Kentucky Derby

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The 20 horses for this Saturday’s Kentucky Derby have been selected and assigned post positions. Big Brown is the heavy favorite despite coming out of the No. 20 hole, followed by Colonel John (post 10) at +350 and Pyro (post 9) at +500. These are the three horses to beat at Churchill Downs.

Big Brown rose from anonymity on Mar. 29 with a very impressive win at the Grade I Florida Derby. The Kentucky-bred bay rocketed past Pyro on the odds list; the latter was second at the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and figured to be the Derby favorite after Juvenile winner War Pass was taken off the Triple Crown Trail. But Pyro lost steam when he finished 10th at last month’s Gr. I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.

Synthetic tracks are playing a major role in the handicapping of this year’s Run for the Roses. Pyro’s loss came on the new Polytrack at Keeneland, whereas the Kentucky Derby is still run on dirt. Colonel John, meanwhile, ran all six of his career races on synthetic surfaces in California, winning four of his last five including the Gr. I Santa Anita Derby. A fast five-furlong workout in Louisville Sunday is all horseplayers have to go on when gauging Colonel John’s ability to run in the dirt.

There are some viable dark horses in this field, led by Gayego (+1000), although he’ll have to come out of post 19. The filly Eight Belles (+3000) has value as a long shot after winning four races out of four this year, but is not considered a real threat. Television coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.

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