Horses to watch at The Derby

Published 12:01 am Friday, May 3, 2019

Saturday will be the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby. The fastest two minutes in sports will go at 5:50 p.m. our time. They will run for the roses and the money, too.

The largest Derby purse in history this year, the winner will get roughly 60% of $3 million.

Better to tune in a little earlier, and why not catch another race or two on the card before The Derby?

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A lot of horse players, a lot of turf writers, the lines maker at Churchill Downs maker Mike Battaglia all agreed that Omaha Beach not only would be the odds-on betting favorite, but would probably win the race. Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith was aboard and Battaglia installed him as the 5/2 favorite.

The postposition draw on Tuesday had trainer Richard Mandella and jockey Money Mike grinning from ear to ear. They got to choose early and picked the 12 hole, which is almost smack dab in the middle of a gate filled with 20 runners.

Wednesday afternoon Omaha Beach and all of his connections were out of the Kentucky Derby. The horse had to be scratched from the race because of an obstructed airway. He wasn’t able to breathe properly and will have a common equine surgery to repair the blockage.

I could almost hear Peyton Manning, too. I mean, right after the track announcer calling the race for the TV audience shouts that famous phrase, “And down the stretch they come,” giving everybody goose bumps.

I could almost hear Manning urging the horse home. Omaha, Omaha, Omaha.

Sadly, it won’t happen. It’s a tough break having to scratch a horse from a race, but it happens all the time. It is done for the safety of the Equine athlete and for the other athletes who pilot them around the track, the jockeys.

A dangerous horse that could easily win this race is the wire-to-wire Florida Derby winner, Maximum Security. He won it at Gulfstream Park on a fast track; pulling away down the stretch with gas left in the tank. He will be the 7 horse, going off at post time somewhere around 4-1, I would think, when all the wagering is done.

The Louisiana Derby winner from the Fairgrounds in New Orleans is the 3 horse. His name is By My Standards and is trained by Fairgrounds trainer Bret Calhoun. He is a smaller horse but weaved his way through traffic at the top of the long Fairgrounds stretch to get the win. His line is currently at 15-1. 

If you like to see a closer — a horse that comes from way back of the pack with a full run in him at the very end — then maybe the 14 horse is your kind of horse. His name is Win Win Win.

Bob Baffert will have three loaded into the gate. Baffert thrilled sports fans last year by winning the Triple Crown with Justify and Money Mike Smith as the jock. Saturday keep an eye on the 5, Improbable, the 16, Game Winner and the 17 Roadster. 

My pick to win will be Maximum Security. He has won on the lead and also won by closing from off the pace this year. I will be pulling for trainer Bret Calhoun to upset with By My Standards and bring the trophy home to New Orleans. Like always, going the Kentucky Derby distance of a mile and a quarter. The pace will make the race.

Tim Guercio is a sports reporter for the Natchez Democrat. Reach him at or at 601-445-3653.