Favorites aren't always a sure thing at the Kentucky Derby.
As the two most exciting minutes in sports, the Derby affords the entire 20-horse field a 1-in-20 chance to both take home the Run for the Roses and take a first step toward the Triple Crown.
While sleepers and dark-horse competitors are always fun to talk about when it comes to the first Saturday in May, the 2013 Kentucky Derby is setting up to be all about the horses in the top half of the draw.
Things could certainly change when post positions are announced later on Wednesday, but we have a pretty firm grasp on which horses have the pedigree, the experience and the talent to capture the Churchill Downs sprint and bring home the first jewel in the Triple Crown.
Take a look at three horses poised to do so below.
Complete 2013 Kentucky Derby Field
|Verrazano||Todd Pletcher||John R. Velazquez||6-1|
|Orb||Claude R. McGaughey III||Joel Rosario||5-1|
|Goldencents||Doug O'Neill||Kevin Krigger||8-1|
|Java's War||Kenny McPeek||Julien Leparoux||15-1|
|Revolutionary||Todd Pletcher||Calvin Borel||8-1|
|Overanalyze||Todd Pletcher||Rafael Bejarano||15-1|
|Lines of Battle||Aidan O'Brien||Ryan Moore ||30-1|
|Vyjack||Rudy Rodriguez||Garrett Gomez||15-1|
|Will Take Charge||D. Wayne Lukas||Jon Court||20-1|
|Itsmyluckyday||Eddie Plesa, Jr.||Elvis Trujillo||12-1|
|Black Onyx||Kelly Breen||Joe Bravo||50-1|
|Palace Malice||Todd Pletcher||Mike Smith||20-1|
|Normandy Invasion||Chad Brown||Javier Castellano||10-1|
|Frac Daddy||Kenny McPeek||Victor Lebron||30-1|
|Mylute||Tom Amoss||Rosie Napravnik||30-1|
|Oxbow||D. Wayne Lukas||Gary Stevens||30-1|
|Falling Sky||John Terranova II||Luis Saez||50-1|
|Charming Kitten||Todd Pletcher||Edgar Prado ||30-1|
|Golden Soul||Dallas Stewart||Robby Albarado||n/a|
|Giant Finish ||Anthony W. Dutrow ||Jose L. Espinoza ||n/a|
*Current odds courtesy of DRF.com.
Horses Ready to Take Step Toward Triple Crown
One of five Todd Pletcher horses to be registered for the Derby, Revolutionary is peaking at the right time. His odds are staying steady in the contender range (currently 8-1), and he has one of the most storied jockeys in Derby history as his saddle mate.
That man is Calvin Borel, the three-time Derby winner looking to cement himself in Kentucky Derby lore with his fourth career victory at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
He isn't the most storied horse on the Pletcher roster (Verrazano holds that place right now), but he has won two straight races (Louisiana Derby and Withers) and will have a noted Derby contender on his back at post time on Saturday.
Maybe the most impressive aspect of Revolutionary's current run is his performance at the Louisiana Derby, where he came back from 12 lengths out and had to make two wide turns on the outside just to be in contention down the back stretch.
Revolutionary also has some noted horses in his lineage, including sire War Pass, Cherokee Run and Blushing Groom, while his mother's side produces a lineage that includes A.P. Indy and Secretariat—the 1973 Triple Crown winner.
He has the pedigree and experience to take home this title on Saturday, even if he draws a poor post position later on in the day.
It took Orb a little prodding to get going, but he's in position to be the front-runner when post positions are released on Wednesday.
Three races into his career, Orb didn't look like a champion. He finished third, fourth and fourth in three races last year before finally cracking through in late November, when Joel Rosario rode him to a win that now has Orb firmly entrenched in the contender conversation.
The son of noted breeding star Malibu Moon (h/t Kentucky.com), Orb hasn't lost in his last four races and has knocked off both Revolutionary and Itsmyluckyday in the process—most recently during his championship ride at the Florida Derby.
While sire Malibu Moon is a big plus to his pedigree, Orb also has Secretariat in his lineage, and Rosario will be back in the saddle on Saturday after a two-race stint with John Velazquez. Velazquez will be riding fellow favorite Verrazano.
As the week goes on, Orb continues to impress the observers at the track. As profiled by Alex Brown in his Kentucky Derby blog for the New York Times, Orb has impressed viewers like Mike Welsch, a senior writer for the Daily Racing Forum.
Welsch has been impressed by only a few horses over the past 13 years, three of which Brown went into detail about in his blog:
In the 13 years Welsch has observed the final workouts of Derby contenders, three horses stood out: Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, Barbaro in 2006 and Street Sense in 2007. All three went on to win.
What made these workouts special was how, like Orb, the horses moved easily across the ground and galloped out strongly, with no urging from their riders. Barbaro was breathing fire coming around the turn, after running a half-mile in slightly more than 46 seconds.
Things are coming together for trainer Claude R. McGaughey III's only chance to win in the Derby this year. Orb certainly has impressed the right people this week in Kentucky, and his pre-race legend will only grow if he draws a top post position (1-5) on Wednesday.
Winless in his last three starts, there are many that feel Normandy Invasion is ready to take the next step in the Derby, especially if he can get a favorable post position.
He will look to become the first winner of the Derby with only one career win since 1987 (Alysheba).
While the odds are stacked against his career resume, no one can deny his place as one of the smoothest, most aggressive horses currently vying for the Derby crown. J.J. Hysell loved the way he looked on the track on Wednesday:
J.J. Hysell @trifectabox
Normandy Invasion looked outstanding today. #KyDerby2013-5-1 13:08:14
He finished second in the Wood Memorial (G1) in early April and has a quality pedigree that includes Tapit and He's Had Enough.
The buzz around this horse will continue to pick up as the week goes on, and it will reach its peak when post positions are announced on Wednesday afternoon. While a sleeper right now, this horse could be a middle-of-the-pack favorite by post time on Saturday.
After that, it's up to the field to give us a winner.
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