The top two morning-line favorites for the May 4 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) both drew fairly well in outside posts when post positions were selected May 1 at Churchill Downs.
The draw was conducted under normal "blind draw" conditions by Churchill Downs' Ben Huffman and Dan Bork. Twenty horses can start in the Derby and 21 passed the entry box. Fear the Kitten is the lone also-eligible colt on that list.
Orb , a homebred for Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable, is riding a four-race win streak and drew post 16 of 20. The "buzz horse" of the backstretch Derby week was installed the 7-2 morning line favorite by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia.
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, Orb has back-to-back wins in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) and Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park. He is a son of Malibu Moon —Lady Liberty, by Unbridled. The hot jockey Joel Rosario has the mount.
The unbeaten Verrazano will break from post 14 with John Velazquez aboard. The son of More Than Ready , owned by Let's Go Racing, Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith, comes into the Derby four-for-four with stakes wins in the March 9 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) and April 6 Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I).
"I was twirling a piece of Kleenex in my hand, especially when it was going to take that long," McGaughey said of the hour-long draw that was televised by NBC Sports. "I was hoping they'd draw us early there so we could just get up and leave, but they made us sit there for a little while. It's a lot of anticipation, maybe more than I remember, but I'm pleased with the 16 and I'll take it from there."
As for being the favorite, McGaughey said: "Well, I'm fine with that. I heard a little rumor this morning that Mike (Battaglia) was a little confused on who it was, but I think that just because of the way (Orb's) doing here...Verrazano, as we all know, is a very talented horse, and we'll see what the public does on Saturday, but I think he will probably still be the favorite.
"I think from where he is (post 16), we'll just kind of hold our position, maybe try to creep in a little bit going around the first turn, and then Joel (Rosario) can kind of watch what's going on down on the inside of him, and see what Johnny (Velazquez) is doing on Verazzano, because if Johnny thinks Orb is the horse to beat he's going to be watching what we're doing, too, and he's familiar with him. And as we all know, his agent was (Hall of Fame jockey Angel) Cordero (Jr.), and he could ride them all in the race."
McGaughey has his first Derby runner since Saarland ran 10th in 2002. McGaughey finished second and third to Sunday Silence with his odds-on entry of Easy Goer and Awe Inspiring in 1989. He's also saddled Seeking the Gold (7th, 1988), and Pine Circle (sixth) and Vanlandingham (16th) in 1984.
The early favorite heading into the week, Verrazano will is now the 4-1 second choice on the morning line. He is trained by Todd Pletcher.
Pletcher, with five entrants for the Run for the Roses, was happy with all of his posts, with four of them drawing from the nine-hole and further out. WinStar Farm's Revolutionary , who will be ridden by three-time Derby winner and recent Hall of Fame inductee Calvin Borel, will break from post 3.
"I'm happy with (post 3)," said Elliott Walden, president of WinStar Farm. "Considering what was left on the board, I'd say it's a pretty good spot."
Pletcher won the Derby in 2010 with Super Saver (post 4) with Borel aboard. Ten times Pletcher has saddled multiple entrants in the Run for the Roses and has had sent out a total of 31 runners. He had four runners in his first Derby in 2000; had three in 2005; five in 2007; three in 2009; and four in 2010.
"I'm happy with these spots," said Pletcher of his posts for Verrazano and Charming Kitten (15). "We have the main gate and the auxiliary gate between us and that gives us some space. It'll be good for the riders."
"Overall, from a saddling perspective, I like it. With four of my horses side by side, it will make it easier for me to get those saddles on. I do think we did really well with our posts. Under the old system, where we would have been selecting our own posts according to the draw, I think we would have wound up in just about the same spots we got today. There wouldn't have been much difference."
On Overanalyze (post 9) and Palice Malice (10), Pletcher said: "It's a good spot for the two of them,. They don't have to load early and stand from those spots, which is a good thing. Loading later can be an advantage."
Trainer Doug O'Neill, winner of last year's Derby with I'll Have Another , was happy with post 8 for his Goldencents . Goldencents is the 5-1 third choice on Battaglia's morning line.
"We talked about what post we wanted, and Goldencents has got such good speed leaving the gate that we didn't think it was that crucial where we drew," O'Neill said. "But if you're in the 1-, 2-, or 3-hole, you might have to sit in the gate a little longer than the others, so the eight hole is perfect.
"Falling Sky's outside, Verrazano's outside... it kind of goes back to the San Felipe (ran fourth in the March 9 stakes at Santa Anita), where we kind of over thought that race, so jockey Kevin (Krigger)'s just going to ride his race and wherever 23 and change and 47 and change puts us, that's where he'll be. I love it."
Goldencents, part of the first crop of Into Mischief , is owned by W. C. Racing, Dave Kenney, and University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino's R A P Racing. He has three stakes wins to his credit: the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (gr. III), Sham Stakes (gr. III), and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).
