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Roadster is Heller's Kentucky Derby pick

Roadster is Heller's Kentucky Derby pick

Gazette handicapper analyzes the Derby field
Roadster is Heller's Kentucky Derby pick
Roadster works out at Churchill Downs earlier this week in preparation for the Kentucky Derby.
Photographer: Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY Sports

Seeking our sixth consecutive Kentucky Derby winner in an incredibly deep field of contenders, we’re giving Roadster a slight edge over his stablemate in the Bob Baffert barn, Game Winner. It’s wouldn’t be a big surprise if all three of Baffert’s horses finish in the money. He’ll also saddle Impossible.

In most years, there are seven or eight horses that are good enough on paper to win; this year, it’s closer to a dozen. That being said, only four of the 19 have won a Grade I stakes: Game Winner, who has won three, Maximum Security, Roadster and Improbable.

THE TWO HEAVY HITTERS: ROADSTER AND GAME WINNER

Baffert’s pair of talented colts met in the mile-and-an-eighth Grade I Santa Anita Derby, with Roadster roaring past Game Winner late to score by a half-length.

Roadster is 3-for-4 with one third to Game Winner, when he was discovered to have a throat problem, ironically a similar one to the injury which forced Omaha Beach, the Derby morning-line favorite, to scratch. Game Winner went 4-for-4 last year to earn the 2-Year-Old Male Championship, including a 2 1/4-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. This year, Game Winner was second by a nose to Omaha Beach and second again in the Santa Anita Derby. But he has class written all over him, and he could take a significant step up in his third start of the year. Neither Roadster nor Game Winner have raced on a wet track.

A HALF-DOZEN TOP CONTENDERS

  • Tacitus — The good news: he’s won three straight, including the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby and the Grade II Wood Memorial despite early traffic problems. The bad news: A top-three finisher in the Wood has not finished in the money in the Kentucky Derby the last 15 years.
  • Maximum Security — His impressive victory in the Grade I Florida Derby made him four-for-four, and his 3 1/4-length victory in that stakes was his smallest margin of victory. One of his scores was by 6 1/2 lengths on a muddy track. He will show early speed, but he was taken back to third in one of his triumphs.
  • Improbable — He was three-for-three before finishing second by a neck at 2-5 to Long Range Toddy in a division of the Rebel Stakes and second by one length to Omaha Beach on a sloppy track in the Grade I Arkansas Derby. He was rank before the start of that race, and he can’t afford those antics Saturday.
  • Vekoma — Drew off to win the Grade II Blue Grass Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths. That made him 3-for-4 in his career. The one miss was a third in his three-year-old debut to Code of Honor in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes. He may get overlooked a bit Saturday.
  • Code of Honor — He was outstanding in the Fountain of Youth, then a disappointing third by 6 3/4 lengths in the Florida Derby. He has the pedigree to run all day long and could be live at reasonable odds.
  • By My Standards — He’s won two straight races, the last in the Grade II Louisiana Derby by three-quarters of a length. He’s finished in the money in all five starts, including a second by four lengths in his maiden debut on a sloppy track.

SIX MORE HORSES WITH A LEGITIMATE SHOT

  • Win Win Win — This powerful closer has finished in the money in all six starts, including a third in the Tampa Bay Derby and a non-threatening second in the Blue Grass Stakes. He’s worked impressively for this.
  • War of Will — It’s unfortunate that he drew the deadly rail coming off his ninth in the Louisiana Derby, when he took a funky step early and struggled trying to win his fourth consecutive race. He’s worked sharply since, and he won his lone appearance on a sloppy track by five lengths.
  • Tax — He’s hit the board in all five starts, including a solid second in the Wood Memorial. He should be forwardly placed early.
  • Long Range Toddy — He followed his game, neck victory in a division of the Rebel Stakes with a sixth by 14 lengths on a sloppy track in the Arkansas Derby.
  • Spinoff — He led late before weakening to second by three-quarters of a length in the Louisiana Derby. He’s yet to win a stakes race.
  • Cutting Humor — Picks up Mike Smith as his jockey off a neck victory in the Grade III Sunland Derby. He hasn’t even started in a Grade II stakes.

YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN TYPES

  • Plus Que Parfait — He won the UAE Derby by three-quarters of a length in his last. He finished 13th in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes the race before.
  • Country House — He’s been close to, but lost to War of Will, By My Standards and Omaha Beach in his last three starts.
  • Gray Magician — He was second in the UAE Derby. Good for him.
  • Bodexpress — Drew in off the also-eligibles. He was second at 71-1 in the Florida Derby, and he might be higher odds Saturday.
  • Master Fencer — Japanese invader is here only because the top two point-getters in Japan declined to participate.
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