Always Dreaming Connections had a Kentucky Derby Plan and it Paid Off

Always Dreaming’s connections had a plan when it came to how to prepare for the Kentucky Derby (G1) and it all went down according to plan when he won the 143rd running of the roses. According to trainer Todd Pletcher and owners Vinnie Viola and Anthony Bonomo, they wanted Always Dreaming to peak in the Derby.

With only two races during his age-two campaign, everything had to go right leading up to the 2017 Derby, but most importantly, Always Dreaming had to execute. That’s easier said and done though, but Always Dreaming was up to the task.

First up was a maiden race at Tampa Bay Downs, and luckily John Velazquez, who rode Always Dreaming to Kentucky Derby glory, was in the area.

“We wanted him to go two turns, and he was ready to run,” said Pletcher. “On that particular day, Gulfstream had a seven-furlong race and a mile-and-an-eighth race. I didn’t want to run him a mile-an-eighth since he hadn’t run since August, and I didn’t really want to run him seven furlongs. Fortunately, Johnny had gone to OBS to ride for us and it worked out that he could be there the next day at Tampa. I said, ‘Hey, I think you’ll want to ride this horse.’ Everything just kind of fell into place.

“It was part of the plan that we had talked about, bringing him along instead of peaking too soon.”

Always Dreaming dominated the Tampa Bay assignment, winning by 11 and half lengths. Instead of racing in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) next, Always Dreaming’s connections decided an allowance race at Gulfstream to prepare for the Florida Derby (G1) would be better. They were right and Always Dreaming won that race by four lengths. Then the biggest test came next: the Florida Derby.

“The one thing that we wanted to do was have the horse peak [in the Kentucky Derby], not in the Florida Derby or not in the Fountain of Youth,” said Pletcher. “There was some risk with that plan. Because by not going in the Fountain of Youth, he had no [Derby qualifying] points at that stage of his career.

“But we felt like we were all comfortable taking our best shot at the Florida Derby as his only point‑eligible prep. And we all were comfortable with the fact that if something happened and he didn’t earn enough points, that we were willing to live with that decision.”

Always Dreaming would win the Florida Derby by five lengths and all that planning culminated in his eventual Kentucky Derby win.

Final Pre-Kentucky Derby Work for Irish War Cry

The 143rd annual Kentucky Derby (G1) is set for this weekend on May 6. All of the top contenders are putting in their final training sessions in preparation for this year’s Run for the Roses. One such contender is Irish War Cry. He final pre-Derby work took place at Fair Hill Training Centre on April 30, where he ran six furlongs in a time of 1:13 1/5 under the watchful eye of trainer Graham Motion.

The Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) winner ran under jockey Rajiv Maragh and in the company of Providence Road.

“I wanted him to have a decent work but not overdo it, and I think that’s exactly what he did,” said Motion. “Rajiv was anxious to see how he’d settle behind another horse, I thought it would be good for him to feel that himself, and he was happy with the way he did it. To be really corny, we ‘ticked all the boxes,’ pretty much.”

Maragh’s first time riding Irish War Cry was at the Wood Memorial and he was pleased with their final pre-Derby workout.

“I’ve never been on him directly behind another horse, so I just wanted to see if that was an option, how he would react,” said Maragh. “He was perfect, he did everything I was hoping he would. He didn’t react in any negative way at all.

“His workout was fantastic, he was in such a great flow and he did it well within himself. This horse is just such a fabulous horse to ride because he does anything you ask of him.”

Irish War Cry finished with the fifth-most Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points (110).

Kentucky Derby One to Watch for Potential Preakness Winner

Favorites get Headlines, but Derby Winner Won’t be Best Bet in Preakness

The Kentucky Derby field is set and the post-position draw and morning line odds has Derby fans dreaming for their winner. Always Dreaming is getting plenty of play as the co-second choice at 5-1 with McCraken, while Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champioin and Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire (4-1) is the favorite to win the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby.

Classic Empire will break from post No. 14. He’s a 3-time Grade I winner. Jockey Julien Leparoux is a 9-time Derby loser trying for his first Kentucky Derby win.

Always Dreaming drew post No. 5 for the Derby. He won the Florida Derby by 5 lengths with a fantastic finish and the fastest Florida Derby time since Alydar in 1978. Not bad for his first stakes start. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez is 1-for-18 in the Kentucky Derby, riding Animal Kingdom to victory in 2011.

