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Kentucky Derby Field: Omaha Beach leads talented field for Saturday’s 145th Run for the Roses

By Liane Crossley
Special to KyForward

Omaha Beach is the 4-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s 145th running of the $3-million Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Twenty-one Thoroughbreds, including one on the also-eligible list, have been entered in the 1 ¼-mile race for three-year-olds with a post time of 6:50 p.m. ET. NBC television coverage begins at 2:30 with pre-race broadcasting starting at noon on NBCSN.

Trainer Bob Baffert’s three entrants are trying to give him a record-tying sixth victory in the Run for the Roses. Last year Justify game Baffert his second Triple Crown after he accomplished the feat with American Pharoah in 2015. Trainer Todd Pletcher has two entrants as he seeks his third Derby victory.

Nineteen of the 21 hopefuls are seeking to become the 111th Kentucky-born winner. Master Fencer has the distinction of being the first Japanese-bred entrant while Win Win Win represents his home state of Florida.

The field in post-position order is:

1. War of Will (Ky.)

Often dubbed WOW by his fans to reflect his initials and regal demeanor, War of Will was a disappointing ninth in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in New Orleans on March 23 but his connections are encouraged by the improvement he has shown while training at Keeneland in April. His resume includes a pair of stakes victories at Fair Grounds earlier this year. Last year, he scored his first career win at Churchill Downs on a sloppy track.

Kentucky connection: War of Will was listed as unsold on a final bid of $175,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale. His sire War Front resides at Claiborne Farm in Paris.

2. Tax (Ky.)

Tax has taken the New York route to the Kentucky Derby with a victory and a second in two Derby preps at Aqueduct. His name is a nod to his dam Toll.

Kentucky connection: Tax was second at Churchill Downs in his career debut in September. His sire Arch was a stallion at Claiborne Farm in Paris.

3. By My Standards (Ky.)

Five weeks after winning for the first time, By My Standards earned his way to the Kentucky Derby by winning the Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 23.

Kentucky connection: His sire Goldencents is a stallion at Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky.

4. Gray Magician (Ky.)

This California-based colt confirmed his Derby status by finishing second in the United Arab Emirates Derby.

Kentucky connection: Gray Magician was offered at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Co. July sale in Lexington but was listed as not sold on a final bid of $18,000. His sire Graydar is a stallion at Taylor Made Farm in Nicholasville.

Improbable (Photo courtesy Churchill Downs)

5. Improbable (Ky.)

One of three entrants from the barn of two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert, Improbable comes to the Kentucky Derby off a runner-up effort in the Arkansas Derby on April 13. He has never been worse than second in five career starts.

Kentucky connection: Improbable won the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs on Breeders’ Cup weekend in November. The chestnut colt has been sold twice at Keeneland auctions – as a weanling for $100,000 in November 2016 and as a yearling the following September for $200,000. His sire City Zip spent most of his stallion career at Lane’s End in Versailles.

6. Vekoma (Ky.)

Named for a Dutch roller coaster company, Vekoma won Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes on April 6 after checking in third in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park in Florida the previous month.

Kentucky connection: He is trained by George Weaver, who was born and raised in Louisville and began his career with an entry-level barn job at Churchill Downs while in high school. Vekoma was sold for $135,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale. His sire Candy Ride resides at Lane’s End in Versailles.

7. Maximum Security (Ky.)

Maximum Security capped a four-race unbeaten streak with a triumph in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 30.

Kentucky connection: His sire New Year’s Day spent time as a stallion at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in Lexington.

8. Tacitus (Ky.)

Tacitus solidified his place in the Derby starting gate by winning the Wood Memorial Stakes at New York’s Aqueduct in early April and the Tampa Bay Derby a month earlier. The human Tacitus was a Roman Empire senator.

Kentucky connection: He is owned and bred by Prince Khalid Abdullah in the name of his Juddmonte Farms which is located in southeastern Fayette county. His sire Tapit resides at Gainesway in Lexington.

9. Plus Que Parfait (Ky.)

Plus Que Parfait made a name for himself when he won the United Arab Emirates in Dubai on March 19. Last year he showed an affinity for Churchill Downs when he was a close second in the Kentucky Jockey Club in November.

Kentucky connection: Plus Que Parfait was sold for $135,000 at 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale. His sire Point of Entry resides at Adena Springs in Paris.

