A look at the field

Fred Faour's complete, horse-by-horse analysis for the Kentucky Derby (updates with scratch of Omaha Beach and Haikal)

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The Kentucky Derby is Saturday at Churchill Downs. We will be looking to get back to our pre-2017 form when we owned the Triple crown. I will be doing several stories during the week. This is a breakdown of every horse in the field and their chances to wear the roses on Saturday, with an early look at the horses I like best:

No. 1 War of Will (20-1)

Trainer: Mark Casse.

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione.

Career record: 8 starts, 3 wins, 1 second, 1 third.

Career earnings: $501,569.

Overview: Was a top contender until a bad start in the Louisiana Derby was compounded by an injury. Still, he did not beat much in his prior efforts, even though he was visually impressive. Rail draw does not help, but a return to form could get him a piece.

Contender status: Fringe player. Could get a piece of the exacta or tri but would be a pretty big surprise to win.

2) Tax (20-1)

Trainer: Danny Gargen.

Jockey: Junior Alvarado.

Career record: 5-2-2-1.

Career earnings: $326,300.

Overview: Has done little wrong since being claimed last year, with a win and two seconds in stakes company. He got a pretty good trip in the Wood Memorial and was no real match for Tacitus, who did not have the cleanest run. Still, he should improve, but will need to get significantly better.

Contender status: Bottom of the trifecta at best. Likely toss out.

3) By My Standards (20-1)

Trainer: Bret Calhoun.

Jockey: Gabriel Saez.

Career record: 5-2-2-1.

Career earnings: $653,710.

Overview: Interesting late comer to the party. He didn't get his first win until Feb. 19, the shocked the world by winning the Louisiana Derby. That was not the strongest field in the world, but there is room to improve. Still, this seems like too much of a leap.

Contender status: Would be a big surprise. Maybe third in the tris.

4) Gray Magician (50-1)

Trainer: Peter Miller.

Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke.

Career record: 8-1-3-2.

Career earnings: $584,140.

Overview: Earned his spot with a second in Dubai. His races in the States before that left a lot to be desired. Not sure he beat much of anything in Dubai.

Contender status: Toss-out.

5) Improbable (6-1)

Trainer: Bob Baffert.

Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Career record: 5-3-2-0.

Career earnings: $619,520.

Overview: One of Bob Baffert's three serious contenders. He has been second in both starts this year, but had excuses in both races and should be fully cranked up. Of the top contenders, he might be the least likely, but he has a real chance at the win. Keep an eye on the weather; he did not run his best over a sloppy track in Arkansas (and still finished second).

Contender status: Serious contender; must be used.

6) Vekoma (20-1)

Trainer: George Weaver.

Jockey: Javier Castellano.

Career record: 4-3-0-1.

Career earnings: $788,850.

Overview: He has done little wrong in his career, and even his one blemish was a solid third in the Fountain of Youth. Still, his signature win was in the Blue Grass on a speed-favoring track. He just does not seem fast enough, and has a weird running style that does not seem likely to hold up at a mile and a quarter. Still, worth tossing on the bottom of exotics.

Contender status: Fringe, but would not be a shock. Will use in trifectas.

7) Maximum Security (10-1)

Trainer: Jason Servis.

Jockey: Luis Saez.

Career record: 4-4-0-0.

Career earnings: $649,400.

Overview: He has done nothing wrong, dominating all four of his races. If you can ignore the fact that he started as a $16,000 claimer, he looks as good as any. He wired the field in the Florida Derby with soft fractions, which he won't get here. Still there is no reason he can't improve. He might be the lone speed, and that could carry him a long way. Has the look of a horse who wins or misses the board.

Contender status: No one will fault you for tossing him, but I will be using him with my key contenders.

8) Tacitus (10-1)

Trainer: Bill Mott.

Jockey: Jose Ortiz.

Career record: 4-3-0-0.

Career earnings: $653,000.

Overview: He has had two meaningful starts this year. In the Tampa Bay Derby, he grinned his was up the rail to overcome adversity. In the Wood, he was stopped more than once and still grinned his way to victory. He's not flashy and he has not faced the best horses, but he is improving, has handled trouble and will be one of our top selections.

Contender status: Win candidate.

9) Plus Que Parfait (30-1)

Trainer: Brendan Walsh.

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Career record: 7-2-1-2.

Career earnings: $1,590,400.

Overview: A curious horse. As a 2-year-old, he just missed at Churchill. He also beat Cutting Humor and was a neck away from Signalman. But his first two starts at 3 at Fair Grounds were disasters. Maybe he just did not like that track, because he went over to Dubai and won the Derby there, earning his spot. Can't see him winning here, because that path to the Derby has not worked. But will put him on the bottom of tickets.

