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Kentucky Derby 2018 predictions: Justify leads a crowded field at Churchill Downs

Horse Racing: Kentucky Derby-Workouts Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The 144th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday features a wide-open field with several horses in contention at Churchill Downs.

Justify comes in as the favorite at 7-2 odds, trying to win a fifth Kentucky Derby for trainer Bob Baffert. Justify, who is ridden by jockey Mike Smith, who rode Giacomo to the winners circle at Churchill Downs in 2015.

“This year there’s a lot of really good horses, and there’s also good story lines. Justify has looked like he could be any kind of horse, but yet he’s only run three times,” said NBC Sports analyst Randy Moss. “It’s been a century and a quarter since a horse won the Kentucky Derby that didn’t run at all as a two year old, so he’s got a lot of history to buck.”

Among the 17 pickers at Horse Racing Nation, seven tabbed Justify to win but six other horses were tabbed to win, including three picks for Vino Rosso, who has 17-1 odds to win.

Michael Cox at The Derby Handicapper split his picks into two scenarios based on weather. He likes Justify or My Boy Jack on a wet track, but if things are dry at Churchill Downs he likes Magnum Moon to finish on top.

At the New York Times, Joe Drape picked Bolt d’Oro to win while Melissa Hoppert selected Good Magic, and each picked three different horses to win, place and show.

Mendelssohn and My By Jack both have 5-1 odds, deemed the main challengers to Justify by the oddsmakers.

“This will be, I think I was counting, Derby No. 33 for me in attendance,” said Hall of Fame jockey and NBC analyst Jerry Bailey. “I was looking over the field, up until yesterday, it dawned on me that I think this is the best top-to-bottom Kentucky Derby field that I have ever seen.”

NBC’s coverage begins on Saturday with the undercard from noon to 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by five hours of coverage from 2:30-7:30 p.m. on NBCSN. Post time for the Kentucky Derby is 6:46 p.m. ET. Online streaming is available through NBC Sports Live Extra.