The field for the 2018 Kentucky Derby is one of the strongest and most competitive in years, most horse-racing experts concede. But it may be a horse that was born in 1879 and won the Derby in 1882 that has the most to say about the outcome this Saturday.
That horse is Apollo. He is the last horse to win the Derby that did not race as a 2-year-old. The so-called Curse of Apollo has become a key handicapping strategy for America’s most famous horse race and this year holds extra significance because neither the early 3-1 Derby favorite Justify nor morning-line third choice Magnum Moon started at age 2.
The second choice in the Churchill Downs morning line is also trying to outrun a curse of sorts. Mendelssohn, who is 5-1, will attempt to become the first winner of the UAE Derby in Dubai to go on to win the Kentucky Derby. No horse from that race has ever run better than fifth in Louisville on the first Saturday in May.
Those handicapping angles leave betters with a chance at some big payoffs should the curses hold. Legitimate contenders that are good price plays include Good Magic, last year’s juvenile champion, and Vino Rosso, the winner of the Wood Memorial in New York, both at 12-1; Audible, the Florida Derby winner, and Bolt d’Oro.