LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As usual, the Kentucky Derby draw was pretty uneventful. None of the top choices got stuck with the dreaded rail, which hasn’t produced a winner since Ferdinand in 1986. The booby prize went to 50-1 shot Firenze Fire, who wouldn’t have much of a chance no matter what. Justify, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, will start from post 7 in a field of 20 late Saturday afternoon.
“I was happy with it,” Justify’s trainer, Bob Baffert, said Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs. “That’s a good spot. I didn’t want the 1-hole, that’s for sure. But from the 7, I think the break is so important. If he doesn’t break well, it doesn’t matter what hole he’s in.”
You can get a good trip from a bad post and a horrible one from a good draw, so where you start rarely determines where you finish.
Baffert’s first Derby was 22 years ago, and he’s won four of them, tied for second with 82-year-old D. Wayne Lukas, who entered 50-1 Bravazo, and the late Herbert Thompson. Ben A. Jones is the all-time leader with six winners.
“It’s one of the toughest Derbys I’ve ever seen,” Baffert said. “The most important horses got good draws. I think all of them are in good spots. My excuses are really dwindling now, so I’ve got to come with the horse.”
Irish shipper Mendelssohn, the 5-1 second choice, was fortunate to get post 14, outside the other main speeds, 30-1 shot Promises Fulfilled and Justify. Promises Fulfilled looked like the designated pacesetter, anyway. From post 3, Corey Lanerie will be gunning him from the gate even harder to avoid getting jammed back in the quarter-mile run to the turn.
Audible (post 5, 8-1) and Magnum Moon (post 16, 6-1), two of trainer Todd Pletcher’s quartet, did all right, as did owner-trainer Mick Ruis’ 8-1 Bolt d’Oro (post 11) and trainer Chad Brown’s Good Magic (post 6, 12-1). The draw was unkind to Pletcher’s other pair, Vino Rosso (post 18, 12-1) and Noble Indy (post 19, 30-1).
Nassau County resident Mike Repole co-owns Vino Rosso and Noble Indy. “Better than 1 and 2,” Repole said in an email to Newsday.
Pletcher has won the Derby twice, including last year with Always Dreaming. His four entries gave him a record 52, breaking a tie with his mentor, Lukas. Baffert is third with 29.
“When they went through the first 10 horses and I hadn’t gotten in the mix yet, I thought maybe they’d lost my entries,” Pletcher said. “Having three of our horses in the auxiliary gate wasn’t what we were hoping for, but it’s horse racing and that’s what happens. Sometimes you can work out good trips from out there, and we have four terrific riders.’’