Kentucky Derby 2018 One of the Best in Many Years
Hundreds of hopefuls, 45 prep races and now it all comes down to just two minutes, two turns and one winner at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
According to turf writer Bill Finley, the horse that crosses the wire in front on the first Saturday in May this year “will go down as one of the best in modern times”.
This year’s Kentucky Derby is shaping up to be a truly stellar renewal of this time-honoured race, worth almost $1.25 million to the winner.
Godolphin is represented in the Derby by Enticed, a son of leading Darley sire Medaglia d’Oro and It’s Tricky, who carried the Godolphin blue silks to victory in no fewer than three G1 contests. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, who also trained It’s Tricky, Enticed won on his very first racecourse appearance, recording an easy victory over six furlongs at Saratoga. He followed up with a third place in the G1 Champagne Stakes, before adding his first Graded Stakes win in an exciting renewal of the G2 Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, making him the only entrant in the field with a prior win over the Churchill surface.
Enticed returned this year in the G2 Holy Bull Stakes where he finished fourth after being trapped on the inside, but rebounded with an impressive victory in the one-mile G3 Gotham at Aqueduct and most recently finished an unlucky second to Vino Rosso in the G2 Wood Memorial going nine furlongs at the same track. Enticed figures to appreciate the extra furlong of the Kentucky Derby and should be coming on strongly at the end.
Medaglia d’Oro’s other contender in the Derby is multiple G1 winner Bolt d’Oro, likely to be one of the favourites. He won the G1 Del Mar Futurity and G1 FrontRunner at Santa Anita last autumn before finishing a troubled third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar. Bolt d’Oro most recently finished second in the G1 Santa Anita Derby behind expected Derby favourite Justify.
The Bob Baffert-trained Justify will bid to become the sixth straight favourite to win the Kentucky Derby. The past five post-time favourites all went on to victory: Orb in 2013, California Chrome in 2014, American Pharaoh in 2015, Nyquist in 2016, and Always Dreaming last year.
If Justify is to become the sixth straight favorite to wear the roses, he will have to break the so-called “curse of Apollo” – no horse that did not race at age two has won the Kentucky Derby since Apollo way back in 1882. Justify did not make his first start until Sunday, 18 February of this year and he only has three lifetime starts going into the Derby – all, however, were dominant wins.
The other horse who will be trying to break the “curse of Apollo” this year is undefeated G1 Arkansas Derby winner Magnum Moon, trained by Todd Pletcher. Magnum Moon made his first career start on Saturday, 13 January and has four wins from four starts in 2018.
Another Todd Pletcher-trainee who is one of the top contenders is G1 Florida Derby winner Audible, winner of his last four starts in impressive fashion.
Aidan O’Brien’s G2 UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn will try to become the first ever UAE Derby winner to capture the roses. His 18-length win on Dubai World Cup night at Meydan was quite possibly the most impressive performance by any Derby contender this year.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and 2017 Eclipse Champion Two-Year-Old Good Magic rebounded from a third-place effort in the G2 Fountain of Youth in his three-year-old debut to win the G2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in his last start. He would be the first Kentucky Derby winner for his future Hall of Fame trainer, Chad Brown.
Several experts have expressed an opinion that this is one of the deepest and most talented Kentucky Derby fields they’ve ever seen. According to turf writer Bill Finley, the horse that crosses the wire in front on the first Saturday in May this year “will go down as one of the best in modern times.”