Calumet Farm's Oxbow and Willis D. Horton's Will Take Charge , both trained by D. Wayne Lukas, drew posts 2 and 17, respectively.
Lukas said Will Take Charge drew well, and as for Oxbow, "we'll see how it shuffles out. I'll leave it up to Gary (Stevens). The horse doesn't want to be fooled with, so we'll just let him do what he does best."
Oxbow (30-1) won the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, then was a close fourth in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II). Beaten a head by stablemate Will Take Charge in the March 16 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park, Oxbow came from far off the pace to run fifth in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I).
Will Take Charge has not started since the Rebel. A win May 4 would give him the distinction of winning the Derby off the longest layoff in the 139-year history of the race.
"Other than it was Eight Belles' number (post 5), I'm happy with it," said Normandy Invasion's owner Rick Porter, and owner of the ill-fated filly who ran second in the 2010 Derby. "I'm not going to be superstitious about that. With the numbers that were left, we were very happy with five. (Jockey Javier) Castellano wanted to be further inside than (trainer ) Chad (Brown). We were thinking eight, nine, 10, but Javier wanted to be further inside. I think he'll be happy with it. If he's happy, we're happy."
Ken McPeek, trainer of Magic City Thoroughbred Partners Frac Daddy , who drew post 18, and Charles Fipke's Java's War, who drew post 19 was non-plused with his outside post positions.
"It is what it is," he said.
The first 14 post positions are in the main starting gate. Horses 15-20 break from an auxiliary gate outside of the main gate.
Last year's winner, I'll Have Another, was the first in Derby history to come from post 19. Big Brown came from post 20 in 2008. The most winners, 12, have come from posts one and five, although the rail slot is considered the worst of the lot. The last horse to win from the wood was Ferdinand in 1986 with Bill Shoemaker aboard.
The rail went to Sterling Racing's Black Onyx, winner of the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (gr. III). Trainer Kelly Breen took the news in stride.
"Saturday we hope to make it the winningest post position in Kentucky Derby history," Breen said. "We know Oxbow isn't the best of breakers; it's not a bad horse to be next to. We're going to make the best of what we can. We're going to go back and look at all the different things, different scenarios, and we'll put all those different things in to (jockey) Joe's (Bravo) head and he's going to go out there and ride his race anyway."
Under a new point system to quantify the top 20 entrants for the Kentucky Derby, both Verrazano and Orb topped the system with 150 points while earning wins in two stakes on the Road to the Derby schedule. Giant Finish gets in as the 20th entrant with 10 points having finished third in the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (gr. III). Fear the Kitten, the lone-also eligible, has four points.
Speculation prior to the Triple Crown prep season was that it would take 20 points to make the field should more than 20 pre-enter.
The Derby is worth $2,199,800, with $1,439,800 going to the winner. The runner-up will receive $400,000. Third-place is worth $200,000; fourth place is worth $100,000; and fifth is $60,000.
Scratch time for the Derby is 9 a.m. May 3.
The Derby can be viewed on NBC during a telecast from 4-7 EDT.
|Kentucky Derby (gr. I)|
|1||Black Onyx||Joe Bravo||Kelly Breen||50-1|
|2||Oxbow||Gary Stevens||D. Wayne Lukas||30-1|
|3||Revolutionary||Calvin Borel||Todd Pletcher||10-1|
|4||Golden Soul||Robby Albarado||Dallas Stewart||50-1|
|5||Normandy Invasion||Javier Castellano||Chad Brown||12-1|
|6||Mylute||Rosie Napravnik||Tom Amoss||15-1|
|7||Giant Finish||Jose Espinosa||Anthony Dutrow||50-1|
|8||Goldencents||Kevin Krigger||Doug O'Neill||5-1|
|9||Overanalyze||Rafael Bejarano||Todd Pletcher||15-1|
|10||Palace Malice||Mike Smith||Todd Pletcher||20-1|
|11||Lines of Battle||Ryan Moore||Aidan O'Brien||30-1|
|12||Itsmyluckyday||Elvis Trujillo||Eddie Plesa, Jr.||15-1|
|13||Falling Sky||Luis Saez||John Terranova II||50-1|
|14||Verrazano||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||4-1|
|15||Charming Kitten||Edgar Prado||Todd Pletcher||20-1|
|16||Orb||Joel Rosario||Shug McGaughey||7-2|
|17||Will Take Charge||Jon Court||D. Wayne Lukas||20-1|
|18||Frac Daddy||Victor Lebron||Kenny McPeek||50-1|
|19||Java's War||Julien Leparoux||Kenny McPeek||15-1|
|20||Vyjack||Garrett Gomez||Rudy Rodriguez||15-1|
|AE||Fear the Kitten||Alan Garcia||Mike Maker|