LOUISVILLE — The field for the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve is set as 20 horses attempt the 1 1/4-mile route under the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs, with each of these 3-year-olds hoping to leave with the garland of roses.
Essential Quality, reigning 2-year-old Eclipse Champion and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, was named the morning-line favorite at odds of 2-1. Trained by Brad Cox for owner Godolphin and piloted by jockey Luis Saez, Essential Quality drew post 14 at Tuesday's pill pull.
“It got a little nerve-wracking with both horses still to go and the rail still being out there,” said Cox, who avoided the dreaded No. 1 post. “I think it’ll be a good spot. He’s got good tactical speed that he’ll be able to get into a good position from there.”
Essential Quality is one of two starters Louisville native Cox will send out in his first Kentucky Derby. Cox also trains Mandaloun, who won the Risen Star at Fair Grounds Racecourse in February, but finished a disappointing sixth a month later in the Louisiana Derby.
Mandaloun was rated at odds of 15-1 and will break from gate 7 under jockey Florent Geroux.
“It ended up working out very well drawing post seven,” Cox said. “He’s a horse that, like Essential Quality, has a tactical advantage and can put himself where he needs to be.”
Second choice in the field, at odds of 5-1, is John Sadler’s Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World. The son of Candy Ride is undefeated in three starts and will leave from gate 15 under the guidance of jockey Joel Rosario. Post 15 produced last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Authentic.
“It’s a good post and we’re happy with it,” Sadler said.
Two of trainer Todd Pletcher’s four Kentucky Derby starters will bookend the field: Known Agenda in post one and Bourbonic in post 20.
“It certainly wasn’t the one we were hoping for, but I’ve often said ‘Sometimes you get bad trips from good posts and good trips from bad posts,’ so hopefully with the new starting gate that will make a little bit of a difference. But no question about it, it’s not what we wanted,” Pletcher said.
Florida Derby winner Known Agenda, owned by St. Elias Stable, was rated at odds of 6-1, which may float up once the bettors realize post 1 has not produced a Derby winner since Ferdinand in 1986. Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. has the mount.
The Calumet Farm-owned Bourbonic won the Wood Memorial by a head over stablemate Dynamic One. Bourbonic retains jockey Kendrick Carmouche and will break from gate 20, while Dynamic One will leave post 11 under jockey Jose Ortiz.
Pletcher’s remaining starter is 50-1 long-shot Sainthood, which will break from gat five. Runner-up in the Jeff Ruby Steaks in March, Sainthood’s only win in three career starts was a nose victory in a $60,000 maiden race in February.
Making the most noise at Tuesday’s post-position draw were the connections of 8-1 Hot Rod Charlie. Trained by two-time Kentucky Derby winner Doug O’Neill for Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, LLC, Strauss Bros., Hot Rod Charlie enters the Derby off a two-length win in the Louisiana Derby.
Among a subdued crowd, the young owners of Boat Racing, which includes O’Neil’s nephew Patrick, let out a robust cheer when Hot Rod Charlie’s name was called after post 9 had been pulled. Jockey Flavien Prat will be aboard Hot Rod Charlie.
“We got a great group of guys and they were going to be excited about it no matter what number we got, but these horses reflect our energy and win, lose or draw, we’re bringing great energy to Charlie and he’s given it back to us,” O’Neil said.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen is winless in 21 Kentucky Derby starts, but has a starter this year that may add even more significance to the win should he be able to get to the wire first.
Super Stock is owned by Asmussen’s parents, Keith and Marilyn Asmussen, in conjunction with Erv Woolsey, long-time manager of country music icon George Strait. Asmussen’s son, Keith, was aboard for Super Stock’s first three starts, including the colt’s first win.
“It's very emotional horse, the definition of the house horse, as far as Mom and Dad being part-owners with Irv Woolsey on the horse,” Asmussen said. “The horse has been a dream come true. He’s extremely versatile. He’ll go wherever Ricardo (Santana Jr.) wants him to.”
Woolsey echoed Asmussen’s excitement with the horse.
“It’s a lifetime dream getting to do it with a great partner,” Woolsey said. “We’ve got a great trainer and everything is wonderful.”
Super Stock, winner of the Arkansas Derby, drew post 18 and was set at a morning-line of 30-1. Santana retains the mount.
147TH KENTUCKY DERBY
6:50 p.m. Saturday at Churchill Downs, Louisville
Horses, with jockey and odds in parentheses, are listed from the rail out.
1. Known Agenda (Irad Ortiz Jr., 6-1), 2. Like the King (Drayden Van Dyke, 50-1), 3. Brooklyn Strong (Umberto Rispoli, 50-1), 4. Keepmeinmind (David Cohen, 50-1), 5. Sainthood (Corey Lanerie, 50-1), 6. O Besos (Marcelino Pedroza, 20-1), 7. Mandaloun (Florent Geroux, 15-1), 8. Medina Spirit (John Velazquez, 15-1), 9. Hot Rod Charlie (Flavien Prat, 8-1), 10. Midnight Bourbon (Mike Smith, 20-1), 11. Dynamic One (Jose Ortiz, 20-1), 12. Helium (Julien Leparoux, 50-1), 13. Hidden Stash (Rafael Bejarano, 50-1), 14. Essential Quality (Luis Saez, 2-1), 15. Rock Your World (Joel Rosario, 5-1), 16. King Fury (Brian Hernandez Jr., 20-1), 17. Highly Motivated (Javier Castellano, 10-1), 18. Super Stock (Ricardo Santana Jr., 30-1), 19. Soup and Sandwich (Tyler Gaffalione, 30-1), 20. Bourbonic (Kendrick Carmouche, 30-1).