An overflow field of 3-year-olds trained by Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers passed the entry box Tuesday for the 145th Kentucky Derby.
The 20 runners in Saturday’s Derby field, who will run for an increased purse of $3 million this year, includes entrants from Hall of Fame conditioners Bob Baffert, Richard Mandella, Shug McGaughey, Bill Mott and Steve Asmussen. Todd Pletcher, who figures to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he's eligible next year, also entered two horses in the race. Omaha Beach, Mandella’s entry and his first Derby starter since he sent out two in 2004, was pegged by Churchill Downs’ oddsmaker Mike Battaglia as the 4-1 favorite.
The winner of the Arkansas Derby and Rebel Stakes in his last two starts, Omaha Beach will be ridden by two-time Derby winner Mike Smith from post 12. Smith and Mandella sat together at Tuesday’s post-position draw in the Aristides Room at Churchill and beamed when No. 12 was announced for the son of War Front.
“Perfect. I love it,” Smith said. “I didn’t want to be down inside. I think I’m in a great spot.”
Mandella, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001 but 0-for-6 in the Derby, echoed Smith’s sentiments.
“He’s happy, so you know I’m happy,” he said.
Smith gives Mandella a little extra confidence going into the 1 1/4-mile Derby having picked Omaha Beach instead of Roadster, who he rode to victory for Baffert last time out in the Santa Anita Derby.
Roadster is one of three Derby runners for Baffert, who would tie all-time leader Ben Jones for six career wins in the race. Each of Baffert’s runners are single digits on the morning line – champion and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Game winner the second choice at 5-1 and Roadster and Improbable the co-third choices at 6-1. Improbable drew the most favorable post, No. 5, while Game Winner (16) and Roadster (17) are outside.
“They’ll all be easy to watch,” Baffert said. "With Roadster I wanted the 16 so I got 16 and 17 (with Game Winner) and Improbable is a quicker horse. Anything but the one or two I’m fine with that. I think the good horses all drew well.”
The remainder of the field are double-digit odds on the early line, including Florida Derby winner Maximum Security and Wood Memorial winner Tacitus eachg at 10-1 and Fountain of Youth winner and Blue Grass runner-up Win Win Win at 15-1 apiece.
The Derby goes as the 12th race on Saturday’s 14-race card at Churchill with post time set for 6:46 p.m. EDT. NBC will broadcast the Derby and a significant portion of the undercard that includes four other Grade 1 stakes, from 2:30 to 7:25 p.m. The Horse Racing Radio Network will also carry the Derby from 5-7 p.m.
The field for the $3 million Kentucky Derby, with jockey and odds:
- War Of Will, Tyler Gaffalione, 20-1;
- Tax, Junior Alvarado, 20-1;
- By My Standards, Gabriel Saez, 20-1;
- Gray Magician, Drayden Van Dyke, 50-1;
- Improbable, Irad Ortiz Jr., 6-1;
- Vekoma, Javier Castellano, 20-1;
- Maximum Security, Luis Saez, 10-1;
- Tacitus, Jose Ortiz, 10-1;
- Plus Que Parfait, Ricardo Santana Jr., 30-1;
- Cutting Humor, Corey Lanerie, 30-1;
- Haikal, Rajiv Maragh, 30-1;
- Omaha Beach, Mike Smith, 4-1;
- Code Of Honor, John Velazquez, 15-1;
- Win Win Win, Julian Pimentel, 15-1;
- Master Fencer, Julien Leparoux, 50-1;
- Game Winner, Joel Rosario, 5-1;
- Roadster, Florent Geroux, 6-1;
- Long Range Toddy, Jon Court, 30-1;
- Spinoff, Manny Franco, 30-1;
- Country House, Flavien Prat; and
- AE-Bodexpress, Nik Juarez, 30-1.