By its very nature, the Kentucky Derby is an intensely competitive race for a bouquet of reasons: the random nature of the post draw, the field size, the horses' questionable stamina, the weather, and the fact that about half the horses in any given year can win the race.
None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015.
Justify took the Road to the Triple Crown by storm this year after going unraced in 2017. Winning Colors was the last to win from post 1 and Affirmed was the last to win from post 2 on his way to the Triple Crown in 1978.
Point being no matter how you dissect the race, whether you use Racing Forms, Thorographs, or YouTube (the primary handicapping device of your correspondent), the race is always competitive. This race is traumatic.
Justify is a strong horse, but there is something about Mendelssohn's 18-and-a-half-length victory and excellent European connections-O'Brien is the continent's top trainer-that makes this a most risky combination. (Why not? It might boost TV ratings.) One might hear the Hall of Fame certainty Todd Pletcher speak of the hard, rare art of attempting to watch his own multiple entries - four, this time - in a Kentucky Derby. "They can never be the same".
Baffert, who trains Derby favorite Justify (3-1 morning line, 2-1 Wynn Las Vegas) and long shot Solomini (30-1, 30-1), had more to say about Mendelssohn (5-1, 6-1) than Mendelssohn's assistant trainer Pat Keating.
Returning from the desert, Mendelssohn completed his Derby preparations at the famed Ballydolyle training center in County Tipperary. But then few horses have matched the globe-trotting credentials of Mendelssohn, the 5-1 second choice for America's greatest race on Saturday.
And then came a resounding triumph in the UAE Derby in Dubai in March where Mendelssohn romped by 18 1/2 lengths to earn a trip to Kentucky, where he was bred.
The equation is the same, only the names change. Six horses have won from the No. 7 post in the history of the Derby, most recently Street Sense in 2007. Mendelssohn has already shown the ability to handle challenges around the globe.
We'd be remiss to skim over Pletcher's herd, namely Audible. They used to say you had to win a race at two to win the Derby.
The Kentucky Derby has been covered by some of America's most famous writers. Rounding out the top five is Chad Brown's Blue Grass Stakes victor and Good Magic. For what I've personally seen on the backside, be it on track or in the stall, I will whittle down my selection to Bolt d'Oro, Good Magic, or Vino Rosso. I think Bolt d'Oro will run third.
"It's that time of year where people want to get outside and dress up in their spring and summer dresses", said Amanda Duplantis, chairwoman for the JLCS derby party.
"I don't look at Apollo's curse", Baffert said.
With all the speed and tactical speed filling up the past performances, who's the one to peak and break on through to the other side?
"They wanted to be in on the horse and approached us", Walden said. Hofburg is trying to give Mott his first Derby victor, and he has had a head-turning week of training that illustrates why a conservative trainer like Mott is taking on the Derby with a horse with so few starts.
For those of Us not off to the races this weekend, your viewing party fashion can still be just as chic!
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