LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The threat of rain has helped pushed Orb out of the betting favorite’s spot for Saturday’s 139th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Revolutionary and Goldencents went to the top of the odds on Friday, both listed at 5-1, while morning line favorite Orb fell slightly from 7-2 to 6-1. Normandy Invasion is now the fourth choice at 8-1 and the only other horse with single-digit odds.
Forecasts for Saturday call for a 50 percent chance of rain throughout the day, with chances rising later in the day. Post time for the Derby is 6:42 p.m. EST.
The potential for a sloppy track fits right into Revolutionary jockey Calvin Borel’s history. Two of his three Derby wins have come in wet conditions. He rode Mine That Bird, a 50-1 long shot, to victory in 2009 and then handed trainer Todd Pletcher his first – and to this point only – Derby winner with Super Saver in 2010.
Revolutionary has won its only race in wet conditions. It is one of five horses going to starting gate for Pletcher.
“We’re 100 percent done,” said Pletcher. “We’ll leave well enough alone from here… We laid out a plan to get here with them and it’s all come down pretty much like we hoped.”
Verrazano, another of Pletcher’s horses, opened as the second choice at 4-1 on Wednesday but fell to 11-1 on Friday.
Orb trainer Shug McGaughey, who is winless in six Derby starts, said a wet track is an unknown for his horse. Orb has won four straight races, including beating Revolutionary at Aqueduct last November and fellow Derby starter Itsmyluckyday at the Florida Derby in March, but it has never run in the slop. Orb starts in the No. 16 spot.
“He trained on one here one morning and trained excellent,” said McGaughey. “I don’t think it’ll be a problem but you never know in the afternoon what you’re going to get. Mud in his face isn’t going to bother him, because he’s gotten plenty of dirt.
“Like everybody else, I hope the track is fast and safe for everybody and nobody has an excuses and let the best horse win.”
Pletcher got his weekend off to a good start Friday when Princess of Sylmar came off the pace to win the Kentucky Oaks with Mike Smith riding the 3-year-old filly to victory over Beholder. Princess of Sylmar was a 38-1 long shot leaving the gate but bided its time throughout the race before making a push coming off the final turn.
Princess of Sylmar paid $79.60 in the second highest winning payoff in Kentucky Oaks history.
Pletcher and Smith will team up again on Saturday as Smith rides Palace of Malice, who is listed with 25-1 odds.
“It was extremely rough leaving there,” said Smith, who just got the mount for Princess of Sylmar on Monday. “We got banged around pretty good but she settled right into the stride… They thought they had moved a little early last time out and to really be patient. And when you think it’s time to move, maybe even be a little more patient. It really worked out great.”
Smith and Borel are two of the five jockeys in the field with previous Derby victories; Gary Stevens has won three times but is returning to riding at the age of 50 after an absence of eight years. He will be atop Oxbow. John Velaquez, who won in 2011 with Animal Kingdom, will be riding Verrazano and Edgar Prado will be the jockey for Charming Kitten. Prado won in 2006 with the ill-fated Barbaro.
The Derby field of 20 shrunk by one Friday.
Black Onyx, winner of the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park in March, was scratched out of the No. 1 gate to knock the field down to 19 horses. A non-displaced chip in the left front ankle of Black Onyx was discovered after Friday’s morning training session, said trainer Kelly Breen.
“We noticed a little swelling in the ankle this morning, previous to training,” Breen said. “It brought major concern right away. He went out, he trained, he did gallop. He came back and was, say, a one out of five lameness.”
X-rays were taken after the morning session and that is when the chip was discovered. Fear The Kitten, which was Derby eligible, did not get to enter because the scratch occurred after 9 a.m.
The absence of a horse in the first gate will mean Borel will have an easier time getting to his favorite position on the track, the rail.