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Bad draw for Long Legs

TOMORROW'S $2.2million Kentucky Derby is looming as one of the most open in its 138 years with at least 12 of the 20 entrants having a genuine shot at winning America's famous and revered horse race.

"This is one of the toughest Derbies I've been in probably the last 10 years," said Bob Baffert, the trainer of the 4/1 race favourite Bodemeister. "It's a really competitive field."

With no standout horse from this year's capacity field of three-year-old colts, but plenty of regally-bred thoroughbreds in great form, Bodemeister was promoted to the head of the betting lists after winning last month's Arkansas Derby by an eye-popping nine-and-a-half lengths.

But Baffert, who has won the Kentucky Derby three times and is recovering from a heart attack he suffered last month, was not making any bold predictions despite getting the stamp of approval from bookmakers.


"I've brought some really good horses here, and they were the best horse, but they got beat so I don't want to get myself too pumped up," he said.

Union Rags, the sentimental favourite for the race, was listed at the 9/2 second pick, despite being beaten in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile on his first run on the dirt at Churchill Downs, as well as the recent Florida Derby.

The lone international entrant this year is Daddy Long Legs, trained by Aidan O'Brien.

He booked his place in the field by winning the United Arabs Emirates Derby but drew barrier one, a notoriously difficult gate to win from because of the risk of being boxed in on the tight, oval track.

"I know the draw is not ideal but we can't change that," said TJ Comerford, O'Brien's travelling head lad.

"We're here now and hope for the best."

An expected crowd of 160,000 will cram into Churchill Downs while tens of millions of people will watch on television as the race, steeped with tradition, including the singing of My Old Kentucky Home and the drinking of Mint Juleps, unfolds.