Handicapping Kentucky Derby 139

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As always, choosing a Kentucky Derby winner is a daunting task. With this year’s talent-rich field, deciding on a horse is even more difficult. Literally any of a half-dozen horses in the field could win the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby without the result being a surprise. Narrowing it down to a reasonable number for wagering purposes will require some work.

Going into Wednesday’s post-position draw, two names were being tossed around as the likely morning-line favorite. Claude “Shug” McGaughey’s Orb won out when he was installed as the morning-line favorite, at odds of 7-2. This son of Malibu Moon has been the buzz horse since winning the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. Feb 23. A month later, he returned to take the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park over Itsmyluckyday.

Earlier this week when Orb hit the track for his first work at Churchill Downs, the buzz grew louder and included comparisons to the sharp works Barbaro and Street Sense turned in just before their Kentucky Derby wins. Jockey Joel Rosario, who’s been on a sizzling hot streak, will be reunited with Orb for the ride. The pair will break from post 16.

Orb will face Todd Pletcher’s Verrazano, who was rated as the second choice in the field with a morning line of 4-1 and assigned to gate 14. Verrazano is undefeated in four career starts, including the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. Jockey John Velazquez, who rode Orb to victory in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, chose to ride Verrazano over Orb in the Kentucky Derby.