Equine stars collide on horse racing’s biggest stage over 1 1/4-miles in the 138th running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby (Grade I) presented by Yum! Brands with 12 of the 21 3-year-olds entered coming in off a win or runner-up effort in their last start.
The greatest two minutes in sports can be seen live on NBC this Saturday at 6:24 p.m. ET / 3:24 PT as part of a 3-hour telecast that begins at 4 p.m. ET / 1 PT and you can catch all of America’s Best Racing through the Triple Crown and leading up to the Breeders’ Cup at www.followhorseracing.com.
Bodemeister is the 4-1 morning-line favorite for 3-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert and drew post No. 6 off the most impressive win in a prep race when he romped home by nearly ten lengths in the Arkansas Derby (Grade I). Last week, owner Ahmed Zayat sold a 40% share in the lightly-raced son of Empire Maker to Mike Moreno’s Southern Equine Stable for a sum well into seven figures.
“I’m looking for something middle to outside. Once you get your post you just have to deal with it,” said Baffert before the draw with Bodemeister trying to become the first horse in 130 years to win the Derby after being unraced as a 2-year-old. “Ideally, you want to be outside the other speed, but whoever’s inside will set the tempo.”
With four wins from six starts by a combined 18 ¼-lengths, Union Rags drew post No. 4 and was made the 9-2 second choice despite entering off a third-place finish in the Florida Derby (Grade I). Trained by Michael Matz, who won the Derby in 2006 with Barbaro, the son of Dixie Union was stuck inside horses throughout the Florida Derby after being hung wide in his only other defeat when second best to Hansen in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I) here at Churchill Downs.
"Our post looks like it's ok. We just have to come away running from the gate a little bit and Julien (Leparoux) has to have a nice position," said Matz.
Hansen was honored as champion 2-year-old for 2011 after making every pole a winning one in the Juvenile to cap a perfect campaign, but he’s had to settle for a pair of runner-up finishes this year. The sparkling white son of Tapit trained by Michael Maker will break from post No. 14 at 10-1 after getting run down on the lead in both the Blue Grass Stakes (Grade I) and Holy Bull Stakes (Grade III). His only win of 2012 came in the Gotham Stakes (Grade III), where he raced from just off the pace for the only time in his career.
"I was wanting 14 or 15 from the start so we could stay outside and keep our eye on Trinniberg and Bodemiester," said Hansen's owner Dr. Kendall Hansen, who had attempted to paint Hansen's mane and tail blue and yellow in previous races. "We're going to calm it down and let the horse do the talking, but we're going to party really hard afterwards."
The one doing the running from well off the pace past Hansen in the Blue Grass was Dullahan, who drew a loud applause from those in attendance after drawing post No. 5 for Dale Romans and was made 8-1 with both of his career wins coming in similar fashion in Grade I’s over Keeneland’s Polytrack. However, the son of Even the Score has been well-beaten in all three tries over the main track at Churchill Downs including a fourth-place finish beaten six lengths in the Juvenile.
Another pair of Grade I events send their one/two finishers to the big dance, with the undefeated Gemologist (post No. 15 at 6-1) and Alpha (post No. 11 at 15-1) shipping west from New York after the Wood Memorial, and I’ll Have Another (post No. 19) and Creative Cause (post No. 8) traveling from the West as 12-1 shots after hitting the wire noses apart in the Santa Anita Derby.
Daddy Long Legs ships across the Atlantic for the second time and will break from the dreaded post No. 1 in his second try on dirt after beating just one runner in the Juvenile. The son of Scat Daddy trained by Aidan O’Brien was made 30-1 off a win in his only start of 2012 in the $2 million UAE Derby (Group 2) in Dubai.
Beginning at 4 p.m. ET / 1 PT, NBC Sports Network provides two hours of coverage on both Thursday and Friday, which includes the live running of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) for 3-year-old fillies on Friday at 5:45 ET / 2:45 PT. Additionally, they will air five hours of coverage on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. ET / 8 PT.
Below is the complete field for Saturday's Kentucky Derby, including post position, morning line and a brief comment.
PP Horse (Morning Line Odds) Comment
1. Daddy Long Legs (30-1) Hard to overlook flop in Juvenile over this strip.
2. Optimizer (50-1) Triumph in potential swan song for “The Coach” unlikely.
3. Take Charge Indy (15-1) Borel factor cannot be taken lightly aboard Florida Derby winner.
4. Union Rags (9-2) Might need 20-horse field to get good trip.
5. Dullahan (8-1) Tries to make it consecutive “turf/synth” horses from off the pace.
6. Bodemeister (4-1) Massive price tag for Derby dream.
7. Rousing Sermon (50-1) California-bred can pick up some pieces late.
8. Creative Cause (12-1) Big grey needs to put mind on serious running through stretch.
9. Trinniberg (50-1) Winner if finish line was on other side of the track.
10. Daddy Nose Best (15-1) Consistent improvement accentuated by perfect pair as 3-year-old.
11. Alpha (15-1) Rajiv gets the nod over Rosie in the irons.
12. Prospective (30-1) 4-time winner proved out-classed in Juvenile.
13. Went the Day Well (20-1) Déjà vu all over again for Animal Kingdom connections?
14. Hansen (10-1) Repeat of stalking effort in Gotham is key to victory.
15. Gemologist (6-1) Luster of perfection is enticing.
16. El Padrino (20-1) Bejarano seeks back door score with 8th Derby mount on “other” Pletcher.
17. Done Talking (50-1) Nobody’s talking like long shot winner of Ill. Derby has a chance.
18. Sabercat (30-1) Not sold on path of success through Monmouth and Delta.
19. I’ll Have Another (12-1) Barn struggles with shippers. Keeps faith in inexperienced jock.
20. Liaison (50-1) Needs major reversal back to 2-year-old form.
AE. My Adonis (50-1) Waits until Friday to find out if in or out.
Marc Doche is a Contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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