2013 Kentucky Derby - Preview

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas fields questions from the media after Monday's morning exercise session in preparation for the 139th Kentucky Derby on Saturday. (Matthew Stockman, Getty Images / April 29, 2013)

Last year's chase for the Triple Crown ended when trainer Doug O'Neill stepped to a microphone stand in a patch of fenced-in grass next to a barn near the Belmont Park track.

Brushing back tears, he announced that a tendon injury would prevent I'll Have Another — the 12th horse to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown since Affirmed last completed the trifecta in 1978 — from going to post the next day.

On Saturday, a full field of 20 is expected for the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby and to begin the quest anew. There is no heavy favorite at this point. A diverse group emerged from the first "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series, which assigned point values to most of the traditional prep races. One of them will become a national star as he strives to join the likes of Secretariat and War Admiral in the ranks of thoroughbred lore.

For a generation of sports fans, though, the moments that resonate from horse racing's annual turn in the national spotlight revolve around how horses have failed to win the three races spread over six weeks in May and June.




Who could forget heavy favorite Barbaro pulling up before making it to the first turn of the Preakness in 2006?

Fans may recall Smarty Jones fading in the Belmont, or Big Brown being pulled to a stop in that final race when his jockey decided the colt had nothing to give.

With each passing year, the feat seems more out of reach — making the stories of those striving for it all the more interesting.

Here are five storylines to watch in the week leading up to Saturday's Kentucky Derby

Pletcher's plethora

As Todd Pletcher rose to prominence in the 2000s, his record had one hole: he'd had 24 starters in the Kentucky Derby but no winners.

Super Saver finally took the roses in 2010, and Pletcher's racing empire has only expanded since then. His horses have already run more than 250 times this year, winning nearly $8 million.

Six of them have amassed enough points to warrant consideration for the Kentucky Derby — the bottom of the field is still shaking out — meaning he could have more than a quarter of the field.

Revolutionary won the Louisiana Derby and will be ridden by Calvin Borel, who also guided Super Saver. Borel has won the Kentucky Derby three times.

Verrazano is unbeaten in four starts this year after not racing as a 2-year-old and won the Wood.

Overanalyze, the Arkansas Derby winner, ran in five races as a 2-year-old, four of them stakes.

They've taken different paths, but all of the colts have been guided by the man who pushed the idea of trainer-as-CEO to new levels. Pletcher oversees hundreds of horses, but now he must focus his energy on preparing individualized training approaches and race plans.

Pletcher had five horses in the 2007 Derby, and none hit the board.

Lukas is back

Pletcher's mentor, D. Wayne Lukas, also has two serious competitors in the race. Will Take Charge will be fresh, having rested seven weeks since winning the Grade II Rebel Stakes. Oxbow hasn't won a race since January but put together enough on-the-board finishes to qualify.

Lukas, 77, could become the oldest trainer ever to win a Triple Crown race, and he would also take the lead among trainers in Triple Crown wins with 14. He constantly pushes off talk of retirement and will spend the week atop his pony, watching workouts and sharing one-liners with the gathered crowds.