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Kentucky Derby Contenders

The top contenders for the 2015 Kentucky Derby are starting to come into focus.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, a three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby, has two top contenders in American Pharoah and Dortmund. Trainer Todd Pletcher has as many as six or seven three-year-olds that could make it to Louisville. The trainer is hoping to improve on his one-for-40 record in the Run for the Roses. This is the cream of the crop for this year’s running of the Kentucky Derby . . .

American Pharoah

The 2014 Eclipse Award winner for top juvenile won two Grade 1 races last year, the Del Mar Futurity and the Frontrunner, and was poised to be sent off as the chalk in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but a foot bruise sent him to the sidelines.

It took Baffert nearly six months to get the talented colt back to the races, and he did not disappoint. The colt bobbled coming out of the gate, was sent up to set the early fractions under jockey Victor Espinoza, and went gate to wire to win the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The race was worth 50 points as part of the Road to the Derby series, assuring a spot in the starting gate in Louisville.

The colt has spent most of the winter and spring as the Kentucky Derby betting favorite, and his effort in the Rebel assures his price will stay low. His final prep likely will come in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 11.

Dortmund

The stablemate of American Pharoah, the duo gives Baffert a serious one-two punch if all goes well between now and the first Saturday of May.

This colt turned heads in his debut last November, breaking his maiden by 4 ¾ lengths and then he beat first level allowance foes by 7 ¾ lengths four weeks later.  He made his stakes debut in the Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 20, and after winning that race his future Derby odds plummeted to as low as 10-1.

After wins in the Robert B. Lewis and San Felipe, the colt is now undefeated in five career starts and shares the top tier in Derby betting with American Pharoah. His final start before heading to Louisville will be in the Santa Anita Derby on April 4.

Carpe Diem

One of the most promising runners out of the Todd Pletcher barn, this colt did not make his three-year-old debut until March 7 where he took the Tampa Bay Derby, earning a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby with the victory.

The colt showed a ton of promise as a juvenile, winning the Breeders’ Futurity in his second career start and then running second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as the 9-5 betting favorite. The colt was no match for Texas Red, who drew off to win by 6 ½ lengths, but foot issues has knocked him off the Derby Trail.

Next up for Carpe Diem is the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 4. The race will be back on dirt after being contested on a synthetic surface in recent years.

El Kabeir

The John Terranova trainee sits atop the Road to the Derby points standings with 75 points. The colt bounced back off a second-place finish in the Withers on Feb. 7 by winning the Gotham at Aqueduct on March 7. His jockey is 54-year-old Chuck Lopez, who has never ridden in the Kentucky Derby. Terranova was a longtime assistant to Bob Baffert.

The colt made five starts as a juvenile, including winning the Kentucky Jockey Club. He started off his three-year-old campaign by winning the Jerome Stakes on Jan. 3. Next up for the colt is the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 4 where he will face Far From Over, who beat him when they met in the Withers.

Upstart

Trained by Rick Violette, the colt is sitting in seventh place in the Derby points standings with 36, which likely will be enough to get into the big dance. His final Derby prep will come in the Florida Derby on March 28 at Gulfstream Park.

The colt won his first two starts and ran a good second in the Champagne Stakes last fall, following that up with a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He then made his three-year-old debut in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 24 where he drew away to win by 5 ½ lengths.

The colt crossed the wire first in the Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 21, but was disqualified for interference in the stretch and placed second.

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