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Updates: Road to the Triple Crown | Always Dreaming comes up well short at Preakness

Always Dreaming faded down the stretch, where Cloud Computing overtook second-favorite Classic Empire to win the 142nd Preakness States on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.

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Cloud Computing wins the 142nd Preakness Stakes over Classic Empire

Cloud Computing (2), ridden by Javier Castellano, edges Classic Empire, with Julien Leparoux, to win the 142nd Preakness Stakes.
(Mike Stewart / Associated Press)

Everyone was saying it was a two horse race. Everyone was wrong.

Cloud Computing pulled the upset in Saturday’s running of the 142nd Preakness Stakes on Saturday under overcast skies on a fast track.

He caught the leaders down the stretch and overtook second-favorite Classic Empire to win by a nose and end the Triple Crown hopes of Always Dreaming, winner of the Kentucky Derby. Senior Investment finished third.

Always Dreaming and Classic Empire were the clear favorites among the record Pimlico Race Course crowd of 140,327, as well as simulcast bettors across the country.

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Latest Preakness odds as post time approaches

Here are the latest odds on the Preakness Stakes as of 6 p.m. EDT.

1. Multiplier 18-1

2. Cloud Computing 13-1

3. Hence 20-1

4. Always Dreaming 7-5

5. Classic Empire 2-1

6. Gunnevera 10-1

7. Term Of Art 40-1

8. Senior Investment 25-1

9. Lookin At Lee 8-1

10. Conquest Mo Money 9-1

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Preakness racing surface now labeled as fast

As expected, the racing surface at Pimlico Race Course has been upgraded to fast for the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes.

An overnight rain left the track muddy when fans and horsemen arrived Saturday morning. But the lack of more precipitation and a steady wind dried out the track significantly.

It was still a little wet but not the slop that hindered horses two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby.

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Latest Preakness odds, less than 2 hours to go

Here are the latest odds on the Preakness Stakes as of 5 p.m. EDT.

1. Multiplier 18-1

2. Cloud Computing 13-1

3. Hence 19-1

4. Always Dreaming 3-2

5. Classic Empire 2-1

6. Gunnevera 10-1

7. Term Of Art 40-1

8. Senior Investment 25-1

9. Lookin At Lee 8-1

10. Conquest Mo Money 9-1

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Latest Preakness odds, with less than 3 hours to go

Here are the latest odds on the Preakness Stakes as of 4 p.m. EDT.

1. Multiplier 18-1

2. Cloud Computing 13-1

3. Hence 19-1

4. Always Dreaming 8-5

5. Classic Empire 2-1

6. Gunnevera 10-1

7. Term Of Art 40-1

8. Senior Investment 25-1

9. Lookin At Lee 8-1

10. Conquest Mo Money 9-1

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Preakness racing surface upgraded to good

Three hours before the running of the 142nd Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, the racing surface was upgraded from muddy to good.

It actually appeared the surface had improved several races earlier, but no change was made in its status until midday.

When asked whether the surface would improve enough to be rated fast by Preakness post, Sal Sinatra, Maryland Jockey Club president and general manager, said: “I’m pretty confident. I’m feeling good about it.”

It hasn’t rained all day, and a brisk wind has done its best to dry the track. The last rainfall was late Friday evening, which delayed the finish of the Baltimore Orioles game.

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Preakness Field: 10. Conquest Mo Money

Trainer: Miguel Hernandez

Jockey: Jorge Carreno

Owner: Judge Lanier Racing

Morning Line: 15-1

Last race: Second in the Arkansas Derby

Why he’ll win: He’s probably the best early speed in the race, and if he can throw down honest fractions he might be able to hold on and steal the race, especially if Always Dreaming and Classic Empire flatten out. He’s got five weeks of rest so that should help.

Why he’ll lose: He got run down by Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby at 1 1/8-miles. And lost the Sunland Derby, also at 1 1/18 miles, to Hence. His only real negative is if he has the stamina to go the extra distance beyond 1 1/16 miles.

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Preakness odds at less than 5 hours to go

Here are the latest odds on the Preakness Stakes as of 2 p.m. EDT.

1. Multiplier 18-1

2. Cloud Computing 14-1

3. Hence 19-1

4. Always Dreaming 3-2

5. Classic Empire 2-1

6. Gunnevera 10-1

7. Term Of Art 45-1

8. Senior Investment 25-1

9. Lookin At Lee 8-1

10. Conquest Mo Money 9-1

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Preakness Field: 9. Lookin at Lee

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Owner: L and N Racing

Morning Line: 10-1

Last race: Second in Kentucky Derby

Why he’ll win: Second place in the Kentucky Derby normally gets you more love than this horse is getting. His sire, Lookin at Lucky, won the Preakness in 2010. He finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile so he has performed in the big races.

Why he’ll lose: He had an absolutely perfect rail trip in the Kentucky Derby, which is unlikely to be duplicated in the Preakness. He’s a good horse but seems just a cut below the top horses in this race.

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Preakness Field: 8. Senior Investment

Trainer: Kenneth McPeak

Jockey: Channing Hill

Owner: Fern Circle Stables

Morning Line: 30-1

Last race: Won the Lexington Stakes

Why he’ll win: In the unlikely event there are torrid early fractions by the best horses, he could pick up the pieces with a late rally. He’s fresh, having not raced in five weeks.

