The final weeks leading up to the historic Kentucky Derby are undoubtedly among the most electrifying and suspenseful days in horse racing. With the final preparation races complete and our qualifying colts in line, you can practically feel the thunder of hoof beats across the Churchill Downs dirt; the tender petals of roses draping over broad, sweat soaked withers. The first Saturday in May draws ever nearer, and with each passing moment, the feverish anticipation among fans grows ever higher.
This year, a diverse field of dexterous three-year-old colts have filled the highly coveted twenty starting positions. With such a wide-open field of aptitude, selecting a winner for this year's Kentucky Derby may be more of a challenge then it has been in previous years. For six straight years, the post-time favorite has gone on to win the roses in the Kentucky Derby, the longest streak of it's like in the history of the race. This year's post-tie favorite will look to extend that streak to seven in a row, however, many feel that this year's edition of the race may be primed for an upset.
Will a favorite once again dominate his competitors? Or will an unforeseen challenger sneak away with the win? Let's break down the current field, and where they factor in the race!
- THE FAVORITES -
War Front - Charming
Jockey: Mike Smith
Trainer: Richard Mandella
Owner: Fox Hill Farms, Inc.
Winner of the (G1) Arkansas Derby in his most recent start and second on the Kentucky Derby leader board, Omaha Beach will likely, and rightly, be the favorite in this year's edition of the Kentucky Derby. A son of Claiborne Farm's War Front, the bay colt gamely turned back the hard fighting Improbable in the (G1) Arkansas Derby to skip home over the sloppy Oaklawn Park surface. Earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 101 for his effort, the young millionaire looks to become his sire's and trainer's first Kentucky Derby champion.
Tapit - Close Hatches
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Trainer: William Mott
Owner: Juddmonte Farms, Inc.
The points leader on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, this strapping son of Gainesway Farm's Tapit holds claim to a nearly spotless career record. He is exiting a win in the (G2) Wood Memorial where he defeated (G3) Withers Stakes winner Tax by 1 1/14 lengths after enduring his heels being clipped by another runner, and several instances of bumping. While he has proven himself amply capable to make it into the Kentucky Derby starting gate, winning will be a challenge, as Tacitus will have to overcome the 'curse' of the Wood Memorial, which has not produced a Kentucky Derby champion since Fusachi Pegasus in 2000. In light of Justify's demolition of the one-hundred-thirty-six-year-old 'Curse of Apollo' last year, anything is possible, and a win here would be the first for his sire and trainer.
City Zip - Rare Event
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Owner: WinStar Farm LLC, China Horse Club International Ltd. and Starlight Racing
With connections like these riding upon such a well muscled chestnut with a wide, flashy blaze, it is difficult not to have visions of Justify when surveying Improbable. A close runner up behind Omaha Beach in the (G1) Arkansas Derby, Improbable has shown himself to be a furiously gritty contender on the trail. A winner of three of his five starts, this colt has never raced worse than second in his career, and ran valiantly in defeat in the (G1) Arkansas Derby after becoming fractious in the starting gate, being "upset" by his newly added blinkers, taking mud, and charging late after a wide trip. With the blinkers coming back off for the Kentucky Derby, trainer Bob Baffert is reportedly happy that the colt is still in contention for the Derby, and is confident that he will move forward from his effort.
New Year's Day - Lil Indy
Jockey: Luis Saez