139th Kentucky Derby: Who Should You Bet On, Orb Or Verrazano?


The Run for the Roses is billed as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports."

With 20 horses in this year's field, it can be difficult narrowing down your choices. Mike Calabrese peers into his crystal ball, hoping to join you in the winner's circle at Churchill Downs.   

The Chalk - Betting Favorite

1. Verrazano

Odds, Post Position & Jockey: (4/1) PP - 14th (Average Position) John R. Velazquez

88 of the 138 Kentucky Derby winners (63%) have come from the 1-10 post position. The last horse to win from the 14th post position was Carry Back in 1961. 

Strange But True: The only negative hanging in the air when it comes to Verrazano is that the horse did not run as a two-year-old. No horse since 1882 (Apollo) has won the Kentucky Derby without running as a two-year-old.

In The Money - Good shot to finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd (to "show," in racing terms)

2. Orb 

Odds, Post Position & Jockey: (4/1) PP - 16th (Decent Position) Joel Rosario

Since 1995, 4 of the 18 Derby winners (22%) have come from the 16th post position. It's the most popular position of the last twenty years. 

The Daily Racing Form: Shug McGaughey believes in Orb and his horse may be the favorite at post time. Orb, the winner of four straight dating back to November, should be able to handle the 10 furlongs having won at a mile and an eighth at Gulfstream Park and the Florida Derby. Another reason to love Orb in the Derby is his jockey Joel Rosario. Rated an 8.6 out of 10 by Horse Racing Nation, the 25-year-old jockey has won four of his last six races. Never bet against a hot streak and this is the hot jockey-horse combo.

Strange But True: The last horse to win from the 16 post was Animal Kingdom in 2011. Joel Rosario won at Gulfstreak Park with Animal Kingdom, just as he did this year with Orb. There has only been one horse to win the Derby with just three letters in his name; Zev, 1923. 

Barbaro (2006) and Mine That Bird (2009) both came from the 8th post position. Barbaro posted the fastest time in the Derby since 2003 (2:01.36). 

Daily Racing Form: Kevin Krigger is looking to become the first African-American jockey to win the Kentucky Derby since 1902. Black jockeys dominated horse racing in the late 1800s, particularly the Kentucky Derby, finding their way to the winner's circle at Churchill Downs 15 times between 1875 and 1902. Rick Pitino is a partial owner and had quite an April. Pitino's Louisville Cardinals won the men's basketball national championship and he was induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. As for Goldenscents, there's a lot to like about the Santa Anita Derby winner. Goldencents Beyer Speed Figure came in at 105. That's better than every challenger at the Kentucky Derby, with Orb checking in at 97 and Verrazano at 95. 

Strange But True: Krigger and Goldencents' trainer Doug O'Neill may want to save their colt for the back stretch, as only one horse has won wire-to-wire since 2000 when War Emblem accomplished the extraordinary feat in 2002. 

4. Revolutionary 

Odds, Post Position & Jockey: (9/1) PP - 3rd (Ideal Position) Calvin Borel

Borel has the won the Derby three times in the last seven years from the 7, 8 and 4 post. The last jockey to make it to the winner's circle from the 3rd post position was Kent Desormeaux in 1998 with Real Quiet. 

The Daily Racing Form: Calvin Borel with the rail available to him, what's not to like? Borel is teaming up with the same trainer/owner combo that saw him win with Super Saver in 2010. Revolutionary is on a three race winning streak, including a heart pounding victory at the Louisiana Derby. The veteran breeder William S. Farish has called this horse a "Grand Colt," and winning by a head in Louisiana only adds to his mystique. 

Strange But True: Revolutionary has Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner, in his bloodline. 

5. Normandy Invasion

Odds, Post Position & Jockey: (9/1) PP - 5th (Favorable Position) Javier Castellano 

The 5 post produced back-to-back winners in 2002 and 2003 (War Emblem, Funny Cide), but has only produced two horses in the money since 2004. 

The Daily Racing Form: Normandy Invasion has finished in the money in three of his last four races. The Wood Memorial may have been a Derby preview with Verrazano narrowly edging out Normandy Invasion down the stretch. Javier Castellano is a phenomenal jockey, finishing 5th or better in his last ten races with four wins in that stretch. The distance at Churchill Downs may play into Castellano's hands as his colt is a hard charging closer. His strong closing track record makes him a must play in trifectas on Saturday.

Strange But True: Normandy Invasion's owner Rick Porter, an Army vet, wanted to honor his fellow veterans and named his horse after the famous WWII invasion. 

Long Shots

Itsmyluckyday (12/1) Elvis Trujillo: A disappointing second at the Florida Derby has cooled his backers, but this colt won't be intimidated by the premium competition having raced against most of the field previously. 

Overanalyze (14/1) Rafael Bejarano: The winner of the Arkansas Derby (by 5 lengths) has some positive momentum, but hasn't posted any blazing times. 

Vyjack (14/1) Garrett Gomez: Rudy Rodriguez is under the microscope due to previous medical violations with his horses. Vyjack finished 3rd at the Wood Memorial and won the Gotham Stakes, well worth the bet at 14/1. 

Mylute (16/1) Rosie Napravnik: Rosie Napravnik is looking to become the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. She isn't a side show, Napravnik has won in four of her last eleven mounts. 

Java's War (16/1) Julien Leparoux: Came from the way back to win at the Blue Grass Stakes, if there's a fast pace on Saturday Java's War could come out of nowhere to shock the field. 

Will Take Charge (20/1) Jon Court: Some trainers have an eye for the underdog and two of Wayne Lukas' four winners at the Derby have been long shots (Thunder Gulch '95, Charismatic '99). 

Palace Malice (25/1) Mike Smith: Trainer Todd Pletcher is sending a record-tying five horses to Churchill Downs on Saturday. Palace Malice is not in the same class as Verrazano or Revolutionary, but should have a fine showing after finishing second in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland last month. 

Charming Kitten (25/1) Edgar Prado: Has finished in the money six times during his seven races, so don't ignore him in your trifectas. The knock on this horse is that he favors synthetics and turf as opposed to dirt. 

Oxbow (30/1) Garry Stevens: This pick is all about the jockey. Stevens, a three-time Derby winner and hall of famer, knows what it takes to win at Churchill Downs. He also has a good relationship with Oxbow's trainer, Wayne Lukas, having won two of this three Derbies with one of Lukas' horses. 

Lines of Battle (33/1) Ryan Moore: Hasn't faced top-tier competition, could be a culture shock on Saturday as he makes his Run for the Roses. 

Frac Daddy (40/1) Victor Lebron: Injuries have derailed a once promising career, but he did finish second at the Arkansas Derby. If he hadn't suffered a gash to his leg at Gulfstream Park he might be in the 16/1 to 20/1 range. 

Falling Sky (50/1) Luis Saez: Wouldn't be shocked if this colt was the pacesetter, but this distance is outside of his range. 

Golden Soul (50/1) Robby Albarado: Classified as a bit of a grinder, Golden Soul needs the field to box in some of the hard charging closers. 

Black Onyx (50/1) Joe Bravo: Awful post position and stamina questions at this distance explain the 50/1 odds. Another concern is that Onyx's trainer Kelly Breen has only raced him twice since March 15th.

Giant Finish (50/1) Jose L. Espinoza: Owners decided on Tuesday that they wanted to run. Their trainer Tony Dutrow was surprised by this news, that's not good.


Breese's Betting Slip