Why he’ll lose: He seems way over his head against this level of competition. The only major prep he ran was the Louisiana Derby, where he finished sixth. Not sure why he’s here.

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Preakness Field: 7. Term of Art

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Owner: Calumet Farm

Morning Line: 30-1

Last race: Seventh in the Santa Anita Derby

Why he’ll win: He’s fresh with six weeks since his last start. He was third in the San Felipe behind Mastery and Iliad, both off the trail because of injury. He has added blinkers, which could make a difference. He could definitely grab a paycheck passing tiring horses in the stretch.

Why he’ll lose: He’s never shown he can win at this level or really even compete with the top echelon. Trainer Doug O’Neill didn’t plan on entering him in the Preakness until Calumet Farm suggested it. O’Neill didn’t even get to Pimlico until late Friday and didn’t send his top assistant Leandro Mora to Baltimore to supervise the horse this week.

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Preakness Field: 6. Gunnevera

Trainer: Antonio Sano

Jockey: Mike Smith

Owner: Peacock Racing Stables

Morning Line: 15-1

Last race: Seventh in the Kentucky Derby

Why he’ll win: If he can keep from getting too far behind, he could repeat his stellar performance in the Fountain of Youth. He’s got the best big money rider in Mike Smith aboard and that’s a plus. Along with Lookin at Lee, he’s the most experienced colt, making his 11th start.

Why he’ll lose: The shorter distance coupled with his late charging style makes it pretty difficult to gain a lot of ground late against such talent as Always Dreaming and Classic Empire. Jockey Jose Castellano got off the horse to ride Cloud Computing.

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Latest Preakness odds, less than 6 hours to go

Here are the latest odds on the Preakness Stakes as of 1 p.m. EDT.

1. Multiplier 18-1

2. Cloud Computing 14-1

3. Hence 19-1

4. Always Dreaming 3-2

5. Classic Empire 2-1

6. Gunnevera 10-1

7. Term Of Art 45-1

8. Senior Investment 25-1

9. Lookin At Lee 8-1

10. Conquest Mo Money 9-1

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Preakness Field: 5. Classic Empire

Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Owners: John C. Oxley

Morning line: 3-1

Last race: Fourth in the Kentucky Derby

Why he’ll win: He had an absolutely horrible trip in the Kentucky Derby, getting slammed by McCraken after he was slammed by Irish War Cry. Recovering the finish fourth was quite an accomplishment. He was the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion and won the Arkansas Derby, so he’s got lots of talent. His post gives him tactical advantage over Always Dreaming.

Why he’ll lose: Sometimes after a horse has a really tough trip, it doesn’t come back in the next race. It’s more mental than physical. He may run his race and still not beat Always Dreaming, who is equally, if not more, talented.

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Preakness Field: 4. Always Dreaming

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: John Velazquez

Owners: MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz, Teresa Viola, St. Elias Stables, Siena Farm and West Point Thoroughbreds

Morning Line: 4-5

Last race: Won the Kentucky Derby

Why he’ll win: He’s likely be the best horse. It’s no easy feat to win the Kentucky Derby, and he did it will a trouble-free trip. Todd Pletcher says the horse has been training perfectly and in great health and spirit. His early speed and stalking ability will keep him out of trouble.

Why he’ll lose: A lot of good horses were compromised in the Derby by the track conditions. He was never really threatened so you didn’t get to see how he would handle the pressure. He’s a 3-year-old, and strange things can happen.

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Preakness Field: 3. Hence

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Owner: Calumet Farm

Morning line: 20-1

Last race: 11th in the Kentucky Derby

Why he’ll win: He was the wise-guy choice in the Derby, so a few people saw something that wasn’t necessarily evident on paper. He’s got a good trainer in Steve Asmussen and a good jockey in Florent Geroux. He had a 97 Beyer speed in winning the Sunland Derby.

Why he’ll lose: Winning the Sunland Derby is not a steppingstone to much. He never got any traction in the Derby, and it’s unknown whether it’s a product of the track or the horse.

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Preakness Field: 2. Cloud Computing

Trainer: Chad Brown

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Owners: Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence

Morning Line: 12-1

Last race: Third in the Wood Memorial six weeks ago.

Why he’ll win: The trainer-jockey combination of Chad Brown and Javier Castellano is a big plus. The horse qualified for the Kentucky Derby but was instead pointed to this race. His second in the Gotham Stakes posted a 96 Beyer speed rating.

Why he’ll lose: He is very lightly raced with only three starts. He hasn’t won since his first race, a maiden sprint.

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Latest Preakness odds, less than 7 hours to go

Here are the latest odds on the Preakness Stakes as of noon EDT.

1. Multiplier 18-1

2. Cloud Computing 15-1

3. Hence 20-1

4. Always Dreaming 7-5

5. Classic Empire 2-1

6. Gunnevera 0-1

7. Term Of Art 45-1

8. Senior Investment 25-1

9. Lookin At Lee 8-1

10. Conquest Mo Money 9-1

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Preakness Field: 1. Multiplier

Trainer: Brendan Walsh

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Owners: American Equistock

Morning line: 30-1

Last race: Won the Illinois Derby four weeks ago.

Why he’ll win: He has won his last two races, including the Grade 3 Illinois Derby, so we don’t know how good he can be. It’s a tall order to step up to this competition, but Always Dreaming won the Florida Derby in his first stakes race.

