2018 Kentucky Derby

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European-hopeful Mendelssohn finishes last in Kentucky Derby

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Everything looked good for European hopeful Mendelssohn entering the Kentucky Derby. Then the race started.

The $3 million colt was bumped out of the gate, and was unable to recover in driving rain on a sloppy track. The frustrating combination resulted in a last-place finish in the 20-horse field in Saturday’s 144th running at Churchill Downs.

It was a disappointing performance for the Ireland-based horse, which began horse racing’s marquee event as the second choice behind Justify, which eventually won 53\ lengths ahead of Mendelssohn. The Kentucky-bred colt had sought to become the first European horse to win the Run for the Roses, but it couldn’t recover from the early contact and was left far back of the field.

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Mendelssohn eased to the wire and walked off, 23} lengths behind Magnum Moon, which finished next to last after entering as another highly regarded contender.

“He just got knocked over coming out of the gate and then got knocked over going in the first bend (turn), but he’ll fine,” trainer Aidan O’Brien said of his horse. “He was never used to getting that much kickback.”

Jockey Ryan Moore agreed about the skirmish’s effect but said Mendelssohn could handle the track conditions.

“He got beat up out the gate, proceeded to check on the first turn and was never in a good place,” Moore said. “The race was over for him then.”

Mendelssohn had four wins and a second in seven starts, with wins in both 2018 races before the Derby. The horse didn’t get on the Churchill Downs track for the first time until Thursday after being quarantined following his arrival this week, but was still expected to contend.

Those hopes quickly disappeared. Despite the finish, O’Brien was encouraged about the horse’s condition. He didn’t say anything about Mendelssohn running in the Preakness, just that the horse will return home and likely be back at Churchill Downs this fall for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Whenever Mendelssohn returns, O’Brien expects a better showing the next time around.

Justify wins the 2018 Kentucky Derby

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Justify, jockeyed by Mike Smith and trained by Bob Baffert, won the 144th Kentucky Derby after battling muddy conditions at Churchill Downs.

It was his fourth win in four starts. Justify entered the morning with 3-1 odds. Good Magic rallied to finish in second while Audible took third place in what was one of the most competitive Kentucky Derby fields in years.

Justify also ended the Curse of Apollo, becoming the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby after not racing as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882.

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“It would take a horse like him to break the curse, and wow, I can’t describe how special this horse is,” Smith said after winning his second Kentucky Derby.

Baffert admitted he was nervous all day with the sloppy conditions on the track but is thrilled to earn his fifth Kentucky Derby win.

“Him and American Pharoah and Arrogate, these horses are cut from a different – you know, they’re just so great,” Baffert said. “It took a great horse to do what he did today. I’m so proud of my whole team and everybody… I just kept a great horse. I’m just glad it’s over. I rank him up there with my top ones.”

Justify will go for the second leg of the Triple Crown at the Preakness on May 19 on NBC and the NBC Sports app.

Last year, Always Dreaming won the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs but came up short in the Preakness. Only 12 horses have won the Triple Crown with the last coming in 2015 (American Pharoah).

Kentucky Derby Odds Update: Contenders set for Saturday race

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Justify and Mendelssohn are each contending with a deep field and some inauspicious history heading into the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

Justify and Mendelssohn remain the top betting favorites on the odds to win the Kentucky Derby at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The top of the board for the 1¼-mile race which takes place early Saturday evening at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., also includes Bolt d’Oro, Audible, Magnum Moon, Good Magic, Vino Rosso, and Hofburg.

When Always Dreaming won in 2017, he was the fifth favorite in a row to capture The Run for the Roses. Bettors will have to decide whether the law of averages is due to kick in or if the streak holds.

Both of the top two horses have the rule of precedents working against them. Justify, who will run from the No. 7 position in the 20-horse field, has only three career starts. He was unraced as a two-year-old last year and no such horse has won the Kentucky Derby since Apollo in 1882.

Mendelssohn, who runs from the No. 14 position, won the recent UAE Derby but no winner of that event in the United Arab Emirates has ever come to North America and so much as placed at the Derby. Nor has a European runner. However, history is made to be broken and Mendelsson not only won the UAE by 17 lengths, but he has had exposure to U.S. tracks.

There is a 50 percent chance of rain in Louisville, which could make for a wet track. Bolt d’Oro, who starts No. 11 and will be guided by two-time Derby-winning jockey Victor Espinoza, could be less affected by a wet track than his other four-legged counterparts. Bolt d’Oro was one of the early favorites and might be worth a second look as an outside shot.

Bolt d’Oro’s price was in the 9-to-1 range earlier this week before coming down as the competitors began to go through their paces at Churchill Downs.

Audible and Magnum Moon are two of the four horses in the field trained by Todd Pletcher, who trained aforementioned 2017 winner Always Dreaming. Audible is starting from the No. 5 position, which is where five of the last 21 winners broke from the gate.

Each has shown they have the speed and stamina to carry them over 1¼ miles, making them worth including in exactas and trifecta picks.

If there’s a darkhorse to back, or to employ to up the payout on an exacta, trifecta or superfecta (picking the top four horses), it is likely Hofburg. The Florida Derby runner-up has been impressive during workouts and it is worth noting that his Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott, is very selective about bringing three-year-olds to the Kentucky Derby.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.