Keeler Johnson's Kentucky Derby Top 10: The Final Rankings

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April 29th, 2019

The major workouts are complete, most of the contenders have arrived at Churchill Downs and just five days remain until the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby.

I’ve been sharing my Kentucky Derby Top 10 rankings every week since the beginning of November, when Game Winner, Improbable, Code of Honor and Roadster, comprised four of my top five horses. Six months later they still rank among the main names in my final Kentucky Derby Top 10, a remarkable show of resilience from four talented (and evidently durable) colts.

I hope you’ve enjoyed following along! One last time, here’s how my top choices stack up…
  1. Omaha Beach (#1 last week)

He cemented his status as the Kentucky Derby favorite by breezing five furlongs in :59 flat April 27, when he broke off behind a workmate, caught up around the turn and pulled away easily down the homestretch, with a final quarter-mile in :23 3/5. From all appearances Omaha Beach is a horse peaking at exactly the right time. Now we just have to hope he draws a good post position.
  1. Game Winner (#2 last week)

He wrapped up his major Derby preparations April 26, when he clocked seven furlongs in 1:27 flat at Santa Anita. Running inside of a workmate, Game Winner set the pace, allowed his companion to catch up around the turn and then pulled away gradually under light urging down the homestretch. He continued past the finish line with power (the breeze actually ended on the first turn), and if you’ve been a Game Winner fan right along, I see no reason to jump off the bandwagon based off his pre-Derby workouts. If anything he looks ready to take a step forward on the first Saturday in May.
  1. Roadster (#3 last week)

Much like Game Winner, Roadster’s April 26 workout at Santa Anita saw him breeze inside of a stable companion while setting the pace. He was bobbing his head up and down noticeably throughout the exercise, more so than most horses, but that just seems to be his style, and it didn’t stop him from clocking six furlongs in a bullet 1:13 4/5.
  1. Maximum Security (#4 last week)

He might wind up as the forgotten horse, because he’s training out of sight and out of mind at Palm Meadows, but overlook him at your own risk. He’s unbeaten and essentially unchallenged so far, so we really have no idea what kind of horse we’re dealing with. One thing seems certain—you don’t want to leave him alone on the lead, because he might not come back to the field.
  1. Improbable (#5 last week)

He managed to pack in two workouts between the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby, wrapping up his preparations with five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 April 28 at Churchill Downs. He was rather headstrong early on, dragging his rider up to his workmate and carrying his head outward down the lane, but he settled down nicely past the finish line and powered along for another quarter-mile to clock seven furlongs in 1:25 3/5. He's obviously talented, but I still have mixed feelings about his mental game and wonder if the challenge of navigating a huge field in the Derby will be problematic.
  1. Code of Honor (#8 last week)

After shipping to Churchill Downs from Keeneland, Code of Honor continued his eye-catching Derby preparations by breezing a half-mile in :46 4/5. He looked smooth and steady as usual, and he kept up a decent pace past the finish line, clocking five furlongs in :59 4/5 and six furlongs in 1:13 1/5. He’ll likely need everything to go his way to challenge for victory in the Kentucky Derby, but it’s hard to knock how he’s been training since the Florida Derby (G1) and a spot in the superfecta could be well within reach.
  1. Tacitus (#6 last week)

The Wood Memorial winner worked in company with stablemate and fellow Derby contender Country House, going five furlongs in 1:00 flat. That was a sharper move than last week, when he went four furlongs in a modest :50 flat, perhaps in part because Tacitus and Country House were unexpectedly joined by Win Win Win (see below), who rolled past them in the homestretch.
  1. By My Standards (#9 last week)

Like Code of Honor, By My Standards worked a half-mile at Churchill Downs April 28, and while his time was slower (:48 2/5), his gallop-out was bigger—five furlongs in 1:00 3/5, six furlongs in 1:12 4/5, and seven furlongs in 1:26 3/5. He was a little more relaxed breaking off this week, but still doesn’t give the impression of being as smooth and focused as some of the other Derby contenders. For example, he seems to carry his head outward a bit.
  1. Spinoff (#10 last week)

Spinoff’s final pre-Derby workout was comprised of a casual five furlongs in 1:00.77 at Palm Beach Downs, but the truth is that he galloped-out strongly past the finish line for another quarter-mile, matching strides with his promising stablemate Last Judgment all the way. With six weeks between the Louisiana Derby and the Kentucky Derby, it was nice to see Spinoff turn in such a lengthy “screw-tightening” workout.
  1. Win Win Win (Unranked last week)

In an eventful morning workout, Win Win Win and his workmate broke off for a half-mile breeze just as Tacitus and Country House were passing the half-mile pole as part of a five-furlong work. Despite running four-wide around the turn while conceding his fellow Derby contenders a two-length head start, Win Win Win caught both Tacitus and Country House in the homestretch and crossed the wire a length in front. His time of :47 3/5 was among the fastest half-mile moves of the morning, and he did it without urging, making a better impression overall than the Tacitus and Country House.