Yes, there are plenty of superstar 3-year-old-horses set to test the 1 1/4-mile race, namely race favorite Justify, who has won all three of his prep events including the prestigious Santa Anita Derby; Eclipse Award recipient Good Magic, who took the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall; and European invader Mendelssohn, who was last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf victor and this season's runaway UAE Derby champion.
Pletcher's four - Magnum Moon at 6-1, Audible at 8-1, Vino Rosso at 12-1 and Louisiana Derby victor Noble Indy at 30-1 - are as thick with oddsmakers' promise as any group he has had along his way to 52 Derby entries (provided all four run Saturday).
Mott, that paragon of patience, has Hofburg, raced only on September 2, March 3 and March 31, but deemed curious because of the 64-year-old Mott's general lack of neediness with the Kentucky Derby, his entries coming only in 1984, 1998 (two entries), 2002, 2008 (two entries) and 2009.
No European horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby. Still, that is right in line with expectations, as 18- to 20-horse fields have become the norm in contemporary renewals of America's most famous horse race.
"The race is pretty top-heavy", said Baffert, who sends out Justify and a long shot, Solomini. I think he's pretty nice. Todd Pletcher-trained Magnum Moon embarked on his racing career at Gulfstream Park Jan. 13, winning by 41⁄2 lengths before going on to win an allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs and capture the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby by dominating margins.
"I don't look at Apollo's curse", Baffert said.
As for advantages of having plural entries, Baffert, 65, sees "absolutely none", then pauses before saying, "Unless you're Todd Pletcher". "It's a challenge just to get (to the Derby)".
Last year's win by Always Dreaming marked the fifth year in a row the pre-race favorite had won the race, the most since the 1890s.
"These are the most talented Apollo horses and we have two of them", Scully said. "The horses are doing well". He has shown that he can ship in and win, so there's good reason he was made the second choice on the morning line.
Prior to the big Derby race, the Kentucky Oaks race will be held. While he had a dip in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (third place) in March, he came back to win the Blue Grass Stakes in April. "We set up a plan, hoped the horse would cooperate, and he has". He has won every race, but his seasoning is in question.
Mendelssohn had his first morning on the track Thursday after clearing quarantine Wednesday, and he spent it getting used to his new surroundings.
Considered to be "the biggest race in the world, the Kentucky Derby has millions of people from all over the world placing bets on which horse might win". "Lightly raced is the problem".
Yet, if handicappers believe the Curse of Apollo and the Curse of Storm Cat will endure Saturday, most will likely settle on either Good Magic, the champion 2-year-old champion of 2017 who won the Blue Grass last time out, or Bolt d'Oro, a multiple Grade 1 victor who finished second behind Justify in the Santa Anita Derby.
"Only the horse race is more universal because the brutality of the prize fight is absent, as well as the attenuation of football or baseball - the long time needed for the orgasm of victory to occur, where in the horse race it is a matter of minutes, never over two or three, repeated six or eight or 10 times in one afternoon". Going up against a field of 20 is a daunting task. She has attended the Kentucky Derby several times with her family but this is the first time they have had any horse run in the race.