McCraken will be in post No. 15 alongside Classic Empire. McCraken is 3-for-3 over the Churchill Downs track, but lost his recent start finishing 3rd in the Blue Grass Stakes. McCraken will try to become the first Blue Grass runner since 2007 to win the Kentucky Derby. Jockey Brian Hernandez will try to win his first Kentucky Derby in his second start.     

The other single-digit favorite in the Derby is Irish War Cry (6-1) breaking from post No. 17, where no horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby. Jockey Rajiv Maragh will try to also snap that streak with his 1st Derby win in his fifth start.

Wednesday was the Derby Draw and a day of laying odds. But regardless of who wins the Derby, the next Triple Crown race in the Preakness Stakes will provide another test for Derby runners trying to circle back just two weeks later at Pimlico. A number of fresh new runners will take their shot against the Derby winner and likely four or five other Derby runners. And the odds of the Derby winner will be even lower at the Preakness, making them a tougher choice to support even if they come out of the Derby in good shape.

Last year Nyquist won the Kentucky Derby as the 5-2 favorite for his 8th straight victory. Second choice Exaggerator finished in 2nd place. When the two rivals went to the Preakness, Exaggerator turned the tables to win the Preakness while Nyquist finished 3rd as the over bet 3-5 favorite. Nyquist would never win another race and retire following his 11th career start. Newcomers Cherry Wine (17-1) finished 2nd while lightly-raced speedster Stradivari (8-1) finished 4th in his stakes debut at the 2016 Preakness.

So watch the Kentucky Derby with interest and find a favorite or two and a few long shots to include in your exotic wagers. Then plan your Preakness strategy and uncover some under-the-radar horses and value to profit in the Preakness.

Kentucky Derby field with post position, odds, jockey, trainer and most recent race finish.

Post Horse Odds Jockey Trainer Last Race
1 Lookin at Lee 20-1 Corey Lanerie Steve Asmussen 3rd Arkansas Derby
2 Thunder Snow 20-1 Chris Soumillon Saeed bin Suroor 1st UA Derby
3 Fast and Accurate 50-1 Channing Hill Mike Maker 1st Spiral Stakes
4 Untrapped 30-1 Ricardo Santana, Jr. Steve Asmussen 6th Arkansas Derby
5 Always Dreaming 5–1 John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 1st Florida Derby
6 State of Honor 30–1 Jose Lezcano Mark Casse 2nd Florida Derby
7 Girvin 15-1 Mike Smith Joe Sharp 1st Louisiana Derby
8 Hence 15-1 Florent Geroux Steve Asmussen 1st Sunland Derby
9 Irap 20-1 Mario Gutierrez Doug O’Neil 1st Blue Grass Stakes
10 Gunnevera 15-1 Javier Castellano Antonio Sano 3rd Florida Derby
11 Battle of Midway 30-1 Flavien Prat Jerry Hollendorfer 2nd Santa Anita Derby
12 Sonneteer 50-1 Kent Desormeaus Keith Desormeaux 4th Arkansas Derby
13 J Boys Echo 20-1 Luis Saez Dale Romans 4th Blue Grass Stakes
14 Classic Empire 4–1 Julien Leparoux Mark Casse 1st Arkansas Derby
15 McCraken 5–1 Brian Hernandez, Jr Ian Wilkes 3rd Blue Grass Stakes
16 Tapwrit 20-1 Jose Ortiz Todd Pletcher 5th Blue Grass Stakes
17 Irish War Cry 6–1 Fajiv Maragh Graham Motion 1st Wood Memorial
18 Gormely 15-1 Victor Espinoza John Shirreffs 1st Santa Anita Derby
19 Practical Joke 20-1 Joel Rosario Chad Brown 2nd Blue Grass Stakes
20 Patch 30-1 Tyler Gaffalione Todd Pletcher 2nd Louisiana Derby
2017 kentucky derby odds

2017 Kentucky Derby Odds Announced

An interesting thing happened this time last year at Churchill Downs. The race went chalk. The top four finishers were the first four choices on the betting board. With the 2017 Kentucky Derby odds being released this morning, are we in for the same fate on Saturday?

I’m not quite so sure. The oddsmakers have inserted four horses as clear cut favorites with the top option being Classic Empire, who has earned a 4/1 mark since winning the Arkansas Derby. The long time preference of horse players in the futures market is also the reigning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, so he’s a familiar face with a lot of experience under his saddle.

The main threats according to the 2017 Kentucky Derby odds are McCraken and Always Dreaming who share 5/1 odds. Essentially the difference boils down to what we know about each horse. McCraken has appeared vindictive since his first loss in the Blue Grass, where he finished third, and that’s the response you want from a competitor.

