2016 Kentucky Derby Contenders

When it comes to Kentucky Derby betting, knowing the contenders and top picks by the experts is a great place to start coming up with your own betting strategy for the race. Knowing what horses others have picked to do well in 2016 makes it easier to come up with a personal list of 2016 Kentucky Derby contenders.

About Kentucky Derby Contenders

The Kentucky Derby field has been set and the morning lines posted. Below is a profile of the contenders with their morning line odds:

AMERICAN PHAROAH:(Morning Line Odds: 5-2) Absolutely destroyed the field in the Arkansas Derby winning by 8 lengths. Stalked pacesetter Bridget’s Big Luby for the first six furlongs before downshifting and leaving the field in the dust. If anyone still has ‘questions’ about American Pharoah they haven’t been paying attention. Heading into the 3/14 Rebel Stakes horsemen had plenty of questions about this highly touted horse. Missed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile due to injury and hadn’t raced since September. He’d never raced outside of California. Torrential rains during the week produced a sloppy track—another ‘first’ for American Pharoah. You can cast all of those doubts aside. In the definitive Derby prep performance to date American Pharoah smoked the field winning by 6 ¾ length. Making it all the more impressive—his right front shoe became dislodged at the start. Translation—with just about everything working against him American Pharoah dominated. A serious horse that could engage in a monumental duel with Dortmund on Derby Day. Victor Espinoza will be riding the likely post time favorite looking for his second Kentucky Derby in a row after riding California Chrome last year. Probably the best horse in the field but drew the brutal 18th position for the Kentucky Derby. Since the Derby began using a starting gate in 1930 only one winner has started in the #18 position (Gato Del Sol in 1982). Despite the terrible draw American Pharoah opened as a 5/2 morning line favorite.

BOLO: (Morning Line Odds: 30-1) Trained by Carla Mack, the consensus on Bolo is that he’s better on grass despite a third place finish in the Santa Anita Derby. Hard to see him being a player in a field of this class. Jockey will be Rafael Bejerano. Both of his career wins are on the turf and although he has two 3rd place finishes in two graded stakes races (San Felipe is the other) he’s probably not a contender here. Could be a solid horse on dirt at a lower class but could be a champion on turf. Will start in the 9th position. Morning line odds of 30/1.

CARPE DIEM:(Morning Line Odds: 8-1) Second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Won the Blue Grass Stakes on 4/4 but questions about the quality of his performance (95 Beyer) against an uninspiring field. May be a cut below Dortmund and American Pharoah. Things didn’t look good when he was adamant about not wanting to enter the gate for the 3/2 Tampa Bay Derby. Once they got him in, however, he turned in a very impressive performance in winning his three year old debut. Experts think he might be even stronger at longer distances. Only the third horse in history to win both the Breeders’ Futurity and the Blue Grass Stakes. John Velezquez will be Carpe Diem’s jockey in the Kentucky Derby. Drew the #2 post.

DANZIG MOON: (Morning Line Odds: 30-1) Arkansas Derby runner up. He’s improved every time out but there’s little to suggest that he’ll be factor here. Julian Leparoux will ride Danzig Moon.

DORTMUND:(Morning Line Odds: 8-1) Dortmund continues to do nothing wrong as he targets the Kentucky Derby. His latest accolade—winning the Santa Anita Derby in impressive fashion. Dortmund took the Grade 1, $1 million race by 4 ½ lengths but it wasn’t really that close. Sired by Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown. True to his dad’s name, Dortmund is definitely big—a physically imposing colt that certainly looks like a champion. Showed the kind of guts and toughness you want in a Derby contender in winning the Robert Lewis Stevens but showed flat out dominance in winning the Santa Anita Derby. A debate is already brewing over the superiority of Dortmund against American Pharoah which could make for an epic battle in the Kentucky Derby. Martin Garcia will ride Dortmund in the Kentucky Derby and he’ll start from the #8 slot.

EL KABEIR:(Morning Line Odds: 30-1) Won the Jerome Stakes and the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, finished third in the Wood Memorial. His proponents point to the fact that he scrapped back from last place in the Wood to finish in the money. Churchill Downs ‘ringer’ Calvin Borel will ride El Kabeir. Not getting much respect even with Borel aboard and the reality is that there’s better longshots at higher prices in the field. Will start from the #7 spot.

FAR RIGHT: (Morning Line Odds: 8-1) Finished second to American Pharoah in the Arkansas Derby but that doesn’t mean much with the quality of the competition in that race. Doesn’t have the speed to be a factor here. Mike Smith will be aboard Far Right in the Kentucky Derby. Will start from the outside pole (#20) and the only way that can work out well is early speed—which he doesn’t have. Not worth a shot even at 30-1.

FROSTED: (Morning Line Odds: 15-1) Appeared to ‘run out of gas’ late in the Fountain of Youth Stakes but rebounded nicely with a strong showing in winning the Wood Memorial. Put up a 103 Beyer figure in winning the Wood. A nice horse, but hard to see how he’ll emerge victorious in such a tough field on Derby Day. Jockey Joel Rosario will ride Frosted. Will start in the 15th position.

FIRING LINE:(Morning Line Odds: 12-1) Firing Line is 0 for 2 against Dortmund in his last two races—both very close losses. Had no problem at all beating an overmatched field in the Sunland Derby to punch his ticket to Churchill Downs. Before that, he ran in second place by a head in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. Insiders like this horse’s feisty spirit but think that he might be at the limit of his distance. After coming up just short at a mile and 1/16 the 1 ¼ mile distance of the Derby could be an issue. Gary Stevens will be aboard Firing Line. Will start in the #10 slot but he’s likely a very good horse trying to run down several potentially great horses.

