LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Zandon and filly Nest are the morning-line favorites for the 148th Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, respectively, at Churchill Downs, which will host both marquee races at full capacity for the first time since 2019.
Zandon, trained by Chad Brown, drew 3-1 odds Monday and will start from the No. 10 post among 20 horses for the $3 million marquee event for 3-year-olds. The colt moved to second in Derby points behind Epicenter after rallying from the back of the field to win last month’s Blue Grass at Keeneland in Lexington. He has two wins, a second-place finish and a third in four career starts.
Zandon has the “perfect” spot dead center with Flavien Prat aboard, Brown said.
“We're ready to go,” added Brown, who enters his eighth Derby seeking his first win after Good Magic finished third in 2018.
Epicenter was initially expected to be the Derby favorite following consecutive graded stakes wins, including the Louisiana Derby in March. The horse is the 7-2 second betting choice after drawing the No. 3 post.
Messier, one of two colts trained by Derby first-timer Tim Yakteen after he took over their training this spring for suspended Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, is the 8-1 third choice and will start from the No. 6 post.
Yakteen's other entrant, Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba, is a 12-1 choice from the No. 12 post.
“They made us wait," said Yakteen, referring to his horses being among the final three chosen. "But in the end, we drew well.”
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen simply hoped that Epicenter could break well from near the rail beneath jockey Joel Rosario and see where it leads.
“How long he stands in there, how long it takes to load, 150,000 people staring at him – it’s a lot,” Asmussen said. "Joel is very confident in rhythm of the horse. So, if he is away cleanly Joel will let him be who he is.”
This weekend’s races will happen without Baffert, whom Churchill Downs suspended for two years following Medina Spirit’s failed postrace drug test and eventual disqualification as the winner of last year's Derby.
Meanwhile, four-time Derby-winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas gets another chance for a fifth victory with Ethereal Road, who entered the field on Monday after Un Ojo withdrew. The Hall of Famer’s 50th Derby starter and first since Bravazo (sixth in 2018) has work to do as a 30-1 long shot from the No. 20 far post.
Rich Strike and Rattle N Roll are also eligible pending withdrawals. Post time on Saturday is 6:57 p.m. EDT.
For the Oaks, Nest drew the No. 4 post among 14 fillies and is the 5-2 favorite for Friday's $1.25 million, 1 1/8th-mile race. Nest is one of three Todd Pletcher-trained horses in the field, along with Goddess of Fire (No. 5 post) and Shahama (No. 13), both 15-1 shots.
Nest is coming off a dominant 8 1/4-length victory over Cocktail Moments in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, her third in a row and second this year.
“I’m happy with the draws for Nest and Goddess of Fire," said Pletcher, who is seeking his second consecutive Oaks win and fourth overall.
“We were hoping to be somewhere in the middle,” Pletcher said. "With Shahama, it’s OK. She isn’t real sharp away from the gate, so she may have a better chance out there than if she was stuck down inside.”
Unbeaten Kathleen O. is the 7-2 second choice from the No. 10 post, with Echo Zulu the 4-1 third choice from the No. 7 post. Kathleen O. topped the Oaks standings with 150 points and is 4-0 after last month's victory in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. Echo Zulu is 5-0 and edged Hidden Connection by a nose to win the Fair Grounds Oaks in March.
Beguine, a 30-1 long shot, is also eligible. Post time on Friday is 5:51 p.m. EDT.
The Kentucky Derby field with jockey and odds from the rail out:
1. Mo Donegal (Irad Ortiz Jr.), 10-1; 2. Happy Jack (Rafael Bejarano), 30-1; 3. Epicenter (Joel Rosario), 7-2; 4. Summer Is Tomorrow (Mickael Barzalona), 30-1; 5. Smile Happy (Corey Lanerie), 20-1; 6. Messier (John Velazquez), 8-1; 7. Crown Pride (Christophe Lemaire), 20-1; 8. Charge It (Luis Saez), 20-1; 9. Tiz The Bomb (Brian Hernandez Jr.), 30-1; 10. Zandon (Flavien Prat), 3-1; 11. Pioneer of Medina (Joe Bravo), 30-1; 12. Taiba (Mike Smith), 12-1; 13. Simplification (Jose Ortiz), 20-1; 14. Barber Road (Rey Gutierrez), 30-1; 15. White Abarrio (Tyler Gaffalione), 10-1; 16. Cyberknife (Florent Geroux), 20-1; 17. Classic Causeway (Julien Leparoux), 30-1; 18. Tawny Port (Ricardo Santana Jr.), 30-1; 19. Zozos (Manny Franco), 20-1. Also eligible: 21. Rich Strike (Sonny Leon), 30-1; 22. Rattle N Roll (James Graham), 30-1.
The Kentucky Oaks field with jockey and odds from the rail out:
1. Secret Oath (Luis Saez), 6-1; 2. Nostalgic (Jose Ortiz), 15-1; 3. Hidden Connection (Rey Gutierrez), 20-1; 4. Nest (Irad Ortiz Jr.) 5-2; 5. Goddess of Fire (John Velazquez), 15-1; 6. Yuugiri (Florent Geroux), 30-1; 7. Echo Zulu (Joel Rosario), 4-1; 8. Venti Valentine (Tyler Gaffalione), 20-1; 9. Desert Dawn (Umberto Rispoli), 20-1; 10. Kathleen O. (Javier Castellano), 7-2; 11. Cocktail Moments (Corey Lanerie), 30-1; 12. Candy Raid (Rafael Bejarano), 30-1; 13. Shahama (Flavien Prat), 15-1; 14. Turnerloose (Manny Franco), 20-1. Also eligible: Beguine (Ricardo Santana Jr.), 30-1.
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