1-DADDY LONG LEGS 30-1: A multiple Group winner on turf and synthetic Tapeta surface but awful in his lone dirt start, beaten 19-1/2 legs in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile against most of his Derby rivals. Looks impossible.
OPTIMIZER 50-1: Caught the last train to Louisville with defection of Mark Valeski. Always showing promise at 2, his only excellent effort this year was a rapid-finish second in the Rebel to streaking Secret Circle. Better than his subsequent Arkansas Derby flop and can finish like a train; for superfecta players only.
3-TAKE CHARGE INDY 15-1: Maligned for winning Florida Derby under ideal circumstances; lack of pressured lead and a speed-kind surface. But where is it written this he is one-dimensional speed? A grand looking individual with classy pedigree, he’s flying under the radar, Calvin Borel notwithstanding. It would be a mistake to dismiss him out of hand. Price play at double-digit odds.
4-UNION RAGS 9-2: Multiple graded stakes winner has had the screws tightened by trainer Matz following his tough trip, too late finish in Florida Derby. Lost photo to juvenile champion here last fall while racing greenly but showed his liking for surface with recent strong five-furlong breeze. Julien Leparoux, riding with great confidence again, unlikely to make the same mistake twice. Most probable winner.
5-DULLAHAN 8-1: Grand looking colt came with a scintillating finish to win the Blue Grass Stakes on Keeneland Polytrack, and therein may lie the problem. Both lifetime victories have come on synthetic surfaces, over which he also has trained better, compared to his dirt trials. Returning in three weeks off enervating effort is a concern.
6-BODEMEISTER 4-1: Freakishly fast and powerful winner of the Arkansas Derby in a must-win-to-get-in situation and has come back to work strongly over wet Churchill surface. The early line favorite must prove he has that same energy level against much tougher rivals on relatively short rest, and enough foundation for 10 furlongs in early May. Post draw did him no favors.
7-ROUSING SERMON 50-1: Like Liaison, his sophomore season has been something of a disaster, his Louisiana Derby third notwithstanding. He lags early, doesn’t own an explosive turn of foot, and has yet to prove fast enough on the Equiform scale. Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer says all the speed that’s signed on will help. Point taken, but it won’t help enough.
8-CREATIVE CAUSE 12-1: The other strong handsome gray contender in Derby 138. Best attributes are his proven ability against the division’s best and highly laudable consistency. Has winning Derby style, especially given the speedy pace dynamic, and a star, Joel Rosario, in the boot. Blinkers stay off appears the proper tack. Very solid; great draw.
9-TRINNIBERG 50-1: One dimensional speed—but of the Twilight Zone variety. He is a bullet away from the barrier, physically much better at 3. Obviously bred for much shorter, he might surprise some people who believe they can blow by this speedster at will. Still, his connections should have skipped this and shipped to Crabtown instead.
10-DADDY NOSE BEST 15-1: All he wants to do is run long and finish, a trait he demonstrated on turf at 2. This year he’s transitioned to synthetics and dirt, handling each graded stakes assignment successfully. Has vast experience in big fields, training strongly, and picks up strong finishing Garrett Gomez, a perfect match for his come-from-behind style. Very live price play; great draw.
11-ALPHA 15-1: A Grade 3 winner and twice Grade 1 placed, has had his Derby preparation interrupted after developing an infection from cuts suffered in Wood Memorial. Back on track with a sharp workout. Had tougher trip when second to Gemologist but failed the “eyeball test.” Has all the pedigree needed to win given a personal best effort.
12-PROSPECTIVE 30-1: improved sharply after adding blinkers to win Tampa Bay Derby, showing true determination when faced with serious stretch challenge. Very wide behind Dullahan in the Blue Grass, has been one of the training stars since shipping to Churchill. Barn excels with synthetic-to-dirt maneuver and figures to run well. Whether he belongs here is the big question.
13-WENT THE DAY WELL 20-1: Might have more talent than last year’s Derby-winning mate Animal Kingdom but is somewhat quirky. Won G3 Spiral following his maiden score and has trained well since, showing more focus since adding blinkers in recent morning trials. Performance figures are marching forward, albeit slowly. Superfecta finish possible.
14-HANSEN 10-1: Won juvenile championship with Breeders’ Cup victory on this track before coming back too fresh in season’s debut when second to the gifted Algorithms. After rebounding strongly with a rated victory in the Gotham, he can be forgiven his Blue Grass defeat owing to fast pace and stressful pre-race handling. Doubtlessly has the talent but 10 furlongs might prove a bridge too far.
15-GEMOLOGIST 6-1: Not especially fast on the Equiform performance figure scale but continues to march forward, remaining undefeated while truly snatching victory from defeat’s jaws when he appeared beaten in the Wood. Taking the same tack for connections that won the Derby with Super Saver. Trainer Pletcher excels with third-off-layup runners; wide draw gives Castellano options.
16-EL PADRINO 20-1: Impressed winning season’s debut over eventual Florida Derby hero and showed true grit winning the Risen Star subsequently before things began heading south. He raced one-paced in Gulfstream’s signature event and worked poorly since. A wet track should be a big plus, but then one of those disappointing works came in the mud.
17-DONE TALKING 50-1: Has taken heat for winning an extremely slow Illinois Derby, an observation with merit. But he’s a natural router, is peaking at the right time and hails from a barn, Hamilton Smith’s, that’s been profitable in graded stakes and in third-off-layoff scenarios. Might complete superfecta at better than 50-1, needing a complete pace meltdown.
18-SABERCAT 30-1: Like stablemate Daddy Knows Best, is coming to hand at the right time. Owing to big juvenile graded earnings, was slated for a two-prep campaign and after his Rebel debacle returned with a flying-too-late third in Bodemeister’s Arkansas Derby, a huge improvement. Has trained purposefully since and can snag a piece of this at extremely long odds.
19-I’LL HAVE ANOTHER 12-1: A revelation this season with a surprising yet comprehensive victory in the Robert B. Lewis Memorial off a five-month absence, then showed grit and class winning the Santa Anita Derby. Everything about him; from his scheduling, to heretofore unknown rider, to his unorthodox training regimen, has been unusual. Wide draw figures to seriously compromise his trip.
20-LIAISON 50-1: Showed lots of promise as a juvenile winner of G1 Cash Call Futurity but has had an extremely disappointing sophomore season. Local workout was very ordinary and doubtful he would be in here if stablemate Bodemeister didn’t help punch his ticket. Even with Bob Baffert’s Hall of Fame talent, this would represent an upset of major proportions.
21-MY ADONIS (NL) Also Eligible: Overmatched colt would have very little chance to hit the board from post 20--should he draw in. In the event of a scratch prior to 9 a.m. Friday, all horses move one position closer to the inside rail.