Bob Baffert's American Pharoah, Dortmund the early Kentucky favorites

ESPN logo
Thursday, April 30, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Bob Baffert clapped his hands to his mouth when early 5-2 favorite American Pharoah avoided the dreaded No. 1 post for the Kentucky Derby. The anxiety wasn't over yet.

He still had to wait to find out where Dortmund would end up. Thankfully for Baffert, it was the No. 8 spot for the 3-1 second choice. American Pharoah got the No. 18 hole.

"I did not like the way it was playing out. I just couldn't believe they hadn't called one of my horses," Baffert said. "A lot of the holes were being taken that I sort of like, and then I was really relieved to get 18 so I was happy with that."

The far inside spot was the last to be filled Wednesday. Ocho Ocho Ocho ended up there.

Baffert offered some advice to Jim Cassidy, who trains Ocho Ocho Ocho.

"Start drinking heavily early," the white-haired trainer joked.

Baffert should know. Lookin At Lucky, the favorite in the 2010 Derby, broke from the No. 1 spot and was wiped out almost immediately. He ended up sixth.

The rail is considered a serious disadvantage because the other 19 horses immediately begin angling toward the inside out of the gate, creating a potential traffic jam.

"The 1-hole is just the one that you feared," said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains 15-1 shot Frosted.

With only two openings remaining, four-time Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas pumped his first when Mr. Z landed in the No. 17 post, avoiding the rail.

"I love it," he said.

Ocho Ocho Ocho is among four horses at 50-1, along with Keen Ice, War Story and Mr. Z.

American Pharoah comes into the Derby on a four-race winning streak, including an eight-length victory in the Arkansas Derby. Only one horse has won from the No. 18 post, Gato Del Sol in 1982.

"I'm extremely happy. I love 18. Not like, love," owner Ahmed Zayat said. "He's outside in the clear. He can do whatever he wants. He can sit and watch. The jock has so many options. That's the best post."

The No. 8 spot has produced eight winners, most recently 50-1 stunner Mine That Bird in 2009. Dortmund will put his 6-0 record on the line in the 1 1/4-mile race Saturday at Churchill Downs.

"I'm just glad it's over," Baffert said. "It's probably the last stressful part of the whole Derby. We have the holes, and hopefully our name will be hanging up there in the winner's spot."

Blue Grass winner Carpe Diem, one of Pletcher's four entries, is the 8-1 third choice from the No. 2 post.

"There were limited numbers left," Pletcher said. "We'll go with it. What else can we do? My confidence has not changed at all."

Another Pletcher horse, Florida Derby winner Materiality, and Sunland Derby winner Firing Line are co-fourth choices at 12-1 odds. His other horses are even longer shots: Itsaknockout and Stanford, both 30-1.

American Pharoah, Dortmund and Carpe Diem were the only horses listed at single digits by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia. Favorites have won the past two years, with California Chrome last year and Orb in 2013.

Louisiana Derby winner International Star drew the No. 12 post and is 20-1. UAE Derby winner Mubtaahij drew the 6-hole and is listed at 20-1.

Far Right will have the most ground to make up on the far outside No. 20 post under jockey Mike Smith.

"I thought, 'I'll take the outside because I didn't want the 1-spot with everyone crashing down on top of you," trainer Ron Moquett said.

Bolo is a 30-1 shot that drew the No. 9 spot for Carla Gaines, who will try to become the first female trainer to saddle a Derby winner.

The 21st horse on the points list is Frammento, and Tale of Verve is 22nd. They would need a defection before 9 a.m. ET Friday, when Derby wagering opens, to get into the $2.2 million race.

Post time is 6:34 p.m. Saturday.