Kentucky Derby Odds Update: Contenders set for Saturday race

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Justify and Mendelssohn are each contending with a deep field and some inauspicious history heading into the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

Justify and Mendelssohn remain the top betting favorites on the odds to win the Kentucky Derby at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The top of the board for the 1¼-mile race which takes place early Saturday evening at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., also includes Bolt d’Oro, Audible, Magnum Moon, Good Magic, Vino Rosso, and Hofburg.

When Always Dreaming won in 2017, he was the fifth favorite in a row to capture The Run for the Roses. Bettors will have to decide whether the law of averages is due to kick in or if the streak holds.

Both of the top two horses have the rule of precedents working against them. Justify, who will run from the No. 7 position in the 20-horse field, has only three career starts. He was unraced as a two-year-old last year and no such horse has won the Kentucky Derby since Apollo in 1882.

Mendelssohn, who runs from the No. 14 position, won the recent UAE Derby but no winner of that event in the United Arab Emirates has ever come to North America and so much as placed at the Derby. Nor has a European runner. However, history is made to be broken and Mendelsson not only won the UAE by 17 lengths, but he has had exposure to U.S. tracks.

There is a 50 percent chance of rain in Louisville, which could make for a wet track. Bolt d’Oro, who starts No. 11 and will be guided by two-time Derby-winning jockey Victor Espinoza, could be less affected by a wet track than his other four-legged counterparts. Bolt d’Oro was one of the early favorites and might be worth a second look as an outside shot.

Bolt d’Oro’s price was in the 9-to-1 range earlier this week before coming down as the competitors began to go through their paces at Churchill Downs.

Audible and Magnum Moon are two of the four horses in the field trained by Todd Pletcher, who trained aforementioned 2017 winner Always Dreaming. Audible is starting from the No. 5 position, which is where five of the last 21 winners broke from the gate.

Each has shown they have the speed and stamina to carry them over 1¼ miles, making them worth including in exactas and trifecta picks.

If there’s a darkhorse to back, or to employ to up the payout on an exacta, trifecta or superfecta (picking the top four horses), it is likely Hofburg. The Florida Derby runner-up has been impressive during workouts and it is worth noting that his Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott, is very selective about bringing three-year-olds to the Kentucky Derby.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Stradivarius, 3-time Ascot Gold Cup winner, retired to stud

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LONDON – Stradivarius, one of the most famous racehorses in Britain and Ireland after winning the Gold Cup at Ascot three times, has been retired to stud.

Bjorn Nielsen, the owner of Stradivarius, said he felt it would be unfair to make the horse come back next season as a 9-year-old after time away with a bruised foot.

“It has been a fairytale from start to finish,” Nielsen told British newspaper The Racing Post.

Stradivarius, bred in Ireland and the son of Sea The Stars, won 20 of his 35 races – including seven Group One races – and earned almost 3.5 million pounds (now $3.8 million) in prize money.

Stradivarius won four Goodwood Cups, three Yorkshire Cups and two Doncaster Cups.

Taiba wins $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for Baffert

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BENSALEM, Pa. – Taiba won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby by three lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Taiba ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.67 and paid $4.80, $3 and $2.60.

It was Baffert’s fourth win in the Grade 1 event at Parx Racing. He also won in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Smith won the race for the third time, all aboard Baffert horses.

Zandon returned $3.80 and $2.60. Cyberknife was another 3 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $3 to show.

Taiba was coming off a second-place finish in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth in July. The colt was 12th in the Kentucky Derby under Tim Yakteen, who took over training him while Baffert was serving a 90-day suspension.

“He had a little bit of a rough trip in the Haskell, but we had some time to get him ready for this one,” Baffert said from his base in California. “He proved today he is a good horse. He is getting better and better.”

Baffert Taiba will be pointed toward the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. The colt has three wins in five starts this year.