Churchill Downs will be the site for one of the biggest sporting events of the year this weekend; the Kentucky Derby (Saturday, 6:30 p.m., NBC). The $2 million, one and one-quarter mile race drew a field of 20 plus two also-eligibles, but only one can win. Metro digs in and tells you who the top three contenders are.
Exaggerator (Post Position: 11, Morning-Line Odds: 8-1)
Exaggerator was perhaps the most impressive of the final prep winners, drawing off in the Santa Anita Derby by more than six lengths. That race was run in the mud and his other big win came over a muddy going in the Delta Downs Jackpot last fall, but he’s shown enough ability in the San Vicente and San Felipe Stakes over fast tracks to make a strong case that he’s the best three-year-old colt in training. Exaggerator was sired by Curlin, one of the richest horses of all time who hit the board in all three Triple Crown races in 2007, so he shouldn’t mind the 10 furlong distance. Kent Desormeaux rides for trainer Keith Desormeaux, his brother, and while Keith is seeking his first Derby victory, Kent has three career wins in this race. Exaggerator should sit an ideal trip in midpack, passing the leaders late and holding off the deep closers.
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My Man Sam (Post Position: 6, Morning-Line Odds: 20-1)
New York horseplayers will be very familiar with the connections of My Man Sam; Chad Brown trains and Irad Ortiz Jr. rides. My Man Sam has just one win to his credit in four starts but he’s run fast by all accounts. In the Blue Grass Stakes, his final prep for this race, he was dealt a bad post (14) but managed to rally well from the back of the pack to get second. That willingness to overcome adversity is exactly what he’ll need to do well in this race. He is a longshot with a very realistic chance to win the “Run for the Roses” on Saturday.
Mor Spirit (Post Position: 17, Morning-Line Odds: 12-1)
Mor Spirit is based on the west coast but he has a race under his belt at Churchill Downs; a strong runner-up finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last November. He may have lost by several lengths to Exaggerator in the muddy Santa Anita Derby last time out, but it’s possible he can turn the tables as his pedigree and running style suggest he’ll appreciate the added ground. Also, Mor Spirit outfinished Exaggerator in the San Felipe Stakes last March over a fast track, which is the likely scenario for Saturday. Mor Spirit is trained by Bob Baffert who’s won this race four times, including last year with eventual Triple Crown champion American Pharoah. Gary Stevens has the mount, and he has three Derby victories to his credit.