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.

Penny Chenery, owner of Triple Crown champ Secretariat, dies

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Penny Chenery, who bred and raced 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat as well as realizing her ailing father’s dream to win the Kentucky Derby in 1972 with Riva Ridge, has died. She was 95.

Chenery died Saturday in her Boulder, Colorado, home following complications from a stroke, according to her children. They announced her death Sunday through Leonard Lusky, her longtime friend and business partner.

In 1973, Secretariat captured the imagination of racing fans worldwide when he became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. He won the last leg by a whopping 31 lengths in one of the greatest performances in sports history.

The previous year, Riva Ridge won the Derby and Belmont Stakes.

Both colts were inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

“We are deeply proud of our mother, her accomplishments, and her courage,” daughter Kate Tweedy said. “As we mourn her loss, the example of her strength, her intelligence and her enduring spirit continue to inspire us.”

Chenery developed a love of horses as a child and learned to ride at age 5. She attributed her affinity for horses to her father, Christopher Chenery, who founded Meadow Stable, a thoroughbred racing and breeding operation, in Caroline County, Virginia.

After graduating from Smith College in 1943, Chenery worked as an assistant for a company that designed landing craft for the Normandy invasion. Before the invasion, she quit her job and at her father’s urging, she volunteered for the Red Cross. In 1945, Chenery traveled to France as a Doughnut Girl to help war-weary soldiers transition to ships headed home at the end of World War II.

Chenery returned from Europe in 1946, and at her father’s urging, she attended Columbia University’s business school, where she was one of 20 women in her class. Six months from graduation, she got engaged to Columbia Law graduate John “Jack” Tweedy. Her father encouraged her to quit and focus on her wedding. The couple married in 1949.

For nearly 20 years, Chenery was content to be a housewife and mother to the couple’s four children in the Denver area. She and her husband helped found and raise the initial money for Vail ski resort in the early 1960s.

Her life changed in 1968 when her father’s health and mind began failing and her mother died. His Meadow Stable, which had been profitable, began losing money. Her two siblings had planned to sell it when their father could no longer run the operation.

Chenery took over management of the racing stable, with the help of siblings Margaret Carmichael and Hollis Chenery, and her father’s business secretary. The operation was losing money and few took her seriously. Chenery commuted monthly from Colorado to Virginia, but after two more years in the red, selling the stable seemed almost inevitable.

By 1971, her colt Riva Ridge swept the juvenile stakes and won 2-year-old of the Year honors. In 1972, Riva Ridge won the Kentucky Derby, fulfilling her father’s dream in the last year of his life. That same year, Secretariat burst onto the scene, so dominating the 2-year-old races that he won Horse of the Year honors.

In 1973, Secretariat became a pop culture icon with his Triple Crown victory, landing on the cover of Time magazine. For the next four decades, Chenery served as a careful steward of the colt’s legacy.

She charmed as an engaging and quick-witted owner who represented her equine champions with poise, dignity and a keen business sense.

“The horse can’t talk, but I can,” she said.

Chenery was portrayed by actress Diane Lane in the 2010 movie “Secretariat.” Chenery had a cameo role as a spectator at the Belmont Stakes.

“We have always been overwhelmed and amazed by the love and support Mom received from her many fans,” son John Tweedy said.

Born Helen Bates Chenery on Jan. 27, 1922, in New Rochelle, New York, she was the youngest of three children of Christopher and Helen Chenery, for whom she was named.

Following Secretariat’s retirement, Chenery became an ambassador for thoroughbred racing and remained so after the colt’s death in 1989.

She served as the first female president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and president of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. She became one of the first women admitted to The Jockey Club and helped found the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

Chenery created the Secretariat Vox Populi award annually honoring racing’s most popular horse, as well as the Secretariat Foundation, which assists and supports various charities within the racing community.

She received the 2006 Eclipse Award of Merit for lifetime contributions to the thoroughbred industry, and in recent years, she advocated for laminitis research and care advancement as well as efforts to ban the use of performance-enhancing drugs in racing.

Chenery’s marriages to Tweedy and Lennart Ringquist ended in divorce. She is survived by her children from her marriage to Tweedy: Sarah Manning, Kate, Chris and John. Her other survivors are seven grandchildren and stepson Jon Ringquist.

Lusky said a public memorial was pending.

Meet offers Breeders’ Cup, Kentucky Derby, Oaks qualifiers

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Churchill Downs’ opening weekend features stakes races awarding points toward the Kentucky Derby and Oaks along with berths in the Breeders’ Cup.

The $200,000 Grade 2 Pocahontas for 2-year-old fillies and $150,000 Grade 3 Iroquois for juvenile colts headline four stakes races on Saturday. The winners of both 1 1/16-mile stakes automatically qualify for the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar on Nov. 4 and earn 10 points toward the Derby and Oaks.

Dale Romans meanwhile can surpass Hall of Famer Bill Mott as Churchill’s winningest trainer with three horses entered on Friday’s 10-race opening card. Romans’ 699 career wins are just two behind the 63-year-old Mott, who has held the mark for 31 years.

Racing will occur Thursdays to Sundays through Oct. 1 with a 12:45 p.m. first post most days.