A lot of factors go into handicapping the Kentucky Derby. We can analyze all the data available, watch race replays and workouts, but it’s seldom an easy process and the one thing you can’t count on is racing luck.

With that being said, I am confident Orb will win Saturday’s 139th running of the Run for the Roses.

I try to identify “key” prep races every year and believe the March 30 Florida Derby featured the two top contenders in the Kentucky Derby field, Orb and Itsmyluckyday. Both appear set for a big race on Saturday.

Orb was far from precocious, needing four starts before breaking his maiden in a slow time at Aqueduct in late November, but he blossomed over the winter for trainer Shug McGaughey and will enter the Derby on the upswing, winning four straight.

The bay colt likes to drop back and make one run, but his ability to adapt to any pace scenario is a major attribute. He displayed those skills in his last two starts, rallying from well behind in the Fountain of Youth before racing closer to the action in the Florida Derby.

His BRIS Speed ratings dropped to a 97 in the Florida Derby due to slow early fractions, but the 102 he earned for the Fountain of Youth stacks up well against his Derby rivals. And Orb will be one of few in the 20-horse field with a favorable pedigree for the 1 ¼-mile distance.

His training at Churchill Downs was the final deciding factor. By all accounts, Orb has performed brilliantly under the Twin Spires, gliding over a surface that he appears to be clearly relishing in the mornings. He’s full of energy, is bred to handle mud and looks to be still improving. And Orb gets the hottest jockey in America, Joel Rosario.

Orb will launch his move on the far turn and I expect him to finish up strongest of all.

Itsmyluckyday is the second selection. He opened the year with a pair of outstanding efforts, recording convincing wins in the Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull Stakes that produced huge Speed numbers (111 and 106), but trainer Eddie Plesa elected to freshen his change for two months after the Holy Bull to avoid squeezing the lemon dry before Derby Day.

The colt proved no match for Orb in the final furlong of the Florida Derby, finishing about three lengths behind on the wire, but Itsmyluckyday was a short horse that afternoon and gained needed fitness for the Derby. He has made a strong impression since arriving at Churchill Downs, moving superbly over the oval, and I like his tactical speed and post position (12). Itsmyluckyday should enjoy a perfect trip.

I will include the following horses underneath in exotic wagers (exactas and trifecta):

Overanalyze ended 2012 on a promising note, registering a 104 Speed rating for winning the Remsen Stakes, but performed badly when making his 2013 debut in the Gotham. He rebounded nicely in the April 13 Arkansas Derby, drawing away to score by daylight, and I liked his recent fast work at Churchill Downs. Overanalyze appears to be coming to hand at the right time and could perform best among the Todd Pletcher horses.

Revolutionary is also part of the five-horse Pletcher armada. The Louisiana Derby hero owns a three-race win streak, has received rave reviews for both workouts at Churchill Downs and picks up the services of Calvin Borel. The inside post (No. 3) isn’t being regarded as a drawback considering that Borel likes to ride along the rail, but the Withers Stakes two starts back sends mixed signals – Revolutionary clearly resented being kept inside that afternoon. He will be far back early and must avoid leaving himself too much to do in the stretch.

Will Take Charge rates as a sleeper for D. Wayne Lukas. A two-time stakes winner at Oaklawn this year, the well-bred colt recorded a 101 Speed rating last time and should be rolling late Saturday.

Verrazano is a classy individual, capturing all four career starts, and I liked his Wood Memorial win last out. But he’s had everything own way in both route starts and has never raced behind horses. His effectiveness at 1 ¼ miles is another legitimate concern, and I don’t think Saturday is going to be his day, but it would be foolish to dismiss his chances outright.


Utilizing a $100 bankroll, I will recommend the following wagers on the Kentucky Derby:

$20 Win & Place 16

$10 exacta box: 12 & 16

$5 exactas: 16 over 3,9,14,17

$1 trifecta: 16 over 3,9,12,14,17 over 3,9,12,14,17

Enjoy the Derby!