According to influential newspaper editor Horace Greeley, it would be wise for us to “Go West, young man.”
Many will be taking his advice and looking that direction when making their selections for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 1 at Churchill Downs, as the two top choices in the first leg of the 2010 Triple Crown are based in California. Lookin at Lucky, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, and Sidney's Candy, the 5-1 second choice, lead a field of 20 3-year-olds in Derby 136—a race that, on paper at least, seems to get more wide open with each passing day.
Post time for the Derby, which will be shown live on NBC, is slated for 6:24 p.m. EDT. There is a 70% chance of rain in Louisville for Saturday. The race has a $2,185,200 purse, if all 20 starters go to the post, with the winner's share a cool $1,425,200.
Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman’s Lookin At Lucky has been at the top of the current class since last season when he won five of six starts as a 2-year-old, including three grade I scores. The bay colt’s lone setback came by a head in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Santa Anita. The terrific campaign earned Lookin at Lucky an Eclipse Award as champion juvenile male.
Lookin at Lucky picked up right where he left off as a 3-year-old, turning in what was perhaps the most impressive Derby prep win this season when he overcame all kinds of trouble to run down Noble’s Promise by a head in the March 13 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park in his only start on dirt. Though he finished third to Sidney’s Candy last out in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), the son of Smart Strike had a troubled trip and was coming on at the end.
Though he has a big class edge over most of his rivals, Lookin At Lucky drew unenviable post 1 for the Derby. Jockey Garrett Gomez seeks his first Derby score for trainer Bob Baffert, a three-time winner of America’s most coveted race.
“I heard about a redraw,” joked the affable Baffert after Wednesday's post-position draw. “Is he still the favorite? We got that going for us. We just have to hope our horse runs huge.”
Lookin At Lucky will race without blinkers.
Sid and Jenny Craig Trust’s Sidney’s Candy soundly defeated Lookin At Lucky in the April 3 Santa Anita Derby, but that may not be best of omens. No Santa Anita Derby winner has gone on to capture the roses since Sunday Silence won both races in 1989. Trained by John Sadler, Sidney’s Candy is undefeated in three starts this season, taking all three in front-running fashion. The son of Candy Ride will be making his first start on dirt.
Joe Talamo, riding in his first Kentucky Derby, will have the mount on Sidney’s Candy, who drew post 20—also not an ideal spot.
“Not the best of draws,” admitted Sadler. "But at least you're on the outside and can see what's going on.”
Big Brown became only the second horse to win the Derby from post 20 in 2008.
Lookin At Lucky and Sidney’s Candy are not the only two California-based starters that have had success in preps this season. Baffert’s other entrant, Conveyance, won the San Rafael (gr. III) and Oaklawn’s Southwest Stakes (gr. III) to open his campaign, then ran a solid second to Endorsement in the March 28 Sunland Park Derby (gr. III). Owned by Zabeel Racing International, Conveyance (12-1) is expected to set the Derby pace under Martin Garcia.
Also shipping East to have success were American Lion and Line of David, who won the Illinois Derby (gr. III) and Arkansas Derby (gr. I), respectively—both in wire-to-wire fashion. Eoin Harty trains American Lion (30-1), one of two starters for WinStar Farm. Line of David (30-1) is the second entrant for Sadler.
WinStar, who has had nine Derby starters over the past four years, seeks their first win with American Lion and Super Saver. The Central Kentucky-based farm had been pointing four toward the race, but Rule was taken out of consideration earlier in the week and Endorsement suffered an unfortunate leg injury on Wednesday during a training session to spoil his bid.
Super Saver (15-1) is one of four starters for Todd Pletcher, a four-time Eclipse Award winner seeking his first Derby win in his 10th try. The son of Maria's Mon has the advantage of having a stakes win over the Churchill main track as a 2-year-old, that coming in the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II). He also has the luxury of being ridden by Calvin Borel, winner of two of the last three Derbys (Street Sense in 2007, Mine That Bird, 2009).
Devil May Care will be facing colts for the first time in her career, but Pletcher said the daughter of Malibu Moon has worked very competitively against his top colts during training. The filly enters the race off an impressive win in the Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park. John Velazquez, who was the scheduled rider on expected favorite Eskendereya before he was sidelined with filling in hs leg on Sunday, picks up the mount on Devil May Care. She will add blinkers for the Derby.
“I think she fits very well (in the Derby)," said Pletcher. “If you look at her Bonnie Miss, where she ran greenly after making the lead and still ran faster than the Florida Derby two races later, she's shown her races are competitive with the colts.”
Another trainer with multiple starters is Nick Zito, who won the Derby in 1991 and 1994. Zito will saddle Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Ice Box (10-1) and ultra-consistent Jackson Bend (15-1), who drew into the race late after being on the graded earnings bubble much of the month. Ice Box is a confirmed closer who could be coming late under Jose Lezcano. Jackson Bend has never been worse than second in nine starts. Mike Smith has the call.
Mike Maker, a locally-based trainer, also has two starters, both of them outsiders. Maker will send out 40-1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) upsetter Stately Victor (30-1) and Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) winner Dean's Kitten (50-1).
A pair of horses with potential to factor are Noble's Promise and Awesome Act. Noble’s Promise (12-1) has narrowly lost to Lookin At Lucky on three separate occasions and won the grade I Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity as a juvenile. Ken McPeek, who ran second with Tejano Run in the 1995 Derby, has assigned Willie Martinez to ride the Cuvee colt.
Awesome Act (10-1) won the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct and was third last out in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) after a troubled trip and losing a shoe. Julien Leparoux will pilot the colt for British-based trainer Jeremy Noseda.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will seek his fifth Derby score with Dublin (12-1), a son of dual-classic winner Afleet Alex.
Paddy O’Prado (20-1), a late-blooming colt who has spent most of his career on turf, is a solid hope for Churchill-based trainer Dale Romans.
$2,185,200 Kentucky Derby (gr. I, Race 11, 6:24 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/4 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Lookin At Lucky (KY), G Gomez, 126, B Baffert 3/1
2. Ice Box (KY), J Lezcano, 126, N P Zito, 10/1
3. Noble's Promise (KY), W Martinez, 126, K McPeek 12/1
4. Super Saver (KY), C Borel, 126, T Pletcher 15/1
5. Line of David (FL), R Bejarano, 126, J Sadler 30/1
6. Stately Victor (KY), A Garcia, 126, M Maker 30/1
7. American Lion (KY), D Flores, 126, E Harty 30/1
8. Dean's Kitten (KY), R Albarado, 126, M Maker 50/1
9. Make Music for Me (KY), J Rosario, 126, A Barba 50/1
10. Paddy O'Prado (KY),K J Desormeaux, 126, D Romans 20/1
11. Devil May Care (KY), J Velazquez, 121, T Pletcher 10/1
12. Conveyance (KY), M Garcia, 126, B Baffert 12/1
13. Jackson Bend (FL), M Smith, 126, N Zito 15/1
14. Mission Impazible (KY), R Maragh, 126, T Pletcher 20/1
15. Discreetly Mine (KY), J Castellano, 126, T Pletcher 30/1
16. Awesome Act (KY), J Leparoux, 126, J Noseda 10/1
17. Dublin (KY), T Thompson, 126, D Lukas 12/1
18. Backtalk (FL), M Mena, 126, T M Amoss 50/1
19. Homeboykris (MD), R Dominguez, 126, R Dutrow, Jr. 50/1
20. Sidney's Candy (KY), J Talamo, 126, J Sadler 5/1