ShareThis Page
Nation, World Sports

This Kentucky Derby has lots of lightly raced colts, lots of possibilities

| Friday, May 4, 2018, 6:33 p.m.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Todd Pletcher is throwing numbers at the Kentucky Derby again. Bob Baffert is seeking a fifth victory, and he's got the favorite. An old jinx could be disproved, and history would be written if Mendelssohn wears the garland of red roses.

The 20-horse field for Saturday's 144th Run for the Roses includes a handful of top contenders who have been consistent this spring.

Justify was the 7-2 favorite in early wagering Friday. Trained by Baffert, the Southern California colt, however, is green, with just three starts.

“We have a good enough horse that can win it, but it's a very competitive race,” Baffert said. “You're going to have to have some luck.”

Justify is undefeated, and Magnum Moon is 4-0, neither having run as a 2-year-old. They'll be trying to upend a so-called curse: No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won without racing as a juvenile.

Arkansas Derby winner Magnum Moon is one of four horses to be saddled by Todd Pletcher, who won last year's Derby with Always Dreaming.

Pletcher's Audible was the co-third choice at 6-1 with Mendelssohn on Friday. Along with Magnum Moon, Vino Rosso and Noble Indy were double-digit longshots for the trainer, who is tied with mentor D. Wayne Lukas for the most Derby starters with 48.

Mendelssohn has the least amount of time on the Churchill Downs dirt than any horse in the field. The Ireland-based colt made his first appearance Thursday — drawing attention with his screeching — after spending the first part of the week in quarantine for Aidan O'Brien. The trainer is 0 for 5 at the Derby, the biggest victory to elude him.

Mendelssohn was an 18 12 -length winner of the UAE Derby. His regal bloodlines and $3 million price tag suggest he would be a worthy champion, but no Europe-based horse has won the Derby.

My Boy Jack moved up to the 5-1 second choice in early wagering Friday. The closer is trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by Kent Desormeaux, a three-time Derby winner and Keith's brother.

Despite Good Magic's top-notch credentials, he was relegated to the 7-1 fifth choice Friday. He won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and claimed an Eclipse Award as last year's 2-year-old champion. The colt won the Blue Grass last month, one of six victories at six tracks.

Getting the ideal trip in the Derby is critical, especially with the traffic from 20 horses making a chaotic charge into the first turn. Jockeys want to avoid anything that would prevent their horse from getting into rhythm, like being bumped, cut off or blocked.

“There's so many horses in the field that seem like they have good chances to win the race with a clean trip,” said Chad Brown, who trains Good Magic. “I feel like we have one of them.”

High school dropout Mick Ruis will try to become just the third owner-trainer to win. He has Bolt d'Oro, the colt named in part for Olympic champion sprinter Usain Bolt. Bolt d'Oro finished second to Justify in the Santa Anita Derby.

“This is the best we've had him,” Ruis said.

Besides Baffert, four other Hall of Fame trainers are in the race: Steve Asmussen (Combatant), Jerry Hollendorfer (Instilled Regard), Lukas (Bravazo) and Bill Mott (Hofburg). Baffert and Lukas are tied for the second most wins with four each. None of the others has won a Derby.

Hofburg is Mott's first Kentucky Derby runner in nine years.

Hofburg has just three career starts, including a runner-up finish in the Florida Derby.

Mendelssohn will try to become the first European-based horse to win the Kentucky Derb on Saturday.
Mendelssohn will try to become the first European-based horse to win the Kentucky Derb on Saturday.
Justify trains on the track during morning workouts in preparation for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Getty Images
Justify trains on the track during morning workouts in preparation for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Kentucky Derby hopeful Magnum Moon trains at Churchill Downs Monday, April 30, 2018, in Louisville, Ky. The 144th running of the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday, May 5.
Kentucky Derby hopeful Magnum Moon trains at Churchill Downs Monday, April 30, 2018, in Louisville, Ky. The 144th running of the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday, May 5.
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me