by Jerry Shottenkirk
May 4, 2019
Most horse owners can only dream of having a Kentucky Derby participant.
Had this been a dream, Gary and Mary West would probably rather not wake up. They don’t have just one contender for the blanket of roses. They have two. Game Winner and Maximum Security aren’t just a way to satisfy a Kentucky Derby itch – they are strong contenders.
It’s doubtful the Wests would change places with anyone else, and with the two horses, they have two of America’s hottest barns. Game Winner has been a stalwart for Bob Baffert and Maximum Security has jumped from maiden claimer to Grade 1 winner for Jason Servis.
They are important players for the connections but also key horses to watch for the millions of players who will dive in the Kentucky Derby as well as Pick 4 pools. There are no less than a half-dozen legit players in the Derby and probably more than that worthy of inclusion. We’re sticking with a $72 Pick 4 suggestion, although it would be easy to go 10 times that. But we’ll avoid jumping into a wallet-pitching free-for-all; some semblance of control is in order.
Here’s a look at the what’s gets into the Kentucky Derby slot of this ticket and why:
#16 Game Winner: From this corner, he’s the pick to win it. Baffert’s stable has not had its usual dominance, but he's far from being a has-been. Game Winner was unbeaten as a 2-year-old and hasn’t won (in two starts) as a 3-year-old, but he went down fighting, and in this – his third start of the year – expect the return of championship form. He'll likely be at his best.
#17 Roadster: Another Baffert star and he’s perfect in his two 2019, one against Game Winner. Roadster makes his first attempt away from his California home-back and the Santa Anita Derby win was his first stakes score. He’s had four starts but acts as if he has plenty of seasoning. Another giant effort would not be surprising, although it’s a big test any from home, and when you add up the number of opponents in his last three, the total is less than what he’ll face Saturday. His current form is a good as any.
#8 Tacitus: There’s nothing to dislike about Tacitus. He won the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood Memorial back-to-back and, in the latter, didn’t have the best of trips. He’s an up-and-comer, has won three of four – three since losing his debut – and must be respected. With so many choices, some players will choose to ignore this one. He deserves to be on the ticket as it would not be a major surprise if he came with another top effort.
#18 Long Range Toddy: Didn’t fire over the sloppy surface of the Arkansas Derby, but there aren’t many reasons to dislike him. Perhaps you don’t think he has the class. But if you do, a win over Improbable in the Rebel Stakes, as well as a win in the Springboard Mile at Remington and good efforts in the Smarty Jones and Southwest would give you some fodder if you’re looking for some. He’s a runner and is at the very least worth inclusion in all exotic wagers.
#5 Improbable: He completes the Baffert Triumvirate. He lost to Long Range Toddy in the Rebel, which was his first of the year, and held on for second behind Omaha Beach. Tactically, there may be no better. He has speed but can deal with it when he runs in traffic. His best puts him right there.
#7 Maximum Security: Unbeaten in four starts and no one has been with 3.5 lengths of him at the end of any of his races. If you’ve been worried about the maiden-claiming $16,000 price of his debut, it might be time to get over it. People, even the Wests and Servis, are allowed mistakes. They got away with one in a big way. A dominant win the Florida Derby should help you put a big line through the claiming price. There is no doubt he’s facing his best opposition by far, but leaving him out of your plays could be a big mistake.
Here’s the suggested late Pick 4 ticket for Churchill Downs on Saturday:
Race 11) #1 Qurbaan, #6 Clyde’s Image, #12 Bricks and Mortar.
Race 12) #5 Improbable, #7 Maximum Security, #8 Tacitus, #16 Game Winner, #17 Roadster, #18 Long Range Toddy.
Race 13) #1 Limonite, #4 And Seek, #10 Bandon Woods, #11 Hoffa’s Union.
Race 14) #1 Rotation, #2 Ranger Up.
Total Ticket Cost) $72 for $0.50