Alright, so Todd Pletcher is pulling a Nick Zito with his mega-barn--saddling five starters in Saturday's Run for the Roses, as Zito did two years ago. But the magic number for many in this edition's Derby field seems to be two, as many of the connections seek to double their pleasure.
As far as the trainers go, three first-time Derby (gr. I) trainers will each send two horses postward shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday. California-based Doug O'Neill, who would have had three shots at the roses had he not withdrawn Cobalt Blue earlier in the week, will be rooting for either Liquidity or Great Hunter to get the job done.
O'Neill has the right scenario with these two runners, whose styles complement one another. Liquidity will be on or near the lead in the early stages of the race, while Great Hunter does his best running from off the pace.
O'Neill, who has been dominant in Southern California over the past few years, will try to take his show national. Remember, he won the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Churchill Downs last year with Thor's Echo.
Another first-time Derby conditioner is Darrin Miller, who burst on the scene when Dominican scored an upset victory in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland three weeks ago. Miller, a former Quarter Horse rider in the Midwest, will also have Sedgefield in the race. With Sedgefield starting from the rail and Dominican from the 19-post, Miller will at least have most of the field surrounded early.
Brooklyn native Bill Kaplan, now based in Florida, also wound up with a pair of runners in the race. His Imawildandcrazyguy drew into the field with the late defection of Xchanger. Imawildandcrazyguy, who will start from post five, will find his stablemate, Storm in May, right next door to him in the fourth stall.
Derby veteran Steve Asmussen went in a similar direction--his two starters will also be able to compare notes in the starting gate. Morning-line favorite Curlin, the only undefeated horse in the race, will start next to Zanjero in posts two and three, respectively.
Thus, of the 20 horses in the race, only seven will race without stablemates. Some of the owners of horses in the Derby will be doubling up as well, as four of them have two chances to take home the coveted Derby victory.
Tommy and Bonnie Hamilton's Silverton Hill Farm, located in tiny Springfield, Ky., owns the two Miller trainees--Sedgefield and Dominican.
Michael Tabor, who won the 1995 edition of the Kentucky Derby with Thunder Gulch, this year has Circular Quay in the race, co-owned by his wife, Doreen. Tabor is also partnered with James Scatuorchio on Scat Daddy. Both are trained by Pletcher.
Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm will have two rooting interests. Cowtown Cat looks like a live longshot in the event. And WinStar co-owns Any Given Saturday with Maverick Racing & Padua Stables.
J. Paul Reddam, who co-owned sixth-place finisher Wilko in 2005, pays the bills for both of the O'Neill trainees--Great Hunter and Liquidity. Reddam, a former philosophy and logics professor, said Thursday that owning two of the 20 horses gives him a 10% chance of winning the race. "Of course," he quickly added, "that means I have a 90% chance of not winning."
Speaking of 'twos,' Set Them Free, the dam of Tiago, seeks to become the first broodmare to sire two Derby winners. Her Holy Bull colt Giacomo won the race in 2005, and Tiago's connections, owners Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs, will seek to repeat that happy day and win the Derby for, what else, the second time.