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Last year, Rich Strike shocked the world by running by the favorites in a deep stretch to win the Kentucky Derby as an 80/1 longshot. Can another outsider catch lightning in the bottle for two consecutive years?
With 20 horses in the field, and 16 of them having morning line odds of 12/1 or higher, it’s certainly possible.
As we saw last year, anything can happen when you have so many young horses thrown into all the craziness of the Kentucky Derby, not to mention they will all be running a distance farther than they’ve ever gone before.
In fact, eight of the last 20 editions of the big race have produced a winner that went off at odds of 13/1 or higher, and numerous other longshots have won the storied race over the years.
Race favorite Forte may be the most likely winner on Saturday, but don’t be too surprised if another Kentucky Derby longshot makes his way into the Churchill Downs’ winner’s circle.
Here are the six horses who I believe have a real chance to light up the toteboard in this year’s run for the roses.
Coming off a strong win in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks six weeks ago, this son of Hard Spun will not be a big longshot, but will still offer very attractive odds on Saturday.
Trained by Larry Rivelli, he is already a stakes winner over the track, having easily taken the Grade 3 Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs last fall. A three-time stakes winner, he brings good experience to the table, having won half of his eight-lifetime starts.
Working very well of late, he also looks to be coming into the race in the best form of his career. He will be ridden for the eighth consecutive time by Jareth Loveberry, who will be making his first start in the Kentucky Derby. Together, I believe they have a great chance to be the talk of the town on Saturday evening.
It was just four years ago that Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott saw his longshot runner Country House placed first after the disqualification of Maximum Security. Now he brings us another interesting colt in this son of Into Mischief.
A winner of the Holy Bull three starts back, he has been beaten in his last two starts by two of the top contenders on Saturday in Forte and Angel of Empire. He will need to improve on those efforts, but he was not embarrassed and I like the way he was still running at the finish.
He deserves to be a longshot here, but I see him as one of those horses that will keep grinding and trying all the way to the wire. Adding blinkers, the graded stakes winner is just the type of longshot that I like to include underneath in the exotics.
Another trainer who has a Kentucky Derby victory under his belt is John Shirreffs. He won it back in 2005 with a big longshot named Giacomo. He was a late-developing type from Califonia who liked to do his best running from behind. All the same things can be said about Skinner.
The son of Curlin continues to improve and should appreciate the 10-furlong distance of the Kentucky Derby. Having faced good horses for much of his career, he comes into Saturday’s test off his best race yet, when he finished a strong third, just behind Practical Move and Mandarin Hero.
Of all the horses in this year’s Kentucky Derby, I believe Skinner is one of the most likely to be running well late. Bred to appreciate the distance, he is a must-use in the exotics.
This son of Shanghai Bobby was able to draw into the field of 20 after a couple of scratches on Thursday. After compiling a very good record in his native Japan, I believe his connections did a smart thing by getting him a race in America before the Derby.
It came in the Santa Anita Derby, where he turned in an excellent performance to just miss getting to Practical Move in the last few jumps. He had to avoid some traffic and maneuvered well between horses. That’s a quality that could come in handy in the big field of the Kentucky Derby.
With all the success of Japanese horses globally in recent years, they must be respected on Saturday. Derma Sotogake, who will be one of the favorites, could win, but so could this one who will have much better odds.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, this son of Gun Runner has not yet won in 2023, but he has been knocking on the door in each of his three starts, which have come at three different tracks.
He could only manage a third last time in the Lexington Stakes, but he should much prefer the added three-sixteenths of a mile in the Derby. Two starts back he finished well to be second in the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby, and that came behind Kingsbarns who got an easy lead on a slow pace that afternoon.
He will need to move forward off to have a big shot on Saturday, but there are signs that he could. Disarm will also have Joel Rosario in the saddle on Saturday, and he has become one of the best big race riders in the nation.
Trainer Keith Desormeaux has also had success in the Triple Crown before, having trained Exaggerator to a Preakness win and a Kentucky Derby runner-up finish seven years ago. Now he brings us this son of Candy Ride who has not raced since winning a sloppy edition of the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes ten weeks ago.
It’s a bold move by his trainer to come into the Derby off such a long break, but Desormeaux is one of those guys who does his own thing. His performance in The Rebel was quite strong, beating a deep field. He also boasts two wins over the track at Churchill Downs last year.
The layoff makes him a question mark, but the good news is that he has been working very well over the track, including some longer works to be conditioned for the 1 1/4-mile trip. He is an interesting longshot.
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
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