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Dramatic twist to Kentucky Derby script

  May 2 , 2019

The script for Kentucky Derby abruptly changed with pre-race favourite Omaha Beach scratched from the $ 3 million race presented by Woodford Reserve (Gr 1) scheduled to be run at Churchill Downs on Saturday. Such high-profile withdrawals have been rare for the Kentucky Derby though there are instances of strongly fancied horses being scratched in the last minute due to physical niggles.

Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella who was hoping to win his first Kentucky win through Omaha Beach who was accorded the status of being a favourite told reporters on Wednesday that Omaha Beach has an entrapped epiglottis. After training this morning we noticed him cough a few times,`` Mandella said in a news release. ``It caused us to scope him and we found an entrapped epiglottis.`` Omaha Beach will undergo a corrective surgery which should keep the talented horse out of action for a few weeks. ``It`s such a disappointment, but we`` ll fight again, Mandella said. ``We won`t be out for a long time.

Jockey Mike Smith who rode last year`s winner Justify who went on to win the Triple Crown for Bob Baffert will be without a mount as he had preferred Omaha Beach over Roadster. Though there is a provision to change the jockey, trainer Baffert says that he would be sticking with jockey Florent Geroux for Roadster.

The Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has revised the morning line to make Game Winner the 9-2 favourite for the mile and a quarter race which is slated to be run at 6.46 p.m. EDT which translates to 4.16 a.m. on Sunday morning in India. Improbable and Roadster were installed as the joint second favourites at 5-1, giving five-time Derby-winning trainer Baffert the top three choices in the 20-horse field. Maximum Security has been quoted at 6 to 1 while Tacitus is at 8-1 and Code of Honor 10-1. These horses making the top six betting choices for what is billed as the fastest and most exciting two minutes in racing. The late scratching of Omaha Beach will enable Boldexpress to get a draw into the field and will start from Post No 20.

Two Hall of Famer trainers will try to capture the biggest prize in horse racing for the first time. Bill Mott (4,908) and Steve Asmussen (8,409) have won 13,317 races between them, but are 0-for-33 in the Run for the Roses.

Two years ago, Always Dreaming cruised to a Kentucky Derby win on a muddy Churchill Downs track. Last year, a Derby Day-record 3.15 inches of rain fell as Justify held off a late surge by Good Magic to win the Kentucky Derby by 2 1/2 lengths over a sloppy Churchill Downs track. And now rain is in the forecast once again for the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby.

This will be the seventh Derby run under Churchill Downs` Road to the Kentucky Derby under the Churchill Downs` Road to the Kentucky Derby points system. This year`s top point earner is Tacitus with 150 based on his scores in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G2). Omaha Beach was second in the points race with 137.5. Spinoff, with 40 points, was the last horse to get in the field. Master Fencer, who earned 19 points on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby is the first Japan-bred horse to run in the Derby.

Historically, the rail has proved fruitful, but of late it has proved to be the toughest spot to win from. Interestingly, Ferdinand (1986) is the last winner from Post 1. Post 2 is perhaps just as tough, as 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed is the last Derby winner to break from that spot where Tax will begin his journey this year. The outside 20 post has produced one winner, Big Brown in 2008.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert who has an imposing record in this most prestigious race with five successes to his credit has a formidable trio of Game Winner, the champion 2-year-old male of 2018, who drew post 16 and Santa Anita Derby (G1), winner Roadster (6-1) and Improbable(6-1).

Game Runner, the Derby favourite

Baffert expressed that he was pleased with all his posts.

"Anything but the one or two or three, I`m fine with that," he said. "And I think the good horses all drew well, so there were no real shockers in there."

With two of his runners next to each other, he said: "they`ll be easy to watch."

Post 17 is 0-40 historically. Baffert compared it to the 136-year-old "Curse of Apollo" broken by Justify, who became the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old.

"I`m OK, it`s not the end of the world," he said.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has two runners for the Derby in Tacitus and Country House. Juddmonte Farms` Tacitus drew post eight and was listed at 8-1. Country House (30-1) was not as lucky, drawing the outside draw. The famed Juddmonte racing operations which has practically won every major race in the world is bidding for its maiden win through Tacitus. Tacitus will be just the fifth horse to run in the Derby under the famed Juddmonte colours.

"I was hoping to be in the middle with him," Mott said of Tacitus. "He`s a little different type of horse, has a faster early speed, tactical sort of speed, stalker-type; maybe the kind of horse that could possibly be mid-pack. He`s actually probably got to take the chance of encountering as much traffic, maybe even more than Country House, even though Country House comes from farther back, just because he`s starting sort of in the middle of the pack. But all we can do is hope for a clear trip.

Improbable`s Derby bid comes one year after the owners won with Justify, the second Triple Crown winner for Baffert. Both Speedway Stable and the Wests are searching for their first Derby victory, but Baffert—in search of his sixth Kentucky Derby win—said that all the owners were happy to have made it to the big event.

"Once you get a horse in the Derby, they`re happy. I just tell them to come in here and enjoy the experience, the Derby experience," he said. "That`s the beauty about the Derby: The night before, everybody feels like they have a chance to win."

At just 26 years of age Luis Saez has already surpassed the 2,000-win mark. He has won multiple riding titles at Gulfstream Park in Florida and has consistently ranked among the top riders at racetracks from Kentucky to New York. For the second year in a row, Saez gets the ride on one of the more highly regarded contenders in the Kentucky Derby; he`ll be aboard Florida Derby winner Maximum Security.

Thirty-four-old Joel Rosario who has been a dominant force from the start of his career riding in the U.S. on the West Coast to his most recent stints in New York, Florida, and Kentucky. At 29 years old, riding in just his fourth Derby, Rosario won aboard Orb in 2013. That same year, he won the world`s richest race, the Dubai World Cup with the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom and the following year he won the Belmont Stakes (G1) aboard Tonalist. Rosario will be astride Game Winner.

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, Velazquez (47) is already established as one of the greatest jockeys ever. With more than 6,000 wins, he currently ranks fourth among all active riders and 17th in wins all-time. He will be looking to score his third career Derby win this year. He has captured the garland of roses twice before through Animal Kingdom (2011) and Always Dreaming (2017).

John Court at 58 gets the distinction of not only being the oldest rider in this year`s Kentucky Derby but of also being the oldest jockey to ever ride in the Kentucky Derby. Since winning his first race at the now-defunct Centennial Park in Colorado in 1980, Court has been a dominant rider in the Midwest and has competed successfully at major tracks across the country. He spends his winters at Oaklawn Park, where last month he brilliantly guided Long Range Toddy to a perfect ground-saving run to win a division of the Rebel Stakes.

In India, when jockeys approach their 40th year they will not only be talking of retirement but have diminished value in the saddle.

(Note: Information sourced with special mention to

Racingpulse editor B R Sharan Kumar at the entrance of the Kentucky racecourse.

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Total Comments : 1
Posted by Ravi Gowande on ( May 4 , 2019 )
Maximum Security is my first choice
War of Will can Place
Ravi Gowande
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