Contender status: Possible trifecta factor.

10) Cutting Humor (30-1)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher.

Jockey: Mike Smith.

Career record: 6-2-2-1.

Career earnings: $516,967.

Overview: Pletcher usually has several serious contenders, but this year has not been his best. Frankly, this horse probably does not belong here. He earned enough points by winning a really shaky Sunland Derby. He does not have another race on his resume that gives you any hope he can beat the top horses. Picks up Smith, who was available when Omaha Beach was scratched.

Contender status: Toss.

11) Haikal (30-1) *SCRATCHED* 

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin.

Jockey: Rajiv Maragh.

Career record: 5-3-1-1.

Career earnings: $373,900.

Overview: Scratched Friday morning.

Contender status: Had a shot at the trifecta but obviously not now.

12) Omaha Beach (4-1) *SCRATCHED*

Trainer: Richard Mandella.

Jockey: Mike Smith.

Career record: 7-3-3-1.

Career earnings: $1,121,800.

Overview: He was scratched on Thursday.

Contender status: His scratch changes the betting.

13) Code of Honor (15-1)

Trainer: Shug McGaughey.

Jockey: John Velazquez.

Career record: 5-2-1-1.

Career earnings: $478,820.

Overview: Interesting horse. Won a very good Fountain of Youth, holding off Bourbon War, who would have been a contender had he earned enough points to get in here. In the Florida Derby, he fell victim to the conveyor belt pace and had no real shot. He will get a better pace here. Not sure he is fast enough to win this, but no reason he can't earn a piece.

Contender status: Possible trifecta factor.

14) Win Win Win (15-1)

Trainer: Michael Trombetta.

Jockey: Julien Pimentel.

Career record: 6-3-2-1.

Career earnings: $367,300.

Overview: He ran third behind Tacitus at Tampa, then backed that up with a good second in the Blue Grass on a speed favoring track. He is a stone closer who will appreciate the extra ground. Another of many who could clunk up for a piece at a nice price.

Contender status: Should be on the move in the late stages and could be in the mix. Like him as a potential long shot win threat but more likely second or third.

15) Master Fencer (50-1)

Trainer: Koichi Tsunoda.

Jockey: Julien Leparoux.

Career record: 6-2-2-0.

Career earnings: $234,392.

Overview: Got in on a ridiculous system that allows a horse from Japan with the most points in prep races there to come for the Derby. He got in on the strength of a fourth and a second. Unless he suddenly improves dramatically, there is little reason to think he has any shot of hitting the board.

Contender status: Toss out.

16) Game Winner (5-1)

Trainer: Bob Baffert.

Jockey: Joel Rosario.

Career record: 6-4-2-0.

Career earnings: $1,846,000.

Overview: Oh man, I like this horse. The 2-year-old champ has finished second in both starts at 3, but had good excuses. He was part of the California contingent that had to change plans after the problems at Santa Anita. He was off schedule in his first start and came within inches of beating Omaha Beach after a wide trip. In the Santa Anita Derby, he basically only needed to finish second to make the field, while his stablemate Roadster needed the points. Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but...Baffert knows how to get a horse ready for the Derby, so he should be 100 percent on Saturday.

Contender status: Serious win contender.

17) Roadster (6-1)

Trainer: Bob Baffert.

Jockey: Florent Geroux.

Career record: 4-3-0-1.

Career earnings: $706,200.

Overview: His only blemish is a solid third behind Game Winner as a 2-year-old. Baffert thought this one might be his next Justify, but injuries slowed him down. He came back with an easy win in an optional claimer, then won the Santa Anita Derby mentioned above. The injury and a tough effort in the SA Derby might have him behind the eight-ball, but if he is right, he can win this. Note that jockey Mike Smith had a choice between this one and Omaha Beach, and he went the other way. Jockeys and their agents have to make decisions like this all the time. They are not always right.

Contender status: Chance for the win.

18) Long Range Toddy (30-1)

Trainer: Steve Asmussen.

Jockey: Jon Court.

Career record: 8-4-1-1.

Career earnings: $854,459.

Overview: OK, let's start with the obvious; what a terrible name. Who would name a horse this? Derby winners should have majestic names like American Pharaoh or Justify. Monarchos. The horse won us some money two back in Arkansas with a perfect inside trip to beat Improbable. He was no match for that horse or Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby, but like a lot of these could see him sneaking up for a piece.

Contender status: Trifecta factor.

19) Spinoff (30-1)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher.

