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Post 18 for Derek in full field
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Brother Derek, the Santa Anita Derby winner, landed post 18 in a full field of 20 when post positions were selected Wednesday night for the on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Lawyer Ron, the Arkansas Derby winner, ended up in post 17. Barbaro, the unbeaten winner of the Florida Derby, got post 8. Bob and John, the Wood Memorial winner, landed post 7. Sweetnorthernsaint, the Illinois Derby winner, got post 11. The horses are double loaded for the race, meanings posts 1 and 11 go in first.
Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper, made Brother Derek the 4-1 favorite, with Lawyer Ron next at 5-1, Barbaro 6-1, and Sweetnorthernsaint 8-1. Mike Battaglia, who makes the official morning line for Churchill Downs, also has Brother Derek favored, but at 3-1. He has both Lawyer Ron and Barbaro at 4-1, then Sweetnorthernsaint at 10-1.
Only posts 1, 3, and 18 through 20 remained for Brother Derek, whose connections had the 16th selection.
"We want to be out where it's a little clearer," said Dan Hendricks, who trains Brother Derek. "We would have to send him a little from the inside."
The post position draw was held downtown at 4th Street Live!, an entertainment complex perhaps chosen because it has an exclamation point in its title, as does this year's race sponsor, Yum! Brands.
Post positions were selected as the second step of a two-step entry process. On Wednesday morning, shortly after the deadline to enter, the 20 horses who made the field had their selection order determined via a traditional blind draw. The connections of A. P. Warrior had the first pick. His trainer, John Shirreffs, took post 10, the same post from which Giacomo started last year when he won the Derby for Shirreffs.
"It was so lucky for us last year," Shirreffs said. "It's in the middle of the field, so it's a good spot."
There are two gates for the Derby. The first 14 are in the main gate, and the final six in an auxiliary gate. Posts 14 and 15 are often considered advantageous, because there is a comfortable gap between them. Longshots Deputy Glitters and Seaside Retreat, respectively, wound up there.
If all 20 start in the 1 1/4-mile race, the total purse will be $2,213,200, with $1,453,200 going to the winner. There are no blinker or Lasix changes among the Derby runners, according to Doug Bredar, the racing secretary at Churchill Downs.
The Derby field is limited to 20 runners. Since more than 20 were entered on Wednesday morning, the field was determined by earnings in graded stakes races. Those officially excluded were Sunriver, Lewis Michael, and Hemingway's Key.
Sacred Light, who was just behind Sunriver and in front of Lewis Michael on the earnings list, was not entered when it became apparent late in the morning that he would not get in. According to Bredar, a horse cannot be entered in two races on the same day. So, rather than waste an entry on the Derby, trainer David Hofmans instead put Sacred Light in Saturday's third race, a 1 1/16-mile allowance.
"That was Plan C," said Hofmans, who said he would likely scratch Sacred Light from the Crown Royal American Turf Stakes on Friday.
Trainer Todd Pletcher was disappointed that Sunriver did not make it. His graded earnings were $9,000 less than Flashy Bull, who was ranked 20th on the graded-stakes earnings list. Pletcher tried to keep a sense of humor through the morning. When he entered Sunriver, he named retired Hall of Famer Angel Cordero Jr. as his jockey.
"Obviously there will be a late rider change if he happens to get in," Pletcher said.
Pletcher, who also has Bluegrass Cat and Keyed Entry in the Derby, said he was "disappointed, yes, but not surprised" that Sunriver did not get in. He said Sunriver would likely make his next start in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 20.
"In the last 48 hours we were aware of the fact that we weren't getting in," Pletcher said. "We needed a lucky break. What will be frustrating is if some guys enter and decide not to run. It wouldn't shock me if that happened, but that's out of our control."
One horse who had an issue to deal with on Wednesday was Sinister Minister, the Blue Grass Stakes winner. He had a Z-bar shoe put on his right front hoof before training Wednesday morning to protect the inside quarter of the hoof.
Bob Baffert, the trainer of Sinister Minister, watched anxiously from a trackside viewing stand as Sinister Minister galloped. He then gave a thumbs-up to blacksmith Steve Norman, who put on the corrective shoe, and yelled, "You the man."
"He had a little bruise," Baffert said.
Norman, one of the Midwest's most respected blacksmiths, said the Z-bar shoe helps a horse with uneven quarters, which are on the heel of the hoof. The bar of the shoe has an irregular shape, zigzagging across the frog and bypassing the inside quarter.
"He toes out enough that he shears the inside quarter," Norman said. "One heel is higher than the other. This gives him a whole lot more support and takes the pressure off the inside quarter so it won't be hitting the ground."
Norman said Sinister Minister would likely wear a three-quarter shoe for the Derby. It is a shoe that abuts the inside quarter, but does not cover it, as would a conventional racing plate. It does not have a bar, the theory being that it provides better traction than a bar shoe for racing. Norman said Sinister Minister wore a three-quarter shoe in the Blue Grass.
Also Wednesday morning, Tampa Bay Derby winner Deputy Glitters worked five furlongs in 1:03.20 on a fast track for trainer Tom Albertrani. Exercise rider Keith Allen was up.
"At this point it does not matter if the work is fast," Albertrani said. "It's just important that he finished well. What we really needed to do well today was let him stretch his legs out."
Three California-based runners - A.P. Warrior, Bob and John, and Point Determined - all galloped at Churchill Downs after arriving on Tuesday afternoon. The final Derby horse scheduled to get here was Showing Up, who was to be flown in from New York on Thursday.
- additional reporting by Mike Welsch