The best horse I ever covered was Pharoah, and the best part about that might surprise you: After he won the Triple Crown, Baffert was nice enough to give me and a couple of my peers a photo op with him early on a Sunday morning on the backside at Churchill Downs with nearly nobody around. However, Storm Cat has hardly been an influential sire when it comes to the Kentucky Derby. Justify, who will start at post position seven, is trying to become the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Derby without having raced as a 2-year-old.
"We've had a great spring", said Pletcher, who is tied with Lukas for the most Derby starters with 48.
- Weather can always throw another variable into a race that doesn't need any help being chaotic. We can be right there if he moves forward again.
Good Magic has been incredibly impressive during his morning gallops leading up to the Kentucky Derby.
Cox also brings to the Kentucky Oaks the Fantasy Stakes victor Sassy Sienna. Will we see a blanket finish with so numerous horses rationing speed? He has won every race, but his seasoning is at question. "All the final prep races I thought were pretty good".
My first Derby was 113 in 1987, and it was memorable for so many reasons, including but not limited to watching Alysheba win in spite of nearly getting knocked down in the stretch. I was definitely nervous that day.
Sassy Sienna earned her second victory as a 3-year-old on April 13 in the Grade 3 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park with Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens aboard. It was so loud. "He handled the quarantine a lot better than I do". I know it just seems so much and then it's over so quick. I expect a lot of myself.
"He's a screamer", rival trainer Bob Baffert said. Justify's old foe Bolt d'Oro (8-1) will break not far outside him, from Post 11.
Vino Rosso, trained by Todd Pletcher for Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, is another that may be overlooked by bettors. He is the third favorite on the morning line at 6-1. My longshot is Hofburg. Kelly's Humor will start in the center of the field from Post 6 under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. However, John Velazquez rode Audible in the Florida Derby but Pletcher has him staying with Vino Rosso, victor of the Wood Memorial. These horses, especially the ones that run hard, are, for better or worse, transformed for carrying that burden.
While Lukas noted that owners determine whether to run a horse, his experience and success carries weight in some decisions.
Good Magic has everything we need to win.
"You feel like you're blessed to have a career and nobody else is at that age to say that they're here", Lukas said. The Derby race itself was run on a Tuesday, with the Oaks to follow a couple of days later. For that matter, even Mendelssohn had more to say than Keating. "We didn't want to be in the one-hole and we didn't want to be 20. I think any horse that's had a couple of races early on, then had a little time to develop and grow, they really benefit from it".
It worked. Last year's inaugural event attracted more than 150 people and raised $12,500, quadruple what the 5K usually raised.
Perhaps Mendelssohn, based in Ireland, will give the first leg of the Triple Crown an worldwide flair. But there would be nothing like winning the Derby.