Why he’ll lose: He didn’t run at all as a 2-year-old, and four races may not be enough. The horses he beat in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne would not be considered stellar. His speed figures are very mediocre for a race of this magnitude.

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Latest Preakness odds, less than 8 hours to go

Here are the latest odds on the Preakness Stakes as of 11:15 p.m. EDT.

1. Multiplier 18-1

2. Cloud Computing 15-1

3. Hence 20-1

4. Always Dreaming 3-2

5. Classic Empire 2-1

6. Gunnevera 9-1

7. Term Of Art 45-1

8. Senior Investment 25-1

9. Lookin At Lee 8-1

10. Conquest Mo Money 10-1

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Overnight rain leaves Pimlico surface muddy

A strong overnight rain left the Pimlico Race Course track listed as muddy for the first race. It originally was listed as good but was downgraded shortly before the first post.

There is no threat of rain in the forecast on Saturday day, so there is a reasonable expectation that the track will be listed as fast by the time the Preakness goes off shortly before 7 p.m. Eastern time.

There is a slight breeze, which also should help dry the track.

The weather is near perfect for racing, with temperatures in the upper 60s under an overcast sky.

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What time is the Preakness Stakes?

Sunrise over Pimlico Race Course in Maryland.
(Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

It’s time to plan your day, and you want to be home for the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. So what is post time for the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course?

If you’re in Maryland, or anywhere else on the East Coast, it’s 6:48 p.m.

In Chicago, how about 5:48 p.m.

Hiking in the Rockies, well, it’s 4:48 p.m.

And enjoying life in Los Angeles, your afternoon is interrupted at 3:48 p.m.

Now that’s not to say the race will actually go off at that time. The big races tend to go off around five or six minutes after the post as the tracks try and collect all the bets they can.

The load into the gate will be quick as there are only 10 horses compared with the 20 in the Kentucky Derby. After the gates open, the 1 3/16-mile race will take about 1 minute 56 seconds, give or take a second or two.

What’s at stake is a possible Triple Crown bid if Always Dreaming, the Kentucky Derby winner, can beat this field. The next and final race in the Triple Crown is the Belmont Stakes in three weeks.

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Ask Wayne Lukas if you want to know how to win the Preakness

(Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

If you want to know about the Preakness, especially if you want to know how to win the race, there’s only one person to ask.

And there he was sitting by himself early Friday morning in a plastic chair on the shedrow of the stakes barn at Pimlico Race Course. The familiar cowboy hat was perched atop his head. Sunglasses adorned his face. He wasn’t doing much, just waiting to instill wisdom on whoever wanted it.

Wayne Lukas — only those who don’t really know horse racing use the “D” before his name — ambled over to the fence and proclaimed morning-line favorite and Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming as his top choice in Saturday’s running of the 142nd Preakness Stakes.

“I actually think he looks better to me this week than he did at the Derby,” Lukas said. “I watched him pretty close. I think he can get it. I think the next one [Belmont Stakes] is going to be the tough one for him.”

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The time that TVG’s Kurt Hoover was Todd Pletcher’s boss

(Courtesy of Kurt Hoover)

Todd Pletcher’s connections to Southern California aren’t very strong, but he did spend a short time in Arcadia when his father was training at Santa Anita.

Pletcher, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, ended up playing basketball on a team named the Trailblazers in an Arcadia recreation league in 1980.

“I was out there for one semester,” Pletcher said. “When you are at a new school, it’s a tough situation. This was a good way to meet people and get involved.”

He was living near Arcadia High School but because of a fire he had to go to Dana Junior High.

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Trainer Todd Pletcher says Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming is ready to ‘stretch his neck’ at Preakness

(Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

This year’s Preakness has lacked the buzz and lifeblood that sometimes can accompany the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.

There is no freak of nature horse.

There is no outrageous trainer.

There is no one who really believes a major upset is possible.

The civility of everyone is stifling.

It’s a perfect fit for Todd Pletcher and his Kentucky Derby-winning horse, Always Dreaming.

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Classic Empire ready to go to work as Preakness approaches

(Rob Carr / Getty Images)

If a person refuses to work, there’s a good chance they get fired.

If a horse refuses to work, there’s a good chance they get sent to a nice farm where they can frolic and play.

Well, maybe not quite like that, but not too far off.

This was the decision trainer Mark Casse made after Classic Empire refused to engage in a workout in the middle of the Kentucky Derby prep season.

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You always remember your first time, although jockeys don’t find it a big deal

(Diane Bondareff / Associated Press)

You would never think of buying a car without test driving it. Or, when you go to the rental car counter, you’re often given a choice, so you pick the vehicle with which you’re most familiar.

So how is it that jockeys can get on a horse without ever having ridden or worked the animal and make it look like they are lifelong friends?

If you ask the best — and in this case, that’s Mike Smith — they will tell you it’s no big deal to have your butt on a horse for the very first time seconds after the “riders up” call.

Smith will be doing just that for a second straight Triple Crown race Saturday, when he rides Gunnevera in the Preakness.

This will follow his ride on Girvin, a horse he had never ridden, in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago.

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Five story lines to follow as Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming heads to the Preakness Stakes

(Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

Last year, the Preakness Stakes was labeled as the next meeting in the intense rivalry between two West Coast colts, Nyquist and Exaggerator, who ran first and second, respectively, in the Kentucky Derby.

