Fred Faour: 8 tips and trends for this year's Kentucky Derby

Fred Faour:  8 tips and trends for this year's Kentucky Derby
Justify will be trying to buck history at Churchill Downs. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Here are some key trends and betting notes for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs (numbers compiled from several web sites including, and If you want detailed breakdowns of every horse, you can find them here. 

Chalk talk

Five straight favorites have won the Derby.  The previous high was four in a row from 1972-75. There were no favorites winning the race from 1980-2000.

So why the change? This will be the sixth year of the points system, where races have weighted point values and the top 20 in points get in the race. This has eliminated cheap speed horses. During this five-favorite run, every winner has had at least 100 accumulated points. This year there are nine such horses: Magnum Moon 150, Good Magic 134, Audible 110, Noble Indy 110, Vino Rosso 107, Bolt d'Oro, 104, Enticed 103, Mendelssohn 100 and Justify 100.

Even with the five straight favorites, money can be made in the exotics. The last five exacta payoffs are $336, $31, $75, $340 and $982.

Trend setters

  1. No horse that failed to race at age 2 has won the Derby since 1882. SInce then 61 horses have tried it. The two who came closest were Bodemeister (second, 2012) and Battle of Midway (third last year). Two serious contenders in this year’s race fit that profile: Favored Justify and Magnum Moon. Both are unbeaten.

  2. Since 2011, every Derby winner won his final prep race.

  3. Over the last 26 years, there have only been four Kentucky Derby winners whose final prep race was slower than 1:50.00 at nine furlongs. That would eliminate Good Magic and Noble Indy.

  4. Nyquist (2016) and Street Sense (2007) are the only horses to win the BC Juvenile and then the Derby. Good Magic attempts to do it this year.

Long trip

No horse has prepped in Dubai and won the Derby. Mendelssohn won the UAE Derby by 18 lengths and is the only horse to run farther than 1 ⅛ miles. Horses trying this route are 0 for 13.

The Pletcher factor

Trainer Todd Pletcher has four serious contenders this year. Heading into this race he has 48 Derby starters but just two winners, including Always Dreaming last year. The theory is he tries so hard to win preps that his horses peak before the Derby. The exceptions were Super Saver (2010), who was also the last horse to win the Derby without winning his final prep (he was second in the Arkansas Derby but was not pushed that day). Always Dreaming peaked Derby Day and has done nothing since. Pletcher will likely have three of the top five favorites.

Other trainers

Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas each have four Derby winners. Baffert last won the Derby in 2015 with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. He has favored Justify. Lukas sends out 50-1 shot Bravazo.

Combatant has a shot to hit the board at 50-1

He has only one win in seven tries, but has hit the board in five of those races. Was fourth in debut on the turf, fourth in the Arkansas Derby in a paceless race where he could not close. Probably can’t win but good shot to hit the board at 50-1. He has a similar profile to last year’s Lookin’ at Lee. Got his only win at Churchill, so he has that going for him.

Another wiseguy longshot

Hofburg is 20-1 and has only three career races. He was fourth in his debut as a 2-year-old last September and did not run again until March 3, when he won a maiden race at Gulfstream. He was then thrown to the Wolves and was a good second in the Florida Derby. He should improve, and trainer Bill Mott does not run horses unless he thinks they have a shot.

Beyer beware

The average winning Beyer speed figure for the Derby is 105. Only two horses have topped the 100 mark more than once -- Justify (107, 101, 104) and Bolt D’Oro (102, 101, 103). Both colts accomplished this in California. Are the numbers inflated? There are only two other triple digit Beyers: Good Magic (100 in last year’s BC Juvenile) also run in California. Are the Cali horses better or are the numbers skewered?

Mendelssohn was given a 106 Beyer for his UAE Derby but Beyers are not typically done for overseas races.

When putting together your selections, make sure you pay attention to these trends and use them to your advantage. Good luck! 


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