Kentucky Oaks hopeful Rayya receives a bath after morning workouts at Churchill Downs.

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The Top-5 Contenders In The 2018 Kentucky Derby

Trainers have called this year's 20-horse field one of the deepest in a while.

May 04, 2018 - 9:12 am
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Justify tops the list of leading contenders to win the 144th Kentucky Derby.

Related story: Why Vino Rosso Is St. Louis' Favorite Horse In The Kentucky Derby 

Trainers have called this year's 20-horse field one of the deepest in a while, though the Run For The Roses might come down to five considered to have the best prospects over 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs.

A look at the leading contenders:

JUSTIFY

 An exercise rider works out Kentucky Derby hopeful Justify at Churchill Downs.
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One of two Derby charges for trainer Bob Baffert, the colt enters as the 3-1 race favorite thanks to a 3-0 record and an impressive win in the Santa Anita Derby. Justify's challenge is putting aside 136 years of history and becoming the first Derby champion since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a 2-year-old. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will try to keep him unbeaten and break the so-called "Apollo Curse." His No. 7 post position is an encouraging omen.

MENDELSSOHN

An exercise rider works Kentucky Derby entry Mendelssohn at Churchill Downs.
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The 5-1 second choice has won his last three outings and four overall with a second in seven starts in Dubai, Great Britain and Ireland, where he's been based. He might need more than international experience to become the first European horse to win the Derby. Strong, outgoing and trained by Aiden O'Brien, Mendelssohn must quickly learn Churchill Downs after hitting the track for the first time Thursday following quarantine since his arrival. He'll start from the No. 14 post.

MAGNUM MOON

An exercise rider works Kentucky Derby entry Magnum Moon at Churchill Downs.
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Trainer Todd Pletcher's hopes of winning consecutive Derbys look good with this unbeaten colt, who has won all four starts beneath Luis Saez by a combined 14 lengths. His most recent outing was a four-length triumph in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 14, which was impressive but also narrowed the turnaround window. One of four members of Pletcher's so-called Derby "Todd Squad," he has career earnings of $1,177,800. He'll start from the No. 16 post.

AUDIBLE

Exercise rider Amelia Green works out Kentucky Derby hopeful Audible at Churchill Downs.
(Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports)

The jockey combination of Javier Castellano and John Velazquez has made another Pletcher pupil one of the horses to watch and a tempting betting choice at 8-1. The riders have two wins each over Audible's last four starts, though Castellano will ride him in the Derby while Velazquez guides Vino Rosso for Pletcher. Audible's No. 5 post position gives him a good spot to make noise.

 

BOLT D'ORO

An exercise rider works Kentucky Derby entry Bolt d'Oro at Churchill Downs.
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Initially second to McKinzie in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, the Kentucky bred was awarded the victory in his 3-year-old debut after a postrace disqualification. He's 4-1-1 in six starts, with Corey Nakatani earning three of those wins during his juvenile season. Jockey Victor Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah to the 2015 Triple Crown, will make his first start atop Bolt d'Oro after two outings beneath Javier Castellano. He'll have to work from the outside in with the No. 11 post.