Examining the Last Round of Official Futures Wagering on the Kentucky Derby

by Jim Beviglia
on April 6, 2019
17

Minute Read

The 2019 Kentucky Derby is shaping up to be one of the most wide-open competitions in the race’s recent history. As a result, futures wagering is heating up with the final futures pool wagering taking place at simulcast areas and betting websites everywhere. That’s why where here to give you this 2019 Kentucky Derby Futures Pool preview, so you can locate the most valuable plays of all the contenders available.

The Kentucky Derby is known for being the prestigious race in the country, which is why people tend to start watching possible contenders from the time that they start racing as 2-year-olds. What often happens in the time period before the Derby is that one or two contenders establish themselves as the ones to beat. And they often go into the Race as heavy favorites.

This year might be a little different. In just the last month, several of the horses who seemed like sure things on the Derby trail stumbled a little bit. Meanwhile, others who weren’t considered to be that competitive have risen through the ranks and have to now be considered as true contenders.

What futures wagering allows you to do is pick horses now, a full month before the Derby’s running on May 4, 2019, and get them at odds far more profitable than they would be at the time of the race. For example, the co-favorites right now on the 2019 Kentucky Derby Futures Pool sit at +800. There is no way in the world that you will get odds that good on the favorites come race time.

To further complicate the matters, there are still several major prep races for the Derby still to come, including the Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial on Saturday and the Arkansas Derby next weekend. Savvy bettors who can anticipate how a horse might come out of those races might have a real value on their hands. It all could make for a rigorous round of wagering this weekend, which will be the last round of futures wagers offered by Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby.

In the following article, we’ll provide you with an in-depth 2019 Kentucky Derby Futures Pool preview. We’ll do this by taking you through all 23 contenders in the futures pool, from the longest odds to the shortest. And we’ll talk about what they have in their schedule before the Derby, if anything at all.

The Contenders

Signalman (+4000)

This Ken McPeek trainee is slow-playing it into Derby contention, but he needs to get it rolling before it’s too late. He had a solid 2-year-old season, coming up with a long-shot 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and following it up with a Grade 2 win. But he didn’t make a start this year until The Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream, where he came up a predictably rusty 7th.

The idea would be a build to the Derby, which would be his third start off the layoff, a time when horses often give their peak performance. But first he’ll have to establish himself in Saturday’s Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. A good effort there, ideally a dominant winning effort, could easily propel him into a much more significant spot on the odds board come Derby day.

Win Win Win (+2500)

His 3rd-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby provided a bit of a mixed bag for prognosticators. On the one hand, he finished behind two other horses in the Derby Futures Pool in the order of finish, and Tampa isn’t exactly a breeding ground for Derby champs anyway. Yet there was the fact that he came five-wide a long way into contention, undoubtedly a good effort.

Considering that it was his first ever start around two turns, it was a promising sign for his ability to tackle 1¼ miles, the distance of the Derby. But he’ll need to launch into the picture with a solid effort in the Blue Grass on Saturday. Otherwise, this could all be moot, as he could come up short of the points needed to even make the Derby field.

Anothertwistafate (+3200)

If the Derby were unexpectedly moved to Golden Gate Park in California, you could mark this one as the favorite. That West Coast track couldn’t hold him, as he tore off three straight wins from December to February by a combined 16 lengths. But, alas, the competition will be much tougher on the Derby trail, as he found out when he came up just short in his last race in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby.

It doesn’t appear that this one will be taking part in any more tune-ups, which doesn’t leave much to go on. He’ll also likely have to sweat out the preps coming up to see if his meager point total gets him in the Derby. In any case, there isn’t much here to cause you to take a leap of faith, even at such enticing odds.

Galilean (+5000)

If a Derby win is in the stars, to play off the astronomy-based name, this trainee of Jerry Hollendorfer is going to have to take a big step forward. Going against the lesser of the two Rebel Stakes divisions at Oaklawn a few weeks back, Galilean fought hard but came up short in 3rd behind Long Range Toddy and Improbable. A tough rail trip late probably didn’t help.

Galilean next tries his luck in the Arkansas Derby, where he’ll likely take on the same two horses that beat him in the Rebel. Can he show enough in that race to prove he belongs in the Derby? That seems like it might be a stretch.

Haikal (+2200)

Steady improvement has been the name of the game for this New Yorker trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. It’s been a textbook Derby rollout, a little bit tougher competition and a little but longer distances each time. The culmination to this point was a mildly surprising (Grade 3) win at Aqueduct, his home track, in the Gotham Stakes.

Haikal also intrigues because of his extreme late-running style. In the Gotham he gave up 14 lengths to the leaders at one point before staging his furious rally. This is one of the best +2200 plays out there, although you’ll know more if he can continue his late-kicking ways in this Saturday’s Wood Memorial.

