2018 Kentucky Derby ‘Best Bet’ Head-to-Head Matchups


One of the best way to bet on any major graded stakes race is on the posted odds for head-to-head matchups. Picking outright winners in any horse race is not all that easy even with a heavy favorite in the field. Trying to pick a winner in the biggest horse race of the year with 21 entries in the field is a very tall task for even the best handicappers in the game.

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Making things even tougher for this Saturday’s main event at Churchill Downs is one of the deepest fields in recent memory for the Kentucky Derby. Justify has been opened as a 3/1 morning line favorite followed by Mendelssohn at 5/1 and Magnum Moon at 6/1. Going seven deep into this field, you still have horses at 12/1 betting odds on the morning line.

Using the head-to-head matchup odds posted at one of the top offshore sportsbooks taking online action for this year’s Kentucky Derby, I have come up with a pair of bets that offer the best value in the numbers.

Good Magic (-135) vs. Bolt d’Oro (-105)

Trainer Chad Brown’s Good Magic will break from the favorable No. 6 post on Saturday with jockey Jose Ortiz slated to be on board. This colt’s morning line odds to win this race are set at 12/1, which offers some great value on its own. He was a champion as a two-year old with a victory in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but some of that luster was lost when he faded to third behind Promises Filled and Strike Power in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream on March 3. With his recent victory over Flameaway and Free Drop Billy in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 7, I believe that Brown has this colt ready to make some noise on Saturday.

Bolt d’Oro has been at or near the top of the list of Kentucky Derby contenders since his juvenile campaign and, while he is a good horse, I believe he tends to be overrated my many racing experts. Trained by Mick Ruis with jockey Victor Espinosa getting the ride, he will break from the No. 11 post on Saturday at 8/1 morning line odds. In his most recent run leading up to this race, he finished second to Justify in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 7. He also ran in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, finishing third.

Even the betting odds in this head-to-head matchup suggest that Good Magic is the better horse despite the current odds to win and I would agree with that assessment.

Noble Indy (-130) vs. Solomini (-110)

Moving down the list of contenders for Saturday’s main event at Churchill Downs, trainer Todd Pletcher’s Noble Indy will break from the No. 19 post at 30/1 odds. While this is definitely not the best place to start a 1 ¼ mile run on dirt in a 21-horse field, I have always liked this Kentucky-bred colt since his third-place finish in this year’s Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Feb. 17 behind Bravazo and Snapper Sinclair. What really adds value to his odds in this matchup and his long odds to win this race is a recent victory in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at that track on March 24 over Lone Sailor and My Boy Jack.

Solomini is another heavily touted contender that has been drawing attention for this race ever since his successful campaign as a juvenile. Trained by Bob Baffert, he has come close to winning several major graded events including last month’s Grade 1 Arkansas Derby with a third-place finish behind Magnum Moon and Quip. However, the only victory in his young career was in a Maiden Special Weight race at Del Mar in September of last year. He will break from the No. 17 post in the Kentucky Derby at 30/1 odds.

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Given the outside post positions for each horse in this head-to-head matchup, I would have to give the edge to Noble Indy over the extended 1 ¼-mile distance of this race.