10. Cutting Humor (Ky.)

One of two horses from the barn of two-time Derby winning trainer Todd Pletcher, Cutting Humor won the Sunland Park Derby in New Mexico in his most recent start. His name reflects his dam, Pun.

Kentucky connection: Cutting Humor was sold for $135,000 at the 2017 Keeneland January sale. His sire First Samurai is at Claiborne Farm in Paris.

11. Haikal (Ky.)
Haikal has made all five of his career starts at New York’s Aqueduct where he won the Gotham Stakes on March 9 and was third in the Wood Memorial Stakes in his most recent effort on April 6.

Kentucky connection: His sire Daaher was at Haikal’s owner’s Shadwell Farm in Lexington before relocating to Louisiana. Haikal’s trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is a graduate of Lexington’s Lafayette High School.

Omaha Beach (Photo courtesy Coady Photography/ Oaklawn Park)

12. Omaha Beach (Ky.)

Named for the World War II invasion site in Normandy, France, Omaha Beach won the Arkansas Derby over a sloppy track on April 13 for his third straight triumph. He has never been worse than third in seven career starts.

Kentucky connection: Omaha Beach was listed as not sold on a final bid of $625,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale.

13. Code of Honor (Ky.)

After winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 2, Code of Honor was third in the Florida Derby on March 30. He races for his breeder William S. Farish, owner of Lane’s End Farm in Versailles. His trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey grew up in Lexington and won the 2013 Kentucky Derby with Orb.

Kentucky connection: Code of Honor trained at Keeneland in the weeks leading to the Derby. He was listed as not sold on a final bid of $70,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale. His sire Noble Mission stands at Lane’s End in Versailles.

14. Win Win Win (Florida)

With a late rally to finish second in Keeneland’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, Win Win Win stamped his ticket to the Derby. Prior to that he was third in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Kentucky connection: His sire Hat Trick resided at Gainesway farm in Lexington.

15. Master Fencer (Japan)

Master Fencer is the first Japan-born horse to be entered in the Kentucky Derby. He earned his ticket by winning a qualifying race in his homeland.

Kentucky connection: He trained at Keeneland for several days after spending two days in mandatory quarantine at Arlington Park in Chicago following his flight from Japan.

Game Winner (Photo courtesy Benoit Photography)

16. Game Winner (Ky.)

Last year’s champion two-year-old colt, closed 2018 with a triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs and has been runner-up in two high level Derby prep races this year. He is one of three entrants trained by Bob Baffert, who won the Triple Crown in 2015 with American Pharoah and last year with Justify.

Kentucky connection: He was purchased at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale for $110,000. His sire Candy Ride resides at Lane’s End in Versailles.

17. Roadster (Ky.)
Another Bob Baffert trainee, Roadster comes to the Derby off a triumph in the Santa Anita Derby.

Kentucky connection: Roadster was purchased for $525,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale. His by Quality Road who resides at Lane’s End in Versailles.

18. Long Range Toddy (Ky.)

His victory in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in March made Long Range Toddy a Kentucky Derby contender before he finished unplaced in the Arkansas Derby at the same track on April 13.

Kentucky connection: His sire Take Charge Indy was a stallion at WinStar Farm in Versailles before being sold for stud duty overseas.

19. Spinoff (Ky.)

One of two from the barn of two-time Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, Spinoff was a close second in the Louisiana Derby in his most recent start.

Kentucky connection: His sire Hard Spun—runner-up in the 2007 Kentucky Derby—is a stallion at Darley in Lexington.

20. Country House (Ky.)

A third-place place finish in the Arkansas Derby solidified Country House’s credentials as a Kentucky Derby candidate.

Kentucky connection: His sire Lookin At Lucky resides at Ashford Stud in Versailles.

Also eligible if there is a defection:

Bodexpress (Ky.)

Despite being winless in five career starts, Bodexpress earned enough qualifying points by finishing second in the Florida Derby to rank 21st on the leader list.

Kentucky connection: He was listed as not sold on a final bid of $45,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale. His sire Bodemeister is a stallion at WinStar Farm in Versailles.

Lexington-based freelance writer Liane Crossley is a lifelong lover of Thoroughbred racing who has held a variety of jobs in both barns and offices. Her favorite part of the industry is being with the horses and the people who share her passion for them. She can be reached at crossleyliane@yahoo.com

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