LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Tuesday, May 1, 2018) – China Horse Club International, Heads of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm’s undefeated Justify has been established as the 3-1 morning-line favorite in a field of 20 3-year-olds and one also eligible entered Tuesday for Saturday’s 144th running of the $2,192,000 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I).
If 20 horses start, the winner’s share will be $1,432,000.
The 1 ¼-mile classic that starts the Triple Crown series serves as the centerpiece of Saturday’s 14-race program and will go as the 12th race with a 6:46 p.m. (all times Eastern) post tine. First post time Saturday is 10:30 a.m.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Justify has won his three starts by a combined 19 lengths with his most recent score coming in the Santa Anita Derby (GI) in his stakes debut.
Ben Jones leads all trainers with six Kentucky Derby victories and Baffert is one of three trainers with four wins in the race with victories coming with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002) and American Pharoah (2015). Baffert is the most recent trainer to win the Derby in consecutive years.
Mike Smith, who rode Giacomo to victory in 2005, has the mount on Justify who will exit post position seven.
Justify will be trying to become the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Derby without having raced as a 2-year-old.
Baffert also will saddle Zayat Stables, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s Solomini. Flavien Prat retains the mount on Solomini (30-1) and break from post position 17.Adding international intrigue to this year’s renewal is Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor’s Mendelssohn, the second choice on the line at 5-1.
Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Mendelssohn comes to Kentucky off an18 ½-length victory in the UAE Derby (GII) in Dubai that marked his first race on dirt. The Scat Daddy colt also has won on an all-weather surface and closed out 2017 with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GI) at Del Mar.
Regular rider Ryan Moore has the mount Saturday and will break from post position 14.Another who will try to do what Apollo did is Lawana and Robert Low’s undefeated Magnum Moon, the third choice in the line at 6-1.
Magnum Moon is one of four horses in the race trained by two-time Derby winner Todd Pletcher, who is seeking to become the seventh trainer to win the Run for the Roses in consecutive years. Always Dreaming won for Pletcher in 2017.
Magnum Moon did not make his racing debut until Jan. 13 at Gulfstream and followed a victory at Tampa Bay Downs in February with victories in the Rebel (GII) and Arkansas Derby (GI) at Oaklawn Park.
Luis Saez, who has been aboard in all four starts, has the call Saturday and will break from post position 16.
Pletcher also will send out Audible, owned by the same partnership as Justify, WinStar Farm and Repole Stable’s Noble Indy and Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Vino Rosso.
The New York-bred Audible brings a four-race win streak to Churchill Downs with the latter two scores coming in the Holy Bull (GII) and Florida Derby (GI). Listed at 8-1 as the co-fourth choice on the morning line, Audible will break from post position five and be ridden by Javier Castellano.
John Velazquez, who won the Derby in 2011 with Animal Kingdom and last year with Always Dreaming, has the call on Wood Memorial (GII) winner Vino Rosso. Six riders have won the Derby in consecutive years, the most recent being Victor Espinoza (2014-15), who has the mount Saturday on Bolt d’Oro.
Listed at 12-1 on the line, Vino Rosso will break from post position 18.
Louisiana Derby (GII) winner Noble Indy picks up first-time rider Florent Geroux. Noble Indy, 30-1 on the line, will break from post position 19.
The other co-fourth choice is Ruis Racing’s Bolt d’Oro at 8-1 on the line. Trained by owner Mick Ruis, Bolt d’Oro comes into the Derby off a runner-up finish to Justify in the Santa Anita Derby.
Espinoza, who also won the race in 2002 with War Emblem, will break Bolt d’Oro from post position 11.
Three other Grade I winners are in the field headed by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables’ Good Magic.
Trained by Chad Brown, Good Magic won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) last fall at Del Mar to earn the Eclipse Award as Champion 2-Year-Old Male. He comes into the Derby off a victory in the Blue Grass Stakes (GII) at Keeneland.
Jose Ortiz has the mount on Good Magic (12-1) on the line and will exit post position six.
Other Grade I winners are Albaugh Family Stables’ Free Drop Billy and Mr. Amore Stable’s Firenze Fire. Trained by Dale Romans, Free Drop Billy won the Breeders’ Futurity (GI) last fall at Keeneland. Robby Albarado has the mount on Free Drop Billy (30-1 on the line) and will break from post position two.
Romans also will send out Robert Baron’s Promises Fulfilled. Winner of the Fountain of Youth (GII), Promises Fulfilled (30-1) will be ridden by Corey Lanerie and break from post position three.
Firenze Fire, winner of the Champagne (GI) at Belmont last fall, is trained by Jason Servis. Paco Lopez has the mount on Firenze Fire (50-1) and will break from post position one.
In addition to Baffert and Pletcher, two other trainers are seeking to add to their Derby victory totals: D. Wayne Lukas and Doug O’Neill.
Lukas, a four-time winner, will send out Bravazo (50-1 on the line) for the legendary Calumet Farm. Luis Contreras has the
mount and will break from post position 13.
O’Neill, a two-time winner this decade, will be represented by Blended Citizen (50-1 on the line) if he makes the field. Owned by Greg Hall and SAYJAY Racing, Blended Citizen will be ridden by Kyle Frey if he gets in.
Three-time Derby winner Kent Desormeaux will be trying to pad her Derby resume when he rides Don’t Tell My Wife Stables, Monomoy Stables and West Point Thoroughbreds’ My Boy Jack for his brother Keith Desormeaux. Listed at 30-1 on the line, My Boy Jack will break from post position 10.
The field for the Kentucky Derby, with riders and morning-line odds from the rail out, is: Firenze Fire (Lopez, 50-1), Free Drop Billy (Albarado, 30-1), Promises Fulfilled (Lanerie, 30-1), Flameaway (Jose Lezcano, 30-1), Audible (Castellano, 8-1), Good Magic (J. Ortiz, 12-1), Justify (Smith, 3-1), Lone Sailor (James Graham, 50-1), Hofburg (Irad Ortiz Jr., 20-1), My Boy Jack (Desormeaux, 30-1), Bolt d’Oro (Espinoza, 8-1), Enticed (Junior Alvarado, 30-1), Bravazo (Contreras, 50-1), Mendelssohn (Moore, 5-1), Instilled Regard (Drayden Van Dyke, 50-1), Magnum Moon (Saez, 6-1), Solomini (Prat, 30-1), Vino Rosso (Velazquez, 12-1), Noble Indy (Geroux, 30-1) and Combatant (Ricardo Santana Jr., 50-1). Also-eligible: Blended Citizen (Frey, 50-1). All starters will carry 126 pounds.