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2018 Kentucky Derby: Current Odds and Long-Shot Picks

Geldings(9 wins) @ Colts(128 wins)

  • Where: Churchill Downs. Louisville, KY
  • When: May 5, 2018 6:30 pm EST
  • Moneyline: Justify (+300), Bolt D'Oro (+900), Good Magic (+1100), Magnum Moon (+800), Mendelsshon (+400), Audible (+650), Flameaway (+1000), Solomini (+1000), Vino Rosso (+1600), Enticed (+1200), Noble Indy (+1200), Quip (+1200), My Boy Jack (+1800), Free Drop Billy (+2500)

The movement of the betting odds for the 2018 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs has been something like a dramatic horse race in itself.

Bolt d’Oro is the early front-runner. The Mick Ruis colt dominated on the track and the futures board late in 2017 and early 2018, looking like a prohibitive favorite months before Louisville. But headed around the back stretch, erm, that is, headed into early spring, the Thoroughbred’s odds went a-glimmer as other horses began grabbing headlines.

Justify is the horse that spent the first straightaway – or early 2018 – biding its time, only to take command of the proceedings shortly thereafter. Bob Baffert has trained a lot of favorites for the Derby, and as of April ’18, he’s got another one – Justify currently enjoys the shortest odds on the board.

But wait – here comes a late-charger around the final turn. It’s Magnum Moon, a Todd Pletcher animal that can only be described as an enigma. Not raced as a 2-year-old, the colt is unbeaten in 2018. The son of Malibu Moon turned in a terrific win at the Arkansas Derby, but his strange behavior in the closing moments of that race has some handicappers skeptical, and has helped keep his odds at 7-to-1.

Which of the trio has the best shot to out-run what is looking like a packed field? Could the winner come from one of the other 17 posts?

2018 Kentucky Derby Betting Preview – Best Favorites

Justify (+300)

Justify and Magnum Moon’s status as Derby favorites ensures that we’ll be hearing a lot about the Curse of Apollo over the next few weeks.

Apollo was the last horse to win the Run for the Roses without having raced as a 2-year-old…and that race was all the way back in 1882. Both aforementioned 2018 hopefuls were untested in sweepstakes until turning 3. If there’s ever a year in which the Curse is broken, this feels like the one.

Baffert acquired Justify in December, and claims that he wasn’t told why the Thoroughbred didn’t race at all last season. That sounds a little fishy. But there’s no denying the colt’s results on the track. Justify has won 3 out of 3 races at Santa Anita. On April 7th, Baffert’s new wunderkind beat Bolt d’Oro by a comfortable margin. Ruis was gracious in defeat, comparing Justify’s smooth stride to that of American Pharoah.

We’re not ready to go there just yet, but if their odds remain comparable, Justify has to get the nod over Bolt d’Oro based on the head-to-head result.

Bolt d’Oro (+900)

It would be nice to say that the Ruis horse hasn’t done anything wrong except losing to Justify in early April. But that would overlook the bigger picture. Bolt d’Oro has won only once in 2018, and that was in a controversial photo-finish with McKinzie, a horse no longer considered a Derby contender.

Bolt d’Oro has suffered minor setbacks in training, and while a recent switch to accomplished Triple Crown jockey Victor Espinoza would be good news ordinarily, in this case it is due to the downer of Javier Castellano leaving to work for Todd Pletcher’s horse Audible instead. The former stand-alone favorite is trending down.

Good Magic (+1100)

Old-timers will tell you that the Kentucky Derby isn’t about pure speed, that track awareness and focus on behalf of the horse and jockey are equally important. But did you ever see a slow horse win a sweepstakes? No? Like driving distance in golf, top speed may not be the only factor, but it’s prerequisite for a champion.

Nothing impresses bookies and handicappers like a winner. Good Magic surged at 6-to-1 after winning the Blue Grass Stakes in trainer Chad Brown’s first victory at Keeneland. But his Beyer speed clocked in at well-behind Justify and Bolt d’Oro’s recent measurements, causing the line to lengthen almost 100%.

16/1 underdog Vino Rosso looks better than Good Magic statistically. Brown’s horse may simply not be speedy enough to win the Kentucky Derby. But at 11/1 odds, it’s not the worst wager on the board.

Magnum Moon (+800)

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The cleverly-named, talented colt He Hate Me was considered a Derby sleeper until late last year, when he was noticeably disturbed by a parade following a race. Soon, trainers realized he didn’t have the mental stability and poise that a Thoroughbred needs to win at Churchill Downs. That sort of reasoning might be why Magnum Moon is only an 8-to-1 Derby horse despite the recent blow-away win in Arkansas.

The 3-year-old “drifted” in the last stretch of that race, prompting Todd Pletcher to tell reporters that he’s “concerned” despite the wire-to-wire win. In fact, it wasn’t even part of the plan for Magnum Moon to take the lead early. Jockey Luis Saez said that when the horse broke fast around the first turn, he made the decision not to try to slow it down, despite initially wanting to save stamina for the final lengths.

Is the Thoroughbred’s wayward attitude enough to scare off handicappers? Maybe. But it shouldn’t scare off a wager. The impressive Beyer speeds of favorites like Justify means that the best underdog value is in horses that can fly from post to finish. There’s a 50/50 chance that Magnum Moon will get distracted or run himself into the ground early in Louisville. But if he runs a clean race, he can win just as easily.

That makes an (+800) money line bet a smart wager, and makes the Pletcher horse MSB’s pick as of late April.

Kentucky Derby Betting: Sleepers to watch 

Promises Fulfilled (+8500) 

This Thoroughbred comes with a jackpot of potential payout at 85-to-1. With 52 points and a rank of #15 on the Derby board as of April 15th, the horse seems likely to run in Louisville.

Promises Fulfilled’s team is touting an all-or-nothing strategy of racing to the front of the pack immediately in every race. It worked at the Fountain of Youth Stakes with an amazing victory. At the Florida Derby, it belly-flopped. This is not a high-percentage pick, but you can’t deny that the odds are tasty.

Gronkowski (+5000)

Welcomed to the Derby via a new European exemption, the Thoroughbred named after a more-famous NFL tight end has won 4 straight races. But the competition across the Atlantic hasn’t been world-class compared to what he’ll face on Derby Day.

At least this sleeper is sure to race on May 5th, so there’s no risk of a totally wasted wager.

Bookmark this page, and check back for more long-shot picks to consider and updates on the favorites as the 144th Kentucky Derby approaches!

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.


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