Outshine (+4000)

Outshine gains some points for coming from the always-potent Todd Pletcher barn. And he gets a little bit of a break when you consider that he started his 2-year-old season early before taking a layoff throughout the entire second half of 2018. The rust factor could still be strong with this one, meaning that the best could be yet to come.

But there has to be more proof to go on than just a second in the Tampa Bay Derby. He’s one of several second-tier contenders who could propel himself with a win in the Wood Memorial. But there isn’t a lot on the record that suggests he’s among the caliber of the top contenders.

Plus Que Parfait (+2500)

The results from this year had been less than encouraging up until last weekend. Two starts in Louisiana ended up in 5th and 13th place finishes, which don’t exactly scream Triple Crown contender. You could have looked back to last year and some promising two-year-old efforts to project something better out of Plus Que Parfait.

Even then, however, this colt trained by Brendan Welsh fell short to Signalman in his best performance. But his win last weekend in Dubai in the Grade 2 UAE Derby, albeit a hard race to gauge as a Derby projector, was something. It probably put him in the field, but it’s hard to see him gaining too much backing.

Spinoff (+2800)

This is another horse who has done all the running that he is going to do, besides workouts, until the Derby. The question is whether what he has done is enough. His two wins were in Florida in non-stakes competition, while his two graded stakes efforts were hard-luck losses.

The most encouraging thing on Spinoff’s record is the fact that he hit triple digits in his Louisiana Derby speed figures. But he still gave way at the end of that race. That seed figure might not be repeatable in the duress of a 20-horse Derby field anyway.

Tacitus (+3000)

He is one of the lightest-raced of the Derby hopefuls. Only three races under his belt could seem to indicate a disqualifying lack of experience. But recent Derby’s have shown that you need not be a grizzled veteran to win.

Tacitus is certainly on an upward trend. He left his New York home base for trainer Bill Mott and posted a thrilling come-from-behind win in the Tampa Bay Derby at +800 in his last race. He conceivably could be the favorite in this week’s Wood Memorial, which could be a springboard into serious value-pay consideration at the Derby.

Bodexpress (+2800)

For those who might be unaware, a maiden is a horse racing term that refers to a horse that has never won before. And Bodexpress is a maiden. So why are we talking about a horse who has never won in the midst of the Kentucky Derby?

Well, this colt vaulted him into consideration with a second-place finish in the Louisiana Derby at +7100. Of course, he didn’t really threaten the winner, who is now one of the Derby favorites. But it is an interesting story, although one that you shouldn’t pay too much attention to in terms of your wagering at this point.

Vekoma (+3000)

This colt was two-for two as a two-year-old, including a victory in the Grade 3 Nashua in just his second career start. And his first effort as a 3-year-old was pretty solid considering the layoff. He fought hard from the middle of the pack in the Fountain Of Youth to finish third.

Vekoma is also pointing at the Kentucky Derby as the third start off the layoff. In his second, he’ll battle in the Blue Grass this Saturday. We’ll find out more about him in that one, and we really need to know a little bit more at this point.

Bourbon War (+2500)

There are some good bloodlines here as well as an underrated trainer in Mark Hennig. But at some point, Bourbon War has to prove up to the task in graded stakes competition. In three tries, one last year and two this year, he has hit the board just once and hasn’t scored a win.

What has hasn’t been is dominated in those races, as the worst that he has finished is 4th. He most likely has raced his last before the Derby. There just hasn’t been enough proof in his previous races that he could suddenly start beating the horses that have beaten him so far.

Cutting Humor (+2800)

What you’re seeing out of this horse is the ability to improve the more he races. He did that in his freshman season, taking three starts before picking up his maiden victory. And, in his third start this year, he came up a winner in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby.

Like so many of the horses in this Futures Pool, Cutting Humor has yet to be really tested against the best. For many, that first opportunity comes in the Derby, which is why it is such a hard race to handicap. And Cutting Humor will be one of those somewhat unknown quantities, albeit one that isn’t that far away from the odds of the Futures favorites.

Instagrand (+3000)

Was he exposed in his loss in the Gotham? Well, there are two ways you can look at it. After winning so authoritatively in his two freshmen starts, he came up a bit empty in a three-way duel that was won by the less-regarded Haikal.

The other way you can spin it is that it was his first start of the year and that he couldn’t quite be expected to be at his peak. In the Santa Anita Derby he’ll get the matchup with Game Winner that many expected about a month ago. A win would restore a lot of the lost luster and make those +3000 odds seem quite tasty.

Long Range Toddy (+1600)

One of the big upsetters in the Rebel Stakes will be trying to prove his bona fides even further when he goes in the Arkansas Derby next week. The sheer number of races is unusual these days for a Derby contender. The Kentucky Derby, if he races in it, will be the ninth of his career.