Exaggerator turned the tables and won the Preakness, with Nyquist finishing third. Southern California racing was on top.

This year, the thinking is the exact opposite, and it’s the absence of California horses that is so glaring.

What’s that old blues song — if it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all?

The latest blow came Sunday when Royal Mo suffered a sesamoid fracture of his right front ankle during his last workout before Saturday’s Preakness.

There was no initial indication that there was additional damage to the area around the fracture. He was vanned to the New Bolton Center, where the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Center is located.

The injury is certainly career-ending, but if there are no complications, it will not be life-ending and he will be retired to the breeding shed.

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Recapping Always Dreaming’s victory in the 143rd Kentucky Derby

(Getty Images)

Mary Ellen Bonomo came up with the name.

Anthony Bonomo and Vincent Viola had the goal and helped with a plan.

Todd Pletcher knew how to get it done.

Always Dreaming did all the rest.

The lightly raced 3-year-old colt took the lead on the backstretch and seemed to have everything under control as he became the 143rd winner of the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

He won by 2 3/4 lengths over Lookin At Lee, who could never really make a charge at him. Battle Of Midway, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and ridden by Flavien Prat, finished five lengths behind Lookin At Lee in third.

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Preakness speculation began as soon as the Kentucky Derby field crossed the finish line

(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

It’s a Kentucky Derby rite of passage, the excitement that builds for the Preakness the moment the winner crosses the finish line at Churchill Downs.

Is Always Dreaming good enough to win the Preakness? Sure.

Is he a Triple Crown horse? Probably not, but it’s too early to tell.

The Kentucky Derby was not a good indication of the ability of many of the horses because the surface, which Equibase ridiculously labeled as “wet fast,” compromised the run of a lot of starters.

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Slide show: Photos from the 143rd Kentucky Derby

John Velazquez rides Always Dreaming down the home stretch as an infield video board shows his margin of lead in the 143rd Running of the Roses. To see more photos, click on the image above.
(Morry Gash / Associated Press)

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Always Dreaming cruises to the Kentucky Derby victory

Jockey John Velazquez celebrates as he guides Always Dreaming across the finish line to win the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Jockey John Velazquez celebrates as he guides Always Dreaming across the finish line to win the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
(Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

If there was a consensus, although not a very strong one, for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby, one of four horses would win Saturday’s race: Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Irish War Cry and McCraken.

Well, maybe this sport does follow form.

Always Dreaming was able to navigate the 1 1/4 miles of the world’s most famous race to receive the blanket of roses.

He won by three lengths over runner-up Looking at Lee. Battle of Midway finished third just ahead of Irish War Cry.

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Kentucky Derby odds with about an hour to go

Here are the odds as of 5:30 EDT for the Kentucky Derby. The morning line odds are in parentheses so you can see which horses are getting more or less action than expected.

1. Lookin at Lee (20-1) 31-1

2. Thunder Snow (20-1) 16-1

3. Fast and Accurate (50-1) 37-1

4. Untrapped (30-1) 57-1

5. Always Dreaming (5-1) 9-2

6. State of Honor (30-1) 51-1

7. Girvin (15-1) 22-1

8. Hence (15-1) 16-1

9. Irap (20-1) 38-1

10. Gunnevera (15-1) 10-1

11. Battle of Midway (30-1) 37-1

12. Sonneteer (50-1) 36-1

13. J Boys Echo (20-1) 46-1

14. Classic Empire (4-1) 7-1

15. McCraken (5-1) 6-1

16. Tapwrit (20-1) 26-1

17. Irish War Cry (6-1) 9-2

18. Gormley (15-1) 21-1

19. Practical Joke (20-1) 30-1

20. Patch (30-1) 12-1

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Kentucky Derby Field: 19. Practical Joke

Trainer: Chad Brown

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Owners: Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence

Morning Line: 20-1

How he got here: Second in the Bluegrass and Fountain of Youth, third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Why he’ll win: He never runs a bad race, having never finished worse than third. His stalking style could benefit in a race with very little pace.

Why he’ll lose: He couldn’t get past a tiring Irap in the Bluegrass, so there should be some concern that he can go the extra furlong.

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Kentucky Derby Field: 20. Patch

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Owner: Calumet Farm

Morning Line: 30-1

How he got here: Second in the Louisiana Derby

Why he’ll win: If you believe in magical stories at the Derby, then this one-eyed horse fits the bill. He’s also bred to go the distance.

Why he’ll lose: This is only his fourth race, and that lack of experience will work against him. He also hasn’t really raced any formidable opposition, other than finishing second to Girvin.

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Kentucky Derby Field: 18. Gormley

Trainer: John Shirreffs

Jockey: Victor Espinoza

Owners: Jerry and Ann Moss

Morning Line: 15-1

How he got here: Won the FrontRunner, the Sham and the Santa Anita Derby.

Why he’ll win: Veteran trainer John Shirreffs has made an adjustment to Gormley’s running style before he won the Santa Anita Derby. They horse also has a great jockey in Victor Espinoza. If the track stays wet, that should also benefit him.

Why he’ll lose: The Santa Anita Derby time was very slow. He’ll need some luck to out-close some of the stronger horses as his speed numbers seem weaker than others.

