Arkansas Derby (gr. II) winner Curlin was installed the moderate 7-2 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $2 million, 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) when post positions were drawn Wednesday.
Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia said it was a tossup between Curlin and 2006 champion Street Sense for favoritism. He said he went with Curlin because “he is undefeated we just don’t know how good this horse is.”
Curlin will start from post position 2 and Street Sense from post 7.
“Considering the 16th selection, the two hole was an excellent option for him," trainer Steve Asmussen. "He won the Arkansas Derby out of the two hole. I feel very confident.”
As for being the morning line favorite, Asmussen was unimpressed.
“The morning line is free and everything on the racetrack that is free isn’t worth anything.”
Robby Albarado will ride Curlin.
Street Sense, who is seeking to become the first Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner to win the Derby, was made the 4-1 second choice. Trainer Carl Nafzger won the Derby in 1990 with Unbridled.
"I was hoping to be 20-1 like Unbridled," Nafzger said. "I don't care what the morning line is. I'd just like to be No. 1 to the wire."
No Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner in 23 years has gone on to win the Derby; no 2-year-old champion has won since Spectacular Bid in 1979. Those stats don't deter Nafzger.
"He's been training really good," he said. "We're ready to run. We don't have any excuses. We drew a nice post position and we've got a good selection. We've just got to go out there and see if we can win."
If Nafzger and jockey Calvin Borel are counting on an old winning number to bring them some luck this year, Curlin has a digit on his side, too: No. 2. The imposing chestnut colt gets the nod from that post for Saturday's race, starting in the same spot Affirmed did on his way to winning the Triple Crown in 1978 -- the last horse to do so.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will try to end his 0-for-14 skid in the Derby with a record-tying five entries: Any Given Saturday, Circular Quay, Cowtown Cat, Sam P. and Scat Daddy.
"It's a very difficult race to win," he said. "We feel like we got our horses prepared well. Now we need some of the other things to go right."
Circular Quay was made the 8-1 co-third choice, along with Nobiz Like Shobiz, trained by Barclay Tagg, who won in 2003 with Funny Cide. Circular Quay, coming off an eight-week layoff, will start in the No. 16 post.
"He's a horse that's probably going to fall a little back in the race," Pletcher said. "It's nice we're placed right outside Tiago because he's got a similar racing style."
Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Scat Daddy was installed as the 10-1 fourth choice and will break from the No. 14 post.
Pletcher's other horses were not among the favorites. Any Given Saturday was listed at 12-1; Cowtown Cat and Sam P. were both 20-1.
Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Nobiz Like Shobiz will leave from the No. 12 post.
The most successful post positions in the Derby's 132-year history have been Nos. 1 and 5, which have produced 12 winners each.
As a result of a draw earlier in the day when the maximum 20 horses were confirmed for the race and two were eliminated because their graded earnings were insufficient to get them into the race, the connections of Sunshine Millions Dash winner Storm in May had the first choice, with co-owner Teresa Palmer selecting post position 4.
After that, the next six post positions chosen were 10, 8, 9, 11, 7, and 6, respectively. Then, the connections of Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Scat Daddy went for the 14 post, the outside position in the first of two starting gates used for the Derby.
The post position order for the Derby, with trainer, jockeys, and morning line odds, is: