Saturday, May 7, 2005

The 131st run for the roses in Louisville, KY is set for Saturday at Churchill Downs. Post time is 6:04pm EDT under what should be partly sunny skies and a fast track. The 20-horse field contains 10 strong contenders in what promises to be a fast pace out front in the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Nick Zito, the 2-time derby winner boasts 5 stable horses running the race, and has the odds-on favorite Bellamy Road. The George Steinbrenner owned horse won convincingly in 4 of its last 5 trips. At its #16 post position, it will have to get out quickly, or be on the outside going into the first turn where it would have to fight for position. Given the early starting speed of Spanish Chestnut, it seems unlikely that any horse will easily set the pace.

Showing strong closing in its last 4 races is Bandini, ridden by top New York jockey John Velazquez, a 6-time Breeder’s Cup winner. If this horse can hold onto the pace, watch for him at the finish line.

For today’s 1 ¼ mile race, Jeremy Rose on Afleet Alex looks dangerous, where both horse and jockey are experienced. But it was Wilko who prevailed in their meeting at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last October.

A Chicago Tribune computer analysis predicts a win for High Fly, based on its “lack of flaws”. In that prediction they note criteria on which it was calculated, but nothing accounts for the race day excitement of roaring crowds in these 3-year-old thoroughbreds.

Last year the jammed Churchill Downs drew 140,000 people on a rainy Saturday to watch Smarty Jones win. The Derby run is the first leg in USA horse racing’s Triple Crown. The last horse to win the triple crown was Affirmed in 1978.

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