The Kentucky Derby

Ed Reinke/AP
Jockey Joe Talamo rides Kentucky Derby
morning-line favorite I Want Revenge.

Post Positions, Odds Set for 135th Running of the Kentucky Derby

April 29, 2009 06:30 PM
by Denis Cummings
I Want Revenge, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, will break from post No. 13 Saturday in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby.

I Want Revenge Headlines 20-Horse Field

Gotham Stakes and Wood Memorial winner I Want Revenge was named the 3-1 favorite for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby today, after the post position draw. I Want Revenge will start from the No. 13 post, while co-second favorites Dunkirk and Pioneerof the Nile, each at 4-1 odds, will start from spots No. 15 and No. 16, respectively.

Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia said the choice of favorite was clear after Florida Derby winner Quality Road was scratched Monday due to a quarter crack injury. “I was going to flip a coin between those two because I thought they were the best 3-year-olds in training,” said Battaglia. “Now, I Want Revenge is.”

Two other horses, Square Eddie and Win Willy, were also scratched this week due to injury. The Win Willy scratch, which was announced just hours before the noon draw on Wednesday, allowed Nick Zito to enter Nowhere to Hide as the final horse in the full 20-horse field.

Key Players: Derby contenders

I Want Revenge

I Want Revenge is co-owned by IEAH Stables, the owner of last year’s Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown. Like Big Brown trainer Larry Dutrow, I Want Revenge trainer Jeff Mullins has courted controversy.

On the day of I Want Revenge’s win in the Wood, Mullins was caught illegally administering cough formula to one of his horses and given a seven-day suspension that begins a day after the Derby. “Mullins has a reputation as clouded as Dutrow's, without any of Dutrow's roguish charm,” writes the Washington Post’s Andrew Beyer.

I Want Revenge will be ridden by 19-year-old Joe Talamo, a Cajun-born jockey who is looking to become the youngest jockey to win the Derby in 30 years. He has drawn comparisons to Steve Cauthen, who at 18 won the 1978 Triple Crown aboard Affirmed, and Ronnie Franklin, who was at times overwhelmed while riding Spectacular Bid to wins in the Derby and Preakness the following year.

Pioneerof the Nile

Trainer Bob Baffert, a newly elected member of the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame, won the Derby three times between 1997 and 2002, but he has not won since. He feels confident that Pioneerof the Nile, the Santa Anita Derby winner, can return him to the winner’s circle. “He’s seasoned, he’s tough, just what you need to win a Derby and go through the whole Triple Crown,” said Baffert.

Friesan Fire

Trainer Larry Jones has finished second in the last two Derbies, first with Hard Spun and last year with Eight Belles, who suffered a fatal breakdown after the race. Jones, who was unfairly blamed by some for the filly’s death, announced last September that he was going into retirement and taking no more new horses. He enters what will likely be his final Derby with Friesan Fire, the fourth favorite at 5-1.

General Quarters

General Quarters is owned and trained by Tom McCarthy, a 75-year-old retired science teacher who has been training horses part-time since 1960. He had not won a race since 2006 before General Quarters won the Sam Davis and Blue Grass Stakes this spring, enough to qualify him for the Derby.

McCarthy has received large offers for the horse, but he has turned them down in hopes of winning the Derby with his 20-1 horse. “At this point in my life I don’t need an awful lot of money,” he said. “At my age, and being from Louisville, I’ll probably never have another chance at the Kentucky Derby. You just don’t sell a dream.”

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