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Weather worsening at Churchill Downs

Despite a forecast for no more rain at Churchill Downs, it returned at about 4:15 EDT and continued through the 10th race.

Any chance of the track being upgraded to good or wet fast seemed to be remote.The track was listed as sloppy just as the sun came out about 30 minutes before race 11.

Weather radar showed another cell was headed to the Louisville area as the Kentucky Derby was still about two hours away.

Handicappers will be looking at the past performances and breeding to see who does well in the slop.

Thunder Snow, Hence, Classic Empire, Tapwrit, Battle of Midway and Gormley have all won a race over a wet dirt surface.

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Kentucky Derby odds with about two hours to go

Here are the odds as of 4:30 EDT for the Kentucky Derby. The morning line odds are in parentheses so you can see which horses are getting more or less action than expected.

1. Lookin at Lee (20-1) 30-1

2. Thunder Snow (20-1) 16-1

3. Fast and Accurate (50-1) 37-1

4. Untrapped (30-1) 58-1

5. Always Dreaming (5-1) 9-2

6. State of Honor (30-1) 52-1

7. Girvin (15-1) 22-1

8. Hence (15-1) 15-1

9. Irap (20-1) 38-1

10. Gunnevera (15-1) 10-1

11. Battle of Midway (30-1) 37-1

12. Sonneteer (50-1) 35-1

13. J Boys Echo (20-1) 46-1

14. Classic Empire (4-1) 7-1

15. McCraken (5-1) 6-1

16. Tapwrit (20-1) 26-1

17. Irish War Cry (6-1) 5-1

18. Gormley (15-1) 21-1

19. Practical Joke (20-1) 30-1

20. Patch (30-1) 13-1

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Kentucky Derby Field: 17. Irish War Cry

Trainer: H. Graham Motion

Jockey: Rajiv Maragh

Owner: Isabelle de Tomaso

Morning Line: 6-1

How he got here: Won the Holy Bull and the Wood Memorial.

Why he’ll win: If you toss out the Fountain of Youth, where he finished seventh, he’s undefeated. He has some early speed and if he can turn honest fractions he is talented enough to hold off the batch of closers.

Why he won’t: The time in the Wood was a bit slow . No horse has ever won from the 17, and he’s New Jersey-bred, which is even below Cal breds.

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Slide show: Kentucky Derby hats on parade

A woman checks her phone after arriving at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. To see more images, click on the photo above.
(Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)

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Kentucky Derby Field: 16. Tapwrit

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Owners: Bridlewood Farm and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners

Morning Line: 20-1

How he got here: Won the Tampa Bay Derby, second in the Sam F. Davis

Why he’ll win: He was impressive with his win in the Tampa Bay Derby. He was bought as a yearling for $1.2 million, so there has to be something there to bring that kind of price.

Why he’ll lose: He’s never won a race outside Florida, and is just one in a bushel of closers in the race. In this case, he doesn’t measure up with the others.

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Kentucky Derby Field: 15. McCraken

Trainer: Ian Wilkes

Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Owner: Whitham Thoroughbreds

Morning Line: 5-1

How he got here: Wins in the Kentucky Jockey Club and Sam F. Davis, third in the Bluegrass.

Why he’ll win: He’s three for three at Churchill Downs, so he likes the surface. His works have been strong. You can throw out his third in the Bluegrass as he was coming back after a minor injury. Strong closer.

Why he’ll lose: There are a lot of closers in the race and only one of them is going to get the perfect trip and pace scenario. He’s a good horse, but so are a lot of the others.

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Kentucky Derby Field: 14. Classic Empire

Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Owner: John Oxley

Morning Line: 4-1

How he got here: Won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Arkansas Derby, third in the Holy Bull.

Why he’ll win: He might be the best horse in the race and he’s handled the big crowds by winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. He overcame a troubled trip in the Arkansas Derby, so he showed class and talent in his last race.

Why he’ll lose: The horse has been unpredictable. At Saratoga, he unseated his rider out of the gate. In Florida, he refused to work twice. He needs to be in the right frame of mind or things can go poorly.

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Latest Kentucky Derby odds

Here are the odds as of 3:30 EDT for the Kentucky Derby. The morning line odds are in parentheses so you can see which horses are getting more or less action than expected.

1. Lookin at Lee (20-1) 30-1

2. Thunder Snow (20-1) 16-1

3. Fast and Accurate (50-1) 37-1

4. Untrapped (30-1) 58-1

5. Always Dreaming (5-1) 4-1

6. State of Honor (30-1) 51-1

7. Girvin (15-1) 22-1

8. Hence (15-1) 15-1

9. Irap (20-1) 38-1

10. Gunnevera (15-1) 9-1

11. Battle of Midway (30-1) 38-1

12. Sonneteer (50-1) 35-1

13. J Boys Echo (20-1) 46-1

14. Classic Empire (4-1) 7-1

15. McCraken (5-1) 7-1

16. Tapwrit (20-1) 25-1

17. Irish War Cry (6-1) 5-1

18. Gormley (15-1) 21-1

19. Practical Joke (20-1) 30-1

20. Patch (30-1) 13-1

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Kentucky Derby Field: 13. J Boys Echo

Trainer: Dale Romans

Jockey: Luis Saez

Owner: Albaugh Family Stable

Morning Line: 20-1

How he got here: Won the Gotham Stakes, third in the Withers, fourth in the Delta Jackpot and Bluegrass Stakes.

