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Trainer Lukas savoring first Kentucky Derby berth since 2015

04 May 2018

A field of 20 are left in the running at this point and they'll be duking it out for a $2M prize pot. This looks a good spot for him. The Washington Post's Neil Greenberg gave a mike-dropping breakdown of who he thinks will win the race and take the first of horse racing's Infinity Stones (Spoiler Alert: It's Bolt d'Oro), but we'll get to him and others soon enough. Mendelssohn carries those no-no's. In context of this race, the son of Malibu Moon (sire of 2013 Derby victor Orb) is, at 6-1, only the third choice on the morning line.

"There's not a trick", he laughs, "picking Derby horses is like picking any other horse".

It's all over but the screaming, the dancing and, for many bettors, the "coulda, woulda, shouldas".

In this in-depth feature, we will examine both the pros and cons of early speed - or the lack thereof - in the Kentucky Derby.

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Hofburg, the runner-up in the Florida Derby in March, sports a similar résumé to 2008 Derby victor Big Brown, who won from a far outside post and had only raced three times previously.

Five of the 20 horses in the field will be saddled by trainers who are already in the Hall of Fame (Steve Asmussen, Bob Baffert, Jerry Hollendorfer, D. Wayne Lukas and Bill Mott), while four more are conditioned by Todd Pletcher, a trainer who has sent more horses to this race that any other horseman. Only two fillies had ever won the Derby: Regret in 1915 and Genuine Risk in 1980. In his maiden race in July 2017, he finished eighth.

Mendelssohn is something of a mystery horse, hidden away in quarantine while his Irish trainer, Aidan O'Brien, hadn't made an appearance at Churchill Downs through Wednesday.

It's a new experience for almost every horse in the field, and no one can be certain about how each horse will react to the conditions.

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"We just wanted to get him out and stretch his legs", Keating said to a throng of media around Barn 17.

"He's not done much serious work since Dubai". I know he had a run on dirt beforehand, albeit a poor one, but I would have the utmost respect for him. We can be right there if he moves forward again.

Mendelssohn enjoyed his first spin at the Louisville track on Thursday and his big-race pilot is under no illusions about the task he faces on Saturday.

Jose Ortiz, on a fast track to superstardom at age 24 after winning his first Eclipse Award as North America's leading jockey, is taking followers of America's Best Racing along for the ride this year by writing a diary with Tom Pedulla. Bravazo might not wear roses at Churchill Downs but I'll take Coach's word that this is "a wonderful field of horses". The UAE Derby victor had his plane diverted to Indianapolis owing to an issue over travel documents, but reports from O'Brien's camp suggest the horse is no worse off for the experience.

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Mendelssohn got Post 14 for his starting position in Tuesday's draw. With seven victories (two in Grade 1 races) between them, these would-be usurpers to the Apollo Curse have formed much of the background noise for Derby 144.

Trainer Lukas savoring first Kentucky Derby berth since 2015