Poll Vault: Unlocking the Secrets of Shapiro's Derby Top 10

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April 24th, 2018

Racing fans tend to be some of the most opinionated folks I know and at no time is that more obvious than the days and weeks leading up to North America’s most prestigious race.

Handicappers use a number of methods to communicate those opinions, but one thing my colleagues and I enjoy as a means of debating our thoughts and evaluating contenders for the Kentucky Derby is discussing our top ten lists.

Some of them, like Director of Marketing for Brisnet, Ed DeRosa, opt to use their “Top 10” to express which three-year-olds they find most attractive from a wagering perspective, so expected value in pari-mutuel pools is weighed heavily. I have no issue with this approach, but I instead opt to use the exercise to rank my most likely winners on the first Saturday in May.

So while both of us consider Bob Baffert conditioned one of the likeliest winners of the 2018 “Run for the Roses,” you will see him second in my updated list, while DeRosa has him considerably lower since his probable price in the win pool will be too short to “justify” gambling on the colt in a loaded 20-horse field.

I am not finished formulating my thoughts for this year’s Derby, but outside of the post-position draw and my assessment of how horse’s train in Louisville over the next ten days most of my handicapping is complete.

For the first time since starting my evaluation process, New York bred has reached the top spot in my rankings. The good thing is that not only do I find him the likeliest victor in 2018, but he could offer enough value on the tote board to merit a Win wager on May 5th. I love the way the son of Into Mischief has improved in each of his five career starts and his move from off the pace in the Florida Derby has often been the winning one in the first leg of the Triple Crown.

Another horse I have higher in my “Top 10” than most other experts is Juddmonte Farms’ Hofburg. The lightly raced son of Tapit ran huge in his first try versus stakes company in the aforementioned Florida Derby and Hall of Famer Bill Mott is not known for forcing the issue when it comes to running a horse in the Triple Crown series. I have him as the fourth likeliest to hit the wire first as of today, which will make him attractive if his odds are anywhere near his current price of 35 to 1 at the Wynn Las Vegas.

The rest of my “Top 10” is largely uncontroversial other than my opinion on Santa Anita Derby runner-up Bolt d’Oro. Brisnet editor Vance Hanson has the Medaglia d’Oro colt first in his rankings and a pair of other colleagues have him listed second, but he will not be on any of my tickets next weekend.

The odds-on favorite in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile brings a strong resume into Louisville as he makes his third start of the form cycle for trainer Mick Ruis. On paper he merits major respect, but my lack of trust in the connections and expected regression after chasing Justify last month at “The Great Race Place” makes him an easy toss for me.

Things are heating up in Louisville and I am excited to be apart of it. Stay tuned for much more Derby content over the next two weeks!