Let’s be clear about O Besos and his Kentucky Derby victory prospects upfront. This is not a victory endorsement for a closer in a race where closers’ victory hopes routinely die painfully short on the Churchill Downs stretch. O Besos has minimal tactical speed, one run in him, and an unheralded Derby rookie rider in Marcelino Pedroza holding the reins.
But let’s be clear about what O Besos also has: five consecutive rising Beyer Speed Figures and enough stamina to run 1 1/4 miles. Let’s also be clear about what O Besos represents here: the opportunity for stunning exotic payoffs on your trifecta and superfecta Derby tickets.
To paraphrase Jack Nicholson’s Col. Nathan Jessup from A Few Good Men, you WANT O Besos on your tickets. You NEED O Besos on your tickets.
It’s no state secret that winning the Kentucky Derby in the points era requires tactical speed and the ability to stay up front or near the front for most of the 10 furlongs. It is a pace-pressers and stalkers race. Santa Anita Park morning line author and Xpressbet columnist Jon White points out in his Derby Strikes System (DSS) that 52 of the last 55 Kentucky Derby winners have been first or second with a furlong to run in one of their last two pre-Derby starts.
O Besos gets a strike here
O Besos flunks that test in one of White’s eight DSS categories — and the one he deems the most important. He has never been first or second with a furlong to run in any of his five races.
But what O Besos brings to the Derby is all the elements of that board-hitting long shot who turns a modest exacta into a mongo trifecta. Or a buy a nice dinner trifecta into a buy a car superfecta.
Recent Derby history is replete with stories of long-odds bombers blowing up Derby toteboards. Like last year, when the Authentic-Tiz the Law exacta paid $20.50. The Authentic-Tiz the Law-Mr. Big News trifecta, meanwhile, cashed a $1,311.80 ticket courtesy of 46/1 Mr. Big News crashing the board.
Go beyond the chalk on your tris and supers
In 2018, the Justify-Good Magic-Audible trifecta paid $142.60. Nice, but it wasn’t in the same tax bracket as the $17,500 Justify-Good Magic-Audible-Instilled Regard superfecta. That windfall was brought to you by 85/1 Instilled Regard, the longest shot in the field, sneaking into fourth.
You get the idea. Essential Quality, Rock Your World, Hot Rod Charlie, Known Agenda, and Highly Motivated will attract the chalky money. And deservedly so. They possess the running style that wins Derbies in the points era.
But O Besos possesses the running style, pedigree (more on that in a moment), and ability to sit back and let much of the early speed in this Derby burn out. Then, he makes his one late run, picks off tired runners, hits the board in third or fourth, and sends you (hopefully) to a fat payday.
O Besos has this routine down cold
We’ve seen that before from the son of 2013 Derby winner Orb – the last closer to wear roses. Leaving the Louisiana Derby gate at 28/1, O Besos was eighth and last at the first three calls. Then, he closed with a flurry, passing everyone but winner Hot Rod Charlie and runner up Midnight Bourbon. O Besos galloped out so well that Midnight Bourbon was saved by the wire.
Watching the race, you notice O Besos was the only horse gaining on Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon, who were 1-2 at every call.
“I would not say that I am ‘very high’ on O Besos. But I do see him as a candidate to rally and finish second, third, or fourth in the Kentucky Derby at what should be a good price,” White told OG News via email. “What makes him such a threat to do so was the gusto he showed in the final furlong of the Louisiana Derby, when he finished third. Also, his 96 Beyer in the Louisiana Derby was his best yet and compares favorably with everyone running in the Kentucky Derby.”
This workout opened eyes in the predawn dark
In case you need further convincing, O Besos provided that Thursday morning in his final pre-Derby workout. Starting at the three-eighths pole in the Louisville pre-dawn gloaming, O Besos reeled off a 48.14-second half-mile. Then, true to closing form, he kicked into another gear, going 59.7 for five furlongs and 1:12.59 for six on his gallop-out.
“We’re really pleased with how the overall work went and how strong he galloped out,” trainer Greg Foley told Churchill Downs’ Kevin Kerstein. “Our horse has shown improvement in every start so far. We think leading up to the Derby, he’s going to keep showing that improvement and run a big effort. He’ll be ready to make a run at the field at the top of the stretch.”
This solid effort illustrated his comfort with Churchill Downs and your comfort including him on your exotics. Especially if he goes off anywhere around – or north of — 25/1.