LOUISVILLE, Ky. Entering Kentucky Derby week, undefeated Verrazano was expected by many to be the morning-line favorite. But after a blazing workout Monday that had his trainer, Shug McGaughey, smiling from ear to ear, Orb ran away with that distinction when the field was drawn Wednesday.
McGaughey, a Hall of Famer, has trained a host of champions for the esteemed Phipps family, owners of Orb, since 1986 but has not won a Derby.
"As we stand here right now, I have a good post, a horse who's done well and I have the morning-line favorite," McGaughey said of Orb, who drew post 16 and has predicted odds of 7-2. "What more could I ask for on a Wednesday afternoon?"
Trainer Todd Pletcher is set to saddle five horses in the 20-horse field, tying a record. Leading the way for Pletcher is Verrazano, who drew the 14th post and is the second choice at 4-1. Pletcher also trains Overanalyze (15-1), Revolutionary (10-1), Palace Malice (20-1) and Charming Kitten (20-1).
"I thought we did as good as we could have hoped for," Pletcher said.
The top contenders all drew good posts, allowing Mike Battaglia, Churchill Downs' oddsmaker, to leave his early estimations for the morning line intact. Black Onyx (50-1) drew the rail, and Vyjack (15-1), undefeated before finishing third in the Wood Memorial, drew the outside, the most unfortunate spots in the 20-horse field.
Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents, who will have Kevin Krigger aboard, drew post No. 8. If victorious, Krigger would be the first black jockey to win the Derby since Jimmy Winkfield in 1902.
Krigger, wearing sunglasses and fully embracing his star turn, said it's no secret that his colt will be near the lead early.
"He's a horse that I just ride and follow him," he said. "I don't lead him; he leads me. When the gate opens up, we'll find out where we're at. I'm not dictating the race for the horse."
Verrazano, who edged Normandy Invasion by three-quarters of a length in the Wood, did not race as a 2-year-old because of shin problems. The last Derby winner who did not race at 2 was Apollo in 1882.
Fear the Kitten is the one horse on the also-eligible list for the race. A horse would have to scratch by 9 a.m. Friday in order for Fear the Kitten to make the field.
Mylute, ridden by Rosie Napravnik, who is leading the North American jockey standings in wins, drew a favorable position in post 6. Napravnik is trying to become the first woman to win the Derby.
Oxbow (30-1) and Will Take Charge (20-1) will be the record 46th and 47th Derby starters for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a four-time Derby winner.