I find it hard to believe that Mike Battaglia sets the odds after the post positions are announced, especially considering that he has pegged Curlin as the 7-2 morning line favorite in spite of the fact that the Steve Asmussen trained late bloomer is coming out of the second gate. No horse has won from the two hole since Affirmed in '78, and that was in an 11-horse field.
"We don't know how good this horse is, but he's just been dominating," said Battaglia of his decision.
Of course poor starting position isn't the only thing Curlin will have to overcome.
The runaway Arkansas Derby champ didn't compete as a two-year-old, and not since Apollo in 1882 (125 years...I can do math without letters) has a horse who didn't run in his second year taken home the roses. Also, not since Regret in 1915 has a horse with three or less starts won the Derby. The mile and a quarter trip around Churchill on Saturday will be Curlin's fourth.
The horse more likely to be the favorite at post time is Juvenile champ Street Sense, who finds himself coming out of the seven gate. Gate seven has been the top choice in the selection process in four of the ten years the new system has been in place, but Carl Nafzger was lucky enough to nab it with the sixth selection on Wednesday.
Of course being the Juvenile champ there is a great deal of history working against Street Sense as well, but the Calvin "Bo-Rail" ridden horse coming off of a narrow loss to Dominican in the Bluegrass Stakes does have some karma in his corner. The last time he was edged out on the polytrack in Lexington (to Great Hunter and someone else last Fall, I was pretty tanked), he responded in a big way on the dirt of Churchill on Breeder's Cup Saturday.
Circular Quay (Post 16) and Nobiz Like Shobiz (Post 12) are the co-third choices at 8-1. The Quay (pronounced "Key") is getting a lot of early love from pundits despite the fact that it's been eight weeks since he last ran.
Coming out of the 14 post is Florida Derby winner Scat Daddy, who is the fourth choice at 10-1. Before he had even been breezed, trainer Todd Pletcher predicted that the son of Johannesburg would be the best colt he'd ever had, a prophecy that could be realized on Saturday.
The biggest losers of the day were the three quality horses forced into the last three posts in the 20-horse field. Any Given Saturday (12-1), Dominican (20-1) and Great Hunter (15-1) will all come out of the auxiliary gate, where surprisingly five of the last 11 Derby champs have started. It will be interesting to see which of three very capable horses is in the best position at the first turn.
For the go big our go home crowd, your trio of 50-1 longshots are Sedgefield (starting on the rail), Imawildandcrazyguy (post five and undeniably the ugliest horse in the field) and Bwana Bull (post 11). Every year when I first get to the infield I make my pick for the horse that "absolutely has no f-ing shot" (sadly in '05 it was Giacomo, and in '03 it was Funny Cide, but that was mostly out of spite because a friend wouldn't shut up about the ball-less wonder), and this year Bwana Bull is looking like the runaway favorite.
The three pacesetters in the field would seem to be Teuflesberg (30-1), Liquidity (30-1) and Stormello (30-1). The first two will break from nine and ten gates respectively, while William Currin's lone hope is relegated to post 17.
I'll give my final preview and unveil my picks on Friday, but for now here's your official field for Kentucky Derby 133:
- Sedgefield, 50-1
- Curlin, 7-2
- Zanjero, 30-1
- Storm in May, 30-1
- Imawildandcrazyguy, 50-1
- Cowtown Cat, 20-1
- Street Sense, 4-1
- Hard Spun, 15-1
- Liquidity, 30-1
- Teuflesberg, 30-1
- Bwana Bull, 50-1
- Nobiz Like Shobiz, 8-1
- Sam P., 20-1
- Scat Daddy, 10-1
- Tiago, 15-1
- Circular Quay, 8-1
- Stormello, 30-1
- Any Given Saturday, 12-1
- Dominican, 20-1
- Great Hunter, 15-1
Trainers (by post position): 1, Darrin Miller. 2, Steve Asmussen. 3, Steven Asmussen. 4, Bill Kaplan. 5, Bill Kaplan. 6, Todd Pletcher. 7, Carl Nafzger. 8, Larry Jones. 9, Doug O'Neill. 10, Jamie Sanders. 11, Jerry Hollendorfer. 12, Barclay Tagg. 13, Todd Pletcher. 14, Todd Pletcher. 15, John Shirreffs. 16, Todd Pletcher. 17, William Currin. 18, Todd Pletcher. 19, Darrin Miller. 20, Doug O'Neill.
Owners (by post position): 1, Silverton Hill. 2, Jess Jackson, Padua Stable, George Bolton & Midnight Cry Stable. 3, Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC. 4, Teresa & David Palmer. 5, Lewis Pell & Michael Eigner. 6, WinStar Farm. 7, James B. Tafel LLC. 8, Fox Hill Farms Inc. 9, J. Paul Reddam. 10, Gary Logsdon, Donnie Kelly & Jamie Sanders. 11, Mark DeDomenico, Mark Jelladian, & Dan and Jerry Todaro. 12, Elizabeth Valando. 13, Starlight Stable & Donald Lucarelli. 14, James Scatuorchio & Michael Tabor. 15, Mr. & Mrs. Jerome S. Moss. 16, Michael & Doreen Tabor. 17, Bill Currin. 18, WinStar Farm, Maverick Racing & Padua Stable. 19, Silverton Hill Farm. 20, J. Paul Reddam.