Humans Behind the Horses Often get Overlooked

Kevin Stott

Thursday, May 3, 2018 3:07 PM UTC

Thursday, May. 3, 2018 3:07 PM UTC

Playing crucial roles in thoroughbreds' careers are owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys. Let’s look at the people behind the animals in Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

Kentucky Derby: Jockeys, Trainers, Breeders, Owners OverviewPletcher the Hot Trainer Heading In

Much has been made recently about trainer Todd Pletcher having four horses in Saturday’s $2 million Kentucky Derby (6:30 p.m. ET; NBC), but Tuesday’s draw was rough on the seven-time Eclipse Award-winner with Magnum Moon (6/1 to win Kentucky Derby, Bovada) drawing the No. 16 post, Vino Rosso (12/1) getting No. 18, Noble Indy (50/1) ending up with No. 19, and Audible (8/1) drawing No. 5, meaning that there could be a lot of early jostling between the Pletcher horses outside to try to get positioning. And speed demon and UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn (5/1) sitting in the No. 15 post with Magnum Moon to his right, the first quarter-mile will be huge — or potentially downright disastrous — for both of these perceived contenders and something to keep your eyes on. Pletcher had the winner in last year’s first leg of the Triple Crown, with Always Dreaming winning on a wet and fast track in Louisville, giving Pletcher his second victory in the Run For The Roses (Super Saver, 2010).

Chad Brown is the current Eclipse Award holder for trainers and also won the award in 2016, and he has one horse in this year’s field of 20 in Good Magic (12/1). The 2018 Trainer Leaderboard shows Steve Asmussen on top with more than $12 million in earnings, and the 2008 and 2009 Eclipse winner has a relative late entry in Combatant (50/1) — replacing Quip — but he drew the dreaded No. 20 post. Second on the leaderboard is 2015 Eclipse winner Bob Baffert, who has two in this year’s race: Santa Anita Derby winner and Kentucky Derby favorite Justify (3/1), he of the 107 Beyer Speed Figure, best of all 3-year-olds this calendar year, and Solomini (30/1). Baffert also had McKinzie and Rayva qualified but he will be aiming to field McKinzie in the Preakness, while filly Rayva will run in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

Icon D. Wayne Lukas, 82, is back in the Kentucky Derby with colt Bravazo (50/1), while Aidan O’Brien might have a special one in Mendelssohn (106 Beyer Speed Figure), who won the UAE Derby by 18¾ lengths. Owner/trainer Mick Ruis also has one horse running Saturday, but he’s a pretty darn special one in Bolt d'Oro (8/1), second-place finisher at Santa Anita. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has Enticed (30/1), Mark Casse trains Flameaway (30/1), and Keith Desormeaux has My Boy Jack (30/1). Bill Mott, the 1995 and 1996 Eclipse winner, has Hofburg (20/1). Tom Amoss has long-shot Lone Sailor (50/1), and Jason Servis sends long-shot Firenze Fire to Churchill Downs thanks to Gronkowski pulling out. Dale Romans, the 2012 Eclipse winner, has two entries this year in Free Drop Billy (30/1) and Promises Fulfilled (30/1), who will start right next to each other in the No. 2 and 3 gates, respectively, and who have identical morning-line betting odds.

Potential Trainer Edges: Justify, Audible, Magnum Moon, Vino Rosso, Noble Indy

Kentucky Derby Field

Post position, horse (morning-line odds), jockey:
1. Firenze Fire (50/1) Paco Lopez
2. Free Drop Billy (30/1) Robby Albarado
3. Promises Fulfilled (30/1) Corey Lanerie
4. Flameaway (30/1) Jose Lezcano
5. Audible (8/1) Javier Castellano
6. Good Magic (12/1) José Ortiz
7. Justify (3/1) Mike Smith
8. Lone Sailor (50/1) James Graham
9. Hofburg (20/1) Irad Ortiz Jr.
10. My Boy Jack (30/1) Kent Desormeaux
11. Bolt d’Oro (8/1) Victor Espinoza
12. Enticed (30/1) Junior Alvarado
13. Bravazo (50/1) Luis Contreras
14. Mendelssohn (5/1) Ryan Moore
15. Instilled Regard (50/1) Drayden Van Dyke
16. Magnum Moon (6/1) Luis Saez
17. Solomini (30/1) Flavien Prat
18. Vino Rosso (12/1) John Velazquez
19. Noble Indy (30/) Florent Geroux
20. Combatant (50/1) Ricardo Santana Jr.
AE: Blended Citizen (50/1) Kyle Frey

