Finding value in the Kentucky Derby is rarely an issue, and that is especially true this year. The wide-open nature of this group means that nearly every horse--save Dialed In and Uncle Mo--will be double-digit odds on Saturday and will help trigger potentially huge exotic payoffs.
The trick is, we have to find the right ones to use. One day before the post position draw and with plenty of things to still consider, here are five longshots to take a look at.
Soldat: Likely post time odds: 12- to 15-1--If you are willing to draw a line through his Florida Derby, he is as playable as any horse in the race. He has a pair of 1 1/8-mile wins this year, has eight lifetime starts to his credit and his hit the board in seven of them, and has good tactical speed.
Soldat was caught on the rail in the Florida Derby and was unable to get off. The rail was dead that day and according to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, Soldat was "spinning his wheels" on a hot, dry track. He didn't like the kickback in his face. In the Kentucky Derby, McLaughlin is hoping for a mid-to-outside draw and a stalking position where he can sit just in back of the leaders. He is not an explosive type of horse, but if he gets a good trip he can click off :12 eighths with the best of them and be in great position coming off the turn.
Ten furlongs is a question with every horse in this race but because of his bottom, Soldat might be running well in the final furlong while most others will be backing up. McLaughlin says this colt has not missed a day of training in more than a year. He is fit and ready to run. Whether or not he is good enough, we will have to wait to find out. An off track certainly would be in his favor.
Archarcharch: Likely post time odds: 12- 15-1--It's hard to believe that we are still talking about this horse as a longshot since he won the Southwest and Arkansas Derby, but he is. Maybe it's his name. Or his trainer, who is not a household name. Whatever the reason, Archarcharch seems to always get overlooked.
In six starts, really the only poor effort he gave was in the Smarty Jones Stakes in his season debut when fourth in a weird race that was run in a heavy fog. What really impressed me in both of his wins were the big moves he made on the turns. He has the electrifying kind of turn of foot that a horse needs to get into winning position. He has trained very well all season, both at Oaklawn and at Churchill. And don't forget, he has a good second-place finish here at Churchill in his debut last year. He should be in the mix.
Stay Thirsty: Likely post time odds: 20- 25-1--He also had a poor run in the Florida Derby, but may have had more of an excuse than even Soldat. He was sweating bad in the paddock on a hot day and was just never in the race. The failed blinkers experiment didn't help either.
Stay Thirsty ran huge off a layoff to win the Gotham, easily defeating Toby's Corner, who came back to defeat Uncle Mo in the Wood. Toby's Corner would have been one of the top five choices in the Derby had he not been declared from the race. Thirsty has three very good weeks of training at Churchill, has a 1 1/4-mile pedigree, and maybe the best rider in the country on him. He has a chance to run a big race.
Pants On Fire: Likely post time odds: 40- to 50-1--Mucho Macho Man and Nehro are the horses getting all the attention coming out of the Louisiana Derby, but the horse that beat them both comes into the Derby without any fanfare. That was by far the best race of his life and most people are not expecting him to run back to that. But he has run some other nice races too. He basically had the Lecomte won until Wilkinson stole in on the rail and he ran a good optional claimer at Aqueduct in January when missing by a nose.
He'll be near the front and if he sits a good trip just off pace he could get brave. He likes to fight. Ten furlongs is likely beyond his best distance but that doesn't mean he can't hang on for a slice.
Brilliant Speed: Likely post time odds: 40- to 50-1: Most people give him no chance, and I suppose that's for good reason. His dirt form was terrible as a juvenile and he was a narrow, upset winner in the Blue Grass, which is no longer an important Derby prep. But I was impressed in that Blue Grass. He circled the field and closed into a crawling pace; not an easy thing to do at Keeneland. He also ran his final eighth in :11 3/5. That is pretty darn fast.
Two other positives: Brilliant Speed may have the best 1 1/4-mile pedigree in the entire field and has the red-hot Joel Rosario in the irons. How he handles dirt is obviously the major question mark. But he is a consistent horse who has hit the board in all three stakes starts this year and if he gets a decent pace, could be coming at the end.