Zayat Ecstatic After American Pharoah’s Derby Draw

Events / Travel

Ahmed Zayat, whose Zayat Stables entered three horses in the Kentucky Derby, was all smiles this week at Churchill Downs and after the post positiion draw on Wednesday night. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing

LOUISVILLE – Owner Ahmed Zayat described himself as “ecstatic” after American Pharoah drew post position 18 in a field of 20 on Wednesday and was established as a 5-2 favorite to win the 141st Kentucky Derby.

“I was praying and asking for far outside and I got 18,” Zayat said.

Although Gato del Sol (1992) is the only horse to win the run for the roses from that post, the owner believes the position is favorable because a significant number of horses possess early speed and they are to the inside of his swift, 2014 champion 2-year-old male.

Jockey Victor Espinoza, who rode the Derby winner last year in beloved California Chrome, was upbeat about his chances for a second consecutive victory after the draw.

“I like it. I like it a lot,” he said. “Eighteen is good because I can control a little more of the race than being inside. I have a few options being on the outside.”

Upstart, an accomplished New York-bred, will start just outside of him in 19 on Saturday.

Dortmund, a largely overlooked stablemate of American Pharoah’s despite his 6-for-6 perfection, was tabbed by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia as the second choice on the morning line at 3-1. The Santa Anita Derby winner will leave from post eight with Martin Garcia aboard.

His owner, Kaleem Shah, did not view that position as overly significant.

“The only thing that matters to me is if Dortmund is good enough,” he said.

DORTMUND WINNING SANTA ANITA DERBY

BENOIT Photo

Soon after the draw for the 1 1/4-mile classic ended, Zayat walked over to trainer Todd Pletcher to express his regret that Pletcher’s Carpe Diem was stuck well inside in the second position in the starting gate. Pletcher was gracious but later insisted he was not concerned about jockey John Velazquez’s ability to work out a solid trip so close to the rail.

“He’s a good gate horse. He breaks alertly,” Pletcher said of Carpe Diem, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up. “He won his first career start from the rail.”

Pletcher, seemingly a perennial leader in the trainer standings in North America, will have three other starters in his bid to improve on a dismal 1-for-40 Derby record. He will be represented by Materiality (post three, 12-1), Stanford (post 11, 30-1), and Itsaknockout (post 13, 30-1). Materiality is 3-for-3 this year but does not have history on his side after minor issues kept him from debuting last year. Apollo (1882) was the last unraced 2-year-old to bring home the roses.

MATERIALITY WINNING FLORIDA DERBY

Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Irish-bred Mubtaahij, attempting to become the first horse to ship from Dubai and win the Derby, received post six. Christophe Soumillon will have the mount. Battaglia established them at 20-1 even though Mubtaahij comes off an eight-length rout in the UAE Derby that was worth 100 points in the system employed by Churchill Downs and stamped his ticket here.

The odds may be generous given that he, more than any other horse in the crowded field, he demonstrated the ability to last the taxing distance. In addition, his style of closing with a dramatic rush should help him capitalize on the amount of anticipated early zip in the contest.

Zayat also has El Kabeir (post seven, 30-1) and Mr. Z (post 17, 50-1). But all eyes will be on American Pharoah, who is drawing comparisons to some of the sport’s legendary horses with the way he crushed recent foes and the seeming ease of his crackling workouts. His trainer, Bob Baffert, a three-time Derby winner, calls this the toughest Derby he has entered. He is wary of the hype.

“I don’t want to hear that. I just want to get him there and enjoy it,” he said. “He has to prove that.”

$2-million Kentucky Derby
Saturday, May 2, Churchill Downs, 6:34 p.m. ET
1 ¼ miles, dirt, 3-year-olds
 TV: NBC 4-7:30 p.m. ET

No.

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

Owner

Odds

1

Ocho Ocho Ocho

Elvis Trujillo

Jim Cassidy

DP Racing

24-1

2

Carpe Diem

John Velazquez

Todd Pletcher

WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stable

7-1

3

Materiality

Javier Castellano

Todd Pletcher

Alto Racing

14-1

4

Tencendur

Manny Franco 

George Weaver

Phillip S. Birsh

56-1

5

Danzig Moon

Julien Leparoux

Mark Casse

John Oxley

20-1

6

Mubtaahij

Christophe Soumillon

Mike de Kock

Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum

12-1

7

El Kabeir

SCRATCHED

SCRATCHED

SCRATCHED

N/A

8

Dortmund

Martin Garcia

Bob Baffert

Kaleem Shah

4-1

9

Bolo

Rafael Bejarano

Carla Gaines

Golden Pegasus Racing and Earle Mack

33-1

10

Firing Line

Gary Stevens

Simon Callaghan

Arnold Zetcher

8-1

11

Stanford

SCRATCHED

SCRATCHED

SCRATCHED

N/A

12

International Star

SCRATCHED SCRATCHED

SCRATCHED

N/A

13

Itsaknockout

Luis Saez

Todd Pletcher

Starlight Racing

29-1

14

Keen Ice

Kent Desormeaux

Dale Romans

Donegal Racing

37-1

15

Frosted

Joel Rosario

Kiaran McLaughlin

Godolphin Racing

9-1

16

War Story

Joe Talamo

Tom Amoss

Loooch Racing Stables Glenn K. Ellis and Christopher T. Dunn

41-1

17

Mr. Z

Ramon Vazquez

D. Wayne Lukas

Zayat Stables

30-1

18

American Pharoah

Victor Espinoza

Bob Baffert

Zayat Stables

3-1

19

Upstart

Jose Ortiz

Rick Violette

Ralph Evans and WinStar Farm

21-1

20

Far Right

Mike Smith

Ron Moquett

Robert LaPenta and Harry Rosenblum

37-1

21

Frammento

Corey Nakatani

Nick Zito

Mossarosa

94-1

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