The undefeated Nyquist will likely be favored in the Derby, but what will his morning line odds be? Breeders’ Cup Photo ©
With the last of the Kentucky Derby prep races behind us, and with just two weeks remaining until the first Saturday in May, we have some time to pass while we wait for the big race. So naturally, for handicappers, this means two weeks of studying race replays, past performances, pedigrees, speed figures, and a variety of other numbers and statistics in our quest to find the Derby winner.
One of the most intriguing Derby handicapping challenges is to try and generate a set of early morning line odds. Along with being an interesting subject to debate, the creation of an early morning line serves a practical purpose as well. By creating a mathematically-accurate morning line, it becomes easy to project how the actual Derby wagering might unfold, and enables us to get a good idea of the odds that each horse might offer.
I won’t go into the math behind creating an accurate morning line, but the basics are easy to understand–if the odds on one horse drop, the odds for other horses must rise. If one horse is the very heavy favorite, than the others will go offer at higher prices than usual–it’s the reason why it’s impossible to have two 1-10 favorites in the same race.
So after examining the math, and experimenting with a variety of different odds possibility, here is the Derby morning line that I have created using the current list of qualifiers:
Gun Runner 8-1
Brody’s Cause 10-1
Mor Spirit 12-1
Danzing Candy 20-1
Mo Tom 30-1
My Man Sam 30-1
Tom’s Ready 30-1
Oscar Nominated 50-1
Trojan Nation 50-1
The undefeated Nyquist is a deserving favorite, having won the Florida Derby (gr. I) in impressive fashion last time out, but what odds should he be? In a year that looks wide-open outside of Nyquist, and with Nyquist lacking the standout speed figures of recent Derby favorites (and winners) American Pharoah and California Chrome, I can’t envision him being much lower than 7-2.
But even 7-2 is fairly low price, especially in a 20-horse field, which means that several other talented horses will go off at attractive odds. I’ve listed Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Exaggerator as the second choice at 6-1, which seems a bit high, but to drop his odds means that several other horses would need to go off at higher odds. Gun Runner is my third choice at 8-1 based in part on how well he’s been training at Churchill Downs, and if he continues to impress in the mornings, I think we’ll see him at single-digit odds. However, if he gets overshadowed in morning training, I can envision Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner Brody’s Cause–my 10-1 fourth choice–dipping lower and changing places with Gun Runner.
Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) runner-up Mor Spirit is my second choice since he’s finished first and second in all five of his graded stakes races, and also because he is trained by Bob Baffert, who is sure to attract some wagering attention after sending out American Pharoah to win the Triple Crown in 2015. Arkansas Derby (gr. I) Creator and the four-time graded stakes winner Mohaymen are both 15-1 on my morning line; I considered making Mohaymen 20-1, but he was the Derby favorite before finishing fourth to Nyquist in the Florida Derby, and his last workout at Churchill Downs–four furlongs in a bullet :46.80–has drawn a lot of positive attention, which could drop his odds quite a bit.
As you can see, if you want to play against Nyquist and one or two of the other favorites, there should be plenty of value to be found in the Derby!
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