Jockey Velazquez Seeks Derby Repeat

Some of the Eclipse Award-winning jockeys in this possibly memorable Kentucky Derby include John R. Velazquez (2004, 2005), riding Vino Rosso; Javier Castellano (2013-2016), who will be onboard Audible; and Jose Ortiz (2017), who will be in the saddle of Good Magic. All three have decent horse with a fair chance of winning at Churchill Downs. The current Jockey leaderboard shows Florent Geroux (Noble Indy) as the top money earner ($10,621,581); Irad Ortiz, Jr. (Hofburg) with the most wins in North America (134); and Junior Alvarado (Enticed) coming in with the highest win percentage (26%; 58 wins in 227 starts) this year. Velazquez, 46, won the Derby last year aboard Always Dreaming and in 2011 on Animal Kingdom.

Victor Espinoza (Bolt d’Oro) has also won the Derby two times in the last 10 years, back-to-back in 2015 and 2016 onboard California Chrome and American Pharoah, while Kent Desormeaux won the only Derby on an entrant starting from the No. 18 post a decade ago on Big Brown. So, small psychological and experience edges in the jockey category go to Noble Indy, Hofburg, Enticed, Good Magic, Vino Rosso, and My Boy Jack with cagey veteran Desormeaux aboard. It is wise to never dismiss a Derby horse Desormeaux is riding. And, Junior Alvarado (Enticed) has the best Top 3 Finish Percentage (59%) of all jockeys heading in.

Potential Jockey Edges: Audible, Vino Rosso, Bolt d’Oro, My Boy Jack

Horse That Might Need Great Ride From His Jockey Most: Good Magic (Jose Ortiz)

WinStar Farm the Hottest Owners

The Eclipse Award winners for Outstanding Owner in 2010 and Outstanding Breeder in 2016, WinStar Farm from Versailles, Kentucky, and founded by Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt, will have three horses (along with partners) racing in this year’s Run For The Roses -- Justify, Audible, and Noble Indy -- and could have made it four had Quip not been held out with hopes of running in the Preakness Stakes in two weeks. “We liked him, we liked the chance of getting him in the fold and he was a horse that we felt like ticked a lot of boxes for us,” WinStar Farm's Elliott Walden said of his decision to buy Audible, the son of Into Mischief. WinStar Farm also bred and then sold Bolt d’Oro to current owner Ruis Racing, meaning WinStar Farm has ties to 20% of the horses in this field while China Horse Club International has stakes in a couple of Derby Day runners in Audible (28/1 to win Triple Crown, Bovada) and Justify (+850 to win Triple Crown).

Lawana and Robert Low (Magnum Moon), Repole Stable & St. Elias Stable (Vino Rosso), Godolphin Racing (Enticed), e Five Racing Thoroughbreds & Stonestreet Stables (Magnum Moon), Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor (Mendelssohn), Zayat Stables (Solomini), John Oxley (Flameaway), Ruis Racing (Bolt d’Oro), OXO Equine LLC (Instilled Regard), Mr. Amore Stable (Firenze Fire), Winchell Thoroughbreds & Willis Horton Racing (Combatant), Juddmonte Farms (Hofburg), Albaugh Family Stables (Free Drop Billy), Robert Baron (Promises Fulfilled), Don’t Tell My Wife & Monomoy Stables (My Boy Jack), Calumet Farm (Bravazo) and the late New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans owner Tom Benson (Lone Sailor) all have one horse in the Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports in what could be a memorable and crazy pack sprint to the wire.

Potential Owners-Breeders Edges: Justify, Audible, Bolt d’Oro, Noble Indy

Free Kentucky Derby Best Jockey-Trainer-Owner Combination Pick: Audible 8/1
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