Why he’ll win: If he can duplicate his performance in the Gotham, he will be a force. Has a strong trainer in Dale Romans, who knows this track.

Why he’ll lose: Losing regular rider Robby Albarado to injury is a definite negative. Like many others, the horse has late speed, so it’s likely to be crowded down the stretch.

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Kentucky Derby Field: 12. Sonneteer

Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

Jockey: Kent Desormeaux

Owner: Calumet Farm

Morning Line: 50-1

How he got here: Second in the Rebel Stakes and fourth in the Arkansas Derby.

Why he’ll win: Hasn’t finished worse than fourth in his last nine races. Has a Hall of Fame jockey in Kent Desormeaux and his brother Keith is one the best least-known trainers in the country. Can use the distance.

Why he’ll lose: No maiden has won the Kentucky Derby since 1933. There are too many closers and he’s not likely one of the better ones.

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Kentucky Derby Field: 11. Battle of Midway

Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Owner: Don Alberto Stable and WinStar Farm

Morning Line: 30-1

How he got here: Finished second in the Santa Anita Derby.

Why he’ll win: He’s never run a bad race, having won twice and finished second and third in four starts. Jockey Flavien Prat, one of the best young jockeys, should improve on his performance on the favorite in the Kentucky Oaks. Horse is on his way up.

Why he’ll lose: Very lightly raced. Comes out of a Santa Anita Derby that had an extremely slow time.

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Track condition upgraded at Churchill Downs

The rain has stopped and the sun has come out at Churchill Downs causing the track condition to be upgraded from sloppy to muddy.

Now, that may not seem like much, but it is a testament to how well the Churchill Downs dirt surface handles water.

The upgrade was made in time for the eighth race, some four hours before the Kentucky Derby.

The guess remains that the track will end up with either a good or wet fast designation by post time, shortly before 7 p.m. EDT.

Last year, a one-hour rainstorm turned the track wet before the Derby, but the official condition was never changed from fast.

The turf course remains good.

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Kentucky Derby Field: 10. Gunnevera

Trainer: Antonio Sano

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Owner: Peacock Racing Stables

Morning Line: 15-1

How he got here: Won the Delta Downs Jackpot and Fountain of Youth. Second in the Holy Bull and third in the Florida Derby.

Why he’ll win: He’s one of two colts to score points in four prep races, so he’s consistent. A third in the Florida Derby was a good finish since he was in the far outside post, which on the short stretch of Gulfstream makes it difficult to win from there.

Why he’ll lose: He has to come from far back, and given the lack of pace in this race, it’s going to be difficult to pick off that many horses.

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Latest Kentucky Derby odds

Here are the odds as of 2:30 EDT for the Kentucky Derby. The morning line odds are in parentheses so you can see which horses are getting more or less action than expected.

1. Lookin at Lee (20-1) 29-1

2. Thunder Snow (20-1) 16-1

3. Fast and Accurate (50-1) 37-1

4. Untrapped (30-1) 58-1

5. Always Dreaming (5-1) 4-1

6. State of Honor (30-1) 51-1

7. Girvin (15-1) 22-1

8. Hence (15-1) 15-1

9. Irap (20-1) 37-1

10. Gunnevera (15-1) 9-1

11. Battle of Midway (30-1) 37-1

12. Sonneteer (50-1) 35-1

13. J Boys Echo (20-1) 45-1

14. Classic Empire (4-1) 8-1

15. McCraken (5-1) 7-1

16. Tapwrit (20-1) 25-1

17. Irish War Cry (6-1) 9-2

18. Gormley (15-1) 21-1

19. Practical Joke (20-1) 29-1

20. Patch (30-1) 14-1

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Kentucky Derby Field: 9. Irap

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Jockey: Mario Gutierrez

Owner: Paul and Zillah Reddam

Morning Line: 20-1

How he got here: Won the Bluegrass Stakes.

Why he’ll win: Trainer Doug O’Neill did not think Irap would win the Bluegrass, but he got a perfect trip to break his maiden in his eighth race. Sometimes horses suddenly get better. His connections have won two Derbies in five years.

Why he’ll lose: It took him eight races to break his maiden. The horse got a perfect trip in the Bluegrass and that’s not likely in the Derby; too many horses. And the distance might be too much for him.

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Kentucky Derby Field: 8. Hence

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Owner: Calumet Farms

Morning Line: 15-1

How he got here: Won the Sunland Derby.

Why he’ll win: He was the talk of the backstretch and has become the horse of the wiseguys. Other horses coming out of the race such as Irap and Conquest Mo Money have done well.

Why he’ll lose: The wiseguy horse rarely wins. Plus, it was the Sunland Derby he won, not exactly a stepping stone to the Derby.

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Bob Baffert shares his thoughts about the Kentucky Derby

After winning the Kentucky Oaks with Abel Tasman, veteran trainer Bob Baffert was asked what he thought about the Kentucky Derby. This is an edited version of his response (Baffert does not have a horse in the Derby):

“I ask other people and everybody says, ‘I don’t know.’ It’s like the ‘I don’t know’ Derby. I think there are some nice horses in there. There’s a lot of parity. There hasn’t been a horse separate himself from the pack yet. And usually the Kentucky Derby will do that. I think a horse is going to do something [Saturday].

