Field set for 129th Kentucky Derby
By Richard Rosenblatt
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Empire Maker became the strongest Kentucky Derby favorite since 1992 when the colt was made the 6-5 choice in the 17-horse field Wednesday.
Empire Maker, who soared to the head of the 3-year old division off wins in the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial, will leave from the No. 12 post. The last Derby winner to leave from the No. 12 post was Canonero II in 1971.
"I want to be toward the outside,'' said trainer Bobby Frankel, who chose the post position with the seventh pick in the selection process. "I should have no excuses.''
Empire Maker will be ridden by Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey.
The Derby has been unkind to favorites since 1980. After Spectacular Bid won as the .60-1 favorite in 1979, only one other favorite -- Fusaichi Pegasus at 2.30-1 in 2000 -- has returned to the winner's circle.
Ten Most Wanted, an impressive winner at the Illinois Derby, was the second choice at 6-1 for the 1 1/4 -mile race. The colt trained by Wally Dollase will leave from the No. 16 post, which has produced three Derby winners since 1995. Ten Most Wanted will be ridden by Hall of Famer Pat Day, looking for his second Derby win in his 21st appearance.
"I loved the way he closed in the Illinois Derby,'' Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia said. "He was full of run at the end. And I have a lot of respect for the trainer.''
Peace Rules, also trained by Frankel, was the co-third choice with Buddy Gil at 8-1, and will leave from the No. 5 post. A winner of five of eight races and the leading money earner in the field at $1,124,990, Peace Rules is coming off wins in the Louisiana Derby and Blue Grass Stakes. Edgar Prado will ride.
"Peace Rules is a little quicker and will be a little closer to the front,'' Frankel said in explaining his decision to have the colt farther inside than Empire Maker.
Buddy Gil, winner of his last three races, including the Santa Anita Derby, will leave from the No. 8 post.
Atswhatimtalknbout, owned in part by Steven Spielberg, Gary Ross and Frank Marshall, and trainer Bob Baffert's Indian Express were each 12-1. Wood runner-up Funny Cide, Arkansas Derby winner Sir Cherokee and Lexington Stakes winner Scrimshaw -- trained by four-time Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas -- were all 15-1.
The other eight 3-year-olds in the field were either 30- or 50-1.
At 30-1 were Brancusi and Offlee Wild, second and third-place finishers in the Blue Grass; and Domestic Dispute, who was transferred from Baffert's barn to Paddy Gallagher's after being sold Saturday.
At 50-1 were Outta Here, Lone Star Sky, Ten Cents a Shine, Eye of the Tiger and Supah Blitz.
Supah Blitz, who leaves from the rail, will be ridden by Rosemary Homeister Jr., who will become the fifth female to ride in the Derby.
Outside posts have produced five winners in the last eight years -- two from No. 15 and three from No. 16. War Emblem went wire-to-wire from the No. 5 post in winning last year's Derby.
Lukas, who also trains Ten Cents a Shine, will extend his record number of starters to 41 if both colts run.
While the No. 1 post has produced the most Derby winners with 12, the last winner to leave from the rail was Ferdinand in 1986.
If all 17 start, the winner's share of the $1,115,200 purse will be $815,200.