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John Fredericks: Kentucky Derby Best Bets

John Fredericks: Kentucky Derby Best Bets

JOHN FREDERICKS: KENTUCKY DERBY BEST BETS – This is going to be a fun Derby, especially with the morning-line favorite Forte, winner of five straight, having been a late scratch. Some might say the $3 million purse and first leg of this year’s Triple Crown is up for grabs.

There have been four late scratches, which has thrown this race into disarray.

Except for me, I was not going to bet Forte anyway.

So let’s dive right in.


My Pick

#14 – Angel of Empire 9:2

This colt was an afterthought in the Brad Cox barn in January. Five months later and he’s a co-favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. He was nothing special as a two-year-old, but then he turned three, and he’s improved with every outing. Maturity matters at three.

In a word, I love this colt.

He won the Arkansas Derby on dirt by four and one-half lengths. But it was the way he won that caught my attention.

He raced middle of the pack and then made his move late in the backstretch, blowing past the field and getting a getting a nose out front, off the far turn. That showed power and a burst of speed. Then he poked a head lead in the top of the stretch. At mid-stretch he opened up by two-lengths. That showed a second kick when he needed it. The race well in hand, he opened up four lengths past the one-sixteenth pole and sprinted toward the wire, stretching it four and half.

That showed me three more things: grit, heart and a killer instinct.

I trained race horses for a living for a decade. You can’t teach a killer instinct. This colt has it. He’s developing into a beast.

Trainer Brad Cox is one of the best in the industry.

Others to Consider

#2 – Verifying 17:1

To be a contender, this colt has get out front quick. Problem: he’s never been asked for early speed, and that changes today. He’ll try to steal this with a wire to wire win.

#5 – Tapit Trice 9:2

This big grey colt is an imposing physical equine specimen. He’s also reeled off four wins in a row. He came from last in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Next out, he had a rousing win in the Blue Grass Stakes.

He sold for $1.3 Million in the yearling sale and has outstanding pedigree- the son of Tapid.

My hold up here is this colt breaks slowly out of the gate. This can’t be taught by a trainer. It’s a major red-flag in the chaos of an 18 horse field.

He needs a perfect trip. Not here, not now.

FUN My Pillow

#17 – Derma Sotogake  7:1

No thanks. He won the UAE Derby in stunning fashion. Wow. Impressive! He flew to Chicago on March 28th and then shipped to Kentucky in early April.

UAE Derby winners are 0-18 in the Kentucky Derby and horses making the overseas trip have never finished better than fifth in the history of the Derby.

If you believe in arithmetic or own an Abacus, this is a bad play.

#3 – Two Phil’s 7:1

Here’s the good news: he has the highest Beyers speed rating at 103. Here’s the bad news: that was on synthetic turf at Turfway Park. On dirt, he spit the bit and got smoked by three-lengths in the Risen Star Stakes. Previously on dirt, Forte left him in the dust by 10 lengths!

I just don’t think he can compete in this class.

#4 – Confidence Game 17:1

This colt won a nice Grade 1 in the slop 10 weeks ago. In the history of the Kentucky Derby, no horse has ever won with more than a seven-week lay-off. EVER. Can he defy history? Doubtful.

Two More: KingsBarnes and Mage

Neither raced as a two-year old. Both have three starts as a three-year old. Only one horse—Justify—has won the Derby with only three starts as a three-year old and no starts at two. That spans 140 years.

KingsBarnes will go to the front and fade at the top of the stretch.


  • John Fredericks, Publisher

    John Fredericks, the Godzilla of Truth, has spent more than 40 years in the media, previously working as a journalist, newspaper editor, and television host. Fredericks is an avid sports fan, journalist, and handicapper. He brings his unique voice and style, crafted by years of political commentary broadcast on the airwaves, to the world of sports. He cut his teeth on the radio announcing high school football, basketball and baseball games. His weekly column, You Can't Buy Culture, follows ebbs and flows of a diehard fan at the whims of his favorite teams.

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