Mine That Bird at 50-1 odds in 2009 proved that given the right circumstances any horse can win the Kentucky Derby. But 19 will lose.
Expanded coverage from the Louisville Courier-Journal
The field of hopefuls for the 138th Kentucky Derby
Here we say why the Kentucky Derby candidates could wear the roses - tempered with an equal dose of why they probably won't.
Why he can win: He already beat most of his Derby competition in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, run at the same track. He doesn't need to have the lead, as the Gotham showed, and he came home in excellent time in the Blue Grass after setting a fast early pace. Street Sense - the last 2-year-old champion even to make the Derby, in 2007 - broke the so-called Juvenile Jinx by becoming the first to pull off the Juvenile-Derby parlay.
Why he can't: There's too much speed for anyone up close early to win. Possibly the racing gods are University of Louisville fans who didn't appreciate owner Dr. Kendall Hansen trying to die the colt's tail Kentucky blue for the Blue Grass.
Daddy Long Legs
Why he can win: Though he has raced mainly on turf, he is bred for dirt. He won the 13/16-mile UAE Derby in his first start at 3, so an extra sixteenth-mile shouldn't be an issue.
Why he can't: The one time he ran on dirt, he was 12th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He beat up on grass horses in the UAE Derby. Since 1937, no horse has won the Derby off only one start at 3.
Why he can win: He had legitimate excuses in his two close defeats. His workout Saturday (five furlongs in 594/5 seconds) was just the sort of impressive move that signals a Derby winner (see Barbaro in 2006 and Animal Kingdom last year). Breeder Phyllis Wyeth sold the colt for $145,000 and bought him back for $390,000 after dreaming that she was supposed to own him.
Why he can't: He's just one of those unlucky horses who, even in victory, seems to find himself in trouble -a Derby deal-breaker. In both defeats he had a chance to run down the leader and didn't. His pedigree might be just shy of 1¼ miles.
Why he can win: No horse finished faster than he did in winning the Blue Grass. He had excuses when fourth in the Breeders' Cup, and racing on dirt will not be an issue. His dam already has produced a Derby winner in 50-1 Mine That Bird.
Why he can't: He finished like a grass horse in the Blue Grass on Polytrack because, in the end, that's what he is: better on turf or poly. No mare ever has produced two Derby winners. Since 1955, only two Derby winners needed more than four starts to win a race. Dullahan took five (of course, that came in a Grade I race).
Why he can win: He's bred for distance racing and is admirably consistent, with none of his defeats by more than a length. His form is the prototype of what produced Derby winners for decades.
Why he can't: The blinkers came off for the Santa Anita Derby (a nose defeat), and since the Daily Racing Form began noting blinkers in its past performances in 1987, no Derby winner had blinkers either added or taken off for its last prep.
Why he can win: Wood Memorial winner is 5 for 5, including two races at Churchill. He has speed but doesn't need the lead. His speed figures have improved every start.
Why he can't: Only two horses won the Derby after breaking their maiden at Turfway Park (or predecessor Latonia), the last being Alysheba in 1987.
Why he can win: He's looked good physically and in training and is by a Derby runner-up (Bluegrass Cat) and out of a mare by a Derby runner-up (Forty Niner).
Why he can't: He's not fast enough. He's bred to finish second.
Take Charge Indy
Why he can win: He's beautifully bred for longer distances, being by A.P. Indy and out of the multiple Grade I winner Take Charge Lady. While he won the Florida Derby on the lead, that was a function of the lack of other speed. Jockey Calvin Borel won three of the l\past five Derbys. He also was inadvertently left out of the "why/whynot" page in Sunday's paper. The last horse to be left out accidently was Funny Cide, who proved the 2003 winner.
Why he can't: He had everything his way in winning the Florida Derby, which rarely happens in the Kentucky Derby.
Why he can win: The 9½-length Arkansas Derby winner is the fastest horse in the race, the only one with three straight triple-digit Beyer speed figures. He's by a Belmont winner, so distance shouldn't be a problem.
Why he can't: All the other speed will be the problem. Other Derby "rules" have fallen by the wayside, except for the granddaddy of them all: Only Apollo in 1882 won the Derby without racing at 2. He's this year's Bellamy Road, the 2005 Derby favorite after earning a huge speed figure in taking the Wood Memorial by 17½ lengths. Like Bellamy Road, Bodemeister is a classic "bounce" case.
I'll Have Another
Why he can win: He beat highly regarded Creative Cause to win the Santa Anita Derby and might be even better with more pace up front. He's fresh, underrated and bred for the distance. He's probably been getting pep talks from his famous racehorse-turned-pony, $5.6 million earner Lava Man.
Why he can't: Might have the wrong coach in his corner - Lava Man never had any success outside of California.
Daddy Nose Best
Why he can win: He's really a dirt horse, even though he raced mainly on grass in order to get longer races. He's coming off a career-best effort in the Sunland Derby, the only horse to have won two nine-furlong races. All the speed works in his favor.
Why he can't: Other horses are faster. In this day and age, no Derby winner races eight times at 2.
Why he can win: Victory Gallop, his broodmare sire, owes trainer Bob Baffert after ruining Real Quiet's Triple Crown bid by a nose in the Belmont in 1998. He's a Grade I winner and one of last year's top 2-year-olds.
