The Kentucky Derby routinely attracts a full field of 20 horses, even though half or more of them have little chance of winning.
The prestige of having a Derby runner is too much to resist for owners and trainers, so the starting gate will once again be full for the 141st running on May 2 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
Most of the 3-year-old colts will be running 1 ¼ miles for the first time, making for a guessing game on which handles the distance and chaotic conditions the best.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is expected to have four horses in the race after the owners of Madeforlucky decided not to run in the Derby. Bob Baffert will saddle two of the most talked about colts.
Here are five horses to watch:
One of two horses in the field trained by Baffert, who is seeking his fourth Derby victory and first since War Emblem in 2002. The colt is a son of 2008 Derby winner Big Brown. He brings a gaudy 6-0 record into Churchill Downs, equaling the records of Seattle Slew in 1977 and Smarty Jones in 2004 when they both won the Derby. He proved he can win with a front-running style in his last two starts in the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby. Earlier in his career, he stalked the pace and came from behind to win. "The worst thing you can do is take him back and get him behind a wall of horses," Baffert said. The colt will be ridden by Martin Garcia, who is 0 for 2 in the Derby.
The other Baffert-trained horse in the race that has just as much or more talent than Dortmund, and owner of a four-race winning streak. He was sired by 2009 Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile. He's coming off an eight-length victory in the Arkansas Derby, his second race back after a left front foot injury that kept him out of last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. American Pharoah has a front-running style and the only time he had to come from behind he finished fifth in his career debut. The worry about him is that the colt hasn't been tested in his prep races, leaving Baffert unsure how he will handle a full field of horses making a mad scramble for position going into the first turn. Victor Espinoza will be aboard a year after winning the Derby with California Chrome.
Pletcher's top Derby entry among his four-horse contingent. He commanded a sales price of $1.6 million as a 2-year-old. Winner of the Blue Grass and Tampa Bay Derby, with his lone career loss being a runner-up finish in the BC Juvenile. He prefers stalking the leader and closing strongly. The colt has a history of fractious behavior when it comes to loading into the starting gate and Pletcher has given him extra tutoring in the hopes of keeping him calm on Derby Day when the gate area is busy with 20 horses. He'll be ridden by John Velazquez, whose lone Derby win came in 2011 aboard Animal Kingdom. Pletcher is seeking his second Derby win; his first was with Super Saver in 2010.
Winner of the Wood Memorial by two lengths, he has undergone the biggest transformation of any Derby runner. After inexplicably stopping at the top of the stretch in the Fountain of Youth, Frosted had Kiaran McLaughlin scratching his head. The trainer decided to change jockeys and go with Joel Rosario, who won the 2013 Derby with Orb; move Frosted from Florida back to New York, where he won his first career race; adjust his blinkers that restrict his vision; and have him undergo a minor throat procedure to help his breathing. The biggest question is whether he can handle the longer Derby distance of 1 ¼ miles. He has two wins in seven career starts.
A son of 2000 Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, he swept the trio of Derby prep races at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, including the Louisiana Derby. His 171 points topped the Derby leaderboard that decides the 20-horse field, but he figures to be a longer shot despite being one of four millionaires in the race. He has five wins in nine career races. He is trained by Mike Maker, who is 0 for 7 in the Derby. Miguel Mena will be riding in his first Derby. His owners, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, are among the top owners in the sport and are native Kentuckians.