Published: Fri, May 04, 2018
Money | By Ethel Goodwin

Pre-race favorite Kentucky Derby horse trained in NCFL

Pre-race favorite Kentucky Derby horse trained in NCFL

That favorite, unraced at 2, was ridden by Mike Smith and trained by Baffert.

The Kentucky Derby is one of 14 races on the card at Churchill Downs on Saturday which also includes the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile.

While fillies are allowed to compete in the Derby and the other Triple Crown races, relatively few do so.

"We just wanted to get him out and have him stretch his legs", said trainer Aidan O'Brien's head traveling lad Pat Keating.

We also asked WFAN producer Brian Monzo and WFAN and CBS Sports Radio hosts Chris Moore and Jody McDonald for their Kentucky Derby picks. It's not just that running a race at age 2 gives a thoroughbred some seasoning. His April 7 victory in the Santa Anita Derby was his first stakes race. "For Bob Baffert to say that, that's an extremely high compliment".

Bolt D'oro, who chased Justify home in the Santa Anita Derby, hasn't won a race since September but will get some support since he was regarded as one of the best a year ago. Velasquez has Vino Rosso. It's likely the most talented group of runners this race has seen in a quarter-century, especially among the top 10 horses in the field. He only can get in if one of the 20 in the main body of the race is withdrawn by scratch time, which is 9 a.m. ET Friday. "He worked five-eighths, and usually they get a little exhausted because our track at Santa Anita is really deep". "The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. That's when I knew he was a cut above the rest".

About a half dozen people sat in the lounge of the Sunset Grill on Thursday afternoon, watching coverage of horse races from Churchill Downs and betting on a handful of races taking place throughout the country. If Justify wins, he'd be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a 2-year-old.

However, as the favorite, many will poke holes in his resume.

Assembly Line Juleps
Carey Jones

Both Justify and Magnum Moon appear to have an excellent chance of finding the winner's circle on Saturday and breaking the 136-year-old Curse of Apollo. Racing podcasts (there's so many I can't listen to all of them, but I listen to a lot of them) give air time to guests who talk incessantly about Justify winning the Derby. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I'll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 ½ lengths. "I don't worry about it". "It always helps in these situations to have a little bit of seasoning, experience and (proven ability to) overcome some adversity".

"We were expecting a whole lot from him", said Fred Mitchell, who bred Mendelssohn at his Clarkland Farm near Lexington. With a repeat of that behavior, he'll encounter some serious traffic problems in the Derby with its 20-horse field. "So we just bring these horses along slowly". Visit SportsLine to get Jody Demling's Kentucky Derby victor, see which huge long shot contends, and get the finish positions for every single horse, all from the man who's picked 9 straight Derby-Oaks doubles! "California Chrome usually ran in small fields and you saw how he performed over his career". He returned with a win and a solid second to Justify in the Santa Anita Derby. Can he do that again in a 20-horse field? Good Magic ran third in the Fountain of Youth back in early March and lacked any kind of late kick. "He ain't gonna be able to go out there all by himself".

"We didn't want the 1-hole, that's for sure", Baffert, the four-time Derby victor, told the Associated Press.

Pletcher's son, Todd, is a world famous horse trainer, including victor of last year's Derby and Belmont Stakes.

"He's giving me all of the right body language that I've seen from other horses going into big races over the years".

In 2015, American Pharoah became the first horse to win the coveted Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. He has all the qualities that I think it would take.

"It's going to happen", Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken.

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