LOUISVILLE, KY. -- Anees and Aptitude, two horses who will close from the clouds, offer bettors terrific value in the Kentucky Derby today at Churchill Downs.
With Trippi and Hal's Hope likely to set a sizzling pace, the 1 1/4 -mile Derby could set up for a horse who will drop back early and come running late. That is how Anees won last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile and how Aptitude attracted a following in the Gotham and Wood Memorial Stakes.
Trainers typically tout their own horses in big races (whether they mean it is another matter), but the trainers of both these horses seem genuinely optimistic about their chances.
Alex Hassinger Jr., trainer of Anees, acknowledges that he lost time with his colt because of a hoof bruise early in the year. That's why Anees has raced only twice as a 3-year-old.
That is usually enough to dissuade bettors, because past performances have shown that a horse with so few races isn't fit enough for the stern test of the Derby. But former jockey Gary Stevens, Hassinger's assistant and occasional exercise rider, agrees with his boss that Anees is fit and ready.
"For this particular horse, on paper, it looks like the race should set up perfectly for him," Stevens said. "I look for a truly-run race, maybe a little on the fast side. That is only going to help our chances."
Bobby Frankel, trainer of Aptitude, said this about his horse: "He's the one horse who will get the distance, based on his pedigree." Aptitude is a son of A.P. Indy, winner of the Belmont and Breeders' Cup Classic. And A.P. Indy's sire was Seattle Slew, winner of the 1977 Triple Crown. According to the Daily Racing Form, Aptitude's female family is "quite possibly the classiest female family line of all the Derby participants."
Frankel said Aptitude couldn't be doing better.
"I think he's coming into this race fitter than he's ever been," Frankel said.
D. Wayne Lukas describes his three horses as "blue-collar solid." He seems a bit miffed that others, especially Fusaichi Pegasus, have gotten more attention.
Lukas said High Yield has the best credentials of any Derby horse, based on earnings, experience as a 2-year-old, Grade I stakes, two-turn experience and Lukas' own experience as well as that of the jockey Pat Day.
'That's OK if you guys don't think so," Lukas said, referring to the media. "The only time you care if your horse gets mentioned is at 5:34."
Derby post time is 5:27 p.m.
The odds are ...
Here are the Derby odds at the close of yesterday's early betting: The Trippi-Commendable-Impeachment-High Yield entry 7-2, the China Visit-Curule entry 24-1, Anees 20-1, Aptitude 11-1, Hal's Hope 14-1, Captain Steve 5-1, War Chant 10-1, More Than Ready 10-1, The Deputy 9-2, Graeme Hall 30-1, Fusaichi Pegasus 6-1, Exchange Rate 50-1, and the field (Wheelaway, Deputy Warlock and Ronton) 13-1.
The forecast for Derby day is partly sunny with temperatures in the mid 80s.
For Triple Crown coverage on SunDial, call 410-783-1800 and select category 5501.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.