Things may get fascinating Saturday at Churchill Downs, the place the winners in 2019 and 2021 had been disqualified.
The largest query for these 3-year-olds is whether or not they can deal with working 1 1/4 miles whereas jostling for place in entrance of the largest crowd they’re going to ever see and listen to.
“Things can get a little dodgy throughout the race, having to go through holes and take dirt and take some bumps along the way,” coach Chad Brown mentioned. “You just never know what’s going to happen when you open the gate.”
Zandon is the early 3-1 favourite and breaks from the No. 10 put up, which has produced the second-most winners with 9. The darkish bay colt is educated by Brown, in search of his first Derby win after six losses.
“It would mean everything,” mentioned Brown, who has had his personal steady for 15 years. “It’s so hard to get these Derby horses, especially the favorite.”
After two years of COVID-19 restrictions, the Derby returns in all its noisy, colourful glory. Attendance is again to full capability, which suggests about 150,000 individuals jammed into Churchill Downs, dressed to the nines and fortified by mint juleps served in memento glasses. Post time is 6:57 p.m. EDT.
“You want to adopt the philosophy that it’s just another race, but of course most definitely it’s not just another race,” mentioned Barbados-born coach Saffie Joseph Jr., who saddles White Abarrio.
In 2019, winner Maximum Security was disqualified for interference and Country House wore the garland of pink roses.
In 2020, an eerie silence enveloped the observe when no followers had been allowed due to the pandemic and the race was pushed again to September. Last yr, the Derby returned to its ordinary spot on the primary Saturday in May with attendance restricted to about 52,000.
Steve Asmussen has gained extra races in North America than some other coach, however he is by no means gained the Derby in 23 tries. He’ll saddle Epicenter, the early 7-2 second selection that earned his first profession victory at Churchill Downs final fall.
“You have no control over how 20 3-year-olds will handle this volume of crowd for the first time,” Asmussen mentioned. “None of them obviously has been in a race that’s had that many runners in it.”
The 148th Derby is lacking horse racing’s family title: Bob Baffert. The Hall of Fame coach with a record-tying six victories was banned by Churchill Downs this yr and subsequent after final yr’s winner, Medina Spirit, flunked a post-race drug check.
Baffert’s shadow nonetheless looms massive over the Twin Spires. Two colts beforehand educated by him can be within the beginning gate: Messier, the early 8-1 third selection named for hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier, and 12-1 shot Taiba.
Taiba, the least skilled colt within the discipline, has probably the most skilled jockey on his again in 56-year-old Mike Smith. He may break Bill Shoemaker’s report because the oldest successful jockey.
“If I can knock out a good clean trip for him then inexperience won’t get in the way so much,” Smith mentioned.
Taiba will attempt to turn out to be the primary horse to win the Derby in simply his third begin since Leonatus in 1883, and the primary horse to win in his third begin after not racing as a 2-year-old. Both Messier and Taiba are educated by Tim Yakteen, Baffert’s one-time assistant.
“We’re going to need some luck, like every horse in the Derby does,” Yakteen mentioned.
Baffert advised The Associated Press he plans to observe the race remotely with household and associates.
United Arab Emirates Derby winner Crown Pride may make historical past as the primary horse from Japan to win the Derby. The darkish bay colt has gained three of 4 profession begins for coach Koichi Shintani.
“I want to see the same race start to finish that we saw in the UAE Derby,” Shintani mentioned, “including the being first across the wire part.”
Todd Pletcher, a two-time Derby winner, saddles three starters: Mo Donegal, Charge It and Pioneer of Medina.
Louisville-born Brad Cox gained his first Derby belatedly when Mandaloun was elevated to first place after Medina Spirit’s disqualification in February. Cox has three pictures to make the winner’s circle in individual this yr: Cyberknife, Tawny Port and Zozos.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a blazing, blazing hot pace,” Cox mentioned.
Two-time Derby winner Doug O’Neill saddles 30-1 shot Happy Jack.
“Touch wood we’re going to shock the world,” he mentioned.
Saturday’s forecast requires a 30% probability of morning showers after which largely cloudy skies and a excessive of 64 levels.
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