Up the Backstretch: Derby up for grabs on Saturday
By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Saturday's 138th Kentucky Derby has drawn an evenly matched field of 20 3-year-olds with many more than a handful being legitimate contenders.
While only four of the 20 are listed in the morning line at less than 10-1, probably half the field have excellent shots at finding the wire first. The final odds will show, no doubt, that the betting the public considers a large portion of the runners as being on an equal level.
Parity, something that all sports leagues strive for, has reached the Kentucky Derby this year. While Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister is the early 4-1 favorite and Union Rags is next at 9-2, expect those odds to go up slightly with other horses having their odds drop.
"It was very close," track oddsmaker Mike Battaglia said about the two favorites. "If Bodemeister had drawn the one (post), or even the two, I would've switched them and made Union Rags the favorite. I wanted to make them co-favorite. I haven't had the two favorites this close, actually, since Street Sense and Curlin (2007). I wanted to make them co-favorite and I didn't and they went off 10 cents apart."
The two favorites drew posts 6 and 4, respectively, with 8-1 fourth choice Dullahan between the two. Gemologist, the 6-1 third pick, will start from post 15 just to the inside of stablemate El Padrino.
"The post is fine. The ideal thing would probably to be to the outside of the other speed, but it is what it is," noted jockey Mike Smith, who will be aboard Bodemeister. "We've all got to get in there and we've all got to break well. We'll play it off the break and see what happens. I think that if he gets away well, like I've been saying all along, if he's given the opportunity, he's going to run extremely well."
This year, post positions don't seem to make that much of a difference. None of the top-rated horses drew the two inside posts with the outside posts becoming more desirable the last several years.
"It's not ideal, but it's better than being inside," trainer Doug O'Neill said about I'll Have Another drawing post 19. "We will get to load late, so that is a plus. We'll be outside all the speed, so we'll probably have a good chance to get good position. If they go 46 (seconds) or 47 and change for a half (mile), I'll feel good. That will put him in position to close strongly."
In the wagering department. don't look for any of the major prep winners to duplicate their winning efforts. I'm looking at three horses coming off solid races last time out that just barely missed wins.
My main horse is Union Rags, third in the Florida Derby after a tough trip. His only two losses in six starts came after having troubled races. Post 4 may actually help the colt, who should have little difficulty with the 1 1/4 miles.
"We're going to have him run out of there a little bit, but that's not the worst thing in the world," Union Rags trainer Michael Matz said after the draw. "My original thought was that I wasn't crazy about it, but where everybody is, I don't think it's so bad."
Next is Wood Memorial runner-up Alpha, who is 15-1 in the morning line. Santa Anita runner-up Creative Cause is the third horse in my handicapping.
"Depending on the speed, I expect him to be three or four lengths off the leaders. That's the way he runs," trainer Mike Harrington said about Creative Cause.
Union Rags with Julien Leparoux riding will motor down the middle of the stretch to victory in the Run for the Roses with Alpha and Creative Cause coming right behind to finish out the exacta and trifecta.
Everybody have a safe race and then it's on to Pimlico.
05/03 10:32:55 ET