Bob Baffert-trained Justify installed as early favorite at Kentucky Derby

Bob Baffert-trained Justify installed as early favorite at Kentucky Derby

"We didn't want the 1-hole, that's for sure", the four-time Derby victor said.

Katie George of WDRB Sports quickly gave him the news - seven.

Justify was made the early 3-1 favorite for the Derby, with Europe-based Mendelssohn the second choice in a full field of 20 horses.

No Blue Grass Stakes victor has won the Derby since Strike the Gold in 1991; the last horse to compete in the Blue Grass and win the Derby was Street Sense in 2007. The total purse, with 20 horses starting, is $2,192,000 with $1,432,000 to the victor. Good Magic is at No. 6 and Magnum Moon is at No. 16. Apollo won the Derby in 1882 without racing as a 2-year-old.

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If you fancy a punt, this year's Derby looks like a very open race, with Justify, trained by American Pharaoh's handler Bob Baffert, heading the betting ahead of Aidan O'Brien's Irish raider Mendelssohn. "When they went through the first 10 horses [in selecting gates] and I hadn't gotten in the mix yet, I thought maybe they'd lost my entries". The son of Scat Daddy didn't debut until February 18, but has been nothing short of brilliant since then, winning three races at Santa Anita by a combined 19 lengths while never receiving a serious challenge.

"It's one of the toughest Derbies I've ever seen", Baffert said. He then rallied from eighth to finish second behind Audible in the Florida Derby, the prep race that has produced a record 24 Kentucky Derby winners.

Before the race, often called "the most exciting two minutes in sports", on Saturday, here are seven facts about its history and past winners. Since Andrew Beyer debuted his speed figures 26 years ago, 24 Derby winners earned a Beyer figure of at least 95 or better before the first leg of the Triple Crown.

Battaglia said that he wrestled with making the second choice before settling on Mendelssohn, who won the UAE Derby as well as the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. Magnum Moon drew post 13, with the other three in the auxiliary gate (posts 15-20). While jockey Ryan Moore has ridden Mendelssohn to four victories, he finished seventh in 2013's lone appearance at Churchill Downs' prestigious race. Baffert has sent out 27 Derby horses, and is tied with D. Wayne Lukas with four victories. Horses are loaded into the gate two at a time, beginning with posts one and 11, which spend the most time waiting for the start. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, had three of his four horses in the race end up in the auxiliary gate.

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Solomini, Justify's stablemate, Enticed, Bolt d'Oro, Instilled Regard and Firenze Fire also got their first gallops in on the track Tuesday. He says he's a good horse. "Bolt is so well-minded that he doesn't work himself up". His Santa Anita Derby effort was especially impressive, as he easily turned back a bid from the two-time Grade 1 victor Bolt d'Oro to draw off and win by three lengths, finishing fast while earning massive speed figures of 107 (Beyer) and 114 (BRIS). The colt is one of five 50-1 shots in the field. Audible has notable trainer Todd Pletcher by his side, who was able to lead Florida Derby victor Always Dreaming to a Kentucky Derby victory in 2017.

The Desormeaux brothers have teamed with My Boy Jack. He's already raced successfully in America and in Dubai so he's a horse that obviously travels well and has a lot of travel experience.

Twenty-one horses were entered.

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