Always Dreaming is a different story. The colt simply seems to have mercurial talent. He won the Florida Derby without needing any urging from his jockey. The problem is that this was his only stakes race. That he wont he race so convincingly is awesome, but the fact that he’s never been challenged is a bit concerning. The benefit with Always Dreaming is that he seems destined for the longer distances.

Irish War Cry is the last of the favorites according to the 2017 Kentucky Derby odds, and he is coming off a strong performance in the Wood Memorial. There are doubts about whether he has the legs to go the 1 1/8th miles.

The full list of entrants are below and you’ll notice that the longshots start at a distant 15/1. There’s no middle ground. That’s very telling of the talent in this race. As a note, Royal Mo and Master Plan are alternates for this race but are being given 2017 Kentucky Derby odds regardless.


2017 Kentucky Derby – Saturday, May 6th at 6:46pm EST
1 1/8th Miles – 3 Year Olds – $2,000,000

Post Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1 Lookin At Lee Corey Lanerie Steve Asmussen 20-1
2 Thunder Snow Christophe Soumillion Saeed bin Suroor 20-1
3 Fast and Accurate Channing Hill Mike Maker 50-1
4 Untrapped Ricardo Santana Jr. Steve Asmussen 30-1
5 Always Dreaming John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 5-1
6 State of Honor Jose Lezcano Mark Casse 30-1
7 Girvin Mike Smith Joe Sharp 15-1
8 Hence Florent Geroux Steve Asmussen 15-1
9 Irap Mario Gutierrez Doug O’Neill 20-1
10 Gunnevera Javier Castellano Antonio Sano 15-1
11 Battle of Midway Flavien Prat Jerry Hollendorfer 30-1
12 Sonneteer Kent Desormeaux Keith Desormeaux 50-1
13 J Boys Echo Luis Saez Dale Romans 20-1
14 Classic Empire Julian Leparoux Mark Casse 4-1
15 McCraken Brian Hernandez Jr. Ian Wilkes 5-1
16 Tapwrit Jose Ortiz Todd Pletcher 20-1
17 Irish War Cry Rajiv Maragh Graham Motion 6-1
18 Gormley Victor Espinoza John Shirreffs 15-1
19 Practical Joke Joel Rosario Chad Brown 20-1
20 Patch Tyler Gaffalione Todd Pletcher 30-1
AE Royal Mo Gary Stevens John Shirreffs 20-1
AE Master Plan John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 50-1

Value Shopping at the Sunland Derby

Sunland Derby Winner Will Qualify for Kentucky Derby

The road to the Kentucky Derby continues on Sunday, March 26 with the $800,000 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park, a 1 1/8-mile race in New Mexico that offers 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner. This race is worth watching, as some of the horses may run in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20.

The race has an abundance of speed from the 12 horses entered, and Sunland Park has a tendency to favor front-runners and speed horses. Trainer Bob Baffert, winner of three of the last four editions of this race, saddles one of the favorites in #3 Bronze Age, who has showed tremendous early speed in his first two races before tiring. He stretched out well when going a mile in modest fractions, and now has to carry his speed an additional eighth of a mile against more front-running pressing challengers. .

Shopping for value and betting #10 Balandeen (10-1) should be worth a wager. Balandeen showed significant potential as a 2-year-old, winning a couple of races at Del Mar and Churchill Downs before finishing second behind Kentucky Derby favorite McCraken in the one-mile Street Sense Stakes. He appeared a bit off in form, but Balandeen, like many others, didn’t take to the Delta Downs surface in the Nov. 19 Delta Downs Jackpot (G3).

Balandeen was freshened, and the second race was the March 4 Gazebo Stakes at Oaklawn Park, which marked Balandeen’s first race in 3 ½ months. While he could only finish third, the race was clearly a prep for bigger races down the road, and Balandeen even received special permission to continue running past the finish line, essentially turning the race into a “paid workout.”

Now, Balandeen is making his second start off the layoff, and his pedigree suggests that he’ll have no trouble with the distance of the Sunland Derby — his sire (father) is Grade 1 Preakness Stakes winner Bernardini and his dam (mother) is Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes winner Mamma Kimbo. Balandeen is likely sitting on a big effort, and at 10-1 on the morning line, I think he’s worth playing on top and underneath in exotic wagers as well. .

