Washington (AFP) – Unbeaten oddsmakers favorite Justify will start seventh from the rail while second-choice Mendelssohn, trained by Irishman Aidan O’Brien, took 14th in Tuesday’s post position draw for Saturday’s 144th Kentucky Derby.
Santa Anita Derby winner Justify was given 3-1 odds in the morning line for US flat racing’s Triple Crown opener for three-year-olds over the 1 1/4-mile track at Louisville’s Churchill Downs.
And trainer Bob Baffert likes his starting spot in the full field of 20.
“That’s a good spot. We didn’t want to be in the one-hole and we didn’t want to be 20,” Baffert said. “Seven is fine but he still has to break well.”
That’s because Justify, 3-0 in his career, didn’t race as a two-year-old.
It also means Baffert, who has trained four Derby winners, and Justify are battling history. The only horse to win the Derby without racing as a two-year-old was Apollo in 1882 in the eighth running of the event.
“If he doesn’t break well it doesn’t matter what hole he’s in,” Baffert said. “We only have one option. We have to break. He’s lightly raced and he has to leave there running.”
UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn, whose 5-1 odds are next-best among the field of 20, hopes to become the first Europe-based horse to capture the Run for the Roses.
Magnum Moon, trained by Todd Pletcher, was third at 6-1 odds and will start 16th. Like Justify, he’s an unbeaten horse who didn’t race as a two-year-old. His 4-0 mark includes wins at the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby in his past two starts.
“We’ll hope for a good break and then see what happens,” Pletcher said. “It figures to be a very interesting race.”
Bolt d’Oro, named for Jamaican Olympic sprint star Usain Bolt, and Audible, another Pletcher entry, each have 8-1 odds. Bolt d’Oro drew the 11th post postiion while Audible will start fifth, two spots inside the favorite.
“I think all the good horses are in good spots,” Baffert said. “It’s one of the toughest Derbys that I’ve ever seen and one of the best draws that I’ve ever seen. The most important horses got good draws. My excuses are really dwindling so now I’ve got to come with the horse.
“I think everyone should be happy with their draw. I don’t see any advantage that I have or that anyone else has.”