Kentucky Derby: Buzz shifts from Verrazano
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It can’t quite be termed a fall from grace because the subject in question has yet to do anything wrong.
But in most any other year, being the undefeated winner of the Grade I Wood Memorial would be enough. Enough to dominate the prerace buzz and, at the very least, enough to secure favoritism heading into the first Saturday in May.
Although Verrazano has trained without a hitch since arriving on the Churchill Downs backstretch in advance of his expected start in the 139th Kentucky Derby today, the unblemished colt is surrounded by a fistful of classmates who are doing a good job of touting their own talents.
Although Verrazano is the headline player of the five-horse arsenal trainer Todd Pletcher plans to saddle in the Derby, the pendulum of hype has swung decidedly in the direction of Grade I Florida Derby winner Orb, among others, in recent days.
Orb was designated the 7-2 morning-line favorite by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia as the public swell of support for his form was further bolstered by his sublime 4-furlong workout in 47.80 seconds on Monday. And of Pletcher’s five, Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary is regarded as the one who has consistently gotten over the Churchill track in the most impressive fashion.
Even Normandy Invasion, who ran second to Verrazano in the Wood Memorial, has seemingly garnered more chatter in recent days, boasting 8-1 odds in early betting compared with 11-1 on Verrazano.
“It doesn’t matter, I think it’s an advantage (not to be favored), more pressure on the favorite,” Pletcher said of Verrazano. “I think Orb will be the favorite (at post time).
“He won three in a row, I think some people are perceiving his last prep to be stronger than the Wood.
“It don’t really matter to me who the favorite is. It has no bearing to me.”
Rightly, Pletcher and his brethren are most concerned with the end result. That, and a weather forecast that could lead to a wet track.
With rain predicted for today, those contenders with experience running on an off track are grinning oh so slightly. Vyjack, who was third in the Wood Memorial, won the Gotham Stakes by 53/4 lengths over a sloppy Aqueduct track in December, and Florida Derby runner-up Itsmyluckyday also has mud form, winning over a sloppy Calder surface in August.
Orb and Verrazano are among those who have never run over a wet track, but one Derby entrant who has demonstrated he does not like such conditions is Rebel Stakes winner Will Take Charge.
The D. Wayne Lukas-trainee was sixth in the Grade III Southwest Stakes over a sloppy Oaklawn surface in an effort where he seemed to be spinning his wheels throughout.
How controlled the pace will be early on also has been a keen topic. With the new points system basically eliminating sprinters from the mix, some wonder if the early fractions will come in more tepid than has previously been the Derby norm.
Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents is almost certain to be on or right off the lead, as could Sam F. Davis winner Falling Sky.
“I think one thing with the No. 16 post is we can anticipate that if it looks like two or three of them are wanting to go, which I anticipate will happen, I anticipate maybe more pace than what we were thinking about,” said Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, trainer of Orb.
139th Kentucky Derby
The field for today’s 139th Kentucky Derby, with post position, horse’s name, jockey’s name and odds:
Weights: 126 pounds
Distance: 11/4 miles
Purse: $2,199,800 (if 20 start)
First place: $1,439,800
Second place: $400,000
Third place: $200,000
Post time: 6:24 p.m.
TV: NBC (Ch. 4)
|2. Oxbow||Gary Stevens||25-1|
|3. Revolutionary||Calvin Borel||5-1|
|4. Golden Soul||Robby Albarado||31-1|
|5. Normandy Invasion||Javier Castellano||8-1|
|6. Mylute||Rosie Napravnik||14-1|
|7. Giant Finish||Jose Espinoza||44-1|
|8. Goldencents||Kevin Krigger||5-1|
|9. Overanalyze||Rafael Bejarano||14-1|
|10. Palace Malice||Mike Smith||26-1|
|11. Lines of Battle||Ryan Moore||42-1|
|12. Itsmyluckyday||Elvis Trujillo||11-1|
|13. Falling Sky||Luis Saez||49-1|
|14. Verrazano||John Velazquez||11-1|
|15. Charming Kitten||Edgar Prado||32-1|
|16. Orb||Joel Rosario||6-1|
|17. Will Take Charge||Jon Court||31-1|
|18. Frac Daddy||Victor Lebron||15-1|
|19. Java’s War||Julien Leparoux||22-1|
|20. Vyjack||Garrett Gomez||43-1|