Rick’s Picks: It’s time to end jinx at Kentucky Derby

You’d think if there are 20 horses every year in the Kentucky Derby, the odds of picking a winner would be 5 percent.

But it’s harder than that, and if you don’t believe me, you should see how short the lines are for those cashing their tickets after the Derby compared to the bettors wagering on the Derby.

Probably 10 to 12 horses can win the 144th running of the Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs, and I’m throwing out one of the favorites, Mendelssohn, at 5-1, because he shipped into Churchill Downs on Thursday, two days before the Derby.

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He had one of the most impressive Kentucky Derby prep races when he captured the $2 million UAE Derby March 31 at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. Mendelssohn is looking to become the first horse trained in Europe to win the Derby.

Anyway, it’s time for Rick’s Picks, my annual attempt of giving you the winner of the Derby.

Win: Magnum Moon, 6-1: Trained by last year's Kentucky Derby-winner Todd Pletcher, Magnum Moon won his fourth straight race to start his career by capturing the $1 million Arkansas Derby April 14 at Oaklawn Park and the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 17.

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Ridden by Luis Saez, Magnum Moon ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.86 in the Arkansas Derby, going gate to wire and pulling away in the stretch to win by four lengths over Quip and Solomini.

He’ll have to buck history to win the Derby. No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Derby without a start as a 2-year-old. I look for Magnum Moon to snap the “Curse of Apollo.”

He’ll also try to become the fourth winner of the Rebel and Arkansas Derby to capture the Derby, following Sunny’s Halo (1983), Smarty Jones (2004) and American Pharoah (2015).

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Place: Justify, 3-1: The probable Derby favorite, Justify lived up to anticipated hype in his stakes debut, capturing the $1 million Santa Anita Derby April 7. Ridden by Mike Smith, Justify ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.72 over a Santa Anita surface that trainer Bob Baffert said was deep and playing slow all afternoon.

He is trained by Baffert, a four-time Derby winner.

Bred in Kentucky, Justify was a $500,000 Keeneland September Yearling purchase by China Horse Club and Maverick Racing.

Show: Audible, 8-1: Another of Todd Pletcher's impressive stable, Audible won the $1 million Florida Derby on March 31 at Gulfstream Park. He was a three-length winner with jockey John Velazquez aboard.

Audible was a $175,000 yearling purchase at the Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale in August 2016. He was up for sale again at the Fasig-Tipton March sale of 2-year-olds in training, where he was purchased for $500,000 by WinStar Farm and China Horse Club, who now race him along with SF Racing for Pletcher.

Not sure Audible is bred to last the 1 1/4-mile Derby.

Name Game: Good Magic, 12-1. I'm taking my good friend Jeff Good to his first Derby, and his son, Michael, is an accomplished magician.

I also watched Good Magic when he showed his championship class by taking command in the stretch to win the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes on April 7 at Keeneland.

Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Good Magic has never missed the board in five starts with earnings of $1,855,000.

Best Longshot: Combatant, 50-1: Combatant broke his maiden in his second start at Churchill Downs in 2017, then proceeded to record three straight runner-up finishes.

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The improving Combatant appears to mirror 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, who was consistently placed and then fourth in the Santa Anita Derby before winning the Kentucky Derby in come-from-behind fashion as a 50-1 longshot.

Combatant will be flying late.

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