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3 Kentucky Derby Contenders to Watch In 2018

With 20 equipped horses attending the run for the roses this year, it is bound to be an intriguing race full of hope, uncertainty, and money. Lots and lots of MONEY.

While the elite don their hats and derby-best, we have our eye on this year's hottest Kentucky Derby contenders. Regardless of whether you're an amateur bettor who entered the office pool or a high-stakes gambler with something to prove, it's bound to be an exciting race. So grab your pearls, you're in for ride with these 2018 Kentucky Derby contenders.

What is the Kentucky Derby? -- "The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports"

Held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, the Kentucky Derby is a Grade 1 stakes race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses. Brimming with beauty, the field is limited to twenty Kentucky Derby contenders who have earned the right to run in this renowned race. They qualify based on points earned in the 2018 Road to the Kentucky Derby -- which in itself, is a series of designated races established in 2013 to authorize the horses for their main conquest.

This legendary race began in 1875, making this year the 144th annual competition for The Run of the Roses. It is held on every first Saturday of May (this year May 5th) and will be presented by Woodford Reserve. At a distance of 1¼ miles, the event occurs at Churchill Downs racetrack -- just as it always has since its inauguration in the 1870’s.

If you are wondering why it's called the Run for the Roses, the name speaks to the prize. Among all the Kentucky Derby contenders, the winner receives a very special and beautiful prize -- a gorgeous blanket of 564 red roses. Along with this prize, the winner also receives the $2 million purse. Don't forget the most important prize though -- the title of the Kentucky Derby winner!

Wagering On This Year's Kentucky Derby Contenders

As many as 150,000 people pack into Churchill Downs to watch this famous race, yet even more bet on it. Last year, gamblers wagered $209.2 million for the entire 14-race card, surpassing the previous record of $192.6 million. Thereby, we can only imagine that this year's amount will follow suit and exceed last year as well.

With that being said, spectators constantly assess all Kentucky Derby contenders trying to decide on which ones to bet. Although you can never know the destined winner ahead of time, there are always fan favorites ahead of the pack. Even still, with 20 picks up in the air, it truly is anyone’s game. To check out the latest odds, click on one of the buttons above.

When and Where to Watch the Kentucky Derby Contenders

If you want to be one of the millions watching these ravenous Kentucky Derby contenders, here are the details. To start, NBC will be the channel broadcasting everything Kentucky Derby 2018 related. Alongside the main race, NBC Sports Network will also be covering all pre-race coverage. Here is the line-up on channels, dates and times so you can stay in the loop during this years' Derby:

April 30th - Oaks Post Position Draw: Live on Kentucky Derby Facebook & Twitter, 11 a.m ET

May 1st - Derby Post Position Draw: Live on Kentucky Derby Facebook & Twitter, 11 a.m ET

May 3rd - Derby Access: NBC Sports Network, 4-6:30 p.m ET

May 4th - Kentucky Oaks Undercard: NBC Sports Network,12-3 p.m ET 

May 4th - The Kentucky Oaks 144: NBC Sports Network, 5-6:30 p.m ET

May 5th - The Kentucky Derby Undercard: NBC Sports Network, 12-2:30 p.m ET

May 5th -The Kentucky Derby 144: NBC, 2:30-7:30 p.m ET 

Our Favorite Kentucky Derby Contenders

To give you some insight on a few of the Kentucky Derby contenders, we have put together a list of our favorite 3. Take a look below and see if they match with any of yours! 

1. Justify


Points: 100 

Qualifying Rank: #9

Record: 3-0-0 in three starts

Last win: Santa Anita Derby - G1

Pedigree: Scat Daddy - Stage Magic by Ghostzapper 

Jockey: Mike Smith

Trainer: Bob Baffert (led American Pharoah to a Triple Crown victory in 2015) 

Owner: WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing 

Justify is an early favorite who has made three starts, winning each time with a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure. During the Derby, he will have to defeat the “Curse of Apollo” --  aptly named for a curse affecting the race: no horse has won the Kentucky Derby after not racing as a two-year-old since Apollo in 1882. Let’s hope Justify will put that mystical curse to rest this Saturday!

2. Magnum Moon


Points: 150 

Qualifying Rank: #1

Record: 4-0-0 in four starts

Last win: Arkansas Derby - G1

Pedigree: Malibu Moon - Dazzling Song by Unbridled’s Song

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher (won the Derby 2 times, last year with Always Dreaming)

Owner: Robert E. Low, Lawana L. Low

Magnum Moon is a force to be reckoned with. He won all four of his races this year and ranked number two on the NTRA top three-year-old poll of April 16th after winning the Arkansas Derby. Like Justify, he also did not race as a two-year-old. So this year, he will be squaring off head to head with superstition and his fellow Kentucky Derby contenders. We’re thinking he has a chance!

3. Mendelssohn


Points: 100 

Qualifying Rank: #8

Record: 4-1-0 in seven starts

Last win: UAE Derby - G2  

Pedigree: Scat Daddy - Leslie’s Lady by Tricky Creek

Jockey: Ryan Moore

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien (holds most victories at the Breeders’ Cup Turf)   

Owner: Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Sue Magnier

Purchased for a massive $3 million, Mendelssohn isn't one to mess with on the track. Though he doesn’t face the Apollo curse like the others on this list, he does have some history to buck. The last 36 Derby starters that raced outside the U.S before running the Derby failed to win. Well, we’re saying throw history to the wind -- the future is now!

These are our favorites. But don't forget, there are 20 steeds overall who have earned their right to be apart of this magical, fabled event.

It is an affair swarming with unpredictability, wonder, and excitement --  nothing is set in stone. However, with the purse set at $2 million this year, you can bet your sweet behind that every owner, trainer, and jockey is itching to fetch the winning title for themselves.

Who do you think will conquer this distinguished race? Did you bet on any of these 3 horses? What about any others?

Tell us in the comments below and share with family and friends who love the thrill of the race as much as you do!  

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