The 144th Kentucky Derby starts this year's Triple Crown racing season, and the only time it can truly be topped is when the victor of the Run for the Roses also takes the Preakness, and attention shifts to the Belmont Stakes for a potential Triple Crown victor.
Can Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert conquer a 135-year-old curse on Saturday with his latest Kentucky Derby favorite? Third in the morning line at 6-1, Magnum Moon is the most highly rated of four horses that will be saddled for the Derby by Pletcher, who captured the 2017 Derby with Always Dreaming and who will also be represented by Florida Derby hero Audible, Wood Memorial winner Vino Rosso and Louisiana Derby victor Noble Indy.
Pletcher's son, Todd, is a world famous horse trainer, including victor of last year's Derby and Belmont Stakes.
The wild card here might be Mendelssohn, the horse from Ireland who has been pointed to this race by Aidan O'Brien, the superstar European trainer who past year set a single-season record with 28 Grade 1 or Group 1 stakes victories.
Mendelssohn won the $2 million United Arab Emirates Derby by an astonishing 18 lengths - and that's just four of the 20 horses that will tackle the $2 million Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
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"The race is pretty top-heavy", said Baffert, who sends out Justify and a long shot, Solomini. Magnum Moon came through with a winning effort in the Arkansas Derby and also was victorious in another stakes race at Oaklawn Park earlier this year.
Then again, maybe there's no such thing as a curse, and the 2018 Kentucky Derby will be decided on merit alone. "But I think when the right horse comes along it will happen". "Todd's going to have his (horse) ready, and Baffert is going to have his". "It's a challenge just to get (to the Derby)". "The horses are doing well".
Audible the horse now has 8-1 odds of winning this year's race, according to Churchill Downs' official website. "When you do get one like that, you take full advantage and hope to get the best out of them, and that's where we're at".
Mendelssohn captured the UAE Derby in his dirt debut and will try to give O'Brien and British jockey Ryan Moore their first victory in one of the few worldwide races that the duo has not paired to win. Shipping in late, as is normal for trainer Aidan O'Brien, he made his first appearance on the Churchill Downs track Thursday morning traveling with an entourage of other Coolmore runners.
Considered to be "the biggest race in the world, the Kentucky Derby has millions of people from all over the world placing bets on which horse might win".
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Justify is the plus-350 favorite, according to OddsShark, and he appears to be a strong competitor who has won all three of his starts. It's something, to really, fully get a real handle on the race, I'll have to go back and watch the replay a number of times, and watch each horse individually. Going up against a field of 20 is a daunting task.
The action begins with live coverage of KENTUCKY OAKS, the stakes race for the top three-year-old thoroughbred fillies on Friday, May 4 at 12 noon ET on TSN2, and continues on Saturday as the top three-year-old thoroughbreds hit the racetrack to vie for the coveted KENTUCKY DERBY title, the first stop on their quest to capture the American Triple Crown. Justify is one of two horses that have raced only three times.
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Weather could be a factor as well, as forecasts for Derby Day call for a 40 percent chance of rain, with showers in the afternoon and a high of 76 degrees.
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