Big Brown is favored despite post position

The Baltimore Sun

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Trainer Rick Dutrow talks such a big game that even oddsmaker Mike Battaglia couldn't resist his enthusiasm.

"I've never heard a trainer talk about his horse with so much confidence in my life," Battaglia said yesterday after making the undefeated Big Brown the 3-1 Kentucky Derby favorite. "I decided to keep him at 3-1 and lower the odds on Colonel John and Pyro."

Battaglia made his choice even after Dutrow had drawn the No. 20 post position. Clyde Van Dusen was the last horse to win the Derby from the far outside. That victory came in 1929 and is the only victory from the post in the previous 133 years.

Colonel John, who drew the 10th post, is the second choice at 4-1, while Pyro, coming out of No. 9, is third at 6-1. The other 17 choices are 15-1 or more, including filly Eight Belles, who is 20-1 after drawing the No. 5 post.

Big Truck, one of two horses trained by previous Derby winner Barclay Tagg, is the longest shot in the field at 50-1.

Eight Belles is the first filly to enter the Derby since 1999 and is attempting to join Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980) and Winning Colors (1988) as the only fillies to win the race.

"Thanks to [Todd Pletcher's] winning the Belmont with Rags to Riches last year, it looks like it's very, very possible [for a filly to beat colts]," said Eight Belles' trainer, Larry Jones. "It's done all the time in Europe. [Owner Rick] Porter said if this filly is not on the improve, we wouldn't run her, but I couldn't tell him that. She's improving all the time. ... Gate 5 will give her time to settle [before the start]. I think if she breaks well, she'll run up behind the early leaders and have a good trip."

Earlier in the day, Dutrow said the post position "wouldn't make much difference" to Big Brown, a smooth, fast-breaking horse.

Five weeks ago in the Florida Derby, Big Brown broke from post No. 12, from which no horse had ever won. The result was a runaway, five-length victory over Smooth Air, a 20-1 shot here.

Colonel John's trainer, Eoin Harty, experiencing his first Derby, said he had no trouble with being second choice to Big Brown.

"Not at all," he said. "He's undefeated. My horse has suffered two defeats. [Big Brown] has been very impressive. My horse has struggled to win a couple of times. I'm glad he's the favorite. He deserves to be."

Battaglia was unapologetic about his choice for favorite, saying he believes fans will bet heavily on the colt and pointing to his 3-0-0 record and Florida Derby performance.

Battaglia did say there were things in Big Brown's resume to question: the horse's reaction in a 20-horse field, the far outside post and his lack of experience. But in the end, he bought into Dutrow's spin.

"It might be too far out there, but we were willing to accept that challenge," Dutrow said. "It doesn't enter my mind as being a factor. I don't know how important experience is going to be. ... It's supposed to come naturally to him. I don't see that he's got to really know a whole lot and learn a whole lot.

"He's just going to break good and put himself right in the game - like he always does. I'm not that concerned."

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