LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Despite drawing the outside post in a 17-horse field, Point Given was deemed the 9-5, morning-line favorite for the 127th Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
The post-position draw was held yesterday at the Kentucky Derby Museum next to the racetrack. Afterward, Bob Baffert, the trainer of Point Given, declared: "It really didn't matter. You have to have the horse."
Mike Battaglia, Churchill Downs oddsmaker, believes that Baffert has the horse - actually, two horses. Battaglia tagged Baffert's second entrant, Congaree, as the 5-1 second choice.
"It's not the perfect post, but the horse is training well. That's the main thing," Baffert said of Point Given. "I didn't want to be in 17, but I wanted to be outside. If I'd have been in the 1 hole, I'd be throwing up right now."
Congaree will start from post 8. Baffert said that was perfect.
"We just wanted to be in the middle somewhere," Baffert said.
For the fourth year, the connections of the horses were allowed to pick their post positions. First, a draw was held to determine the order of selection.
That process was criticized by reporters when the entry cards of the 17 horses were apparently not shuffled as thoroughly as usual. They were still, however, matched with numbers selected randomly.
That did not affect the legality or the randomness of the draw, said Bernie Hettel, chief steward at Churchill Downs. None of the participants in the draw complained, Hettel said.
Three of the fastest horses will start from the inside - Songandaprayer from the 1, Millennium Wind from the 2 and Balto Star from the 3. Their race for the lead will be an interesting race within the race.
"The blazing-speed horses are down inside," said John Ward Jr., trainer of Monarchos, who will start from post 16. "All the routers are outside of them. It's going to develop into a pretty interesting event."
Ward was happy with the starting slot of Monarchos, 6-1 in the morning line along with Millennium Wind.
"What we wanted was a good, clear break," Ward said. "We wanted to be the master of our destiny."
The horses will break from two starting gates. The inside gate has room for 14 horses; the auxiliary gate will contain the other three. Although the auxiliary gate is considered a disadvantage, four of the past six Derby winners started from there.
"They were probably the best horses," Baffert said. "That's why it's all about the horses. The best horses win the race."
Problem with 'Money'?
Talk Is Money, the Laurel-based colt trained by John Scanlan, breezed three furlongs yesterday morning in 37 4/5 seconds.
Shortly after the workout Scanlan said that that was exactly what he'd wanted. But later in the morning he summoned Dr. Alex Harthill to watch Talk Is Money walk forward and backward outside his barn.
Harthill and Scanlan talked privately, and then Harthill entered Talk Is Money's stall and gave the horse an injection. Scanlan declined to discuss the matter, except to say that Talk Is Money would be "fine."
A $1.8 million yearling, Talk Is Money is 50-1 in the morning line. After winning his first two races at Laurel Park, the richly bred Deputy Minister colt has lost four straight.
He has earned the dubious reputation of being a bad actor. Before races, he has reared up, bucked, thrown his jockey and acted up in the starting gate. Scanlan said he's been behaving better.
"That still doesn't mean he's not going to do something stupid," Scanlan said.
The large and boisterous crowd on Derby day could seemingly play havoc with Talk Is Money's fragile temperament.
"He's going to be surrounded," Scanlan said. "He's going to know what Custer felt like."
'Renee' favored in Oaks
In the 14-horse Kentucky Oaks tomorrow at Churchill Downs, Fleet Renee will break from post 6. She will be the 5-2, morning-line favorite.
Michael Dickinson trains the 3-year-old Fleet Renee at his Tapeta Farm in Cecil County. A daughter of Seattle Slew, she won the Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland in preparation for the Oaks, which is sometimes called the Kentucky Derby for fillies.