LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A quick look at the 19 starters in today's race (in post-position order):
1. BLOW OUT
Races: 8 1st: 2 2nd: 3 3rd: 1 Purses: $106,064
He took the worst of it when a horse bolted and carried him to the outside in the stretch of the Arkansas Derby. The race before, he lost by a head to Ide, who was one of the early favorites for the Kentucky Derby before his leg injury. The inside post is usually anathema here, although Bill Shoemaker did survive a brush with the fence and won with Ferdinand from there in 1986.
2. VICTORY SPEECH
Races: 9 1st: 4 2nd: 1 3rd: 4 Purses: $176,162
Owned by Michael Tabor, who won last year with Thunder Gulch, his first Derby starter. Victory Speech is the most rested of the Derby horses, his last start being a third-place finish in what has been perceived as a weak Jim Beam Stakes. With five horses in the field, Wayne Lukas had a jockey crush, but he landed Jose Santos. "If this was basketball, this horse would be my power forward," ex-coach Lukas said.
Races: 8 1st: 4 2nd: 2 3rd: 0 Purses: $235,900
Trainer Nick Zito feels that Eddie Delahoussaye, who's riding at Hollywood Park today, might have erred when he got off George Steinbrenner's colt. "Two of the times Eddie rode this horse, there were off tracks," Zito said. "That wasn't a fair way of assessing this colt's ability." The Delahoussaye rides produced fifth-place finishes--on April 13 in the Blue Grass and last fall in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Kent Desormeaux has picked up the riding assignment.
Races: 13 1st: 6 2nd: 2 3rd: 2 Purses: $934,157
"Why are we coupled with [trainer] Bob Baffert's other horse?" asked Barbara Walter, who races the Santa Anita Derby winner with her husband, Bob. The answer is that track management and the stewards have almost unlimited leeway in Kentucky. The more horses they couple, the fewer who wind up in the mutuel field. "It's not fair for the bettors that like Semoran," Barbara Walter said, referring to Baffert's other horse, who has different owners. "He ought to be about 60-1, but he's going to be a lot less coupled with our horse."
5. HALO SUNSHINE
Races: 9 1st: 2 2nd: 2 3rd: 3 Purses: $242,525
This son of Halo, who has sired Derby winners Sunny's Halo and Sunday Silence, wintered at Santa Anita, but his Derby preps have been a win in the Golden State Derby at Bay Meadows and a third in the Arkansas Derby. Richard Cross will be trying to win a Derby on his first try. "This is absolutely the easiest horse I've ever had to train," Cross said. "You tell him what to do and he does it."
Races: 7 1st: 4 2nd: 0 3rd: 1 Purses: $287,300
He'll be ridden by Russell Baze, who wins races by the hundreds every year in the Bay Area but has never ridden in a Derby. The last jockey to win a Derby with his first mount was Ron Franklin with Spectacular Bid in 1979. The horse has been working sharply since his sixth-place clinker in the Blue Grass, but sons of Phone Trick usually want nothing to do with the 1 1/4-mile distance. Before the Blue Grass, Semoran was the best of a weak field in the Remington Park Derby.
7. ZARB'S MAGIC
Races: 12 1st: 5 2nd: 4 3rd: 2 Purses: $481,916
This undersized gelding and Grindstone flip-flopped 1-2 finishes in the Louisiana Derby and the Arkansas Derby, with Zarb's Magic finishing better to win the latter race. No Louisiana-bred has ever won the Kentucky Derby. Zarb's Magic's front bandages--a troublesome sign for many handicappers--will be taken off for the Derby. "He's never had a soundness problem," trainer Bret Thomas said. "The bandages were strictly precautionary."
8. IN CONTENTION
Races: 14 1st: 7 2nd: 4 3rd: 1 Purses: $302,811
This grandson of Halo and Secretariat has more wins than any other horse in the race. His three stakes wins have been in ungraded races, but when he came running late in the Wood Memorial, finishing 1 1/2 lengths behind Unbridled's Song, trainer Cynthia Reese was convinced that he belonged. Reese is the seventh woman to run a Derby horse (Dianne Carpenter saddled two). The best female finish was Shelley Riley's second to Lil E. Tee with Casual Lies in 1992.
Races: 6 1st: 1 2nd: 1 3rd: 2 Purses: $159,225
If this colt were trained by anyone but two-time Derby winner Charlie Whittingham, there would be arched eyebrows all around. "He would have won the Santa Anita Derby by five lengths if he hadn't been broad-sided," Whittingham says. Corker was fourth, beaten by nine lengths, then moved up to third after the disqualification of Alyrob. Whittingham's best 3-year-old, Smithfield, is on the sidelines indefinitely because of a sesamoid injury.
10. PRINCE OF THIEVES
Races: 6 1st: 2 2nd: 1 3rd: 0 Purses: $157,080