Instead of going into analysis on each horse, I'll keep it succinct and focus only on horses I like best.
The main focus of all my bets will be on Lookin At Lucky and Noble's Promise. I have not been wowed by any 3-year-old this season and with Eskendereya out, I don't think any of the current Derby starters have passed the pair, who were the two best when last year ended.
Without a Barbaro or Big Brown in this field, I am going back to handicapping basics--class and foundation. Lookin At Lucky and Noble's Promise stand alone when these two categories are taken into account. They each have eight races under their belts, most of them in grade I or grade II company. Both are grade I winners. Both of them fire nearly every time. Both have looked great this week and have trained well over a wet track. Both will track the speed. Both have winning connections. All things being equal, I give them both a very good chance.
If asked to pick one horse, I will go with Lookin At Lucky. He just seems to be coming into the race the best and I think he stands to improve in his second start on dirt. I like the move Baffert has made taking off blinkers. He needs a clean break and if he gets it, I think he will take the roses.
With that being said:
Most likely to win at odds of 10/15-1: Noble's Promise--I know many are throwing him out because of his pedigree. Here is what Ken McPeek said earlier this week about this subject to DRF: "Years ago, those same people might've been knocking Mr. Prospector for being a sprinter, and he's been in the pedigree of a lot of Derby winners. Same with Danzig. You look at a horse like Big Brown, and his pedigree page had no black type in it at all. Barbaro was out of a mare by Carson City, and that's strictly speed."
"There's a lot of Darby Dan influence in there, with mares who went long on the grass. One of the things I'm not worried about my horse is whether his pedigree is good enough to win."
Enough said on that subject.
If you like the favorite, which I obviously do, you have to seriously consider Noble's Promise. He was beaten by Lookin At Lucky a total of 1 1/2 lengths in three races. He fits here on speed numbers and I think he will get a nice, ground-saving trip. I do not think the lung infection/allergy problems from Arkansas will be a problem.
At about 15-1, Noble's Promise is live.
The other horse I like that is likely to be in this price range is Mission Impazible. His Louisiana Derby was sneaky good. Not a stellar field, but the way he passed horses in the stretch and had something left at the wire was impressive. Another one who moves up in the mud--not only based on works, but his allowance race in January at Gulfstream. Maragh is having an exceptional year and will do everything he can to get this colt an easy stalking trip. Has looked the part all week.
Most likely to win in the 20-1 range: Paddy O'Prado: He is coming into the race exceptionally well. His April 23 work in the slop was the best of the week in my opinion. He strikes me as a horse that is peaking at the right time, and of all the horses that move up on an off-track, I think he is at the top of the list. Admittedly, he was beaten soundly by Stately Victor in the Blue Grass, but I am inclined to say that was an effort that Stately Victor won't repeat. Paddy's form has been much better this year and I like that he will be closer to the pace. Kent has not been good to me very often, but he knows how to win this race.
Most likely to hit the board at 30-1 or more: I have to go with Jackson Bend, because hitting the board is what he does best. I don't give him a great chance to win, but he is a grinder who might be stubbornly holding on for a piece when others are backing up.
Most likely to ruin tickets: Discreetly Mine--Trust me, Super Saver will not be overlooked. There is not a single person at Churchill this week who hasn't uttered the phrase, "I have to use Borel in the Derby this year." In fact, at the time of this writing, he is the 7-1 favorite!
In stark contrast, I have not heard anyone mention that they like Discreetly Mine. I am not crazy about him myself, but he has the potential to hit the bottom end of tickets at a huge price.
The filly: She is the definite wild card here. She is talented enough to win and her speed numbers confirm that. Let's be honest, this is not the strongest Derby field ever assembled. She fits here on talent.
Obviously, the big question is, how will she fare against a large field of colts and a big step up in class? I think she has more of a chance to win, or at least factor, than she does to flop. I will use her.
The closers angle: It is very difficult to close on a wet track at Churchill. If the pace is quick, as expected, there is obviously a better possibility of an Ice Box or Stately Victor coming hard at the end, but I am taking a stand against deep closers. I have watched too many races at this track to know that horses win on an off track by being close to the pace.
Picks: Here is how I will likely structure my largest bets--Large win bet on Lookin At Lucky. Smaller win bet on Noble's Promise. Exactas and trifectas Lookin At Lucky/Noble's Promise boxed with Paddy O'Prado, Mission Impazible, Devil May Care, and possibly Discreetly Mine and Jackson Bend. Very small exacta with Conveyance on top, just in case it's a wire job.
Good luck to everyone. Be sure to let me know who you like, and most of all, have a great Derby Day. See ya on Sunday for all the reaction...