With five victories, the name “Bob Baffert” is synonymous with Kentucky Derby success. Accordingly, the Hall-of-Fame trainer rarely has a Charlatan in his endless barn of 3-year-old Derby hopefuls. Until now.

Kentucky Derby hopeful Charlatan breaking his maiden at Santa Anita.
By winning his first race in spectacular fashion, Charlatan drew comparisons to former Bob Baffert trainee, Justify. Can he live up to those comparisons? (Image: Ernie Belmonte)

Say hello to Charlatan, the newest top-10 member on the Kentucky Derby Futures Odds board. In his racing debut, the 3-year-old romped to a 5 ¾-length victory in a six-furlong maiden special weight race at Santa Anita last week that came with a sizzling 105 Beyer Speed Figure.

“We knew he was a really fast horse. His gate works were very impressive,” Baffert said. “He worked 1:12.2 from the gate with an older horse and that tipped them off, but I thought he still might need one (race). He still looks a little soft and until they run, you don’t know. But he was pretty impressive.”

Charlatan’s victory also came with future odds at 16/1 to win the May 2 Derby, which has him sixth on the current Bovada Derby futures board.

Betting on Baffert

Why so lofty after one maiden-breaking race? Well, oddsmakers have long memories. Long memories that go back exactly two years, when another Baffert colt popped up out of nowhere in a February allowance race to break his maiden.

Four days before that race, and acting on an insider trip from the proverbial friend of a friend, one savvy bettor put $500 down at the Wynn in Las Vegas on that colt to win the Kentucky Derby. He negotiated the 300/1 odds with former Wynn Sportsbook chief Johnny Avello.

The horse’s name? Justify. The winning bet? $150,000. The lesson? No Baffert Derby hopeful, no matter how lightly run or hardly known, is a charlatan. Unless, in this case, he IS Charlatan.

A son of 2004 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner and Eclipse champion Speightstown, Charlatan’s next race is up in the air. In the meantime, he joins a murderer’s row of Baffert Derby contenders that includes San Vicente Stakes (G2) winner Nadal, multiple graded stakes winner Thousand Words, Sham Stakes (G3) winner Authentic, American Pharoah Stakes (G1) winner Eight Rings and Azul Coast, who won last Saturday’s El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.

“I’ve got to figure out where I’m going to run them. Everyone keeps asking me about it every day, ‘What are you going to do?’” Baffert said. “I know what I’m going to do, but only I know. Things change and I don’t want to jinx them.”

Future Odds To Win the 2020 Kentucky Derby

    1. Nadal (10/1) Tiz the Law (10/1)
    1. Dennis’ Moment (12/1)
    2. Authentic (14/1), Thousand Words (14/1)
    1. Charlatan (16/1), Maxfield (16/1)
    1. Honor A.P. (20/1), Independence Hall (20/1), Mr. Monomoy (20/1)
    1. Sole Volante (22/1)
    2. Eight Rings (25/1), Enforceable (25/1)

Source: Bovada Feb. 19

Nadal still holds down the top spot at 10/1, sharing it with Tiz the Law. The other noteworthy movement involves Risen Star winner Mr. Monomoy, who captured the tougher first division of the two-division race last week at Fair Grounds in Louisiana. His nearly gate-to-wire finish fended off challenges from stalkers like Blackberry Wine to closers like Lecomte Stakes winner Enforceable, who finished second.

Along with his 50 Derby Qualifying Points, which virtually ensures his spot in the Churchill Downs gate, Mr. Monomoy improved to 16/1 on Bovada. The oddsmakers aren’t nearly as bullish on Modernist, who captured the Risen Star second division with a slower Beyer Speed Figure (84, vs. 92 for Mr. Monomoy over the same distance). He sits at 33/1.

Azul Coast sits at 40/1 after his El Camino Real Derby win against a weak field. His Beyer figure (74) indicates he’s not in the class of his Baffert barn brethren.

Silver Prospector a Better Bet?

The oddsmakers like Silver Prospector better. He won the third of last week’s prep races, the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, for his second stakes victory and the 10 Derby points that go with it. Silver Prospector, who already beat Tiz the Law at last fall’s Kentucky Jockey Club, is 28/1.

This week is a dark week for Derby prep races in the United States, although Saturday’s Hyacinth at Tokyo Racecourse offers points on a 30-12-6-3 basis for the top four finishers. The prep races resume in the States next week with the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.