Los Angeles (AFP) – Blue Grass Stakes winner Zandon was handed a kind draw for this weekend’s Kentucky Derby on Monday after being installed as favorite for the $3 million showpiece.
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Zandon, who bookmakers have priced at odds of 3-1, was drawn in post 10 for Saturday’s 20-horse ‘Run for the Roses’ at Churchill Downs, which formally kicks off US racing’s Triple Crown season.
Zandon emerged as the Kentucky Derby favorite after an impressive victory at the Blue Grass at Lexington, Kentucky last month, the three-year-old thoroughbred’s second from four outings.
“Sometimes your race can be won and lost just in the draw,” Zandon trainer Chad Brown said Monday.
“We’re relieved, we’re where we wanted to be and where the jockey wanted to be.
“We wanted to be somewhere in the middle, and you can’t get any better in the middle than 10.”
Brown said Zandon had settled in Kentucky in the weeks since his victory at Keeneland, and had looked sharp in trackwork this week.
“The horse is trainng great. He’s coming off his best career race in the Blue Grass and he’s been in Kentucky for some time now. So he should be settled in at Churchill nicely,” said Brown.
Zandon will be ridden by French jockey Flavien Prat, who is chasing his second victory in the Kentucky Derby after his win in the chaotic 2019 race.
Maximum Security crossed the line first in the Derby three years ago but Prat’s Country House was subsequently declared the winner after Maximum Security was disqualified.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence working with him,” Brown said of Prat. “He’s really delivered for us in some big races in the short time we’ve been working together.”
Louisiana Derby winner Epicenter, the second favorite at 7-2, was given a tricky inside draw in post three.
“Like every horse in the race you want him to just make a nice smooth trip away from there and let the best horse win,” Epicenter trainer Steve Asmussen said.
“This is going to be new for him — 20-horse field, 150,000 people staring at him. But Epicenter’s very confident right now, training really well, and it’s a wonderful chance to win the Derby.”
Saturday’s Derby takes place a year after controversy erupted following Medina Spirit’s victory.
Medina Spirit, who has since died, failed a drugs test following the race, leading to a two-year suspension for Hall-of-Fame trainer and US racing icon Bob Baffert.
Two horses previously trained by Baffert will line up in the gates on Saturday however, with the highly rated Taiba (12-1) in post 12, and Messier (8-1) in post three.
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