Jody Demling: Derby field taking shape for 143rd running at Churchill Downs

Jody Demling: Derby field taking shape for 143rd running at Churchill Downs

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - With barely more than two weeks until Kentucky Derby Day, the 20-horse field for the 143rd Run for the Roses is finally taking shape.

The top 3-year-olds in racing have been battling for points in 34 prep races in the United States and one in Dubai since the points series began last September. And now that those prep races are complete, there's just over two-dozen horses wanting in the race, which is limited to 20 starters.

By our count, 18 of the top 20 horses on the Kentucky Derby points list are committed to running in the Derby. Malagacy, ranked No. 13 on the points list, and No. 20 Cloud Computing are both still questionable to run. The connections of both horses said they'd make a final decision in the next week.

The top 20 on the points list get into the race with four others allowed to enter in the May 6 race on the also-eligible list. They would only get into the race if there were a scratch before the morning of May 5.

Louisiana Derby winner Girvin is tops on the points list, followed by Arkansas Derby winner – and likely Derby morning-line favorite – Classic Empire. The latter was the 2-year-old champion and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner last year.

Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia said earlier this week he wasn't sure what the odds would be but said he expected Classic Empire to be the favorite. The son of Pioneerof the Nile had a rough start to his 3-year-old campaign with a fourth in the Holy Bull and some other issues.

"It was incredibly rewarding to see Classic Empire return to his full potential," assistant trainer Norm Casse said after Classic Empire returned to Churchill Downs this week following the win in Arkansas. "It was extremely frustrating and challenging this winter with his antics, but it means so much to our team that he returned the way he did."

Wood Memorial winner Irish War Cry, who is fifth on the points list, and Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming, who is seventh, are expected to be the co-second choices in the Derby morning line.

Santa Anita Derby winner Gormley is third on the list, followed by Blue Grass Stakes winner Irap in fourth and UAE Derby winner Thunder Snow in sixth. Thunder Snow, who made his first five starts in England, won a race in France and punched his ticket to the Derby in Dubai, and is expected to make the trip for the Derby.

The rest of the top 10: beaten Florida Derby favorite Gunnevera, Blue Grass runner-up Practical Joke and fourth-place finisher J Boys Echo are all expected to run.

The other horses expected to run (in points order): State of Honor, Tapwrit, Hence, Fast and Accurate, McCracken, Battle of Midway, Patch and Battalion Runner.

But there are others on the outside trying to get into the race.

Untrapped, who was second in the Risen Star and third in the Rebel Stakes but finished sixth in the Arkansas Derby, is currently No. 21 on the list. The Steve Asmussen-trained colt would be the first to get into the race with a defection.

Another Asmussen-trained horse – Lookin At Lee – ran a fast-closing third in Arkansas and is No. 22. Sonneteer, fourth in Arkansas, would be the next one in line to get into the race, followed by Santa Anita Derby third-place finisher Royal Mo.

Local Hero, Master Plan, Blueridge Traveler, Petrov and Senior Investment are among the others still pointing toward the Derby.

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