Kentucky Derby 2016: Finding Value in the Futures

Mohaymen and Nyquist head into their showdown in the Florida Derby on April 2 as the favorites to win the Kentucky Derby.  But for bettors who are not convinced that these two are a slam dunk, there is plenty of value to be found in this year’s deep field.

Let’s examine five horses that I feel give players the most bang for their bucks in future pools. For the purpose of this article, we will use the US Racing Kentucky Derby odds found at

1) DESTIN (60-1)
Destin is coming off a track-record performance in winning the Tampa Bay Derby (GII). Under the guidance of Javier Castellano, the son of Giant’s Causeway covered the mile and one sixteenth in 1:42.82, earning a 100 Beyer figure. The Beyer figure was a career top for Destin, as he continues to trend in a positive direction for trainer Todd Pletcher. That 100 Beyer figure also ties for the third-highest Beyer figure earned by a three-year-old this season.

US Racing has Destin’s win odds at 60-1 for the Kentucky Derby.  As you will see with the other horses on this list, these odds are a value player’s paradise. If you believe the full brother of Creative Cause is for real, then 60-1 odds are an outstanding bargain.

2) OUTWORK (200-1)

Outwork turned in a strong  performance on Saturday against Destin in the Tampa Bay Derby (GII). The son of Uncle Mo was only making his second start of the season and only the third start of his young career. He had never been beyond six furlongs in either of his two previous starts. He jumped to the lead and tried to go wire to wire, only to lose in the final sixteenth of a mile to his stablemate who set a track record in the process. Outwork earned a career-best 98 Beyer figure, which ranks among the ten best Beyer figures earned by three-year-olds this season.

US Racing has Outwork’s win odds at 200-1 for the Kentucky Derby. He has John Velazquez in the saddle and is trained by Todd Pletcher. He just set a track record pace in his first try at a distance of ground. He lost to a stakes winner and did not let him by without a fight. Ignore him if you must, but if this dude keeps getting better and, if he makes the Derby, you will be wishing you had invested in a ticket on this guy at these crazy odds.


Danzing Candy is coming off an impressive victory in the San Felipe Stakes (GII) on Saturday afternoon. The grand looking son of Twirling Candy led from gate to wire and was able to finish comfortably in front of Mor Spirit and Exaggerator to take the event in 1:43.04. He earned a career-top Beyer figure of 100 in this race, which ties him with Destin for the third-highest Beyer figure for a three-year-old this season.

US Racing has Danzing Candy’s odds to win the Kentucky Derby at 35-1. Mike Smith is making all the right moves and has a great opportunity to win the Kentucky Oaks with the unbelievable filly Songbird and the Kentucky Derby with this guy. He has every right to improve and looms a big threat for the Santa Anita Derby.

4) MATT KING COLE (70-1)

Matt King Cole had been a relative unknown on the Derby scene until earlier this month when he made his seasonal debut in an allowance optional claiming race at Aqueduct. He won that day and earned a Beyer figure of 97 — tied with Mor Spirit as the eleventh-highest Beyer figure recorded by a three-year-old this season. His last three Beyer’s — 93-96-97 — are improving and the latter two (96 and 97 respectively) are both better than anything Mohaymen has run in his career (95).

Matt King Cole is set to tackle Shagaf in the Wood Memorial in early April and is 70-1 to win the Kentucky Derby, according to US Racing. The interesting thing about him is that his numbers are improving, and they are already better than most of the field has produced at this point.  He is worth a look at 70-1 because, if he wins the Wood Memorial, you will not see anything near these odds again.


Exaggerator is coming off a third-place performance in the San Felipe Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita, where he finished behind Danzing Candy and Mor Spirit. Exaggerator was in last early and made a big move around the far turn. He was getting to the leader, but moved too soon and was just edged out for second finishing with a 96 Beyer figure. I think if Kent Desormeaux times his move better, he is the winner of the San Felipe Stakes. As it stands now, the Keith Desormeaux trainee will go back to the drawing board and try to figure out their next plan of attack.  It’s quite possible that we will have a rematch of the top three finishers of the San Felipe Stakes in the Santa Anita Derby.

US Racing has Exaggerator at 18-1 odds to win the Kentucky Derby. Let’s dig in and see why 18-1 odds should be considered value on Exaggerator. In the first two starts of his three-year-old campaign, Exaggerator has produced Beyer Speed figures of 98 and 96 respectively. Both of these Beyer numbers are greater than anything Mohaymen has ever run.  Exaggerator went against Nyquist in his first race of the season and ran a great race, finishing only a length and a half behind the Juvenile Champion at the champ’s preferred distance.  Exaggerator has danced every dance and has run well in all of them except the first start of his career.  If Exaggerator wins or even finishes a close second in his next race he will be one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby off his previous form alone, making 18-1 on him a value play if you think he will take the next step as I do.

There is no denying that this year’s Run for the Roses is up for grabs. Mohaymen and Nyquist may be at the top of everyone’s list right now, but there is no sure thing in racing. My list above shows that there is plenty of value in trying to beat the favorites this season.

If you pick the right one, it can make this Derby one to remember.

Andrew Morisch
Drew Morisch, aka “Drew Mo” or the “Bloghorse,” has been an avid sports fan since he was born. Growing up in Nebraska, it was easy for him to fall in love with football and horse racing. He became a huge horse racing fan by attending Ak-Sar-Ben race track before its gates closed (sadly) for the last time in 1995.

Horses such as Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Black Tie Affair, Preakness winner Gate Dancer and local favorite Who Doctor Who all graced the dirt at Ak-Sar-Ben and helped power Drew’s passion for the Sport of Kings.

Drew has other passions to go along with horse racing. He is a big Nebraska Cornhuskers fan. You will usually find him tailgating at some undisclosed location on game days. Drew loves crunching numbers and analyzing data. Whether it’s PE ratios on stocks, speed figures in horse racing, or assist-to-turnover ratios in basketball, there is no such thing as too much information in his book. Drew also plays fantasy sports.

You interact with Drew on Facebook at or follow him on Twitter @thebloghorse.

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