LOUISVILLE — The juvenile champion, Street Sense, had to step aside and take second choice to undefeated Curlin in the Kentucky Derby morning line announced yesterday.
Take that for what it’s worth. The trainers of both horses, which stand out in the 20-horse field, said they’re paying absolutely no attention to this prediction of the way the public will bet.
“Like anything on the race track that’s free, the morning line isn’t worth anything,” Asmussen said.
“I don’t care what the morning line is. I’d just like to be No. 1 at the wire,” said Carl Nafzger, trainer of Street Sense.
Nafzger has been saying all week that every horse in this 11/4 mile race will be 19-1: because every horse will have 19 others to beat. So it is that Curlin, undefeated but with only three races on his résumé — all of them this year — was installed as the 7-2 favorite, half a point lower than Street Sense at 4-1.
Curlin “is an extremely fast and talented horse,” said Asmussen, who has trained the horse for his last two races.
Curlin will break from post position No. 2 and Street Sense from post No. 7, close to the No. 8 that Nafzger’s Derby winner, Unbridled, had in 1990.
The 20 who made the Derby lineup were those with the highest graded earnings from among the 22 entered for the race. Excluded were Reporting for Duty and Delightful Kiss.
When announcing his morning line, oddsmaker Mike Battaglia said he made Circular Quay the third choice at 8-1. Circular Quay leads the five-horse juggernaut that trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle as he seeks his first Kentucky Derby win.
Pletcher also will start Cowtown Cat, Any Given Saturday, Sam P., and Scat Daddy.
Trainer Barclay Tagg barely made it to Louisville from New York in time to pick the No. 12 post for Nobiz Like Shobiz, who also is 8-1.
This marked the 10th year Churchill Downs has broken the post position process into two parts. The final process, when the connections of Derby horses chose their post positions, followed an earlier phase when a blind draw determined the selection order in which they would be permitted to make their choices.
Pletcher, 0-for-14 in the Derby but trainer of the nation’s most successful racing operation in recent years, briefly outlined his strategy for the spots he selected for his five Derby runners.
“We had a conference this morning, around 11 o’clock” Pletcher said. “You have to speculate what some people are going to try to do. Maybe there might be a couple of horses you don’t want to be next to in the gate. Then you have to play off what everybody else does.”
For Illinois Derby winner Cowtown Cat, seventh in selection order, Pletcher chose the No. 6 post.
“You could go either 6 or 12,” he said. “He’s a tactical horse and you can put him where you want. He’ll be in the gate a little less time at No. 6.”
The loading order is 1 and 11, 2 and 12, 3 and 13, and so on.
Regarding Scat Daddy, who has won his big races from the outside, Pletcher said they were going to place him outside. Thus they chose the No. 14 post position for him.
For Circular Quay, post position mattered the least, according to Pletcher. “Speaking to (jockey) John Velazquez, he preferred to be outside because the horse is probably going to fall back anyway.”
For Sam P., the Pletcher group had drawn 13th in selection order, so the group thought it might as well pick post No. 13.
This left Any Given Saturday: one who had drawn 18th in selection order. Without many options left, the Pletcher group chose post No. 18 rather than make the choice of going all the way inside.
Trainer Jamie Sanders, who took the No. 10 post for 30-1 Teuflesberg, said she had been considering strategy for two days with her partners in this colt she also owns.
“Sometimes he’s had some issues at the gate,” Sanders said. By choosing No. 10, they knew Teuflesberg would be loaded second from last of the 20. Thus Teuflesberg won’t have long to stand in the gate and won’t “have time to get antsy,” she said.