LOUISVILLE, KY. - Trainer Larry Jones had little time to celebrate the last time he won the Kentucky Oaks with Proud Spell in 2008. One day later, Eight Belles, his other top filly, broke down and was euthanized after the Kentucky Derby.
Jones' focus this week is on Believe You Can in Friday's $1 million Kentucky Oaks after he pulled Mark Valeski out of contention for the Derby. He's hoping for success he can finally savor for a while four years after the tragedy.
Grace Hall is the early 5-2 favorite and most recently rolled to a 61/2-length victory in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. The co-second choices are On Fire Baby and Broadway's Alibi at 4-1 in a race expected to have a quick pace. Post time is 5:45 p.m.
Bo-rail redux? Betting on Calvin Borel has been one of the most lucrative Derby handicapping angles in recent years.
He won aboard Street Sense (2007), who paid $11.80; Mine That Bird (2009), who paid $103.20; and Super Saver (2010), who paid $18.
This time, Borel has the mount on Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy, whose early odds are 15-1.
The Florida Derby featured a typical Borel ride, hugging the rail on his way to victory in the $1 million race. The field included Union Rags, the third-place finisher who is the 9-2 second choice in the Derby.
Having Borel in the saddle gives trainer Patrick Byrne added confidence.
"Everyone knows there is going to be a lot of speed," Byrne said. "Calvin can put his horse wherever he wants. It's all up to the jock. I've done my bit. Calvin has won three of these. This is my first time here. I'm not going to tell him how to ride the race."
This will be Take Charge Indy's second race at Churchill Downs, having run fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall. He was a late arrival here, flying in from Florida on Tuesday.
Riding rookies. While Borel is an old hand in the Derby, four riders will make their debuts in the world's most famous race: Mario Gutierrez, Sheldon Russell, Luis Contreras, and Colm O'Donoghue.
I'll Have Another (12-1) is unbeaten in two starts, including the Santa Anita Derby, since Gutierrez became the regular pilot.
Russell rides Done Talking (50-1), the Illinois Derby winner, while Contreras has the mount on Prospective (30-1), the Tampa Bay Derby winner.
O'Donoghue, like his horse Daddy Long Legs (30-1), is based in Ireland.
The last first-time rider to capture the Derby was Stewart Elliott with Smarty Jones in 2004.
Backup plan. My Adonis will be quickly out the door, on his way to Maryland, if he can't find an opening in the Derby field.
The colt is an also-eligible, meaning he runs only if one of the 20 entrants scratches by the 9 a.m. Friday deadline.
"I would really like the opportunity to run him," said trainer Kelly Breen.
But Breen is not sitting by idly awaiting a defection. He entered My Adonis in Saturday's Tesio Stakes at Pimlico and booked a van for the Friday morning journey if the Derby door remains closed. My Adonis would be the even-money favorite in the $75,000 Tesio against five rivals.