2018 Kentucky Derby Sleeper Picks

by Taylor Smith
on April 10, 2018

The 2018 running of the Kentucky Derby is still a few weeks away, but the field is slowly beginning to take shape.  The majority of the contenders figure to be 3-year-old horses, but there are a couple of 2-year-olds raising eyebrows. Good Magic (who recently turned 3) and Bolt d’Oro have been flashing excellent form of late, so they need not be overlooked as the event draws closer.

Bolt d’Oro was the odds-on favorite to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but wound up finishing third. The colt was slowed by a pulled muscle, but he returned for the Grade II San Felipe at Santa Anita Park where he was awarded a controversial victory in March. Good Magic won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile before struggling to a third-place finish at the Grade II Fountain of Youth in Florida last month.

The field of 20 horses has not yet been finalized, but we can still scour the potential field for undervalued sleepers. Here are a few horses that may become household names by beating the odds on Derby day in May.

If you want to get some early bets in with our sleeper picks, here are some of the best horse racing betting sites we recommend:

Promises Fulfilled (+8500)

Promises Fulfilled actually won the aforementioned Grade II Fountain of Youth wire-to-wire. That victory will likely propel the colt into the field for the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. While the Fountain of Youth triumph was a smashing success, Promises Fulfilled followed that up by a lackluster performance at the Florida Derby.

Despite opening as one of the favorites to win at 3-1, Promises Fulfilled struggled to a dead-last ninth-place finish at Gulfstream Park. Jockey Robby Albarado was frustrated after the poor showing, saying, “It’s crazy because , that we’re going to the front at all costs.

Promises Fulfilled and Strike Power each surged to the front early, but the start may have been to quick for either horse to maintain that pace. They would go on to finish eighth and ninth, respectively, in the race ultimately won by another Derby contender, Audible.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the strategy at Churchill Downs will be different than the one we saw fail at Gulfstream Park. If the trainer’s words are any indication, however, it sounds as though the plan will remain the same. Trainer Dale Romans said, “You live by the sword, you die by the sword. We went wire-to-wire last time, but that doesn’t mean we don’t regroup and go back in the Derby.”

At +8500, Promises Fulfilled certainly won’t be listed among the betting favorites. While the chalk has a solid history at the Kentucky Derby, you don’t need to look any further than last year’s race to see that anything can happen. Promises Fulfilled is a longshot, but the aggressive fast-start strategy makes the colt an appealing flier bet.

Gronkowski (+5000)

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, this horse is actually named after . We’ve seen a number of Patriots players, including Gronkowski, Tom Brady and others, attend the Derby in the past. With a horse in the field, it’s safe to assume we’ll see Gronk show up at Churchill Downs again in 2018.

The horse, not the NFL player, sealed his spot in the Derby by winning the Burradon Stakes in England on April 6. The horse’s owner, Kerri Radcliffe, is a self-proclaimed Patriots fan and named him after Gronkowski because both the horse and the player stand 6’5” tall.

For the first time ever, the race has reserved one spot in the 20-horse field for a thoroughbred out of Europe. Gronkowski is the one to earn this year’s spot, having placed first in each of his last 4 races. Gronkowski’s trainer, Jeremy Noseda, is supremely confident that the horse can surpass expectations on the big stages at Churchill Downs.

After securing their Derby place, Noseda said, “It sounds strange, but I haven’t yet seen on the racetrack what I believe this horse is capable of. I’m sure there’s more to come.” That sounds like one confident trainer, indeed.

Mendelssohn (+525), another Europe-based Derby hopeful, will now have to qualify for the race via the traditional Kentucky Derby leaderboard. He can secure his place with a win at the UAE Derby this weekend.

Runaway Ghost (+4500)

I challenge you to find a cooler name for a horse than Runaway Ghost. There are some nifty names out there, but this one takes the cake for me. It sounds mysterious and intimidating at the same time. Of course, this has nothing to do with whether the horse can or will win the Kentucky Derby, so let’s move on.

Runaway Ghost will be the first horse from New Mexico to run in the Kentucky Derby since 2009. The last horse to do so , which happened to go on to win the Derby as the biggest underdog in the history of the race. So, that’s a solid precedent.

Runaway Ghost ran his way into the Derby by winning the Sunland Derby in March, earning the 50 necessary qualification points. The colt is trained by Todd Fincher and will be ridden by veteran jockey Tracy Hebert at Churchill Downs.

Despite the fact that Hebert has logged over 4,000 victories over the course of his lengthy career, this will be the jockey’s first-ever chance to ride at the Derby. An inexperienced jockey may be something of a red flag, but Hebert certainly isn’t lacking in that department on a macro scale. He became the 72nd North American jockey to win at least 4,000 races last November.

Hebert is excited about the chance. He said,

“I’ve rode everything in Kentucky but the Derby. It’s a blessing. Coming here to New Mexico and getting another one, a second one out of New Mexico with Mine That Bird being the other; to come here and capture another Derby horse, it’s awesome. It’s a good feeling.”

Both horse and jockey will head to Kentucky from New Mexico on April 17, where they’ll train until the Derby itself on March 5. Runaway Ghost has won 4 of his 7 starts thus far, though he obviously remains quite the long shot given the talent in the Derby field. I wouldn’t say wagering a ton on Runaway Ghost is the smartest way to spend your cash, but a small flier bet isn’t the worst idea in the world.

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