Whether or not you can believe in the effort in the Rebel is hard to say. Remember that he faced the weaker of the two splits, albeit one that still included Improbable. It still feels like that might end up being the peak moment of his career.

Roadster (+3500)

Again, somewhat of an unknown quantity here. You don’t usually see horses vault into the upper echelons of Derby contenders off a victory in an optional claimer. But in a year where the favorites all show some flaws, it doesn’t seem that out of the question.

Roadster will get his chance to prove something in the Santa Anita on Saturday. His speed figures have been consistent and he might have the kind of stalking style that works in the bigger races. But he needs a form jump to really be one of the top horses out there, and he’s running out of time to get there.

War Of Will (+1800)

In this topsy-turvy run-up to the Derby, War Of Will is like the poster child for erratic performances. As a two-year-old, he raced only on the grass. Then there seemed to be a Eureka moment where he found out that he was a monster on the dirt, including a pair of graded stakes in Louisiana.

How then to explain a listless ninth-place finish as -125 favorite in the Louisiana Derby? It doesn’t look, at the moment, like he’ll race again before the Derby. So which War Of Will shows up on the first Saturday in May, and do you have the guts to risk your wager on a major reversal of form from one start to the next?

By My Standards (+2200)

Making the jump from a maiden win to the Louisiana Derby seemed like too far a leap. But this Bret Calhoun trainee made that leap with style, pulling off the stunner at +2200. And suddenly a Derby contender was born.

He has made huge climbs in his speed figures from race to race this season. Does that suggest that he is due to peak soon, or does he have something more in the tank? We won’t find out until the Derby, but he makes for some intriguing action at +2200.

Code Of Honor (+1400)

You could argue that he raced just as well in his win in the Fountain Of Youth as he did in the Florida Derby finishing third. The difference is that he didn’t have to face Maximum Security in the latter race. Which leads to the question about whether or not Code Of Honor has the ceiling to be a Derby winner.

Since he is done with his prep races, trainer Shug McGuaghey will have to unlock some more speed somewhere in the training up to the race. It seems like there are others with more potential for improvement with longer odds on this list. That makes Code Of Honor seem like less than a value here.

Improbable (+800)

You could argue that Improbable had the more disappointing performance of the two top Bob Baffert trainees in the Rebel Stakes. He finished second and just a neck back, which doesn’t see, so bad. But when you consider that he was caught from behind by a seemingly inferior horse in that race, it really looks like a blemish.

Again, it was his first start of the year, so there is something to be said for needing a race. Don’t forget that he was a dominant 3 for 3 as a 2-year-old. Don’t be surprised if he rights the ship in the Arkansas Derby and enters the big races in fine form.

Omaha Beach (+1500)

Fresh off a maiden win in Cali, Omaha Beach traveled to Arkansas somewhat of an unknown. That all changed in the Rebel Stakes when he stared down Game Winner and nosed him out in a gritty, gutty effort. He suddenly is one of the top four in the odds in this final Futures Pool.

The main concern about Omaha Beach is whether he can possibly hold up on the front end in the Derby like he did in the Rebel. That extra distance might not seem like much to the untrained eye. But when you’re being pressured at every turn, it can make the difference between holding on to a win and fading out of the money.

Game Winner (+300)

Sometimes it takes adversity before the heart of a champion can truly be revealed. It’s the same as the sport of horse racing. We will find out a lot about Game Winner following his loss to Omaha Beach by a nose in the rebel, perhaps more than we found out in his four-for-four 2-year-old season.

This is Bob Baffert we’re talking about here, so it’s not out of the question that Game Winner destroys the competition on Saturday at Santa Anita. If he does, he could be right back in the driver’s seat at the Derby. But that sliver of a doubt makes +300 a lot less appetizing than he might otherwise have been without that loss.

Maximum Security (+1000)

We have been spoiled in the past half-decade by super-horses among the three-year-old ranks. Well, Maximum Security might be the one to continue that trend, which would be even more amazing considering he isn’t a Bob Baffert trainee. Instead, Jason Servis has him poised on the brink of greatness following his stunning Florida Derby win.

Up to that point, there was the thought that he was a small-timer, cleaning up on lesser competition. But his first start around two turns in Florida seemed to indicate that he has the stuff for longer distances. There is also a sneaky good pedigree in here, and you’re looking at the probably Derby favorite.

Conclusion

We hope that this rundown of potential Kentucky Derby horses should give you an indication of what you can expect in this round of Futures betting. Remember that you will be getting odds at betting websites that you couldn’t possibly get closer to the race. Use this 2019 Kentucky Derby Futures Pool preview to help you take advantage of those odds.

Jim Beviglia

Jim Beviglia

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