The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby will be held on Saturday as the world’s most talented thoroughbreds assemble at Churchill Downs. And when they do, Bob Baffert will find himself in a familiar position as trainer of the betting favorite on the 2019 Kentucky Derby odds.
So says online sportsbook Bovada, which has odds posted for the horses competing in the “Run for the Roses.” Per those 2019 Kentucky Derby odds, Baffert – the legendary trainer with five Kentucky Derby wins (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015, 2018) under his belt – has the top three betting favorites in Game Winner (+400), Roadster (+450), and Improbable (+500).
The initial morning line numbers released by Churchill Downs head oddsmaker Mike Battaglia had put Omaha Beach – trained by Richard Mandella and originally scheduled to be ridden by jockey Mike Smith – as the favorite at (+400).
But a sudden health concern arose on Wednesday, causing Omaha Beach to be scratched from the first leg of the Triple Crown chase. In a press release, Mandella explained how his team detected Omaha Beach’s potentially dangerous respiratory ailment:
“After training this morning we noticed him cough a few times. It caused us to scope him and we found an entrapped epiglottis. We can’t fix it this week, so we’ll have to have a procedure done in a few days and probably be out of training for three weeks. We’ll have to figure out a whole new game plan.”
Last year, Baffert and Smith – who will now be riding the Todd Pletcher trained Cutting Humor at (+2800) – combined to lead Justify to a 2.5-length victory in the Kentucky Derby as a (+350) favorite.
Justify went on to win the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes to clinch the Triple Crown. That accomplishment marked only the second time since Affirmed in 1978 that horse racing’s most coveted prize was claimed, with both belonging to Baffert after he trained American Pharoah to the Triple Crown in 2015.
But if Baffert wins a record-tying sixth Kentucky Derby this Saturday, he’ll have to overcome poor post positions for two of his three entrants. Game Winner will start from Post #15 and Roadster from Post #16. These outside posts require a horse to run a wider path to complete the 1.25-mile circuit, which makes crossing the finish line first that much more difficult.
To wit, in 144 previous Kentucky Derby races, Posts #15 through #20 have produced only 12 champions. That includes an 0’fer for Post #17 – which has never started the winning horse in Kentucky Derby history.
Game Winner has finished in first or second place in all six of his career races. In March, Game Winner ran to a second-place finish behind Omaha Beach at the Rebel Stakes, followed by a runner-up run to Roadster in April at the Santa Anita Derby.
|Post Position||Horse (Jockey)||2019 Kentucky Derby Odds|
|2||War of Will (Tyler Gaffalione)||+1800|
|3||Tax (Junior Alvarado)||+2500|
|4||By My Standards (Gabriel Saez)||+1600|
|5||Gray Magician (Drayden Van Dyke)||+5000|
|6||Improbable (Irad Ortiz Jr.)||+500|
|7||Vekoma (Javier Castellano)||+2000|
|8||Maximum Security (Luis Saez)||+700|
|9||Tacitus (Jose Ortiz)||+800|
|10||Plus Que Parfait (Ricardo Santana Jr.)||+3300|
|11||Cutting Humor (Mike Smith)||+2800|
|12||Code of Honor (John Valezquez)||+1200|
|13||Win Win Win (Julian Pimentel)||+1600|
|14||Master Fencer (Julien Leparoux)||+6600|
|15||Game Winner (Joel Rosario)||+400|
|16||Roadster (Florent Geroux)||+450|
|17||Long Range Toddy (Jon Court)||+4000|
|18||Spinoff (Manny Franco)||+3300|
|19||Country House (Flavien Prat)||+4000|