amy’s Challenge.
- Ben: Amy’s Challenge, Marley’s Freedom, Spiced Perfection
- John Cox: Spiced Perfection, Marley’s Freedom, Talk Veuve To Me.
- Joe: Amy's Challenge, Talk Veuve To Me, Marley's Freedom.
- Sean: Marley's Freedom, Talk Veuve To Me, Spiced Perfection.
Distaff Turf Mile (G2). $400,000, 4-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 mile, turf. 1:55 p.m.
Proctor’s Ledge returns to defend title. She won last year by a half-length in what would be her lone victory of 2018. Daughter of Ghostzapper never disappoints though and goes second off layoff following close defeat to fellow Distaff Turf Mile foe Valedictorian in small stakes at Gulfstream March 30. Chad Brown sends out usual strong phalanx of Precieuse and Environs.
- Tom: Environs, Daddy Is A Legend, Proctor’s Ledge.
- John S.: Precieuse, Daddy Is A Legend, Capla Temptress.
- Ben: Proctor’s Ledge, Environs, Daddy Is A Legend.
- John Cox: Daddy Is A Legend, Precieuse, Got Stormy.
- Joe: Environs, Proctor's Ledge, Precieuse.
Sean: Environs, Proctor's Ledge, Precieuse.
Churchill Downs (G1). $500,000, 4-year-olds and up, 7 furlongs. 2:45 p.m.
Ron Moquett hoped for a little more early pace last time when Whitmore chased – unsuccessfully – Mitole in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint at Oaklawn. He’ll get it here with Promised Fulfilled, Bobby’s Wicked One and possibly Warrior’s Club looking for early position against the favorite. Good race.
- Tom: Whitmore, Mitole, Promises Fulfilled.
- John S.: Uncontested, Warrior’s Club, Whitmore.
- Ben: Mitole, Whitmore, Warrior’s Club.
- John Cox: Whitmore, Warrior’s Club, Promised Fulfilled.
- Joe: Whtimore, Mitole, Still Having Fun.
Sean: Mitole, Whitmore, Bobby's Wicked One.
American Turf (G2). $400,000, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles, turf. 3:37 p.m.
If you think the Kentucky Derby is a “wide-open race” then you’ll definitely feel the same for this. A Thread Of Blue looks to salvage weekend for Kiaran McLaughlin and he’s the favorite off three straight victories at Gulfstream. Chad Brown sends out Digital Age, an Irish-bred son of Invincible Spirit who is 2-for-2, while Jose Carroll hoped for another stakes victory with Avie’s Flatter.
- Tom: Digital Age, Seismic Wave, Avie’s Flatter.
- John S.: Seismic Wave, Digital Age, A Thread Of Blue.
- Ben: Social Paranoia, Henley’s Joy, Seismic Wave.
- John Cox: Social Paranoia, A Thread Of Blue, Seismic Wave.
- Joe: Social Paranoia, Casa Creed, The Black Album.
Sean: Digital Age, Seismic Wave, Avie's Flatter.
Pat Day Mile (G3). $400,000, 3-year-olds, 1 mile. 4:28 p.m.
The most hyped 3-year-old this side of Newspaperofrecord goes as the 6-5 favorite in here against 13 others. Instagrand, winner of the Grade 2 Best Pal at 2 and third in the Grade 3 Gotham and Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, will take a beating at the windows. No doubt a Preakness starter or two, or five, could come from this heat.
- Tom: Durkin’s Call, Instagrand, Last Judgement.
- John S.: Instagrand, Last Judgment, Dream Maker.
- Ben: Last Judgment, Instagrand, Mr Money Bags.
- John Cox: Instagrand, Durkin’s Call, Mr Money Bags.
- Joe: Instagrand, Last Judgment, Durkin's Call.
Sean: Instagrand, Mr. Money, Last Judgment.
Old Forester Turf Classic (G1). $1 million, 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles. 5:25 p.m.
Bricks And Mortar proved he could handle soft ground winning the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Turf in late January at Gulfstream before coming back to handle better ground in the Grade 2 Mervyn Muniz Memorial at Fair Grounds. He’s one of three for Chad Brown, along with Raging Bull and Ticonderoga. Loaded field also includes Synchrony, Next Shares, Markitoff, Quarbaan and Prime Attraction. Enjoy.
- Tom: Bricks And Mortar, Raging Bull, Quarbaan.
- John S.: Qurbaan, Bricks And Mortar, Ticonderoga.
- Ben: Breaking The Rules, Bricks And Mortar, Synchrony.
- John Cox: Markitoff, Bricks And Mortar, Synchrony.
- Joe: Synchrony, Bricks And Mortar, Breaking The Rules.
Sean: Synchrony, Bricks And Mortar, Breaking The Rules.
Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). $3 million, 3-year-olds, 1 1/4 miles. 6:50 p.m.
The main event. Enough with all the talking, prognosticating, predicting and paralysis analysis. Who do you like? Omaha Beach and Haikal are out, unfortunate scratches that leave a field of 19 as of Friday afternoon. Bob Baffert won it last year with eventual Triple Crown winner Justify and bids for record-tying sixth with the morning-line favorites in Game Winner, Improbable and Roadster. Don’t like those three? How about Wood Memorial winner Tacitus, Florida Derby winner Maximum Security, Fountain of Youth winner Code Of Honor, Louisiana Derby winner By My Standards or Blue Grass winner Vekoma? Many of their beaten rivals are in the mix, too. Throw them all together, most likely combined with a sloppy track, and there could be some whacky things. Or it will be the (recent) chalk fest. Either way, there are a lot of directions to go to make to the winner’s circle.
- Tom: Game Winner, Code Of Honor, Win Win Win.
- John S.: Tacitus, Vekoma, Code Of Honor.
- Ben: By My Standards, Game Winner, Tacitus.
- John Cox: Maximum Security, Roadster, Tacitus.
- Joe: Roadster, Win Win Win, Code Of Honor.
Sean: Tacitus, Improbable, Win Win Win.