Kentucky Derby Odds: Justify Pulls Ahead As Saturday's Betting Favorite

In December the city announced plans to finally repave some of downtown Louisville's most torn-up streets. Yet six weeks into spring- and three days before the city's premiere event of the year- those streets are as bad as ever

In December the city announced plans to finally repave some of downtown Louisville's most torn-up streets. Yet six weeks into spring- and three days before the city's premiere event of the year- those streets are as bad as ever

One of the favorites to win this year's Kentucky Derby is Magnum Moon, a champion horse with Marion County ties.

Justify and Mendelssohn are the favorites.

Trained by four-time Kentucky Derby victor, Bob Baffert, Justify will face a serious challenge from Mendelssohn, who makes his North American debut as a +400 bet on the Kentucky Derby odds. Justify and Magnum Moon are the only two in this field that could end the 135-year-old curse. He has already shown the ability to win in the United States, having captured the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar last November and is a half-brother to multiple-U.S. champion Beholder. Bolt d'Oro was a sharp second behind Justify in the Santa Anita Derby and could make Mick Ruis, his owner and trainer, a Derby victor in his first try.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, who picked up his second career Kentucky Derby win previous year with Always Dreaming, Audible will be aiming to become the third straight horse to follow up a victory in the Florida Derby with a trip to the winner's circle at Churchill Downs.

Magnum Moon is a son of Malibu Moon, the sire of 2013 Kentucky Derby victor Orb, which may give him an edge over Justify in their respective quests to break the Curse of Apollo. He debuted with a 91⁄2 length victory on February 18 and went on to capture an allowance race by 61⁄2 lengths March 11 and win the Santa Anita Derby by three lengths to not only qualify for the Derby but also stamp himself as the favorite. He has won every race, but his seasoning is in question. Going up against a field of 20 is a daunting task. "I'm more optimistic about our 2-year-olds who'll be turning 3 next year", Lukas said, forever imagining the future.

The sport did create a niche for itself with the Breeders' Cup races that come late in the year, but the Triple Crown races are the sport's most celebrated events. "I'd rather have the best horse than a horse who's run 10 times".

Since 1937, 61 horses unraced at age 2 have entered the Kentucky Derby. He's not good enough to beat Mendelssohn, but he is good enough to finish second. Beyond that, Posts 18-20 have yielded just one victor, and nine in the money finishes between them. "That curse thing is silly", Battaglia said, dismissively.

Bolt d'Oro and the lightly raced Hofburg have to be considered as well, if not as highly as some of the others in the race.

Mendelssohn emerged as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender following his stunning win by 18 lengths at this year's UAE Derby. Still, Vino Rosso shows the improving qualities you look for in a Kentucky Derby victor - someone who may not have quite peaked in performance.

"Only the horse race is more universal because the brutality of the prize fight is absent, as well as the attenuation of football or baseball - the long time needed for the orgasm of victory to occur, where in the horse race it is a matter of minutes, never over two or three, repeated six or eight or 10 times in one afternoon".

All the guesses and handicapping using various angles can be ignored as the gates open on Saturday, when more than 150,000 fans are in full throat and 20 horses barrel down the front straightaway at Churchill Downs just hoping to survive the crush that heads into that first turn. Justify is one of two horses that have raced only three times. Said Elliott Walden, the trainer who won the 1998 Belmont Stakes with Victory Gallop and who runs WinStar Farms in Kentucky, "You call him at four-thirty in the morning; he's at the barn seven days a week". You'll see horses who haven't run at two win the Derby more often.

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