Horses can't read odds, but trainer Jerry Hollendorfer can read his horse.
Out of 20 expected starters, Instilled Regard is one of five Kentucky Derby entrants with morning line odds of 50-1. Trained by Hollendorfer, the dark bay colt will be among the longest Derby long shots Saturday at Churchill Downs.
But Hollendorfer didn't come to Louisville for the juleps. His horse earned his Derby berth.
"Instilled Regard is doing really well," Hollendorfer said in a phone interview Thursday. "He galloped well this morning and has had a good couple of days here. He's never run a bad race."
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Among the early Derby favorites, Instilled Regard won the Lecomte Stakes in January at New Orleans' Fair Grounds. But he followed that up with two fourth-place finishes. In the Santa Anita Derby, he lost by 11 lengths to Justify, the expected Kentucky Derby favorite.
In that last start, Instilled Regard got too far back behind a slow pace, Hollendorfer noted. That likely won't be the case Saturday.
"There’s quite a lot of speed signed on in this race, so it’ll be interesting to see what develops up front," he said.
This marks the seventh Kentucky Derby for Hollendorfer, the undisputed king of Northern California racing. His best finish came last year with 40-1 long shot Battle of Midway, who ran third behind Always Dreaming. (Battle of Midway went on to win the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.)
In racing's Hall of Fame since 2011, he ranks No. 3 on the all-time career victories list with more than 7,100 wins. This spring has been full of travel from his home base at Golden Gate Fields.
"I've been flying out quite a bit for the (horse) sales," said the 72-year-old trainer. "But you can't be unhappy to be in Kentucky in May."
Lawrence Best, who races under the name OXO Equine, bought Instilled Regard for $1.05 million as a 2-year-old in training at the 2017 Ocala, Fla., auctions. A former senior vice president of the medical device company Boston Scientific, Best is founder of OXO Capital LLC, a Boston investment firm specializing in biotech companies.
Best hired Hollendorfer because of a common link: They're both originally from Akron, Ohio.
"Instilled Regard is one of the first horses he gave me," Hollendorfer said. "(About a year ago), he introduced himself to me. He said he knew of me because we're both from the Akron area. That's how our relationship got started."
Drayden Van Dyke, one of the top jockeys this spring at Santa Anita, will make his Derby debut aboard Instilled Regard.
"He looks great and has an awesome mind on him," said the 23-year-old Louisville native. "He’s like an older horse and that’s what you want in a race like this. Nothing bothers him."
Instilled Regard will break from post No. 15, the first slot in the auxiliary gate. That allows more room to maneuver at the start.
"It's just perfect for us," Hollendorfer said. "It allows us to be very tactical."
That will be key to his colt's success.
"I'm looking at my rivals and there's a lot of speed in there," Hollendorfer said. "That can potentially help us."
Said Van Dyke: “Of course, I have never ridden the Derby, but the (15-hole) is a nice place to be because I have a little space to the left side. I have Magnum Moon (post 16) on my outside and Mendelssohn (post 14) on my inside and they both have speed, so I have horses to follow and hopefully find a good spot.
"The pace is going to be key," he added. "If they’re rolling, I’ll be coming with a big kick. If they’re going slower, I’ll want to be closer, so they don’t kick away from me.”
A son of Arch, Instilled Regard was bred to relish the 1 1/4-mile Derby distance. His maternal grandmother was Heavenly Prize, the newest member of racing's Hall of Fame.
“I think the distance is key for him,” Van Dyke said. “He wants to go that far and hopefully he gets a good trip and they let him run his race."
144th Kentucky Derby
- Post time: 3:46 p.m. PDT Saturday, May 5
- TV: Channel 3 (NBC)