Bodemeister, the 9 1/2-length winner of the Grade I Arkansas Derby in his most recent start, and Union Rags, winner of the Grade I Champagne and two other graded stakes, head an overflow field of 21 entered for the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.
Bodemeister, the morning-line favorite at 4-1, and Union Rags, the second choice at 9-2, are two of nine Grade I winners in the field that also features three Grade II winners and six Grade III winners that will break from the gate Saturday afternoon.
Trained by three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert, Bodemeister did not make his racing debut until January, when he finished second in his initial try. Following a maiden win, Bodemeister ran second in the Grade II San Felipe to Derby rival Creative Cause and then crushed his Arkansas Derby rivals.
Mike Smith, who won the 2005 Kentucky Derby on Giacomo, has the mount on Bodemeister, who will break from post 6.
Michael Matz, who saddled Barbaro to his Kentucky Derby victory in 2006, trains Union Rags, who comes into the Run for the Roses off a troubled third-place finish in the Grade I Florida Derby. Runner-up to Derby rival Hansen in the Grade I Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at the track last fall, Union Rags will be ridden by Julien Leparoux and break from post 4.
Hansen will attempt to become the first 2-year-old champion to win the Kentucky Derby since Street Sense in 2007 -- and only the second overall. Hansen comes into the Derby off a runner-up finish in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Ramon Dominguez has the mount on Hansen, who's listed at 10-1 on the morning line and who will break from post 14.
The other Grade I winners in the field are Dullahan (Toyota Blue Grass), Creative Cause (Norfolk), Gemologist (Wood Memorial), Take Charge Indy (Florida Derby), I’ll Have Another (Santa Anita Derby) and Liaison (CashCall Futurity).
Grade II winners in the field are U.A.E. Derby victor Daddy Long Legs, Prospective (Tampa Bay Derby) and El Padrino (Risen Star).
The Grade III winners are Sabercat (Delta Jackpot), Daddy Nose Best (Sunland Derby and El Camino Real Derby), Alpha (Withers), Trinniberg (Bay Shore and Swale), Done Talking (Illinois Derby) and Went the Day Well (Spiral).
Gemologist is the 23rd horse since 1900 to enter the Kentucky Derby unbeaten. The most recent was Big Brown (2008), and he became the seventh to win the Derby.
In addition to Baffert and Matz, three other trainers will be trying to get another whiff of the roses: Graham Motion, Todd Pletcher and D. Wayne Lukas.
Motion, who saddled Animal Kingdom to victory last year, will send out Went the Day Well. A victory Saturday would make Motion, Team Valor and jockey John Velazquez the first trainer-owner-jockey team to win back-to-back Kentucky Derbys since 1972-73 when Riva Ridge and Secretariat won for Meadow Stable under Ron Turcotte for trainer Lucien Laurin.
Pletcher, who will send out Gemologist and El Padrino, claimed his initial Kentucky Derby victory in 2010 with Super Saver for WinStar.
Lukas, who will send out Bluegrass Hall’s Optimizer, is a four-time Kentucky Derby winner. His victories came with Winning Colors (1988), Thunder Gulch (1995), Grindstone (1996) and Charismatic (1999).
In addition to Velazquez, two other riders will be seeking to enhance their Kentucky Derby resumes: Calvin Borel and Kent Desormeaux, both three-time Derby winners.
Borel, who will ride Take Charge Indy, captured the roses in 2007 with Street Sense, 2009 with Mine That Bird and 2010 with Super Saver.
Desormeaux, who has the mount on Dullahan, got his Kentucky Derby wins in 1998 with Real Quiet, 2000 with Fusaichi Pegasus and in 2008 with Big Brown.
Kentucky Derby 138 Entry Chart with morning line, trainer, jockey, owner, graded earnings and last-race result
With 20 starters, the purse for the Kentucky Derby will be $2,219,600. The winner will be awarded $1,459,600. The Kentucky Derby will be carried by NBC Sports with a three-hour telecast from 4-7:00 ET
Post time for the Run for the Roses is 6:24, and the race will go as the 11th contest on the 13-race program that begins at 10:30. In addition to the Kentucky Derby, five other graded stakes will highlight the undercard.
Forecasts as of this post call for temperatures in the mid-80's with a 30% chance of rain in the fom of isolated thunderstorms.
--Edited Churchill Downs release