Derby 2016: 5 horses to watch in 142nd Kentucky Derby

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The starting gate will once again be full with 20 horses for the 142nd Kentucky Derby.

Even though the majority of horses have little chance of winning and over the half the field is typically eliminated in the opening quarter-mile, owners and trainers cannot resist the prestige of having a horse in America’s greatest race.

Most of the 3-year-olds will be running 1 1/4 miles for the first time on May 7, leaving it up for grabs to see which handles the distance, track surface and traffic-choked conditions the best.

Trainer Doug O’Neill has the likely wagering favorite in undefeated Nyquist.

Three trainers are expected to have two horses each in the race. Steve Asmussen will saddle Gun Runner and Creator, Todd Pletcher has Wood Memorial winner Outwork and Tampa Bay Derby winner Destin, and Chad Brown has Shagaf and Blue Grass runner-up My Man Sam.

RELATED: How to watch the Kentucky Derby

Here are five horses to watch:

EXAGGERATOR

A son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. He’s trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by Kent Desormeaux, the Hall of Fame jockey who is Keith’s younger brother. The colt has three wins in eight career starts and earnings of $1 million. He has lost to Nyquist three times, including last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Exaggerator is a versatile sort who can press the pace or stalk the leaders. He is coming off an impressive 6 1/4-length victory in the Santa Anita Derby on a sloppy track.

GUN RUNNER

The colt topped the Derby leaderboard with 151 points earned in prep races. He has four wins in five career starts, including the Louisiana Derby and Risen Star this winter. Trainer Steve Asmussen, recently elected to racing’s Hall of Fame, is seeking his first Derby victory. He will also saddle Creator. Gun Runner has the second-highest earnings of $1.6 million among the horses expected to make the field.

MOHAYMEN

The colt had his five-race winning streak snapped in the Florida Derby, when he finished fourth behind Nyquist as the 4-5 favorite. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin tosses out the clunker, saying Mohaymen has had “only two bad minutes in his entire life.” The colt is one of two (Shagaf is the other) in the race owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the 70-year-old deputy ruler of Dubai. The Maktoum family is 0 for 8 at the Derby. Mohaymen’s blood lines include Triple Crown winners Secretariat and Seattle Slew.

MOR SPIRIT

Any Derby horse trained by Bob Baffert is worth consideration. The Hall of Fame trainer has four Derby victories, including last year when American Pharoah began his journey to Triple Crown glory in this race. Another Hall of Famer, Gary Stevens, will ride the Pennsylvania-bred colt. Stevens has three Derby wins, the last coming in 1997 aboard Silver Charm, who was trained by Baffert. Mor Spirit has never been worse than second in seven career starts.

NYQUIST

The colt brings a 7-0 record into Churchill Downs, bettering the marks of Seattle Slew in 1977 and Smarty Jones in 2004 when they were 6-0 and won the race. He comes in off a five-week layoff, having last won the Florida Derby. The colt has won from just about everywhere: on the rail, from the far outside, leading all the way or coming from off the pace. Nyquist is a son of Uncle Mo, who also went undefeated in his 2-year-old season. Uncle Mo was the early favorite for the 2011 Kentucky Derby, but he was scratched the day before because of illness and was later diagnosed with a rare liver disease. The colt is named for Detroit Red Wings player Gustav Nyquist; owner Paul Reddam is a big fan of the hockey team. Reddam, trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez were the same team behind I’ll Have Another, who won the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 2012 before being scratched on the eve of the Belmont Stakes with a career-ending leg injury. Nyquist is the richest horse in the Derby field, having earned $3.2 million. He was purchased for $400,000.

Baffert hoping Arrogate gives him third Dubai World Cup win

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Having taken over the mantle as the world’s best racehorse from California Chrome, Arrogate will attempt on Saturday to wear another crown that last fitted his illustrious American compatriot, the Dubai World Cup.

All eyes are on the 4-year-old Arrogate, who lost on debut 11 months ago but hasn’t lost since.

He’s won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup this year to stretch his unbeaten streak to six. In both races, Arrogate defeated Chrome, who won the Dubai World Cup last year at Meydan Racecourse by five lengths despite jockey Victor Espinoza hanging on to a loose saddle for most of it.

Under jockey Mike Smith, Arrogate has forged a winning combination in his last three Group 1 races: Travers Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup.

In Dubai, they have drawn stall nine among 14 contenders, a position which fails to douse the confidence of his trainer Bob Baffert.

“Nine is fine,” said Baffert, who also trained 2015 U.S. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

“He’s settled in pretty well. As long as he shows up, that’s the key. If he runs his race, we know what he can do.”

Smith was all praise for his mount, ranked the No. 1 racehorse in the world.

“I have been blessed with some really, really good horses, but I am not sure I have ever sit on one like this,” Smith said.

“Everything about him, his disposition, his mechanics, the way he gets over the ground … at times you feel as if you are running downhill instead of a level ground. What amazes me most is when the race is over, it looks as if he did not put much effort into it. His recovery time is so quick.”

Arrogate’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup wins came over 2,000 meters on dirt, the same distance and conditions as the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

Baffert hopes Arrogate can give him a third Dubai World Cup victory after Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001).

He suffered a heart attack during his last visit to Dubai in 2012, and watched the World Cup five nights later with stents in two of his blocked arteries. He also watched from even farther afield last year as his other horse, Hoppertunity, finished third behind Chrome and Mike de Kock’s Mubtaahij.

He’s giving Hoppertunity another chance.

“Both my horses are happy and healthy,” Baffert said. “He (Hoppertunity) should be collecting a check again. That is what he does, picks up the pieces in these big races. He reminds me of Pac-Man, he just keeps going. A Dubai World Cup 1-2, that would be something.”

Mubtaahij is also back, although he will start under Christophe Soumillon from the widest of stalls.

“Like everyone, we wanted low,” the Belgian jockey said. “I will have to … hope for some luck.”

The Dubai World Cup features a nine-race card offering $30 million across six Group 1 and three Group 2 races on turf and dirt.

Six three-year-olds nominated late to Triple Crown series

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thunder Snow, winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas, is among six 3-year-olds made eligible to compete in the Triple Crown series during the late nomination period.

The late nominees, which required a payment of $6,000 each, raise the total nominations to 425 for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The late nomination period closed Monday. The early nomination window closed in January and required a payment of $600.

Ireland-bred Thunder Snow, owned by Godolphin Racing, is set to run Saturday in the $2 million UAE Derby in Dubai. The colt has three wins in seven career starts for trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

The other late nominees are Hollywood Handsome, trained by Dallas Stewart; More Than Words, trained by Charlie LoPresti; Parlor, trained by Eddie Kenneally; Rapid Dial, trained by Ingrid Mason; and Stretch’s Stone, trained by Bruce Levine.

Thoroughbreds that weren’t nominated to the Triple Crown have one final chance by paying a supplemental fee. The fee for the Derby is $200,000; $150,000 for the Preakness; and $75,000 for the Belmont.