Like Baffert and Pletcher, Steve Asmussen has two horses in the Derby — Daddy Nose Best and Sabercat — who will try to help him end an 0-for-10 skid. He came close last year when Nehro finished second to Animal Kingdom.
"It is definitely on the bucket list," Asmussen said. "I like my horses, love how they're doing, feel that they're going to run real good Saturday, but have no control over everybody else."
Trainer Graham Motion, jockey John Velazquez, and Barry Irwin, who heads the Team Valor ownership group, shared last year's win with Animal Kingdom. They return with 20-1 shot Went the Day Well, trying to become the first connections to repeat since 1972-73 when Riva Ridge and Secretariat prevailed.
And then there's the weather.
Saturday's forecast calls for a high of 86 with a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. The Derby day temperature has topped 80 degrees just five times since 1969, when it hit 87.
Making it feel subtropical is the humidity, which was close to 70 percent on Friday. The heat combined with humidity affects horses in different ways. Some sweat profusely; others handle the elements. All Derby horses will be examined by vets on race morning.
"The hot weather may be to our advantage," said Mark Casse, who saddles 30-1 shot Prospective. "There are some hot-headed horses in this field that it could hurt. My horse stays calm and cool."
Getting the ideal trip is a key factor, especially with the traffic issues created by such a large field making for a chaotic charge into the first turn. Some horses may be forced to stop and make a second charge in the later stages, which may not suit their running styles.
"There are so many things that have to go right other than being good," Asmussen said.
Post time is 6:24 p.m. EDT.
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