Some shows have a bona fide superstar in the lead role, while others feature a strong starting cast. Saturday’s 144th running of the Kentucky Derby (Post Time: 6:46 PM ET on NBC) definitely falls into the latter category. Instead of a rock star like American Pharoah or California Chrome, we have at least six viable contenders ready to show their stuff, and several dark horses who could make a name for themselves at Churchill Downs. Here’s a closer look at the Kentucky Derby odds as we go to press.

Justify, Mendelssohn Lead Kentucky Derby Favorites

While this year’s Road to the Kentucky Derby produced a bumper crop of talented three-year-olds, two horses in particular have been battling for top spot on the horse racing futures market. Justify has spent more time at the top than anyone else; the Bob Baffert-trained colt is tied again at 7/2 at press time. Justify is undefeated at 3-0 after taking down the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 7; however, he never raced as a two-year-old, and only one such horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby: Apollo, way back in 1882.

There are questions about the co-favorite as well. Mendelssohn had the shortest odds to win the Kentucky Derby after dominating the G2 UAE Derby on March 31, winning by more than 18 lengths and breaking the track record in the process. But for the most part, he’s been playing catch-up with Justify since the Santa Anita Derby, and has closed the gap once again moving from 5/1 to 4/1 to 7/2.

Kentucky Derby Odds: Surfaces and Post Positions

Mendelssohn was bred in Kentucky, but he’s based in Ireland with trainer Aidan O’Brien – and no horse has ever claimed the Run for the Roses after shipping over from Europe. He’s safely arrived at Churchill Downs, so the next concern is how well Mendelssohn will handle the dirt track. The UAE Derby was his first-ever race on dirt, after winning the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and following up with a victory at the Patton Stakes on March 9, traveling one mile on the synthetic polytrack surface at Ireland’s Dundalk Stadium.

Then you have the results of Tuesday’s post position draw. Mendelssohn will break from the end of the main gate at post No. 14; the only horses to win the Kentucky Derby from there were Middleground in 1950 and Carry Back in 1961. Justify, on the other hand, will be in the middle of the pack at post No. 7, which has produced six champions – Street Sense being the most recent in 2007. But as they say, past results are not necessarily indicative of future performance. Many trainers prefer either the 14-hole or the 15-hole at the Derby, since there’s a gap between the main and auxiliary gates that gives those horses a little more running room.

Packed Second Tier for Kentucky Derby Futures

With both the top favorites needing to overcome history at Churchill Downs, there’s a logjam of four horses looking to take advantage. Audible (13/2) is the third Kentucky Derby betting favorite to win the Kentucky Derby after taking down both the G2 Holy Bull Stakes on February 3 and the G1 Florida Derby on March 31. He’s one of four Todd Pletcher-trained horses in this year’s field, but the only one who drew the main gate at post No. 5. The good news: A record 10 horses have won the Kentucky Derby from that slot, including California Chrome in 2014 and last year’s winner, Always Dreaming.

Pletcher also trains the No. 4 favorite on the Kentucky Derby futures market, and Magnum Moon (15/2) is moving up the list, going undefeated in four career races with victories at the G2 Rebel Stakes on March 17 and the G1 Arkansas Derby on April 14. Like Justify, Magnum Moon will have to break the “Apollo Curse” after not racing as a two-year-old. He also has to break from post No. 16 in the auxiliary gate. But so did Orb, the winner of the 2013 Kentucky Derby, and both Orb and Magnum Moon were sired by Malibu Moon. Post No. 16 also produced 2011 winner Animal Kingdom and three other Derby champions.

Next at 8/1 is Good Magic, the reigning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and American Champion Two-Year-Old Male Horse. Sired by Curlin and trained by Chad Brown, this chestnut colt has just about everything you could want in a horse, including a victory in his most recent prep race, the G2 Blue Grass Stakes on April 7. But history is once again not on his side; the only two Juvenile winners to take down the Kentucky Derby were Street Sense in 2007 and Nyquist in 2016. On top of that, Good Magic drew post No. 6 on Tuesday, which has only produced two Derby champions: Iron Liege (1957) and Sea Hero (1993).

After all is said and done, will Bolt d’Oro (17/2) end up wearing the roses? He was an early Kentucky Derby favorite after winning the G2 San Felipe Stakes on March 10, although McKinzie crossed the wire first and was relegated for drifting. Then Bolt d’Oro finished three lengths behind Justify at Santa Anita. Trainer Mick Ruis, who also owns the Kentucky-bred colt, will be making his Derby debut. And Bolt d’Oro will break from post No. 11, where only Brokers Tip (1933) and Winning Colors (1988) have tasted success.

With compelling dark horses like Vino Rosso (12/1), Hofburg (15/1), Solomini (22/1) and Noble Indy (30/1) in the mix, it’s shaping up to be one of the most competitive Kentucky Derby races in history – but will the weather hold up? At press time, it looks like showers will make Friday’s Kentucky Oaks a muddy affair, and things may or may not clear up for Saturday’s race. Make sure to keep one eye on the skies and the other on the Kentucky Derby odds board here at Bovada Racebook.


*Odds as of May 4th, 2018