INTERNATIONAL STAR: (Morning Line Odds: 12-1) Could be the ‘under the radar’ horse for the Kentucky Derby. Son of Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. Swept the prep season at Louisiana’s Fair Grounds Park winning the LeComte, the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby. Questions about competition level but all he does is win races. Miguel Mena will ride International Star in the Derby. Will start in the #12 position. Might be worth a shot at this price or higher.

ITSAKNOCKOUT: (Morning Line Odds: 30-1) The best thing that can be said about Itsaknockout is that he’s got solid training with Todd Pletcher. That being said, he doesn’t look like a horse that can be competitive at this class. Pletcher says he’s ‘working well’ but that doesn’t mean much. Jockey will be Luis Saez. Will start from the #13 position.

KEEN ICE: (Morning Line Odds: 50-1) Made it into the top twenty when Madefromlucky bowed out. Could be one of the best longshots in the field. Trained by Dale Romans who loves this horse and says that he’ll definitely be a factor. Pedigree suggests stamina and has a strong closing style which has produced other big upset winners in the past. Has reportedly impressed with his recent works. Definitely a horse to use in exotics. Kent Desormeaux is expected to ride though nothing has been made official. Very intriguing horse at what seems like too generous of a price. Will start 14th.

MATERIALITY: (Morning Line Odds: 12-1) Won the Florida Derby in a pitched battle against Upstart. Now three for three in his career but didn’t start racing until his three year old season. He’s already up against the ‘Curse of Apollo’—no horse has won the Derby without racing as a two year old since 1882. To top that, he’s trying to go from his maiden race to the Kentucky Derby winners’ circle in four races over four months. Todd Pletcher is a first rate trainer but he’s asking this horse to do the near impossible. Javier Castellano will be the jockey. At this price, International Star is a better choice.

MR. Z:(Morning Line Odds: 50-1) Broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last June and hasn’t won since. Could very well be the longshot of the field but nothing about his class or form suggests he’ll do anything here. Ramon Vazquez will ride. Will start 17th. Pricing underscores what looks to be an inaccurate valuation on Keen Ice.

MUBTAAHIJ:(Morning Line Odds: 20-1) Shipping in from Dubai after a spectacular win against forgettable competition in the U.A.E Derby. Tough turnaround having to ship overseas and run in a five week span. Shippers from Dubai never seem to do well in the Derby and it’s doubtful that Mubtaahij can do so against this class of opponent. An ‘in the money’ showing isn’t out of the question for this Irish bred colt. Christophe Soumillion will ride Mubtaahij. Will start sixth. A nice horse, but shippers from the Middle East have a disastrous record in the Kentucky Derby. Then again, Mubtaahij looks to be a cut above the usual class from the region. Might be worth a flyer at the price.

OCHO OCHO OCHO:(Morning Line Odds: 50-1) Not a bad horse, but shouldn’t be racing against this class. Will likely have a nice career in lower level races but can’t see any scenario in which he’ll be a factor in the Kentucky Derby. Not sure who will ride Ocho Ocho Ocho—Kent Desormeaux was the original choice but now he’s riding Keen Ice. Elvis Trujillo will ride and break from the #1 pole position. Just don’t think he’s got the speed to not get steamrolled by the rest of the field.

STANFORD: (Morning Line Odds: 30-1) Todd Pletcher trained Stanford finished second in the Louisiana Derby but faded badly in the stretch. That doesn’t bode well for the longer distance and stronger competition here. Florent Geroux will be the jockey. Will start in the #11 slot.

TENCENDUR: (Morning Line Odds: 30-1) Took second in the Wood Memorial with a 100 Beyer Speed Figure making him one of only six horses in the field with a triple digit Beyer. The problem is that the other five are much better than he is. Manuel Franco will be the jockey. Will start in the #5 position.

UPSTART:(Morning Line Odds: 15-1) Finished second in the Florida Derby to the real ‘upstart’ among the three year old class, Materiality. The good news—he put up a 108 Beyer in the process. The bad news—where does he go from there when he’s in against a brutally competitive field on Derby Day? Disappointed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but looked very impressive in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in late January. Now the big question is which result is more indicative of his potential. Most racing experts think it’s the latter—he got a bad trip in the BC Juvenile and never had a chance. Finished second in the Fountain of Youth after a DQ for interference. Will start in the 19th position. Looks overvalued given the class of competition and problematic starting spot.

WAR STORY:(Morning Line Odds: 50-1) Doesn’t have the speed or class to be a factor here. Jockey will be Joe Talemo who’ll break from the #16 position and will be lucky not to finish dead last.

A Big Crop of Three Year Olds

With the start of the 2016 racing season there will be somewhere between 350 and 400 three year olds that will 'declare' for the Kentucky Derby.  The nomination process is largely symbolic, with owners putting up $600 to gain eligibility for the three Triple Crown races. With a maximum of 20 horses accepted into the Kentucky Derby field there will be a significant process of elimination among this group of three year olds.  This is done via a formal qualification procedure involving the major Derby 'prep races' in the early part of the 2016 racing season.

As you can see, the contenders for the 2016 Kentucky Derby are just starting to get listed around the Internet. Keeping up to date on the latest contenders as the 2016 race nears is important for those who are really serious about Kentucky Derby betting odds.