Wynn Las Vegas race and sports book director John Avello handicaps the Kentucky Derby field:
“It’s the best betting race in the world, as far as I’m concerned. You will never see a 20-horse field in American racing. Huge wagering pools. I even change my style of betting. I’m not normally a trifecta and superfecta player, but I’m going to be in this race. I know the payoffs can be big, so I’ll take a shot on those type of bets. Normally, I’m just a win and exacta type of guy.
“This race is extremely tough. You have a favorite that will probably go off somewhere in the 7-2 range, and then he’s followed by a 7-1 or 8-1. After that, there’s a lot of value in the 10-1 to 25-1 range. I could see seven or eight horses with a chance to win this race.”
Post position, horse, jockey, morning-line odds:
1) Trojan Nation, Gryder, 50-1
Finishing second in the Wood Memorial secured enough points for this winless colt to enter the field. He draws the unenviable No. 1 post, so a win would most likely produce a $125 to $150 win for a $2 wager.
2) Suddenbreakingnews, Quinonez, 20-1
His running style is tailor-made for this race. This horse likes to come from far back, but he must be cautious because too far back means navigation issues. The No. 2 post is not ideal, but he should be able to save plenty of ground.
3) Creator, Santana, 10-1
The win in the Arkansas Derby was impressive, and he continues to improve each race. One of two horses, along with Gun Runner, trained by Steve Asmussen, who wins at about a 20 percent clip. He’s dangerous, and at 10-1 I’m interested.
4) Mo Tom, Lanerie, 20-1
This horse seems to always find the troubled spot in a race, and this is not the race to do so. He needs to improve quite a bit to win this, but having two decent races over the Churchill Downs surface is a plus.
5) Gun Runner, Geroux, 10-1
His running style has been to stay close to the pace, and the Louisiana Derby winner is very good out of the gate to secure position. I’m expecting the race announcer to say his name quite frequently. I’ll use him in my exotics wagers.
6) My Man Sam, Ortiz, 20-1
A lightly raced colt with only four starts, and he finished the last three closing strong. He has been training very well leading up to the race, and the jockey-trainer combination of Irad Ortiz-Chad Brown has been formidable.
7) Oscar Nominated, Leparoux, 50-1
He was claimed last year for $75,000, which turns out to be a bargain. The huge downside is that he never has run on dirt, which makes handicapping his performance impossible.
8) Lani, Take, 30-1
I hear this horse has been a real head case since arriving at Churchill Downs. Maybe a session with Dr. Phil could do him some good, but, seriously, I think he’s too slow.
9) Destin, Castellano, 15-1
His last two races, both preps at Tampa Bay Downs, were excellent. My main concern is it has been seven weeks between that last race — a win in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12 — and this one.
10) Whitmore, Espinoza, 20-1
There is not a lot to knock about this horse because he always gives a full effort. A couple of negatives are his two wins in five starts came in a maiden special weight and an optional claimer. Also, the additional one-quarter of a mile he’s being asked to run may be a stretch. Victor Espinoza is a jockey who won the past two Derby races, but he was on special horses — American Pharoah and California Chrome.
11) Exaggerator, Desormeaux, 8-1
Most likely, he will be the second betting choice. He runs very well on an off track, which he’s not going to get, but his other races on fast tracks are also pretty darn good. He won the Santa Anita Derby on April 9. The jockey-trainer brother combo of Kent and Keith Desormeaux has produced quite a few winners over the past couple of years. I would not disregard this one.
12) Tom’s Ready, Hernandez, 30-1
Running second in the Louisiana Derby secured him enough points to make the race, but his overall body of work indicates he’s not good enough.
13) Nyquist, Gutierrez, 3-1
This horse is undefeated in seven starts and will go off as the favorite. He has won at four different tracks, and he enters the race as maybe the most accomplished 3-year-old ever with $3.3 million in earnings. With that said, I’m betting against the 3-1 or 7-2 price in a race with so many obstacles.
14) Mohaymen, Alvarado, 10-1
I hated his last race in the Florida Derby. Maybe it was the slightly off track or just an off day, but I don’t expect a full recovery to his prior form.
15) Outwork, Velazquez, 15-1
His progression in four races leading up to this race is picture perfect. His latest works are solid, and when a Todd Pletcher-trained horse ridden by John Velazquez is double-digit odds, you have my attention.
16) Shagaf, Rosario, 20-1
He has been at Churchill Downs for a few weeks, and by the indications of his works, he likes the track. I just have never bought into this horse and remain unconvinced.
17) Mor Spirit, Stevens, 12-1
This horse has never ran worse than second in seven starts, but his last in the Santa Anita Derby was a slight regression. I would not discard a Bob Baffert horse, as he could be in the thick of things for a piece of the pie, and having a quality race on the Churchill Downs surface does not hurt.
18) Majesto, Jaramillo, 30-1
I like the improvement race after race, and a second to Nyquist in the Florida Derby is admirable. If you think the race might fall apart, you might consider using him in exotics.
19) Brody’s Cause, Saez, 12-1
His Tampa Bay Downs race was dreadful, but then he rebounded to win the Blue Grass Stakes with his best performance. Elevating his game another notch would put him in the mix, but the No. 19 post he has to contend with is tough to overcome.
20) Danzing Candy, Smith, 15-1
This horse faded in the Santa Anita Derby on an uncharacteristically muddy California surface. I don’t really like him in this spot, but if he’s able to get loose on the lead with a slower pace, who knows.