The prep races have run, a prospective field is set, and contenders are arriving to Churchill Downs. Now begins days of speculation that reflected in a new 2018 Kentucky Derby Media Poll assembled by HorseRacingNation.com.
Little changed in Monday’s rankings, but a panel of experts hinted their choices could be influenced by final workouts and daily training sessions.
“We have opinions based on what’s we’ve seen so far, and now it’s time for the horses to reaffirm or alter those opinions with their final preparations,” said Joe Kristufek, racing analyst for Churchill Downs.
The Top 9 remained the same, albeit in a slightly different order from last week with the group led by unbeaten Santa Anita Derby winner Justify, who for trainer Bob Baffert should go off as the Kentucky Derby favorite. Rounding out the Top 5 were Mendelssohn, Bolt d’Oro, Audible and Magnum Moon. Each won a final major prep aside from Bolt, the second-place finisher to Justify who owns some of the field’s top speed figures even as the runner-up.
Good Magic followed that group, with the Blue Grass Stakes winner and champion 2-year-old having put in a smooth half-mile breeze over the weekend at Keeneland. The son of Curlin arrived to Churchill Downs on Sunday and Monday put his first bit of training in over the track.
“Best potential Kentucky Derby field in years,” said Fred Cowgill, the longtime sports anchor at Louisville’s CBS affiliate, WLKY. “Any other year any of Top 6 could be post time favorite. Sticking with very live long shot and Blue Grass winner Good Magic. Tasty at likely double digit odds!”
All of the Top 7 received at least one No. 1 vote, with Vino Rosso the last of the bunch. Horse Racing Nation’s Brian Zipse led the charge for the Todd Pletcher trainee, placing the Wood Memorial winner atop his ballot.
“It’s time to shake things up in the poll,” Zipse said. “Based on accomplishments before, I’ve now changed it drastically to reflect who I think will win the Derby.”
This week’s biggest move was made by Florida Derby runner-up Hofburg. He’s lightly raced with just three starts but comes from the barn of Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who was Churchill Downs’ winningest all-time trainer until passed recently by Dale Romans. The Tapit colt advanced from No. 14 to 10th, passing stakes winners Enticed, Flameaway and Quip.
“Justify enters the Derby as the clear horse to beat from two weeks out,” said the Thoroughbred Daily News’ Ben Massam, “but there are a number of talented, more experienced rivals ready to pounce should he not fire his best shot.”
Votes were collected before Monday morning’s news that Gronkowski may defect from the Derby, and that Quip definitely has, according to the Daily Racing Form. One final edition of the Media Poll will be released next week.
“Now we wait,” added Art Wilson, reporter for the Southern California News Group, “for the final works and the all-important post position draw.”
|Kentucky Derby Media Poll (Week 9)|
|Horse (1st-place votes)||Points||Previous|
|1. Justify (7)||350||1|
|2. Mendelssohn (3)||326||4|
|3. Bolt d’Oro (1)||317||3|
|4. Audible (2)||315||5|
|5. Magnum Moon (1)||312||2|
|6. Good Magic (3)||302||6|
|7. Vino Rosso (2)||273||7|
|8. My Boy Jack||210||9|
|9. Noble Indy||206||8|
|15. Free Drop Billy||115||15|
|16. Lone Sailor||113||16|
|19. Promises Fulfilled||52||19|
|20. Firenze Fire||42||20|
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