Why he can't: He's shown nothing in his last two races, finishing a bad sixth in the Santa Anita Derby. The last Derby winner who was worse than fourth in its previous start was Iron Liege in 1957. He's either better on synthetics or he's better against lesser company.
Why he can win: If you like Gemologist, you've got to like Alpha, who was a fast-flying second in the Wood. He's absolutely bred for the distance. Most important, Godolphin is trying to win this Derby going the conventional route, not from Dubai.
Why he can't: Only one horse (Smarty Jones 2004) has won the Derby after racing over Aqueduct's inner track. He's had gate issues, which is bad thing in the Derby. The last time he was at Churchill Downs before a big crowd, he was fractious at the gate and wound up 11th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Why he can win: He's been training at Churchill since mid-March and looks the part. Distance will not be a problem with his pedigree, and he'll be flying at the end.
Why he can't: He was a dull sixth in the Blue Grass, and the last horse to win the Derby after being worse than fourth in its last prep was Iron Liege in 1957.
Why he can win: Everyone else will assume he's going to stop, and the classy sprinter could go wire to wire. The last time a horse was hauled in a trailer this far (from Miami), Mine That Bird arrived from New Mexico to win at 50-1 in 2009.
Why he can't: I can't believe any horse has won the Derby without racing farther than seven-eighths of a mile beforehand. There's too much other classy speed for him to get an easy lead.
Why he can win: He's bred for the distance, and all that speed will set up his strong closing kick. The racing gods want to reward longtime Maryland horseman Hamilton Smith, who's never had a Triple Crown starter.
Why he can't: He's not fast enough, with his top Beyer the lowest in the field.
Went the Day Well
Why he can win: He's by a Derby runner-up (Proud Citizen) out of a mare by Tiznow, who won the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill as a 3-year-old. His connections know how to win the Derby, doing so last year with Animal Kingdom.
Why he can't: No Derby winner since at least 1929 broke his maiden in March (either at 2 or 3). His first victory was March 3, 2012. The only time an owner, trainer and jockey teamed for back-to-back Derby wins was 1972-73 with Riva Ridge and Secretariat. He's not Secretariat.
Why he can win: He was a fast-closing third in the oddly run Louisiana Derby, fighting a slow pace and speed-favoring track. He's the kind of horse who improves at a huge price when he gets to Churchill.
Why he can't: He twice was beaten in stakes last fall by Liaison - which looked good at the time but not now. He has not been impressive at all this year and appears a cut below. The last California-bred to win was Decidedly in 1962.
Why he can win: He ran the entire Louisiana Derby without a front shoe and lost by only a half-length. He lost the Risen Star by a nose to El Padrino, who is a legit contender.
Why he can't: Since 1971 only 50-1 Giacomo in 2005 earned his first stakes victory in the Derby (we're giving Alysheba credit for finishing first in the '87 Blue Grass, though disqualified).
Why he can win: In winning his first two races this year, he looked as good as any 3-year-old out there. He certainly has bloodlines for distance and is among many the likely speed duel will help. He's got seniority as the oldest horse in the field, with a Jan. 22 birthday.
Why he can't: Todd Pletcher wins the Derby when he has a horse training at Churchill three weeks beforehand (see Super Saver in 2010), not when he brings them up from Florida late.
Why he can win: No owner or breeder has won more Derbys than Calumet Farm, and Optimizer's owner-breeder Brad Kelley is widely expected to become the fabled Lexington farm's new owner any day now. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas knows how to win this thing, with four. Optimizer is bred for the Derby distance - or really the Belmont.
Why he can't: He might not get in. He's bred to run 1½ miles - on grass. Horses don't win the Derby after finishing ninth in their last prep.
Why he can win: If the track is sloppy, watch out. His Gotham second was an excellent performance.
Why he can't: He might not get in, and if he does, he'll probably have to start from post 20. The last horse to win after finishing worse than fourth in its last prep was Iron Liege, who was fifth before taking the 1957 Derby.
Favorite Bodemeister landed post No. 6 and trainer Bob Baffert hopes his horse to be the seventh winner of Kentucky Derby 2012 out of that post position. Baffert said he would have liked a spot further down the field of 20 in the race on Saturday.
Kentucky Derby Post positions
1. Daddy Long Legs 30-1
2. Optimizer 50-1
3. Take Charge Indy 15-1
4. Union Rags 9-2
5. Dullahan 8-1
6. Bodemeister 4-1
7. Rousing Sermon 50-1
8. Creative Cause 12-1
9. Trinniberg 50-1
10. Daddy Nose Best 15-1
11. Alpha 15-1
12. Prospective 30-1
13. Went The Day Well 20-1
14. Hansen 10-1
15. Gemologist 6-1
16. El Padrino 20-1
17. Done Talking 50-1
18. Sabercat 30-1
19. I'll Have Another 12-1
20. Liaison 50-1
Stats on Kentucky Derby wins from each post 1900 - 2005
1 - 12
2 - 9
3 - 8
4 - 10
5 - 12
6 - 6
7 - 7
8 - 8
9 - 4
10 - 10
11 - 3
12 - 3
13 - 4
14 - 2
15 - 3
16 - 3
17 - 0
18 - 1
19 - 0
20 - 1