LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A trainer flooding the field with five horses. A black jockey trying to make history, and a woman rider, too. Louisville coach Rick Pitino seeking a double — champions in racing and basketball. He’s in the right place.
The 19-horse field for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby is balanced, with no definitive favorite.
Orb is the pre-race choice, just barely. Nearly overshadowed is his trainer, Shug McGaughey, who really, really wants this race. Doug O’Neill is trying to win back-to-back. And then there’s the threat of rain, which has done in some of the best-laid plans on race day.
“I don’t think we’ve got Secretariat in this bunch, even Seattle Slew,” four-time Derby-winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas said, “so I think it’s going to boil down to the trip and the pace and a lot of other things.”
Todd Pletcher will saddle a record-tying five horses — undefeated and early second choice Verrazano, Revolutionary, Overanalyze, Palace Malice and Charming Kitten.
Verrazano is 4-0 in his young career, not having run as a 2-year-old. He’ll be trying to disprove an old Derby jinx: no horse since Apollo in 1882 has won without racing as a juvenile.
Relative unknown Kevin Krigger will be aboard Goldencents, trying to become the first black jockey to win since Jimmy Winkfield in 1902.
“I’m going to ride us the race that should get us to the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle,” Krigger said.
The colt is partly owned by Pitino, whose Cardinals won the NCAA championship last month. The coach recently was elected to basketball’s Hall of Fame, so a Derby win would complete the ultimate trifecta.
Rosie Napravnik wants to grab history for herself, too.
No female jockey has ever won the Derby, though she came closest, with a ninth-place finish in 2011. Napravnik will ride 15-1 long shot Mylute.
“He feels great, he’s acting great and I’m very confident heading into the Derby,” she said.
Orb was the narrow 7-2 early favorite for the 139th Derby. He comes in on a four-race winning streak for McGaughey, the 62-year-old trainer whose Hall of Fame résumé lacks a Derby victory. He’s making his second appearance since 1989, when he finished second with Easy Goer.
The forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of rain and a high of 59 degrees. The last Derby run on a sloppy track was in 2010.
“It’ll make the Derby that much more wide open,” said trainer Ken McPeek, who has two starters, Frac Daddy and Java’s War.
Lukas has two horses — Oxbow and Will Take Charge — ready for his 27th Derby. The trainer planned to sleep soundly the night before.
“I don’t get uptight, don’t even get excited when they go in the gate,” he said.
At 77, Lukas would be the oldest trainer to win.
Normandy Invasion can count on his own rooting section among the expected throngs at Churchill Downs. The colt named for the Allied assault on Normandy in World War II has four D-Day veterans backing him. They were flown in for the race by owner Rick Porter, and met the colt up close on Friday.
Calvin Borel is one jockey always worth watching in the Derby. He and Revolutionary will break from the No. 3 spot in the starting gate, putting Borel near his favorite path on the track — the rail. The rider nicknamed “Bo-rail” for his fence-skimming rides has three Derby wins in the last six years.
“This is his home court,” Lukas said. “He does better here than anywhere else.”
Long shot wins Kentucky Oaks
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Long shot Princess of Sylmar rallied with a huge stretch run to win the $1 million Kentucky Oaks on Friday at Churchill Downs.
One of four fillies trained by todd Pletcher in the Grade 1 race, the 38-1 long shot upstaged 3-2 favorite Dreaming of Julia. That positioned Pletcher for a weekend sweep Saturday in the Kentucky Derby, where he has a record-tying five entries.
Starting from the No. 6 post with Hall of Famer Mike Smith aboard, Princess of Sylmar ran 118 miles in 1:49.17 and paid $79.60, $29.40 and $14. Beholder returned $9 and $5.60, and Unlimited Budget, another Pletcher entry, paid $3.80 to show.