“I don’t know which one it is. But one of them is going to do that to get everybody chimed in. I think all the races have been pretty close. You know, you’ve got the winner of the Florida Derby [Always Dreaming], I think Todd Pletcher’s horse is really fast .... A lot of horses have to have their own way, [such as] Irish War Cry. You have got the California horses, they’re tough. McCraken is a hometown horse that you hear all these whispers.

“That’s the only thing about this week. I didn’t hear anybody whispering about Abel Tasman [winner of the Kentucky Oaks for Baffert]. I was sort of like, wait a minute, maybe I don’t have a shot. But, you know, forget the whispers. At the end of the day, the cream rises to the top.

“They have all looked really, really good. I have been watching them train. And my wife says, ‘Which one do you like?’ I said, ‘When they come by, they all look good.’

“The horse that won the Blue Grass, Irap, maybe he’s waking up. A lot of horses wake up once they start going a 1 1/8 [mile]. That starts separating those horses. At 1 1/16, they all stay together. When they start going 1 1/8, they’re real quiet. War Emblem, you remember him. When they start going that distance, that’s when the big engines kick in.”

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Kentucky Derby Field: 7. Girvin

Trainer: Joe Sharp

Jockey: Mike Smith

Owner: Brad Grady

Morning Line: 15-1

How he got here: Won both the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.

Why he’ll win: He’s undefeated on the dirt in three races, and his other race was a second on the turf. He’s been working well and picks up “Big Money” Mike Smith as his jockey.

Why he’ll lose: At four races, he’s very lightly raced. He also had a problem with a quarter crack in his right front leg. Brian Hernandez Jr., his regular rider, decided to ride McCraken, so that should tell you something.

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Kentucky Derby Field: 6. State of Honor

Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: Jose Lezcano

Owner: Conrad Farms

Morning Line: 30-1

How he got here: He was second in the Florida Derby and Tampa Bay Derby and third in the Sam F. Davis stakes.

Why he’ll win: In the Florida Derby, he held off a fast -charging Gunnevera, but still trailed Always Dreaming. He has some early speed and would need a lot of luck behind him to come out on top.

Why he’ll lose: He hasn’t won on dirt in his last four starts. All his early races have been on synthetic. One win in 10 starts does not bode well for this Canadian bred.

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Check the latest odds for the Kentucky Derby

Here are the odds as of 1:30 EDT for the Kentucky Derby. The morning line odds are in parentheses so you can see which horses are getting more or less action than expected.

1. Lookin at Lee (20-1) 29

2. Thunder Snow (20-1) 16

3. Fast and Accurate (50-1) 37

4. Untrapped (30-1) 60

5. Always Dreaming (5-1) 4

6. State of Honor (30-1) 53

7. Girvin (15-1) 22

8. Hence (15-1) 14

9. Irap (20-1) 35

10. Gunnevera (15-1) 9

11. Battle of Midway (30-1) 38

12. Sonneteer (50-1) 34

13. J Boys Echo (20-1) 44

14. Classic Empire (4-1) 8

15. McCraken (5-1) 7

16. Tapwrit (20-1) 25

17. Irish War Cry (6-1) 5

18. Gormley (15-1) 21

19. Practical Joke (20-1) 30

20. Patch (30-1) 14

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Kentucky Derby Field: 5. Always Dreaming

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: John Velazquez

Owners: Brooklyn Boyz Stable, MeB Racing, Teresa Viola Racing, St. Elias Stables and West Point Thoroughbreds

Morning Line: 5-1

How he got here: Won the Florida Derby.

Why he’ll win: He was fantastic in the Florida Derby, running the fastest time since 1978 when Triple Crown winner Alydar won the race. He has won all three races since he switched barns to Pletcher.

Why he’ll lose: If he runs like he did in the Florida Derby, he won’t lose. But the other horses won’t let him get away with some of the fractions he did at Gulfstream. He may be a little short for 1¼ miles.

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Weather and track condition update from Churchill Downs

The weather in Louisville has been nothing short of terrible the past couple of days. Friday’s Kentucky Oaks was contested over a sloppy track and the strip opened for racing Saturday morning with the same designation.

According to weather.com, the chance of rain for the remainder of the day is only 15%. The sun has even snuck out a little from behind the clouds.

The guess here is that track conditions will improve to either good or wet fast by the time the Kentucky Derby goes off, around 6:45 p.m.

The turf course is listed as good.

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Kentucky Derby Field: 4. Untrapped

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Owner: Michael Langford

Morning Line: 30-1

How he got here: He finished second in the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds and third in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn.

Why he’ll win: He’s won at Churchill Downs, in a maiden race as a 2-year-old, so he likes the surface. If the track comes up wet, bettors will give extra weight to his second-place finish in the LeComte over the slop. He also returns to his regular rider Ricardo Santana Jr.

Why he’ll lose: Hasn’t won since his maiden triumph in November. A sixth in the Arkansas Derby with Mike Smith aboard doesn’t bring confidence.

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Kentucky Derby Field: 3. Fast and Accurate

Trainer: Mike Maker

Jockey: Channing Hill

Owners: Kendall Hansen, Skychai Racing and Bode Miller

Morning Line: 50-1

How he got here: He won the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.

