Kentucky Derby no longer a day at the ‘Beach’
By NY Hot List Staff
Weeks of handicapping had to be scrapped Wednesday evening when the Kentucky Derby was turned topsy-turvy by the news that morning line favorite Omaha Beach had been scratched.
Gone from the mix was the horse to beat and a starter who probably figured prominently in the wagering plans of many handicappers.
And, gone was the horse attempting to become the seventh straight betting favorite to win the Kentucky Derby.
In his place, it will be interesting to see who goes off as the betting favorite.
The best bet on that front is either Game Winner or Roadster. Both are trained by Bob Baffert and they finished 1-2 in the Santa Anita Derby, with Roadster prevailing by a half-length.
Yet of the two, Game Winner seems the better investment.
Roadster has less experience, starting just four times in his career and twice this year. He’s also been rallying from the back of smaller fields and will have to navigate through a 20-horse field on Saturday.
In contrast, Game Winner has started six times and has plenty of back class, as reflected in being named the champion 2-year-old of 2018. He sealed that title by winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs, giving him the advantage of a race over Saturday’s racetrack.
Though he’s winless in two starts this year, his connections made no bones about saying both the Rebel, when Game Winner lost by a nose to Omaha Beach, and the Santa Anita Derby were viewed as preps intended to have the Eclipse Award winner at the top of his game when first Saturday in May rolls around.
Whether that happens remains to be seen.
Yet of the 20 probable starters, it’s Game Winner who seems to check off the most boxes and will probably wins up with more money in the win than anyone else and inherit that six-year winning streak.
Despite his inexperience, Roadster also figures to be a popular option at the betting windows. Best of all, he will also move in one spot in the starting gate to post 16, giving post 17, which has never produced a Derby winner, to Long Range Toddy.
And let’s not forget Baffert’s other starter, Improbable, who was second to Omaha Beach in the Rebel by a length. He may have lost to Omaha Beach by a greater margin than his stablemate, but, like Game Winner, he has a winning effort at Churchill Downs to his credit.
Given Baffert’s five Kentucky Derby victories, it would not be a stunner if he sweeps all three spots in the opening leg of the Triple Crown with the three betting favorites.
One certainty is that Omaha Beach’s defection will impact the odds of not just Baffert’s starters but the other main contenders whose odds will probably tumble by a few points.
Tacitus, in particular, should receive the most action outside of Baffert’s trio. The Wood Memorial winner was listed at 10-1 in the original morning line but will probably be 8-1 or less at post time.
And, of course, the possibility of rain could also create more confusion. Omaha Beach was 2-for-2 on a wet track and seemed a solid choice in a sea of goo.
Now handicappers will have to look in a different direction for a mudder, but don’t despair. If there’s one sure thing when it comes to the Kentucky Derby, it’s that it will once again be a great race with some fantastic wagering opportunities.
Some things, even after scratches, never change.