Months of Kentucky Derby analysis were blown up Wednesday when the connections of Omaha Beach, the likely favorite, revealed he would have to be scratched. This put the horse I've liked all along, Roadster, in an even stronger position. It also gives Bob Baffert three of the top four or five betting favorites and increases the chances of Bill Mott, one of the great trainers and people in the sport, to win America's biggest race with Tacitus.

I feel the pain of Omaha Beach's connections. Not nearly to the extent they do. Not even remotely close. Let's be serious.

However the shocking need to scratch the Kentucky Derby favorite has caused me a bit of grief. I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm just trying to explain why this column isn't the well constructed l piece I originally wrote.

I had already turned in a column focused around Mike Smith picking Omaha Beach over Roadster and how it was being over-analyzed. My headline was "Derby is a Rider's Race but it's the horse who Wins It." I stand by that but it doesn't have the relevance it would have.

So a lot of what I tried to turn into florid prose now is on the cutting room floor.

Like most handicappers, I’ve considered many variables in coming up with my Derby selection. Smith’s decision was not one of them. I settled on Roadster after his awesome Santa Anita Derby. Only an exceptional horse can spot a champion like Game Winner—my third choice—a half-dozen lengths then run him down.

The withdrawal of Omaha Beach makes me feel even stronger. I’ve mentioned before that the Derby is a win-only race for me, with extensions to Pick 3’s and Pick 4’s. I’ll be keying Roadster with a saver on Game Winner on my main tickets and if I go through the earlier races successfully—Bricks and Mortar is a key single for me—I’ll also have Tacitus and Vekoma on some smaller tickets. But if I’m not alive in any horizontal pools, I’m all in on Roadster in the Derby.

Since I know many of you will be plunging deep into vertical gimmicks, here’s the way I see the race, 1 through 20.

Roadster—This is the colt Baffert called potentially his next Justify. A breathing problem got Roadster beat in the Del Mar Derby but since it was corrected, he’s been dynamite. The scratch also moves him in a gate and renders meaningless the coincidental fact that post 17 has never produced a Derby winner. Multiple winners have started from posts 15, 16, 18, 19 or 20, including seven since the year 2000.

Game Winner—The juvenile champion is less than a length away from being 6-for-6. Both second-place finishes this season can be chalked up to wide trips in which he lost more ground than he was beaten. He was four wide around the first turn in the Santa Anita Derby in a six-horse field. Where does he go from this post in a 20-horse field? If he works out a trip, look out.

Tacitus—Adversity often strikes in the Derby’s huge field. Bill Mott’s main hope to win his first Derby demonstrated in the Wood Memorial that he can handle trouble, gather himself and run big. This is a nice trait to have on the first Saturday in May. He’s also undefeated as a 3YO just as the last seven winners have been.

Vekoma-- Crazy 20-1 morning line. He’s 3-for-4 lifetime and had reasonable excuses in his lone loss. He beat Win Win Win by more than 3 in the Blue Grass and WWW is 15-1. Explanation, please.

Improbable—A couple of close defeats in Arkansas have knocked the wheels off his bandwagon, which was rolling in high gear going into this season. His City Zip blood might be catching up to him.

Code of Honor—Hate to rate a Shug McGaughey contender this low but the stark facts are this colt has won only one of four starts since breaking his maiden at the Spa. His Mucho Macho Man was a bomb against ordinary rivals and he never threatened in the Florida Derby. Not sure even his best will be good enough.

Win Win Win—The race that put him on the map was a seven-furlong track record at Tampa Bay Downs. He did rally over a speed favoring track in the Blue Grass but he never really got close to the winner.

War of Will—Big workouts had his stock rising again after a debacle in the Louisiana Derby. Then he drew the rail. This shouldn’t happen to a legitimate contender. The No. 1 slot is such an impossible death shot, it should automatically go to the horse with fewest qualifying points.

Maximum Security—Undefeated in four starts—the first in a $16K claimer—winning by about 40 lengths.Is it the horse or Jason Servis magic? He won’t have the rocking horse trip on the lead he had in the Florida Derby.

Tax—The two hole is only slightly better than the 1 but at least you’re not looking at the inside rail coming out. Former claimer gave Tacitus a battle in the Wood and will be about three or four times the price.

By My Standards—Louisiana Derby winner is this year’s buzz horse. Quick history lesson: My Boy Jack filled this role last year. Incredibly he went off the second choice at 6-1 off a 20-1 morning line and wound up fifth.

Haikal—Everyone’s talking about how great it will be if Mandella or Mott get their first Derby. The feelings will be just as strong if Kiaran McLaughlin breaks his Derby maiden. Alas, deep, deep closers don’t often win the Derby.

Long Range Toddy—Caught a not fully cranked Improbable in the Rebel then got buried in the Arkansas Derby. If everything breaks right…nah, not even then.

Country House—The other Mott is a stone cold closer so the 20 post isn’t that disadvantageous. He could fill out a tri or super but can’t see him running past everybody.

Spinoff—The better of the Pletchers, which, in this instance isn’t saying a lot. Got caught late in the Louisiana Derby, which fell apart when War of Will misfired. From this far outside, he’ll have to gun early and there’s too much speed inside him for that to work.

Cutting Humor—Earned his spot via Sunland Derby, America’s version of the UAE Derby. He might go off the highest price of any horse Todd Pletcher has brought to Churchill Downs.

Plus Que Parfait—A Dubai backdoor qualifier. Doesn’t belong by any handicapping standards.

Gray Magician—One-for-eight colt doesn’t deserve a berth in the starting gate, which he got by way of Dubai.

Master Fencer—This is a crass attempt to get into the mammoth Japanese betting market. He couldn’t win his last two qualifiers in Japan against very modest company. The best that can be said of him is he has run 10 furlongs twice (albeit on grass).

Bodexpress--A maiden scratches in. Disgraceful. Hopefully this will be the catalyst for a "winners preferred" stipulation going forward.


Galloping out

I would take Bellafina over at least half the Derby field, and I wouldn’t toss her to win. If Churchill Downs can set aside a slot for a Japanese horse and a Euro, there should be one for a filly. Distaffers are effectively shut out by the points system. It would be great to ramp up interest among casual fans if the top filly took on the boys in the Derby—maybe the filly with the most Oaks points or a selection of a blue ribbon committee of horsemen and media.

Speaking of fillies, I would love to hear the justification for limiting the Oaks field to 14, a half-dozen fewer than the Run for the Roses. Isn’t this a tacit admission that 20 is too many? Pray we don’t learn this lesson the hard way, especially this year.

Also necessary is a downgrading of the UAE Derby. At best, it should be cut in half to a 50-20-10-5 race. The winner would still get into the Derby but finishing second wouldn’t guarantee a spot. It’s bad enough no-shot Plus Que Parfait snuck in through the Dubai back door. It’s an unacceptable travesty that Gray Magician also earned a spot by running second.