| | Kentucky Derby Field Could Be Smallest Since 1998
As few as 15 3-year-olds could go to the starting gate in the 129th running of the Kentucky Derby May 3 at Louisville’s historic Churchill Downs as the Visa Triple Crown and $5-million Visa Triple Crown Challenge opens its run to gold and glory.
That would be the smallest field since 1998 when Real Quiet outran 14 other starters.
Of even greater interest is the fact Empire Maker, owned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by Hall of Famer Robert Frankel, figures to be the shortest favorite since Spectacular Bid went to the post in 1979 at 60 cents for a dollar. Empire Maker has been quoted at this point as the 8-5 morning-line favorite. The son of 1990 Derby winner Unbridled, who sired 1996 winner Grindstone, certainly seems to rate the favoritism after handily winning the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial, both Grade I events, in his most recent two starts.
As of now, 15 horses are committed to run in the Derby, with two more as outside prospects. Those two are New York Hero, who finished fourth in the Wood Memorial in his last outing, and Senor Swinger, who was fifth in the Wood in his first start for trainer Bob Baffert after he was bought for Robert and Beverly Lewis. The connections for New York Hero, owner Ernie Paragallo’s Paraneck Stable and trainer Jennifer Pedersen, have all but ruled out a start in the Derby and Baffert intends to watch Senor Swinger’s training at Churchill Downs before making a firm decision.