Here’s a thought on how to bet the Sunland Derby for a decent score:

Wagering Strategy on a $32 Budget

$8 to win-place on #10 Balandeen ($16)

$2 exacta: 3,10 with 2,3,10 ($8)

$2 exacta: 3,10 with 4 ($4)

$1 exacta: 3,10 with 11 ($2)

$1 exacta 10 with 3, 12 ($2)

For a larger bankroll, wager a bit more on #10 Balandeen across the board and tie in with these horses in exacta on top and bottom with #10 Balandeen, and in trifeca’s and superfecta (1,2,3,4,5,12)


Can Girvin Get the Kentucky Derby Distance?

Girvin Not a Likely Derby Contender, but Preakness a Possibility

Girvin went to post in the Feb. 25 Risen Star Stakes at 8-1 odds. He had been training great and showed his improvement and speed with a strong closing kick to win the Grade II Risen Star race and secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate with 50 qualifying points on the Road to the Roses. Girvin was able to save ground along the rail, and his final time of 1:43.08 seconds at the Fair Grounds Race Course was the third fastest in the 1 1/16 mile Risen Star in the past 15 runnings of the race.

As Girvin prepares for his final Derby prep in the Louisiana Derby April 1, he’ll be asked to carry his jockey Brian Hernandez a bit further to the finish – 1 1/8 miles. From there, the questions will be asked as to whether Girvin can get the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles faster than his 19 rivals in the Kentucky Derby.

A look at the past and pedigree can provide us of his potential and whether we can profit from Girvin’s experience. We always want to project improvement for a 3-year old as he makes a bid in the Derby and on the Triple Crown trail. The Preakness Stakes could follow for Girvin, and that’s a distance of 1 3/16 miles at Pimlico.

Girvin’s sire is Tale of Ekati, who won the Belmont Futurity as a 2-year-old and was a top miler at age 3 and 4. He did win the 2008 Wood Memorial going 1 1/8, and followed with a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby as a big longshot. The Wood Memorial was his only win beyond a mile and the Canadian-bred finished his career with 5 wins and 1 place in 15 starts.

Girvin’s dam is Catch a Moon, and his damsire Malibu Moon was the son of A.P. Indy, who won 8 of 11 starts including the 1992 Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic in his final race. Malibu Moon’s career was cut short by a slab fracture of his right knee, but Malibu Moon is a top-10 ranked sire by earnings.

Girvin’s pedigree indicates that 1 1/8 miles could be at the top of his scope, making a Kentucky Derby victory unlikely. Girvin is an average sized colt but does possess a running style and stride fit to stretch out. In the last nine years, four colts won both the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby, but only one placed in the Kentucky Derby and that was last year when Gun Runner finished third. For Girvin to get on the top of our radar to win or place in the Derby, he’ll have to show continued improvement and run a huge race against a stronger field in the Louisiana Derby.

McCraken Makes His Move to Win Sam F. Davis Stakes

McCraken Rallies in Track Record Time to win Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs

McCraken made another stride towards the Kentucky Derby Saturday. The rising, talented Kentucky-bred made a magnificent move down the stretch to win the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes in a track record time at Tampa Bay Down.

McCraken, the undefeated son of Ghostzapper, won his fourth straight race with a winning time of 1 minute 42.45 seconds. He picked up $120,000 as the top prize and broke Destin’s track record from last year which is the best 1 1/16 mile time in the Downs’ 91 year history.

Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. settled McCraken behind the pack five lengths off the pacesetter State of Honor, who set fractions of 23.63, :47.15 and 1:10.90 through six furlongs. When Hernandez asked McCraken to go, the strapping colt unleashed his big stride and flew home to win by 1 ¼ lengths over a late charging Tapwrit.

“Riding a horse like (McCraken) puts a lot of confidence in you, and you’ve got to go out there and ride him with the confidence we do … and he gets us there,” Hernandez said. “When I first got to the half-mile pole, I asked him for a run and he hesitated a bit. But I think it was him telling me, ‘Hey, jock, don’t worry. We’re going to get there when it’s my time.’ And he did.”

State of Honor held on for 3rd, while Wild Shot finished fourth after briefly taking the lead by a head in the stretch. Fact Finding, No Dozing, Six Gun Salute, Chance of Luck and King and His Court completed the finish.

McCraken went to post as the 3-2 favorite and paid $5, $3.60 and $2.80. Tapwrit returned $8.20 and $5.20, and State of Honor paid $6.20. The top four finishers received Kentucky Derby points on a sliding scale of 10-4-2-1.

Trainer Ian Wilkes knows has a special horse in his barn, and has been trying to downplay all the Derby talk about McCraken.

