The 3-year-old son of Stephen Got Even could give IEAH Stables its second consecutive victory in America’s greatest race, following a dominant performance in last year’s Derby by the then-unbeaten Big Brown. A victory by I Want Revenge would provide California-based trainer Jeff Mullins with his first Kentucky Derby victory in five tries, and give 19-year-old jockey Joe Talamo a victory in the famed “Run for the Roses” in his first attempt. The Louisiana native would be the youngest jockey to win the Derby since Kentucky-born racing legend Steve Cauthen, then 18, won the 1978 Derby and swept the Triple Crown with Affirmed in 1978.
But to win the 1 ¼-mile classic I Want Revenge will have to turn back an accomplished and consistent group of rivals headed by Zayat Stables’ Pioneerof the Nile, whose four-race winning streak includes a victory in the Santa Anita Derby (GI); Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s Dunkirk, a $3.7 million yearling sale purchase who was runner-up in the Florida Derby (GI); Friesan Fire, a son of A.P. Indy whose three consecutive victories include a 7 ¼-length romp in the Louisiana Derby (GII); Papa Clem, winner of the $1 million Arkansas Derby (GII); Godolphin’s Dubai-based stars Regal Ransom and Desert Party, the 1-2 finishers in the $2 million UAE Derby; and Toyota Blue Grass (GI) winner General Quarters, the sole runner in the one-horse stable of former Louisville, Ky. educator Tom McCarthy, who claimed his horse for $20,000 a year ago and now stands on the verge of a triumph of America’s most important race and one of the most unlikely victories in the history of the great race.
The Kentucky Derby again used its unique process of establishing post positions for the 20 horses in which the connections of each horse selected their preferred slot in the starting gate after a blind draw was conducted to establish selection order. I Want Revenge ended up with the 10th spot in selection order, and co-owner David Lanzman chose post 13 for the colt.
“We wanted the 14, but they took it right in front of us,” Lanzman said. “We just wanted to avoid a disaster. We didn’t want (post position) one, two, three, four and we didn’t want 17, 18, 19, 20. So, we couldn’t be happier.”
Churchll Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia installed Dunkirk and Pioneerof the Nile, who ended up alongside each other in posts 15 and 16 in the auxiliary starting gate, as the 4-1 co-second choices. Dunkirk, one of three Derby entrants trained by Todd Pletcher, will bid to give his four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer his first victory in the Kentucky Derby. A win by Pioneerof the Nile would be Baffert’s fourth, but his first since War Emblem in 2002.
Edgar Prado, who won the 2006 Derby aboard Barbaro, will ride Dunkirk. Garrett Gomez, last year’s Eclipse winner as America’s top rider, will seek his first Derby victory aboard Baffert’s colt.
Vinery and Fox Hill’s Farm’s Friesan Fire is the fourth choice in the morning line at 5-1. Trainer Larry Jones has saddled the last two runners-up in the Kentucky Derby in Fox Hill’s Hard Spun, second to Street Sense in 2007, and the filly Eight Belles, last year’s ill-fated second-place finisher.
Lane’s End Stakes (GII) winner Hold Me Back will carry the hopes of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, the all-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs who is winless in the track’s biggest race, and WinStar Farm, which also owns Derby contenders Advice, the Pletcher-trained winner of Keeneland’s Coolmore Lexington (GII), and Mr. Hot Stuff, third in the Santa Anita Derby (GI) for trainer Eoin Harty. If all three horses run on Saturday, WinStar would become the first owner to start three horses in a Kentucky Derby since Maine Chance Farm sent out Lord Boswell, Knockdown and Perfect Bahram to finish fourth, fifth and ninth, respectively, behind eventual Triple Crown winner Assault in the 1946 Kentucky Derby.
A sentimental choice for many Kentucky Derby fans will be General Quarters, who emerged over the winter and spring as a contender for owner-trainer Tom McCarthy with victories in the Sam F. Davis (GIII) at Tampa Bay Downs and his recent upset in the Toyota Blue Grass. Julien Leparoux, coming off a record-smashing Fall Meet riding title at Churchill Downs, will have the mount aboard General Quarters, a son of Sky Mesa that McCarthy claimed for $20,000 out of a maiden race at Churchill Downs nearly a year ago.
General Quarters is the only horse currently in training for the 75-year-old McCarthy, a retired teacher and a principal at three Louisville area high schools. A victory by the sole member of McCarthy’s stable would make him the first person to own and train a Kentucky Derby winner since owner-trainer-breeder T.P. Hayes saddled 91-1 shot Donerail for his surprise win in the 1913 Derby.
If all 20 horses start, the purse for the Kentucky Derby will be $$2,202,200 and the winner’s share will be $1,442,200.
Post time for the 135th Kentucky Derby is set for 6:24 p.m. (all times EDT) on Saturday. The race will be televised nationally by NBC Sports from 5-7 p.m.