LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Twenty keen colts breaking from the beginning gate, a full home for the primary time in three years, and a Kentucky Derby missing a dominant favourite.
Issues might get attention-grabbing Saturday at Churchill Downs, the place the winners in 2019 and 2021 have been disqualified.
The most important query for these 3-year-olds is whether or not they can deal with operating 1 ¹/₄ miles whereas jostling for place in entrance of the largest crowd they’ll ever see and listen to.
“Issues can get somewhat dodgy all through the race, having to undergo holes and take dust and take some bumps alongside the way in which,” coach Chad Brown mentioned. “You simply by no means know what’s going to occur once 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 will imply all the pieces,” mentioned Brown, who has had his personal steady for 15 years. “It’s so laborious to get these Derby horses, particularly the favourite.”
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. Put up time is 6:57 p.m.
“You wish to undertake the philosophy that it’s simply one other race, however in fact most positively it’s not simply one other race,” mentioned Barbados-born coach Saffie Joseph Jr., who saddles White Abarrio.
In 2019, winner Most Safety was disqualified for interference and Nation Home wore the garland of pink roses.
In 2020, an eerie silence enveloped the observe when no followers have been allowed due to the pandemic and the race was pushed again to September. Final 12 months, the Derby returned to its regular spot on the primary Saturday in Might with attendance restricted to about 52,000.
Steve Asmussen has received extra races in North America than another coach, however he’s by no means received the Derby in 23 tries. He’ll saddle Epicenter, the early 7/2 second alternative that earned his first profession victory at Churchill Downs final fall.
“You don’t have any management over how 20 3-year-olds will deal with this quantity of crowd for the primary time,” Asmussen mentioned. “None of them clearly 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 Corridor of Fame coach with a record-tying six victories was banned by Churchill Downs this 12 months and subsequent after final 12 months’s winner, Medina Spirit, flunked a post-race drug check.
Bafferts 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 alternative named for hockey Corridor of Famer Mark Messier, and 12/1 shot Taiba.
Taiba, the least skilled colt within the area, has essentially the most skilled jockey on his again in 56-year-old Mike Smith. He might break Invoice Shoemaker’s report because the oldest profitable jockey.
“If I can knock out a very good clear journey for him then inexperience received’t get in the way in which a lot,” Smith mentioned.
Taiba will attempt to develop into 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. Each Messier and Taiba are educated by Tim Yakteen, Baffert’s one-time assistant.
“We’re going to wish some luck, like each horse within the Derby does,” Yakteen mentioned.
Baffert informed The Related Press he plans to look at the race remotely with household and associates.