Why he’ll win: The owners are confident enough to have spent $200,000 to supplement him in the race. He’s also coming off three wins in a row.

Why he’ll lose: He’s not a dirt horse. He’s only run once on dirt and finished fifth. All his other races were on synthetic or turf.

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Kentucky Derby Field: 2. Thunder Snow

Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor

Jockey: Christophe Soumillon

Owners: Godolphin Racing

Morning Line: 20-1

How he got here: Automatic qualifier by winning the UAE Derby in Dubai.

Why he’ll win: He’s won his last three races, all graded stakes. He’s won $1,627,541, second only to Classic Empire in this field. Since he hasn’t raced in the U.S. we really don’t know how well — or poorly — he can perform.

Why he’ll lose: Foreign horses traditionally don’t do well in the Kentucky Derby. The 100,000-plus people cheering can be unnerving for a horse in a different environment.

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Kentucky Derby Field: 1. Lookin At Lee

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Owners: L and N Racing

Morning Line: 20-1

How he got here: He campaigned at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. He finished third in the Southwest Stakes and third in the Arkansas Derby.

Why he’ll win: He’s battle tested — his last six races have been graded stakes races, although he didn’t win any of them. He’s got a strong finishing kick, so the distance shouldn’t be a problem.

Why he’ll lose: The fact that he has hasn’t win a graded stakes probably puts him a cut below the other horses. The one hole is the worst on the track.

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What time is the Kentucky Derby?

The time of the Kentucky Derby fluctuates a bit every year, and you can usually count on it going off a little later than scheduled. This year, the gates are supposed to open at 6:46 p.m. in Louisville. So, doing the easy math, that’s 3:46 p.m. in Los Angeles.

But there are some other things that happen on Derby Day.

The national anthem will be performed at 5:08 p.m. (We’ll do Louisville times for these other events.) by Harry Connick Jr.

About 6:05, the horses will start their long walk (not long for a horse) from the barns to the paddock. There will be a lot of nice suits with mud on them given the weather here.

At approximately 6:31 p.m. will be the call of “Riders Up,” which is when the jockeys get on their horses.

About a minute later is the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home.”

And then, after some jogging around, comes what’s called the most exciting two minutes in sports.

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What can go wrong getting a horse to the Kentucky Derby? How about everything

(Rob Carr / Getty Images)

The math makes no sense.

You start with about 22,300 foals in 2014. Figure about half of them are colts, so you’re down to 11,000.

Of those, the field gets cut some more at the start of their third year, when you have to pay $600 to nominate your colt — or sometimes filly — to be eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby. This year there were 418 nominations: 378 colts, 30 geldings, five ridglings and five fillies.

That puts it at 1.9% of the 2014 foals being eligible for what is almost every horse owner’s dream.

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Wide-open Kentucky Derby has everyone dreaming

(Garry Jones / Associated Press)

The No. 1 commodity on the backstretch during Kentucky Derby week is dreaming.

Especially this week, when there is no overwhelming favorite. There are 20 scenarios to win Saturday’s race, and the one commonality is you absolutely need a good trip.

You can make a case for a lot of these horses.

The morning-line favorite at 4-1 is Classic Empire, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Throw out his third-place finish in the Holy Bull and he’s undefeated.

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French jockey Flavien Prat rode to the top in Southern California. Now he gets his chance in the Kentucky Derby

(Benoit Photo)

The single camera was set up on the south side of the jockeys room at Churchill Downs. Three people from NBC were scurrying about, trying to find the right-sized stool, asking that the noise in the room subside and that the volume be turned off on the monitor behind them.

Laffit Pincay III, the affable host of most of NBC’s horse racing coverage, was going to interview the three French jockeys riding in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

Julien Leparoux, the veteran at 33 and riding in his 10th Derby, and Florent Geroux, the jokester at 30 and riding in his second Derby, both flanked Flavien Prat, who despite his salt-and-pepper hair is the rookie at 24.

“I’m hoping I can get the other two to get Flavien to open up,” Pincay said to a nearby reporter.

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Trainer John Shirreffs not concerned by Gormley’s inconsistent campaign

(Benoit Photo)

Parents remember when their A-student brings home his first B, or, heavens, even a C. Maybe the parents react with a stern lecture or by taking away privileges or even removing the device that seems to be growing out of the child’s hand.

Rare is the parent who just views it as part of growing up. No big deal. Move along, nothing to see here.

You would be lucky to have John Shirreffs raising your kid, or in this case, your horse.

The 71-year-old trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, and the best female horse of all time, Zenyatta, has shrugged aside the uneven campaign of Gormley, his entrant in this year’s Kentucky Derby, as just part of growing up.

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Kentucky Derby draw sheds little light on which horse has the advantage

(Garry Jones / Associated Press)

The Kentucky Derby draw for post positions did little to untangle the mess for those trying to predict the winner of the most prestigious horse race in the world.

Classic Empire, the 4-1 favorite, drew the No. 14 slot, with 5-1 second choices Always Dreaming in the 5 and McCraken the 15.

This year’s race is considered one of the closest and most difficult to handicap in years.

“When you look at it just on numbers, it’s very evenly matched,” said Doug O’Neill, trainer of last year’s winner, Nyquist. “There are a lot of nice 3-year-olds that look like they are getting better and better. But there are no freakish 2-year-olds that have continued on as a 3-year-old.”

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