Jockey: Manny Franco.

Career record: 4-2-1-1.

Career earnings: $260,000.

Overview: Lightly raced Pletcher runner gave a big effort in finishing second in the Louisiana Derby. But the concern is that race just was not very good. Has every right to improve, but will need a huge jump to contend here.

Contender status: Throw him in that "might run third" group.

20) Country House

Trainer: Bill Mott.

Jockey: Flavian Pratt.

Career record: 6-1-2-1.

Career earnings: $260,175.

Overview: A classic purse nibbler, he will be up against it in the 20 post. He is not fast enough to win this, but could easily be another that gets a late piece.

Contender status: Won't win, but could be in for a minor award if all goes perfectly.

21) Bodexpress (ALSO ELIGIBLE - gets in with scratch of Omaha Beach)

Trainer: Gustavo Delgado.

Jockey: Chris Landeros.

Career record: 5-0-3-0.

Career earnings: $208,700.

Overview: Will get to run since Omaha Beach was injured. Really don't see any chance he does anything here.

Contender status: Toss out.

The bottom line

We will have our bets out later in the week, but we will build everything around Tacitus and Game Winner in first and second and will be using other horses like Roadster, Win Win Win, Maximum Security and Improbable with them and as many horses as possible in third. So stay tuned for actual plays.

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Could the Texans pass on QB? Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Houston Texans know it will have the second overall draft pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Despite that, the team is not so sure about who will be available to take with that selection.

One team that could shake things up in the draft is the AFC South rival Indianapolis Colts. Currently holding the No. 4 overall pick, the Colts are in desperate need for its next signal caller after years of trying to find Andrew Luck’s replacement.

If the Colts were to trade up to No. 1 with the Chicago Bears and take whoever was the Texans’ No. 1 player at quarterback, who should Houston take instead?

With the hiring of DeMeco Ryans a week ago, it is no doubt the Texans are going to be looking at numerous players on the defensive side of the ball who can make plays and be building blocks for Ryans’ swarm vision. But who are some of the players on that side of the ball that are viable options for the Texans to take at two or elsewhere if they choose to trade down?

Will Anderson Jr. – Alabama

The Texans were only 19th in the NFL when it came to sacks in the 2022 season, and they were dead last when it came to rushing yards allowed to opponents, giving up over 170 yards on the ground per game.

Will Anderson Jr. is a player that instantly would fill a need on the team if he was selected at No. 2. The 6-foot-4-inch linebacker at Alabama became a tackle-for-loss king for the Crimson Tide during his three years there.

Playing in 41 games for Alabama in his three-year stint, Anderson racked up 62 tackles for loss and an outstanding 34.5 sacks. In 2021, he was a monster who put up 34.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks alone in that season.

Ever since losing J.J. Watt after the 2020 season, the Texans have not had the identity nor the player with an ability to be a game wrecker for opposing teams. Anderson’s versatility on defense seems like a perfect fit for a Ryans' team because he is a player that can be relentless, make plays, and be adaptable.

Tyree Wilson – Texas Tech

Similar to Anderson, Tyree Wilson put together a strong résumé during his time at Texas Tech. What is most exciting about him is that every season with the Red Raiders he showed growth, which is mirrored by his numbers.

In 2020 after transferring from Texas A&M, he only had 1.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in nine games. That number jumped to 13.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2021 as he appeared in 13 games for Texas Tech. Lastly, in 2022, Wilson’s numbers once again jumped even though he only played in 10 games. He garnered 14 tackles for loss and still got seven sacks in less games.

Standing at 6 feet and 6 inches, Wilson has plenty of room left for growth. One of Wilson’s best games this season came against then 16th-ranked North Carolina State, when he got 11 tackles and two sacks against the Wolfpack.

Jalen Carter – Georgia

Jalen Carter will be a big addition upfront to whichever team he is drafted to. The 6-foot-3-inch defensive lineman was a key piece in Georgia’s back-to-back national championship-winning seasons.

When it comes to the Texans’ rushing defense struggles, taking an interior lineman would be addressing a need.

For Houston, taking Carter could be a game changer. The Bulldog was known for his ability to bulldoze into the backfield of opposing teams at Georgia. He accumulated 18.5 tackles for loss and six sacks from his interior position with the Bulldogs.

It is worth noting the Texans have interior lineman Roy Lopez on the roster, who has been a decent piece on the otherwise struggling Houston defensive line.

The bottom line, if Houston cannot take or chooses not to take a quarterback with the second overall pick, there are plenty of defensive choices on the board that could be nice additions to the Texans’ defense.

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