LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The top two choices in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday have 'em surrounded. Lookin At Lucky, the favorite, drew the rail, and Sidney's Candy, the second choice, drew the outside post in a field of 20 when post positions were drawn on Wednesday for Derby 136 at Churchill Downs.
Devil May Care, the filly who will challenge 19 males, wound up in the middle, in post 11.
The posts for the top two choices are not considered ideal. No horse has won from the rail since Ferdinand in 1986, and no horse beginning from the rail has finished in the money since Risen Star was third in 1988.
"He's got to break well," said Bob Baffert, who trains Lookin At Lucky and Conveyance, who drew post 12. "Plan A is to break well. Plan B is we're screwed."
Big Brown won from post 20 just two years ago, but he was clearly superior to his rivals. Though 20-horse fields have been the norm in recent years, they were rare in the early years of the Derby. The only other horse to win from post 20 was Clyde Van Dusen in 1929, when there was a walk-up start.
Post 11 also had its drawbacks. Because the Derby field is double-loaded, posts 1 and 11 go in the gate first for the 1 1/4-mile race, then 2 and 12, on down to 10 and 20.
Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper, made Lookin At Lucky the 4-1 favorite, with Sidney's Candy 5-1 and Awesome Act the third choice at 8-1. He has Devil May Care next at 10-1, followed by Ice Box at 12-1.
Mike Battaglia, the linemaker at Churchill Downs, has Lookin At Lucky at 3-1, and Sidney's Candy at 5-1. Battaglia made Awesome Act, Devil May Care, and Ice Box co-third choices at 10-1.
Devil May Care is adding blinkers for the Derby, while Lookin At Lucky is having his removed.
Posts were determined in a traditional blind draw, rather than the two-step draft format of recent years. Under the abandoned format, Lookin At Lucky would have had the first choice of posts.
A maximum of 20 horses can run in the Derby. A total of 22 horses were entered. By rule, the Derby field is determined by graded stakes earnings in oversubscribed fields. So two horses - Pleasant Prince and Setsuko - were excluded.
The field was in flux right up to the hours before entries were due. Endorsement, the Sunland Derby winner, went out for a workout Wednesday morning with her trainer, Shannon Ritter, aboard and was timed in 47.23 seconds for a half-mile. But he was limping by the time he got back to the barn, and radiographs revealed he had a fracture in his right front ankle.
"It's a lateral condylar fracture, non-displaced," said Dr. Beau Landry, the attending veterinarian. "He's going to be scheduled for surgery."
"I feel sorry for Shannon," said Elliott Walden, the general manager of WinStar Farm, which owns Endorsement. "She's done a great job with the horse. Hopefully he'll be back."
The defection of Endorsement was the second this week for WinStar's Derby prospects. WinStar, owned by Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt, withdrew Rule earlier in the week because he was not training satisfactorily. WinStar still will be presented by Super Saver, who drew post 4, and American Lion, who got post 7.
Endorsement's injury allowed Make Music for Me to get into the Derby. Had Endorsement come out of his workout well, Make Music for Me would have joined Pleasant Prince and Setsuko as being excluded from the field because of insufficient graded stakes earnings. Make Music for Me was entered in the American Turf on Friday as a back-up, but now will be scratched from that race.
Make Music for Me will be ridden by Joel Rosario, who had taken a tentative call on Dean's Kitten, with the understanding he would opt for Make Music for Me if Make Music for Me got in. Robby Albarado, who was scheduled to ride Endorsement, took the vacated spot on Dean's Kitten.
Pleasant Prince is owned by Ken Ramsey, who also owns Dean's Kitten. Had Ramsey so desired, he could have failed to enter Dean's Kitten, allowing Pleasant Prince to move up another notch and get into the field. Instead, Ramsey said Pleasant Prince would await the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes on May 15.
Setsuko looked terrific when galloping on Wednesday morning, and his trainer, Richard Mandella, made several calls Wednesday morning - "Got any news for me?" he said - seeking updates on whether his horse would get in. But not enough dominoes fell. Setsuko is scheduled to run in the American Turf on Friday, and then will be pointed to the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown, on June 5, Mandella said.
"Doesn't he look good?" Mandella said. "But what are you going to do? Rules are rules."
With 20 runners, the Derby's purse will be $2,185,200, with $1,425,200 going to the winner.
The Derby will be the 11th race on a 13-race card that begins at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. Post time for the Derby is scheduled for 6:24 p.m. The Derby will be shown live on NBC in a three-hour telecast beginning at 4 p.m.
The weather was delightful at Churchill Downs on Wednesday, with a high temperature of 68 degrees under clear skies. But the forecast for Saturday has worsened as the week has progressed. According to the National Weather Service, there is a 60 percent chance of rain on Saturday, including scattered thunderstorms, with 1 1/2 inches of rain expected to fall Friday night into Saturday morning. The high temperature Saturday is forecast to be 75 degrees.
|1||Lookin At Lucky||Garrett Gomez||126||3-1|
|2||Ice Box||Jose Lezcano||126||10-1|
|3||Noble's Promise||Willie Martinez||126||12-1|
|4||Super Saver||Calvin Borel||126||15-1|
|5||Line of David||Rafael Bejarano||126||30-1|
|6||Stately Victor||Alan Garcia||126||30-1|
|7||American Lion||David Flores||126||30-1|
|8||Dean's Kitten||Robby Albarado||126||50-1|
|9||Make Music For Me||Joel Rosario||126||50-1|
|10||Paddy O'Prado||Kent Desormeaux||126||20-1|
|11||Devil May Care||John Velazquez||121||10-1|
|13||Jackson Bend||Mike Smith||126||15-1|
|14||Mission Impazible||Rajiv Maragh||126||20-1|
|15||Discreetly Mine||Javier Castellano||126||30-1|
|16||Awesome Act||Julien Leparoux||126||10-1|
|20||Sidney's Candy||Joe Talamo||126||5-1|
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