- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2007

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Curlin doesn’t have history on his side, but three dominating wins have made him the Kentucky Derby favorite.

Curlin will start Saturday’s race from the No. 2 post position and was installed as the 7-2 first choice. Street Sense will start from post No. 7 and is 4-1.

For the third consecutive year, a maximum field of 20 horses will go to post around 6 p.m.

Nobiz Like Shobiz and Circular Quay are the co-third favorites at 8-1.

Curlin will try to become the first horse since 1882 to win the Derby despite making no starts as a 2-year-old. He developed shin problems last fall while training and did not make a start until Feb. 3.

Curlin won his debut by 121/4 lengths and promptly was sold to a partnership and transferred to trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn. His last two starts have been a 51/4-length victory in the Rebel Stakes and a 101/2?length romp in the Arkansas Derby.

“The talent was obviously there in his [first] victory,” Asmussen said.

Selecting 16th in the draw, Asmussen chose an inside spot instead of a far outside gate for Curlin.

Twenty-two horses were entered yesterday morning, but Reporting For Duty and Delightful Kiss — Nos. 21 and 22 on the graded stakes earnings list — were eliminated from competing because 20 is the maximum field size.

The last two horses into the race were Teuflesberg and Imawildandcrazyguy, who moved into the field when Cobalt Blue and Xchanger were removed from consideration Tuesday.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has five starters, which will tie the record set by D. Wayne Lukas and Nick Zito. Pletcher’s five runners are Cowtown Cat (20-1), Sam P (20-1), Scat Daddy (10-1), Circular Quay (8-1) and Any Given Saturday (12-1).

Hard Spun, ridden by Maryland resident Mario Pino, has an ideal post position (No. 8) and is 15-1.

Tiago also is 15-1. He is trained by John Shirreffs and ridden by Mike Smith, who teamed in 2005 to win the Derby with Giacomo.

“They’re very similar, so I’ve stuck to the same training program,” Shirreffs said. “At the 15 hole, you get to go in the gate a little later and have some more space.”

Great Hunter is 15-1 but will have to run a little farther than his 19 rivals. He will start from the No. 20 gate.

“The 20 hole isn’t ideal, but hopefully we can stay out of trouble,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “Whether you’re 1, 7 or 20, you need some luck to get through the first turn.”

The first and fifth post positions have produced the most Derby winners (12 apiece), and no horse has won from the 17th or 19th starting spots.

The longest shots in the field three horses at 50-1: Sedgefield, Imawildandcrazyguy and Bwana Bull.

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