Early Thoughts on the Derby Morning Line

Early Thoughts on the Derby Morning Line

With the last of the Kentucky Derby prep races behind us, and with three weeks remaining until the first Saturday in May, we have some time to pass as we wait for the big race. So naturally, for handicappers, this means three weeks of studying race replays, past performances, pedigrees, speed figures, and a variety of other numbers and statistics.

So let’s start off our three weeks of waiting by undertaking the challenge of trying to generate a set of early morning line odds for the Kentucky Derby! Along with being an intriguing challenge and 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:

American Pharoah 9-2
Dortmund 5-1
Frosted 8-1
Carpe Diem 10-1
Materiality 12-1
Mubtaahij 15-1
International Star 15-1
Upstart 15-1
Firing Line 20-1
Far Right 20-1
Danzig Moon 30-1
One Lucky Dane 30-1
Stanford 30-1
El Kabeir 30-1
War Story 30-1
Tencendur 30-1
Mr. Z 50-1
Bolo 50-1
Itsaknockout 50-1
Ocho Ocho Ocho 50-1

This is where creating a morning line gets interesting. Thanks to the extremely impressive performances this season from American Pharoah and Dortmund, it is likely that both are going to be heavily-bet in the Derby wagering–but just how low can their odds go? Even with American Pharoah at 9-2 and Dortmund at 5-1–very generous prices given their accomplishments and talents–I have been forced to list half of the field at 30-1 or higher. Additionally, such well-regarded contenders as Mubtaahij, International Star, and Upstart have to be listed at 15-1–again, very generous prices given their achievements.

Now imagine what would happen if American Pharoah and/or Dortmund were to go off at even lower odds? This would raise the prices on the other runners even further, likely shoving Frosted’s odds into the double-digit range while leaving American Pharoah and Dortmund as the only horses with single-digit odds.

It’s also possible that the opposite could transpire. If handicappers feel that there is value to be found with Mubtaahij, International Star, and Upstart at 15-1, they might help lower the odds on those horses, which would in turn cause the odds for American Pharoah and Dortmund to rise.

But given how dominant those two have been in their prep races, I find it hard to envision them going off at odds higher than 9-2 and 5-1, and I have based my morning line on this assumption. However, there are many other possible scenarios that could unfold, such as American Pharoah dipping lower and Dortmund rising higher, or Mubtaahij receiving more play than expected and causing dramatic odd shifts for some of the other contenders. Speculating on how the wagering will unfold is what makes the creation of a morning line so much fun!

So now that I have shared my morning line, now it’s your turn–how do you think the Derby wagering will unfold?

Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin’s quest to become North America’s richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners.

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