Kentucky Derby 2018: Early Odds and Picks to Finish in the Top 3

by Michael Stevens
on February 8, 2018

It’s one of the most stylish and iconic events in American sports. The Kentucky Derby is still some months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” If you plan on laying some money down on a horse, then it’s especially important to start watching early.

A lot can change in a short time. A horse can become injured, or have a jockey change that breaks their style. Still, now is the time to start watching which horses are building up a head of steam. Usually, horses that finish in the Kentucky Derby’s top three carry their momentum from strong performances earlier in the year.

I’ve chosen three horses that are worth early consideration. They aren’t sleepers, but as things stand now, they do stand the best chance of finishing in the top three. Naturally, a lot of this will depend on if these horses can stay healthy between now and the race. That being said, no horse is looking better than these three right now.

I grabbed the odds for each horse from Bovada.com.

Good Magic – 10/1

Good Magic is one of the current darlings of the horse racing world. This is a horse that is showing real potential for greatness. Some have even speculated that 2018 could be Good Magic’s year to contest for a Triple Crown.

A lot of superstar horses have retired in the past couple years. Most notably, the Triple Crown-winning American Pharoah has had his racing days end. There’s a void at the top for a new horse to seize the mainstream limelight.

It seems like most horse racing fans have a consensus that Good Magic will be that new star. His strong first-place finish in the 2017 Breeder’s Cup Juvenile race certainly caught people’s’ attention and imagination. There’s a lot of speculation regarding where Good Magic’s talent ceiling is, but nobody is placing it low.

During last year’s Eclipse Awards, Good Magic was named the American champion of the 2-year-old male horse category. It’s a prestigious distinction and one that demonstrates Good Magic’s tremendous potential. It’s an award that American Pharoah also took in 2014. It was one year before American Pharoah’s Triple Crown victories.

While most fans seem to consider Good Magic the most likely winner, his odds are slightly longer than Bolt D’oro, another favored horse (we’ll get to him in a just a bit). For my money, I’d be more inclined to bet on Good Magic. Neither horse is a bad pick, that’s for sure. It’s also sure that you’ll take home a little more dough if you put money on Good Magic. Given the promise he’s shown, I think this is the best balance between certainty and odds you’ll see right now.

Solomini – 14/1

Solomini and Good Magic share a common pedigree. Both were sired by the horse Curlin. Lineage isn’t necessarily everything in horse racing, but it certainly plays an enormous role. Curlin came close to winning the Kentucky Derby back in 2007. He did manage to claim six first-place finishes that year as well.

There have been some questions regarding Solomini’s health recently. Luckily, these were sickness rather than injury based. The fever that Solomini was experiencing seems to have cleared up.  Given the extensive amount of time left before the Kentucky Derby, it’s reasonable to assume Solomini will be in fighting form for the race.

Solomini has the advantage of also having a Hall of Fame trainer in his corner. Bob Baffert has three Kentucky Derby titles to his name. He also hasn’t won since 2004, which you can either take as a sign that he’s slowing down, or that he’ll be particularly hungry for success given his winless streak. Given the high regard, Baffert is held in; I have to imagine it’s more of the latter.

Another critical aspect of Solomini’s rise is his ownership. Zayat Stables own Solomini, and they have a deep history of producing top class racing horses. Ahmet Zayat provided two of the most celebrated horses seen in recent history: Paynter and American Pharoah. As a stable, there’s no doubt they have the resources and knowledge to produce horses of top caliber.

Bolt D’oro – 7/1

Bolt D’oro has the most favorable odds out of my three picks. I wouldn’t necessarily call him my favorite out of these three, but he’s got a lot going for him. While I tend to lean toward Good Magic’s recent form and slightly better odds, Bolt D’oro has had the shortest odds for a reason. Many believe this horse is the prime contender this year.

There’s been some drama surrounding Bolt D’oro. First, he had a jockey change recently due to some disputes between the owner and him former jockey. It’s a bit of a tabloid situation, honestly. Whether or not the rider was fired for a minor slight, at the end of the day, doesn’t matter much. Most fans agree this horse needed a change of jockey regardless.

Bolt D’oro’s next outing will probably be the San Felipe Stakes, a G2 level race. This is on the back of a third-place finish behind, unsurprisingly, Good Magic and Solomini respectively. All three of these horses looked quite healthy and ready.

The decisive moment for Bolt D’oro was a stumble early on and a poor decision to cut outside later. This is an error that can be pinned on the jockey, which bodes well for Bolt D’oro. After the San Felipe Stakes, we’ll have a much better idea of how the jockey change impacts Bolt D’oro’s performance. Signs so far indicate it could very well be a positive effect.

At this point, the difference between them will be set by how healthy they can stay and how their remaining races go. Bolt D’oro is just as strong as Good Magic and Solomini, but his odds provide slightly less value, making me lean toward betting on the other two.

Other Horses to Keep an Eye On

You’ve got my picks for the top three, but what about the others? Who is poised to make a surprise finish, or has the best value in their odds? Let me point out a couple of other horses you’ll want to track before the Kentucky Derby.

First: Catholic Boy.

This horse is on an upward trend, but his odds are still friendly to bettors. He won his last race, the 2017 Remsen G2 race. His odds currently sit at 25/1, which provides much higher value than any of the sterling favorites listed above.

Next up is Mourinho.

Like Solomini, Mourinho’s got the legendary trainer Bob Baffert crafting his strategy. His sire, Super Saver, was also notable for winning the 2010 Kentucky Derby. Mourinho is hovering on the outside of the favorites right now with odds at 20/1. This isn’t quite as great of a value as Catholic Boy, but it’s certainly nothing to sneeze at, especially given this horse’s advantages.

Finally, there’s Avery Island.

There’s reason to believe Avery Island is putting together a positive trend despite sinking a bit in rankings. His last race was a savvy, professional win at Withers where he refused to get trapped in a speed duel. He finished just behind Catholic Boy in the Remsen as well. Avery Island’s next outing will probably be the Fountain of Youth. It’ll be a great chance to gauge his progress. Right now, his odds sit at 16/1.

By the time May 5th rolls around, everyone will have had a better look at these horses. For the time being though, it’s never too early to set your eyes on a contender. Tracking horses’ performance before their big race is one of the best ways to get a sense of their confidence and ability.

Track these horses in the coming months, pick a couple you favor, and you won’t be disappointed!
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