Field set for Kentucky Derby 144

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Bob Baffert missed the early part of Tuesday’s post-position draw for the 144th Kentucky Derby, caught in the labyrinth of the new parking setup outside Churchill Downs. The four-time Derby winner needn’t worry too much though, it was left to fate and the odds went in his favor when morning-line favorite Justify drew a favorable spot toward the middle of the field of 20.

“I was actually in the parking lot when it happened,” Baffert said when asked about the largest cheer of the draw when undefeated Justify drew post 7.

Later Baffert conceded that sitting through the early part of the draw would have caused him to “fret.” Now the fretting will come in the four days leading up to Saturday’s race, which goes off at 6:46 p.m. EDT and will be televised live on NBC.

Justify, unbeaten in three starts and the winner of the Santa Anita Derby in his most recent start, arrived from Southern California Monday and took his first trip to the Churchill main track Tuesday. He went out during the 15-minute designated period for only Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks runners at 7:30 a.m.

Baffert liked what he saw.

“He looked great,” Baffert said. “The track is real soft and he bounced around there pretty well, happy. It was a good first day and that’s what we’re all looking for.”

Rival horsemen were looking for favorite posts at the draw and for the most part were rewarded.

Good Magic (post 6), Bolt d’Oro (11) and Mendelssohn (14) all drew in the main starting gate, while three of trainer Todd Pletcher’s four entrants landed in the auxiliary starting gate. Audible, in post 5, is the lone member of Pletcher’s quartet in the main gate with Magnum Moon (16), Vino Rosso (18) and Noble Indy (19) all outside.

“Ideally I wouldn’t want three of my four horses in the auxiliary gate, but it’s horse racing and that’s what happens,” Pletcher said. “We’ve all seen it before: good trips from bad posts, or vice versa. In the end it’s out of my control so it’s all good.”

Ireland’s Mendelssohn was installed as the 5-1 second choice on Mike Battaglia’s morning line. An 18 1/2-length winner of the U.A.E. Derby in his most recent start, Mendelssohn arrived in Kentucky Monday evening and spent Tuesday morning walking the shedrow under tack while in quarantine. He’s expected to train Thursday morning for trainer Aidan O’Brien.

Pletcher’s unbeaten Arkansas Derby winner Magnum Moon is the 6-1 choice on the line with his once-beaten stablemate and Florida Derby winner Audible next at 8-1. Bolt d’Oro, who also got his first look at Churchill with a jog alongside the pony Tuesday morning, is also 8-1 on the early line.

The rest of the field were established at double-digit odds, including Firenze Fire at 50-1 from the widely considered dreaded rail post. The last winner from post 1 was Ferdinand in 1986 and it’s 8-for-88 since 1930. Combatant is also 50-1 from post 20, home to just one winner in 16 attempts, Big Brown in 2008.

The field for the $2,192,000 Kentucky Derby, with jockey and odds:

  1. Firenze Fire, Paco Lopez, 50-1.
  2. Free Drop Billy, Robby Albarado, 30-1.
  3. Promises Fulfilled, Corey Lanerie, 30-1.
  4. Flameaway, Jose Lezcano, 30-1.
  5. Audible, Javier Castellano, 8-1.
  6. Good Magic, Jose Ortiz, 12-1.
  7. Justify, Mike Smith, 3-1.
  8. Lone Sailor, James Graham, 50-1.
  9. Hofburg, Irad Ortiz Jr., 20-1.
  10. My Boy Jack, Kent Desormeaux, 30-1.
  11. Bolt d’Oro, Victor Espinoza, 8-1.
  12. Enticed, Junior Alvarado, 30-1.
  13. Bravazo, Luis Contreras, 50-1.
  14. Mendelssohn, Ryan Moore, 5-1.
  15. Instilled Regard, Drayden Van Dyke, 50-1.
  16. Magnum Moon, Luis Saez, 6-1.
  17. Solomini, Flavien Prat, 30-1.
  18. Vino Rosso, John Velazquez, 12-1.
  19. Noble Indy, Florent Geroux, 30-1.
  20. Combatant, Ricardo Santana Jr., 50-1.