LOUISVILLE, Ky., April 29 (UPI) -- For the first time since 2008, the Kentucky Derby field will go to the post Saturday without a horse saddled by trainer Bob Baffert.
Baffert, a Hall of Fame honoree who has won the race three times, will watch from the sidelines after announcing Monday his last potential contenders won't be ready for the Run for the Roses.
The silver-haired trainer, based in Southern California, has had 23 Derby starters since he first showed up in Louisville on the first Saturday in May in 1996. In addition to his three wins, he has three seconds and two thirds in the first leg of the Triple Crown.
At the other end of the spectrum, it appears trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle five Derby starters, equaling the most for a trainer in a single Derby. Pletcher already shares that record with Nick Zito and D. Wayne Lukas.
Four of Pletcher's five are among the favorites -- Wood Memorial and Tampa Bay Derby winner Verrazano, Arkansas Derby winner Overanalyze, Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary and Blue Grass runner-up Palace Malace. Charming Kitten, third in the Blue Grass, remains unproven in dirt racing.
The jockeying for position among riders also remains hot, with three potential Derby starters still lacking a confirmed pilot. Among them is Charming Kitten. "We've got somebody in mind," Pletcher said Monday. "But it isn't official yet."
Churchill Downs still lists as riderless Golden Soul, who snuck into the field with the defection of the Baffert horses Monday, and Lines of Battle, Aidan O'Brien's United Arab Emirates Derby winner who is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs Wednesday.