Dortmund, American Pharoah vie for favorite in 141st Derby
Bob Baffert is riding high these days, knowing he holds a pair of aces heading into the Kentucky Derby.
The white-haired trainer has the probable favorite in either undefeated Dortmund or American Pharoah, giving him a double shot at winning America’s greatest race for the fourth time. He’s just not his old cocky self about it. At 62, having survived a heart attack three years ago in Dubai, Baffert feels grateful to be back in position to win another Derby, which would move him into a tie for second-most among trainers. He hasn’t smelled the roses since 2002 with War Emblem.
Todd Pletcher is even luckier. He’s got five horses set to run on May 2 in the race, with Blue Grass winner Carpe Diem as his leading contender.
Of course, big numbers are nothing new for the New York-based trainer.
He had five runners two years ago, and his best finish was third. Last year, he saddled four horses and again finished no higher than third. Pletcher’s lone Derby win came in 2010 with Super Saver.
Besides Carpe Diem, Pletcher’s other horses are: Materiality, Itsaknockout, Stanford and Madefromlucky.
One of the deepest and most talented fields in recent years — a full 20 horses — will break from the gate for the 141st Derby at Churchill Downs. The lineup won’t be finalized until Wednesday, when entries are drawn and post positions are assigned.
Pletcher’s mentor, D. Wayne Lukas, has a shot at making Derby history. The 79-yearold Hall of Famer could become the oldest trainer to win with Mr Z. The four-time Derby winner would surpass Art Sherman, who was 77 when California Chrome won last year.
Dortmund comes into the Derby with a 6-0 record, equaling the marks of Seattle Slew and Smarty Jones when they won the Derby in 1977 and 2004, respectively. He’s got the pedigree, too, having been sired by 2008 Derby winner Big Brown. His frontrunning style could keep him out of trouble in the jammed field.
American Pharoah romped to an eightlength victory in his last race at the Arkansas Derby. His sire, Pioneerof the Nile, finished second in the 2009 Derby.
Among owners, Ahmed Zayat has three contenders: American Pharoah, El Kabeir and Mr Z.
The ruling Maktoum family of Dubai is back at the Derby for the first time since 2009 trying to improve its 0 for 7 mark. Their Godolphin Racing outfit has Frosted, who has been training in the U.S. and figures to be right behind the top favorites in the wagering.
Ireland- bred Mubtaahij is owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, a member of Dubai royalty. The welltraveled colt is based overseas and has run everywhere from England to Dubai. He could become the first Derby winner to prep outside the U.S. since Canonero II in 1971.
Mubtaahij won the UAE Derby, giving trainer Mike de Kock enough confidence to enter the Derby.
No one knows that better than Baffert and Pletcher.
Both trainers have had early favorites either forced out at the last minute or be done in by the pace or post position.
Jockey John Velazquez, left, rides Madefromlucky in a morning workout with stablemate and Kentucy Derby hopeful Standford, right, ridden by exercise rider Isabelle Bourez, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday, April 24.