“If he’s good enough, he’ll take us there,” Wilkes said. “I don’t know how good (he is). But there have been some nice horses that have run a mile-and-a-sixteenth here.

“We’ve got a long way to go. This is not a one-race program. I want two more races for him, then the Derby. This is just one stepping stone, and we keep building.”

McCraken will build on his latest victory and success in his next race, the March 11 Tampa Bay Derby (G2).

Smarty Jones Preview: Uncontested Has Unrelenting Speed

Uncontested Will Wire Monday’s Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn

The Smarty Jones Stakes is set for Monday at Oaklawn Park, and the MLK holiday race has drawn a field of 8 for $150,000 purse. Uncontested is the 2-1 favorite and looks uncatchable, while the top 2 challengers on the morning line break from the inside with Petrov (5/2) on the rail and Warriors Club (7/2) on his outside. Rowdy the Warrior (6/1) and Unbridled Eagle (8/1) are additional challengers who will need a fast pace to have any chance to catch the favorite.

Uncontested is the favorite in the Smarty Jones Stakes

The 10th running of the Smarty Jones is a 1 mile prep race for the Arkansas Derby April 15 at Oaklawn, with winners expected to move on to the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Uncontested is one of three runners from the Nov. 26 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), and he led that race through a blistering quarter and into the far turn before fading to fourth. He broke from the far outside post that day, and jockey Channing Hill should be able to ration his speed and energy better out front this time. Uncontested possesses a great deal of natural speed, and will be the one to catch again. Warriors Club chased the early pace and finished a head in front of Uncontested in the Kentucky Jockey Club, while Romeo O Romeo (12-1 finished last in the 12 horse field.

Petrov comes out of the weaker 3-year-old sprint division in New York. Like the favorite Uncontested, Petrov is 1-for-2 and now stretches out. He did work a strong 4 furlongs Jan. 11 at Oaklawn breezing in 48.20 which was fourth fastest of 121 runners that day.

Warriors Club is a D. Wayne Lukas trainee who has made 7 starts with a 1-1-3 record. He’s continued to improve and showed more in his first stakes try in the Kentucky Jockey Club. He won a minor stakes at Churchill to break his maiden, and the horse he beat was well regarded Cool Arrow, who came back to win while beating Rowdy the Warrior and Cu Rahy, who is in here at 15-1. That race was very slow, and Rowdy the Warrior would benefit from a very fast pace.

Unfortunately for all challengers, Uncontested is not likely to give up the lead in this race. He looks primed to carry out his speed and utilize Oaklawn’s short stretch in this 1-mile race. Jockey Channing Hill should be able to ration out his speed and carry it through to the finish with expected improvement.

The Smarty Jones Stakes is Race 8 at Oaklawn Park on Monday, Jan. 16. The 1 mile race is set for post at 4:38 pm ET.

2016 Remsen preview

2016 Remsen Headed By Takaful

The 2016 Remsen Stakes is always an intriguing indicator of the Triple Crown. Mohaymen was the big winner last year and used it to propel himself to the front of the class in the Kentucky Derby Futures Wager. That same pool is being released for the first time over the weekend so it will be interesting to see how the market reacts to the results of this big rase. Takaful is expected to be the favorite.

Takaful is coming off a strong performance at a 6 furlong Belmont allowance. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin knows it’s far too early to tell whether or not his juvenile has a shot at doing something incredible next year.

“It’s a big step up from a maiden to a grade II and it’s a big step up from 6 1/2 to a mile and an eighth, but he’s certainly a grade II type,” McLaughlin said. “The distance is a little bit of a concern, but we don’t have a lot of options, so we’re going to give it a go. We’ve missed out on a prep, but we can’t do anything about that, so we’re going to hope for the best.”

Almost the entire field will be making their stakes debuts in this race. The only two that aren’t are No Dozing, who finished 4th at the Breeders’ Futirity, and Sleep Hallow Stakes runner-up Tellmeafookystory.

The 2016 Remsen Stakes is on Saturday, November 28th and offers a point distribution of 10-4-2-1 as part of the derby trail. The Kentucky Jockey Club and the Cattleya Sho (Japan) are another pair of races in that series.

