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Michael Kipness, AKA “The Wizard”, a professional handicapper since 1986, analyzes the 20-horse field for Saturday’s 150th Kentucky Derby, designating each horse as a Contender or a Pretender. 

All 20 horses and the 2 AE’s are listed in post-position order, including their rider and morning-line odds. 

Post 1: DORNOCH, Saez, 20-1

His Bluegrass effort was very disappointing. Has not developed from 2 to 3. Will be hard used early to press the pace from dreaded rail post. PRETENDER

Post 2: SIERRA LEON, Gaffalione, 3-1

Deep closer will have to navigate his way through traffic to win the Derby. Would be a perfect 4-4 if not for a nose defeat. $2.3 million-dollar yearling purchase should have no problem with the distance. CONTENDER

Post 3: MYSTIK DAN, Hernandez, 20-1 

Huge win in the mud 2 back. Tough trip 3rd last out in the Arkansas Derby. Broke maiden sprinting at Churchill. Seems overmatched here. PRETENDER

Post 4: CATCHING FREEDOM, Prat, 8-1

1 of 3 horses in Derby trained by Brad Cox. Steadily improved in all 5 starts. One run closer broke his maiden at Churchill. Big win in the Louisiana Derby switching to Prat, who has had a lot of success in this race. CONTENDER

Post 5: CATALYTIC, J. Ortiz, 30-1

Only 1 win and that came sprinting. Well beaten in Florida Derby. PRETENDER

Post 6: JUST STEEL, Asmussen, 20-1

Most experienced runner in field with 11 starts. Exits career best race in Arkansas Derby when 2nd. Still feel he’s overmatched in here. PRETENDER

Post 7: HONOR MARIE, Curtis, 20-1

Bought for only $40,000, he exits a solid 2nd in Louisiana Derby. 1 run closer managed beautifully by former assistant to Chad Brown. Ran 3 times at Churchill, winning twice. Jock won over 1000 races overseas. CONTENDER

Post 8: JUST A TOUCH, (Geroux, 10-1

Lightly raced colt trained by Brad Cox has steadily improved all 3 starts. Huge 2nd in Bluegrass after pressing quick fractions from the start. Distance should pose no problem. Must overcome his inexperience. Quality colt. CONTENDER

Post 9: ENCINO, Conception, 20-1, The 3rd of the Brad Cox runners wired field just 3 weeks ago in the Lexington. Was making his 1st dirt start after 3 races over Polytrack. Back a bit too quick for me and far tougher rivals. PRETENDER

Post 10: T O PASSWORD, Kimura, 30-1 

Japanese invader is a perfect 2-2, but faced rivals far inferior to what he meets in Derby. Has early speed, but figures to back up in the stretch. PRETENDER

Post 11: FOREVER YOUNG, Sakai, 10-1

A perfect 5-5 at 5 different racetracks and a classy colt from a trainer who has had success winning Breeders’ Cup races. Will be kept wide to avoid kick back of dirt in his face which he dislikes. Versatile. The distance suits. CONTENDER

Post 12: TRACK PHANTOM, Rosario, 20-1

Will set pace with blinkers on. Faltered in the stretch going shorter. Cannot envision him carrying his speed the distance. Sets up the closers. PRETENDER

Post 13: WEST SARATOGA, Castanon, 50-1

Clearly needs weaker opposition and running at shorter distance. PRETENDER

Post 14: ENDLESSLY, Rispoli, 30-1

Too tough a spot to make his 1st dirt start after running on turf and synthetic surfaces in all 6 outings. Has 5 wins, all going shorter. PRETENDER

Post 15: DOMESTIC PRODUCT, I. Ortiz, 30-1

All signs point to a much-improved race in the Derby. Been victimized by slow fractions in both starts this year.  Will be much more forwardly placed early on than his barn-mate Sierra Leon, both trained by Chard Brown. CONTENDER

Post 16: GRAND MO THE FIRST, Jaramillo, 50-1

Well beaten in Florida Derby. Belongs to be in much softer spot. PRETENDER

Post 17: FIERCENESS, Velazquez, 5-2

When he shows up with his ‘A’ game, the Derby favorite is awfully tough to beat. Post 17 is a good draw. Velazquez who is riding in career best form, will position him in perfect striking position early on. Will likely have the lead turning for home and it will be up to the closers to out finish him. CONTENDER 

Post 18: STRONGHOLD, Fresu, 20-1

All out to win weak Santa Anita Derby. Tough post with his style. PRETENDER

Post 19: RESILIENCE, Alvarado, 20-1 

Decisive win in weak Wood Memorial adding blinkers. Good tactical speed at a distance he should handle. Stalking style hurt by outside post. PRETENDER

Post 20: SOCIETY MAN, Dettori, 50-1

Ran 2nd to Resilience in Wood at 106-1. Outclassed from post 20. PRETENDER

ALSO ELIGIBLE: EPIC RIDE, Beschizza, 40-1 

No threat 3rd in Bluegrass. Tactical speed. Outclassed. Bad post. PRETENDER 


1 for 12 record. 0-3 on dirt. Closer would have no shot from post. PRETENDER 

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Last updated: February, 2024

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