Top 2018 Kentucky Derby Contenders Looking to Buck History

With less than four weeks until the Kentucky Derby (G1), horseplayers have bet down two top contenders that will need to buck history if they expect to be donned with roses on the first Saturday of May.

Can Justify or Mendelssohn overcome trends that say they can’t win on the first Saturday of May?

The current betting favorite for the Run for the Roses at 4-1 is Justify, who made his stakes debut a winning one by taking the Santa Anita Derby (G1) last Saturday by three lengths over the highly regarded Bolt d’Oro.

The colt is looking to become the first Kentucky Derby winner to not race as a two-year-old. The last to do so was Apollo in 1882.

Since 1937 the record of Derby starters that did not have a race as a two-year-old stands at 61-0-3-5.

The colt also has just three starts under his belt. Since 1937 there has been just one horse that has won the Derby with just three career starts and that was Big Brown in 2008.

Justify does look legit. His 107 Beyer Speed Figure for his Santa Anita Derby victory is the top number we have seen in any Derby prep race with just two left to be run on Saturday.

It also does not hurt to have Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert calling the shots. Baffert has won the race four times, with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002) and American Pharoah (2015)

The UAE Derby (G2) winner Mendelssohn has been bet down to the second choice in early wagering for the Kentucky Derby at odds of 5-1 after his 18½ length tour-de-force in Dubai.

The colt could have been had at 20-1 before his last start, but after earning a 106 Beyer Speed Figure he will head to the U.S. at a much shorter price.

Horses that have come over after prepping in the UAE Derby have an abysmal record in the Kentucky Derby. A total of 13 runners (including nine winners of the race) have made the trek halfway around the world but the best finish we have seen was Master of Hounds, who placed fifth in 2011.

Last year Thunder Snow was sent off at 16-1 in the Kentucky Derby after winning the UAE Derby but was rank and nearly bucked his rider off at the break and was pulled up.

Thunder Snow went on to become a multiple Group 1 winner including taking the 2018 Dubai World Cup.

Mendelssohn does have several things going for him to buck the trend of previous UAE Derby shippers. For one, he has already made a trip to the U.S., winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Del Mar last fall.

In addition, he will be saddled by Aiden O’Brien, who is 0 for 5 in the Kentucky Derby, but is considered one of the top trainers in the world. The colt will be ridden by Ryan Moore, arguably the best jockey in the world.

And the colt sure has the pedigree to be successful. He was purchased for $3 million and his siblings include stakes winners Beholder and Into Mischief.

While horses coming from Dubai or having not raced as a juvenile might have been an auto-toss for horseplayers in the past, these two deserve a long look on the first Saturday of May.

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