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May 2, 2018

'Justify' early morning line favorite for Saturday's 144th run for the roses

Undefeated Justify is the morning-line favorite at 3-to-1 for Saturday’s 144th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

Twenty-one Thoroughbreds have been entered in the 1 ¼-mile race for three-year-olds with a post time of 6:50 p.m.

NBC television coverage begins at 2:30 with pre-race broadcasting starting at noon on NBCSN.

 Justify (Photo courtesy Benoit Photography) Justify (Photo courtesy Benoit Photography)

Trainer Todd Pletcher has four entrants as he seeks his third Derby victory while Bob Bafftert’s two colts are trying to give him his fifth victory in the Run for the Roses.

Other notable duplications are in the pedigrees as four runners (Combatant, Flameaway, Justify and Mendelssohn) are sired by the late Scat Daddy and three (Good Magic, Solomini and Vino Rosso) are sons of Lexington-based Curlin. Eighteen of the hopefuls are seeking to become the 110th Kentucky-born winner. The other entrants took their first breaths in Ontario, New York and Florida.

The field in post-position order is:

1. Firenze Fire (Florida)

Consistent in top shelf company, Firenze Fire comes to the Derby after finishing fourth in the Wood Memorial Stakes at New York’s Aqueduct on April 7.

Kentucky connection: He is trained by East Coast-based Jason Servis, whose brother John won the 2004 Kentucky Derby with Smarty Jones.

2. Free Drop Billy (Ky.)

Named for a golf term and for an owner’s friend, Free Drop Billy won at Churchill Downs in June in his first career start and was third in Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes on April 7 in his most recent effort. His trainer Dale Romans is a lifelong resident of Louisville.

Kentucky connection: He was sold for $200,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale. His sire Union Rags resides at Lane’s End in Versailles.

3. Promises Fulfilled (Ky.)

The budget-priced colt will be a sentimental favorite by virtue of his Louisville-raised trainer Dale Romans—who also trains Free Drop Billy—but he is a likely longshot in the wagering due to his poor performance in the Florida Derby on March 31. His name refers to his owner’s charmed life that includes his 44-year marriage his grandchildren.

Kentucky connection: He was sold for $37,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale. His sire Shackleford resides at Darby Dan Farm in Lexington.


Flameaway (Photo courtesy Coady Photography/Keeneland)

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