Dort­mund, Amer­i­can Pharoah vie for fa­vorite in 141st Derby

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY BETH HAR­RIS

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.

AP

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.

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