Churchill Downs' Darren Rogers gives top picks for Derby 144
It's time to start talking Kentucky Derby 144. Darren Rogers with Churchill Downs takes a look at the horses to keep an eye on ahead of next month's big race.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Derby is just weeks away and the field of horses is becoming more clear.
As one of Churchill Downs' resident experts, Darren Rogers is running down his top picks for Kentucky Derby 144.
With injuries and late debuts, this year's line up remains questionable. "We've been waiting for a few to really leap forward and take command," said Rogers.
Here's his pick six to watch:
At number 6: Audible. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Rogers says a win by Audible could put Pletcher in the history books. "Todd of course won last year's Kentucky Derby for the second time with Always Dreaming. He'll attempt to become only the seventh trainer to win derbies in back to back years," said Rogers.
Number 5: McKinzie. Here's where it gets tricky -- if McKinzie runs, Rogers has him as a top contender. But with a recent training injury, his future at Churchill seems uncertain. "If it's a minor injury, he may run in the race off a layoff if he's good enough to compete. But you never want to see a hiccup by McKinzie," said Rogers.
At number four, Mendelssohn, an overseas contender, is making a name for himself. "This horse jumped up and won by 18 and a half links in the UAE Derby," said Rogers.
Horses who make their way to Churchill Downs via a long plane ride can sometimes struggle to perform, but Rogers says he might be the real deal. "His last three races he's won over three different race tracks, three different surfaces in three different continents. He'll try to make it four in the Kentucky Derby," said Rogers.
Another horse to watch, Magnum Moon, is another contender by defending champion Pletcher. "Todd Pletcher is loaded this year and I think Magnum Moon might be the best of his arsenal," said Rogers.
Magnum Moon secured his spot in the starting gate for the Run for the Roses after winning the Rebel Stakes. He'll also run in the Arkansas Derby on April 14.
In the number two spot is Bolt d'Oro. "He had a little bit of a training hiccup early in the year, which delayed his start. His first race back was in the San Felipe," said Rogers.
Bolt is one half of this year's dramatic duo after quite the scandal at San Felipe. McKinzie crossed the finish line first, but stewards ruled he impeded the path of Bolt d'oro and was moved to second. A rematch didn't happen because McKinzie didn't run in the Santa Anita Derby, but Rogers expects big things from Bolt d'Oro.
Justify won the Santa Anita, and he's Rogers' horse to beat. "He looks to be an absolutely special colt," said Rogers.
The problem? He didn't debut until February 20, making him an unraced 2-year-old. "The last horse to win the Kentucky Derby without racing at age 2 was Apollo in 1882. That's the only horse. I think he becomes the second," said Rogers.
Justify could transform into a star in just two minutes when the Run for the Roses happens May 5.
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