LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's April, so it's time.
Time to fire up this column again.
Time to give you the Derby winner very early, like I did last year right here on April 8.
OK, so I'm only 10-for-29 lifetime in picking Kentucky Derby winners. But I'm four for the past five, so listen up.
Here are my top 6 contenders right now:
I don't make Derby future bets often. My last one was on Giacomo in 2005. But I d ropped $10 on Audible at 10:1 after I watched his brilliance right here in the Holy Bull on Feb. 3:
He's right behind a blistering pace of :21 and :46, then devours the leaders and runs away. It looked like he was just getting started. It's a good thing Todd Pletcher sat him out in the Fountain of Youth, so he'd be rested for the Florida Derby, because he gets banged around early and ends up further off another blistering pace of :21 this time. No problem pumping up the volume for Audible as John Velasquez this time, not Javier Castellano, guides him fluidly back into the mix:
Another devastating kick. Another daylight stakes win. Another 1:49. Audible has won four of his last five.
Three of the past five Florida Derby winners backed it up with wins in the Kentucky Derby. Looks to me like it'll be five for six.
2. Bolt d'Oro
What a resume. What a comeback. Three for three rolling into last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, where he was bet down below 1:1. He'd already posted a 1:22 for seven furlongs, which is very fast in winning that Grade 1. Bolt also showed he could win a Grade 1 at 1 1/16 mi.
But then he was only able to rally to finish third from way back after a bobbled start in the BC Juvenile. And that's where it gets interesting. Bolt had not raced in four months, because of a minor injury, when he made his next start. It's hard to imagine even the Kentucky Derby this year replicating the epic duel in the San Felipe between Bolt and McKinzie:
McKinzie won, but was placed second after a steward's inquiry into bumping between the two in the stretch. I really wanted to see them battle again but it looks like it may be awhile. McKinzie has some kind of possible problem and his immediate future is unknown. If McKinzie's 40 Derby points so far hold up, and Bob Baffert enters him in the Derby field, I'll put him on this list because he just plain refuses to get passed. Gutsiest horse I've seen in a long time.
But back to Bolt. If he raced that well after a four-month layoff, he's going to be a nasty monster as he rounds into shape. He came right back off that race and sizzled a four-furlong work in :47. Looks like he's ripped and ready.
I seldom bite on the overseas invaders. These winners of the UAE Derby in Dubai just never perform after the long plane ride. But Mendelssohn appears to be the best shot in a long time. He looked like Secretariat in the Belmont when he won the UAE Derby by 18 lengths. But what gives him serious consideration is that that was his first start on dirt.
What was he like on turf? All he did was win the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf last fall against the best 2-year-old turf runners in the world, and he hasn't lost since. Who knows what he beat in Dubai? Well, he beat 'em by 18. When Villanova just cruised to the college basketball title, they won every game by double digits. Sometimes greatness is easy to spot.
When you can run a half-mile workout under 47 seconds, you're faster than Lamar Jackson. Justify's resume look likes an intern in a world of IBM executives. He's only had two starts, but put up a 1:21 for seven furlongs and a 1:35 for a mile. That's world-class. He won those two races by a combined 16 lengths.
I love Bob and Jill Baffert. But the main reason I want Justify to win is because of all the Derby history buffs who love to use word "hasn't." And over the past couple decades, just about every "hasn't" has come down. But the last big one is "hasn't won the Derby as an unraced 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882." If that happens anytime soon, it may just be Justify.
5. My Boy Jack
Gotta give my co-anchor Lauren Jones credit for this one. She spotted it while doing her research for our Derby coverage, and she's very hungry to have a handicapping coup. I haven't seen anything like this since Mine that Bird in the Derby. Watch the way My Boy Jack comes from so far back in the Louisiana Derby. He's not even in the wide shot for most of the race:
He takes off like a rocket on the far turn, fans out six wide and almost runs down Noble Indy, a really nice horse. If My Boy Jack doesn't have to travel so much farther on that six-wide turn, he absolutely wins.
What I don't like about him is he's had a lot of starts, his speed figures aren't that great, and he didn't like the Churchill Downs ground when he finished 12 lengths back in his only start here. But I love big deep closers so I'm including him for now. Mostly, I just want Lauren to pick a winner and beat me for once.
Here's my longshot special for now. That Florida Derby I showed you above where Audible came from off the pace to win? Go back and look at who is right on his heels after closing from even farther back. It's Hofburg. If I love Audible so much, why don't I like the horse who was right on his heels most of the way and looking strong at the finish? And his trainer is Bill Mott, the nicest, quietest big-time trainer in the business.
Hofburg is showing incredible improvement each race, after only three starts. His Brisnet speed figure in the Florida Derby was a lofty 104, better than some of the major players already. Watch out for this one.