2016 Remsen Stakes – Saturday, November 28th at Aqueduct
1 1/8th Miles – Juveniles – $300,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Tellmeafookystory (NY) Kendrick Carmouche 116 Todd A. Pletcher
2 Newman (KY) Joel Rosario 116 Thomas Albertrani
3 Hookup (KY) Manuel Franco 116 David A. Cannizzo
4 Takaful (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 116 Kiaran P. McLaughlin
5 Tale of Silence (KY) Jose Lezcano 116 Barclay Tagg
6 Win With Pride (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 116 Todd A. Pletcher
7 You’re to Blame (KY) Javier Castellano 116 Chad C. Brown
8 Mo Town (KY) John R. Velazquez 116 Anthony W. Dutrow
9 No Dozing (KY) Daniel Centeno 116 Arnaud Delacour
10 Lead Astray (KY) Antonio A. Gallardo 116 Claude R. McGaughey III
best longshots at the kentucky derby

Best Longshot Bets At The Kentucky Derby

Some of you like betting big on tight odds, while others prefer the ultimate risk in banking on a horse who has no business placing in the top-three at a big race. That’s the beauty of thoroughbred wagering – there’s something for everyone. Below I’ve listed the four best longshot bets at the Kentucky Derby. Just note that odds are subject to change as we inch closer and closer to the May7th extravaganza.

Danzing Candy (25/1) – When it comes to odds, this is about as small as I get when qualifying the best longshot bets to win the Kentucky Derby. Danzing Candy is a freaking bullet that emerged on the scene thanks to a blazing fast performance at the San Felipe Stakes, a race he led from the start and never relinquished. Unfortunately, he couldn’t produce a repeat performance at the muddy Santa Anita Derby and actually looked surprised and disheartened as others passed him.

Danzing Candy will run from one of the inside posts next weekend, and his team has already stated that he will likely go for the lead and try and hold it. That’s a monumental ask of any horse, especially in a field that possesses so many apt stalkers. Experience is the biggest reason to shade Danzing Candy, but there’s also a chance he’s learned from what happened at the Santa Anita Derby. The slippy conditions certainly worked against him at that race, and a faster track at Churchill Downs certainly plays in his favor. I’m not necessarily brave enough to lob a sizeable play at this horse to win, but I’m definitely excited to see what he’s capable of against the best of the three-year class.

Lani (33/1) – It’s a cinematic stereotype to have a foreigner from a distant, Asian land emerge as a mystery but that’s exactly the narrative that surrounds Lani. Born in Kentucky and purchased by owner Yoko Maeda, Lani was shipped to Japan to begin his training. Yutaka Take has been in the mount for Lani during his career, and Japan could not deliver a better jockey. Take remains the country’s finest and has ridden at the Kentucky Derby before.

Old school horse bettors will like Lani for a few reasons. He clocked a a strong 1:53.66 at the UAE Derby in Dubai to earn a berth in the Run for the Roses, and one of the reasons he serves as one of the best longshot bets at the Kentucky Derby is because he is a son of Tapit. The main deterrent? Lani has not competed all that much. The travel from Japan to Kentucky essentially vacuumed any lead time to squeeze in another race.

The oddsmakers aren’t’ terribly sure what to do with the horse. He rates well, is peaking at the right time, has a surefire pedigree and has a champion rider in the saddle.

Whitemore (33/1) – A constant bridesmaid and never a bride, Whitmore has yet to win a stakes race. He’s placed third at the Arkansas Derby and notched two second place finishes at the Rebel Stakes and Southwest Stakes. That’s the bad part. The good part is that Victor Espinoza will be in his saddle for the Kentucky Derby thanks to a strange turn of events.

Espinoza, who has won the last two Kentucky Derby’s, was overseas for much of the prep season riding California Chrome to a Dubai World Cup victory. Fortunately (depending on how you look at it), Whitemore’s normal rider had committed to My Man Sam and trainer Chad Brown so a spot opened up. Is that enough to make Whitmore one of the best longshot bets at the Kentucky Derby this year? Espinoza has won this race four times. You tell me.

Tom’s Ready (50/1) – If you’re looking for one of the craziest trends in Kentucky Derby betting, then look no further. Trainer Dallas Stewart has guided two 50/1 fliers to second place finishes. Golden Soul achieved the feat first in 2013, while Commanding Curve repeated the same effort in 2014. Both finished behind the presumed favorites.

Tom’s Ready has already placed second at the Louisiana Derby behind Gun Runner, but he’s also finished 7th at the Risen Star Stakes. That’s why his odds are so enormous. Still, few bets will be as tempting as this one. I don’t believe Tom’s Ready remains one of the best longshot bets at the Kentucky Derby to win outright, but I love him to place. This is an important distinction. If you want to hedge even further, lob a standalone with his odds to show. If you’re brazen, he’s a terrific exacta pair with Nyquist.