Bob Baffert is the most recognizable face in horse racing. He’s not only his iconic white hair, as he has trained two Triple Crown winners since 2015 (American Pharoah then and Justify last year).
He already had good odds to win his 6th Kentucky Derby with three contenders (Game Winner, Roadster and Improbable) in this year’s field. Those chances skyrocketed with the late scratch of front-line favorite Omaha Beach due to an entrapped epiglottis.
As Donica Phifer of Newsweek points out, a win today would tie Baffert tied with Ben Jones for the most all-time trainer Derby wins. “Jones won six times from 1938 to 1952 and also earned two Triple Crowns in his career,” she writes.
“I don’t even think about it. It was a different era. Nowadays the Derby is bigger than it was then. Now it’s pretty intense,” Baffert told the Los Angeles Times. “Back then, horses ran 40 times a year. [The Derby] was just a race between other races. It’s like comparisons of football players and baseball players from different times until now.”
Here’s the latest odds and a preview of Baffert’s chances.
Bob Baffert Horse Odds & Chances
Improbable is tied for the highest odds at 5-to-1 (per the Kentucky Derby site) alongside Maximum Security and Tacitus. Game Winner is next highest at 6-to-1, while Roadster sits at 9-to-1. On other sites, Game Winner is the new favorite at 9-to-2 odds.
CBS Sports asked Jody Demling, who’s well known for his horse betting prowess, who he personally favors at this year’s Derby. He was adamant to stay away from Roadster.
Though the Bob Baffert trainee is coming off a gutty half-length win in the Santa Anita Derby over stablemate Game Winner, Roadster ran 38 feet less than Game Winner, who was wide on both turns. On Tuesday, Roadster drew post No. 17 for the Derby, which could lead to a much wider trip than the one he had at Santa Anita. That could spell danger for anyone choosing to pay the 6-1 premium he’s commanding.
In addition, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith passed on the opportunity to ride Roadster in the Kentucky Derby 2019 to jump on Omaha Beach. Smith will be replaced by Florent Geroux, who will be riding Roadster for the first time.
He instead picks War of Will, currently a 15-to-1 pick. Meanwhile, fellow expert Hank Goldberg is similarly cautious with Roadster, but admires how Game Winner and Improbable “have all been battling other top contenders and each other” in the leadup to the Derby.
Goldberg ultimately is high on By My Standards, another 15-to-1 pick.
He took part in just one Kentucky Derby prep race, the Louisiana Derby, where he beat fellow 2019 Kentucky Derby contenders Spinoff, Country House and race favorite War of Will for the victory.
USA Today explained why Game Winner is the new odds-on favorite, citing his close 2nd-place finishes to Omaha Beach.
The Bob Baffert-trained colt, now the Derby favorite with Omaha Beach scratched, won last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs to cap a 4-0 campaign as the top 2-year-old with three Grade 1 wins. Game Winner hasn’t won since then but his consecutive seconds as a 3-year-old have been close. He finished a half-length behind Baffert stablemate Roadster in last month’s Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, a performance that came a just few weeks after he fell a nose short of Omaha Beach in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
The fact that Baffert has three favored candidates to win the Run for the Roses already increases his chances mathematically. His march towards the history books starts at 6:50 p.m. EST tomorrow on NBC.