If it’s the first Saturday in May, that means the most storied thoroughbred race in North America is on tap: the Kentucky Derby, also called the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.”
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
The 144th Run for the Roses from Churchill Downs is Saturday with an apparent wide-open field. The current betting favorite in the 1 1/4-mile race for three-year-olds on the dirt track in Louisville is Santa Anita Derby winner Justify at +350.
Justify is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who has won the Kentucky Derby four times – last with American Pharoah in 2015. That colt became only the 12th winner of the Triple Crown (and first since 1978), which means a sweep of the Derby, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico two weeks later and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park three weeks after the Preakness.
It’s an endurance test because these animals aren’t used to racing that often.
There’s good and bad news for Baffert. The good is that the favorite has won the Kentucky Derby each of the past five years, the longest stretch of winning favorites in the race’s history. The bad news is that Justify didn’t race as a two-year-old and no horse who didn’t race at that age has won the Derby since way back in 1882 with Apollo.
Mangum Moon, also among the favorites at +750, didn’t race as a two-year-old, either. He starts from Post 16.
Justify will start from Post 7 in the 20-horse field, always the biggest of the Triple Crown races. The Kentucky Derby has used a starting gate since 1930 and 6.9 percent of the race winners in that span, or six of them, came from Post 7. The most recent was Street Sense in 2007.
Trainers absolutely fear their horse starting on the far outside in the Kentucky Derby. No horse from Post 17 has won the race – only three have finished in the money – and just four total have won from Posts 18-20. Those horses this year, in order, are Solomini (+2200), Vino Rosso (+1200), Noble Indy (+3000) and Combatant (+6600 longshot).
The current second-favorite, Mendelssohn (+400), starts from Post 14. Mendelssohn won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf as a two-year-old and the UAE Derby in his last race in March. No UAE Derby winner has won the Kentucky Derby.
Audible (+650) starts from Post 5 on Saturday. Audible is ridden by Javier Castellano, who has won nearly everything in his career but a Kentucky Derby.