Curlin Derby favorite, Pletcher loaded


LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Todd Pletcher has saddled 14 different horses in the Kentucky Derby. All 14 have lost.

If the nation's best trainer is going to finally break though this year, the odds will certainly be in his favor.

As expected, Pletcher was the star of the 133rd Kentucky Derby post position draw on Wednesday, as the two-time Eclipse Award winner entered a record-tying five horses in a full field of 20 for Saturday (NBC 4:30 p.m. ET) at Churchill Downs.

Pletcher's top horse, according to oddsmaker Mike Battaglia, Circular Quay, will leave from the No. 16 post. The son of Thunder Gulch and Louisiana Derby winner was installed as an 8-1 choice, despite the fact that he is coming off of an eight-week layoff.

"With him it (post) matters least," Pletcher said. "We checked with (rider) Johnny Velazquez and he preferred to be outside. I like it that he was drawn right next to Tiago (No. 15). They have similar styles. They'll drop back and come running."

Scat Daddy, perhaps Pletcher's most accomplished horse, drew the No. 14 post and was given 10-1 odds. Owned by James Scatuorchio and Michael Tabor, Scat Daddy is one of two Kentucky Derby entries who has five wins on his resume, including victories in the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby. Hard Spun, the Lane's End Stakes winner, also has five victories heading into Saturday. The son of Danzig will be in gate No. 8 and has early odds of 15-1.

Pletcher's other three contenders, Cowtown Cat (20-1), Sam P (20-1) and Any Given Saturday (12-1), will leave from posts 6, 13 and 18, respectively.

If betting favorite Curlin is to capture racing's most prized race, he will have to overcome not only history, but some pretty difficult circumstances to do so. Curlin, trained by Steve Asmussen and installed as a slight 7-2 favorite, did not race as a 2-year old and has just three races under his belt. It has been 125 years since a Derby winner won without racing as a 2-year old and 92 years since a horse has worn the roses after racing only three times prior to the first Saturday in May. To add more uncertainty to the equation, Curlin will have to leave from gate No. 2. No horse has won from that position since Affirmed did it in 1978.

Curlin has been awesome in his three starts, winning by a combined 18 1/2 lengths, including a resounding 10 1/2 length romp in the Arkansas Derby.

"Considering the 16th selection, the two hole was an excellent option for him," Asmussen said. "He won the Arkansas Derby out of the two hole. I feel very confident."

Asmussen's other entry, Zanjero, will be in gate No. 3. The third-place finisher in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes is at long shot odds of 30-1 under Shaun Bridgmohan.

Three other trainers, Doug O'Neill, Darrin Miller and Bill Kaplan, will saddle two horse apiece. O'Neill's Great Hunter has a win in the Robert B. Lewis and is one of the most seasoned horses in the field, having seven graded stakes races to his resume. Unfortunately for O'Neill and jockey Corey Nakatani, Great Hunter (15-1) will have to leave from the far outside post of No. 20. Perhaps the horse with as good a chance as any is Tampa Bay Derby winner Street Sense. The son of Street Cry has been no worse than third in seven lifetime starts and last season won the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile by a whopping 10 lengths at Churchill Downs. However, horses that have won the Juvenile are 0-for-23 lifetime in the sport's biggest race.

Street Sense is trained by Carl Nafzger, who won the Kentucky Derby in 1990 with Unbridled. He will leave from gate No. 7 and is the second choice at 4-1 with Calvin Borel aboard.

Another horse to watch for is co-third choice Nobiz Like Showbiz. Trained by Barclay Tagg, who won the 2003 Derby with Funny Cide, Nobiz Like Showbiz won the Wood Memorial on April 7 and has been the most consistent New York horse in the field. With the red-hot Cornelio Velasquez aboard, the son of Albert the Great will leave from post No. 12.

This will be the tenth time in Derby history that a full 20-horse field will break from the gates. Coupled with the fact that this may be one of the deepest fields in recent memory, and we should have ourselves one heck of a Saturday.

$2.21 million Kentucky Derby (Grade 1)
Saturday, May 5, Churchill Downs No. 10

*Morning-line odds