LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Many years ago, in a Derby-trail conversation at Gulfstream Park, trainer Nick Zito, who was slowly making his way to Kentucky with Go For Gin, stressed the importance of “hitting it just right.” A jaw-dropping performance in March and a superlative effort in April, he explained, matter little if, on the first Saturday in May, you strike out. Hitting the moment squarely, with a peak effort — that’s what wins the Kentucky Derby.

And that’s why this final week, with the moment rapidly approaching, can be so important. The 34 qualifying races have been run, a few home runs hit, the points accumulated. Any self-respecting skeptic or quibbler could find reasons to doubt each and every one of these Derby horses — Nyquist’s easygoing preparation, Danzing Candy’s Santa Anita meltdown, Mohaymen’s Florida no-show, Exaggerator’s muddy affinity. But this week, they all have an opportunity to explain themselves, if only we’ll listen and if only we can understand.

In this week’s pressured proximity, the Derby can still look like an obscure pointillist painting or maybe one of those Chuck Close portraits that up close seem to be nothing more than a collection of dots. But then, from a different perspective, as the moment nears, the dots resolve themselves and a clear image emerges. Hopefully.

In 1990 I learned two important lessons: first, that certitude is the hallmark of stupidity, and second, that the Derby is neither won nor lost in March. Unbridled won the Florida Derby on March 17 that year. And although the Kentucky Derby was still seven weeks down the road, I became certain he couldn’t win it because, well, his Florida effort was so slow (1:52 for the 1 1/8 miles). And when Pat Day gave up the mount and Unbridled ran third in the Blue Grass, my certitude ossified. Feverish with youthful confidence, I even made one of those made-for-TV-pronouncements that since then have become so laughably prevalent. On a Kentucky Derby preview show, I told a television audience that if Unbridled won I’d do a headstand on top of the grandstand.

Well, you know what happened. After I rushed out on what I took to be a sturdy limb, I watched in amazement as the branch supporting me cracked and weakened a little more each day and as my position slipped from safe to precarious and then to perilous. Unbridled trained with energy and aplomb. He lit up Churchill Downs’ racetrack every morning. And so on Friday, Derby eve, I began practicing my headstands. Unbridled won the Derby by more than three lengths, and somewhere there’s a video of me doing a segment of a television show while standing on my head.

Ever since that moment of virtuoso foolishness, I’ve tried to spend most of my time in the mornings at Churchill watching horses. And listening to them. Horses, like people, can be eloquent if we’ll only listen. Some are plain-spoken, some diffident and a few incoherent. But they all have something to say. During their morning preparations in the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby, American Pharoah, Orb, Animal Kingdom, Super Saver, Barbaro, Smarty Jones, Sea Hero and Unbridled all made convincing arguments that they were going to win. And, of course, they did.

Nobody this year, however, has spoken so loudly or clearly here at Churchill. At least not to me. Nobody has made a stentorian announcement or grabbed me by the lapels and screamed into my face, “I’m the one.” But to these eyes, and from what I’ve seen, which is far from everything, Outwork, Suddenbreakingnews, Creator, Mo Tom, My Man Sam and Brody’s Cause have trained most impressively.

But sometimes what matters most is what’s left unsaid. That’s especially true for undemonstrative types, such as Nyquist and Exaggerator. Nyquist had his final serious pre-Derby workout last week at Keeneland; so here at Churchill he has only jogged and galloped. Still, he has looked terrific, as well as professional. In other words, he has done nothing to suggest that he won’t show up Saturday, nothing to say that the unbeaten champion who has overcome every obstacle won’t also embrace the challenge of the Kentucky Derby.

Similarly, when Exaggerator had his final pre-Derby workout here Saturday, he didn’t turn a head. Nor did he strain any timepieces with his five-eighths of a mile in 1:02.60. On my watch, his final furlong was his fastest, but that’s the best that can be said of the move. Wednesday, he schooled in the gate and galloped strongly. With his ears pricked, he appeared to be quite comfortable and happy. In other words, he has done nothing to suggest that the horse who has competed admirably and improved steadily won’t show up again Saturday.

And so Nyquist and Exaggerator remain atop of the Top 20. I’ve reversed them, however, but not because of anything they’ve done here. I’ve reversed them because I believe a lively pace has become more likely than it was, say, two weeks ago. Mohaymen has trained aggressively and eagerly here. He shook his head and lunged, fighting with his rider, when he worked a half-mile in 47.40 seconds, and he worked even faster a week earlier — all of which suggests he might be eager to challenge Danzing Candy in the early running and they could dial the pace-temperature up a few notches. And then Danzing Candy drew the Ted Cruz post position — far to the right — which means he has no option but to leave the gate running to avoid a wide trip. That only increases the probability of a hot pace, which, of course, would work to the advantage of Exaggerator, as well as the other closers.

And so here’s the final Top 20, with post positions and morning-line odds.

  1. Exaggerator, 8-1
Photo: Coady Photography

Coady Photography

Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

Jockey: Kent Desormeaux

Sire: Curlin

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 9—4-2-1

Kentucky Derby points: 126

Comment: When he won the Santa Anita Derby, Exaggerator gave what was arguably the best performance of the season by a 3-year-old. He also ran the fourth quarter-mile that day in 24.28 seconds, which has been the fastest fourth quarter-mile of any race leading up to the Triple Crown, a factor that’s especially important because that’s where the Kentucky Derby is usually won. But he gave that scintillating performance on a sloppy racetrack. Can Exaggerator duplicate the effort on a fast track at Churchill Downs? His only workout here at Churchill didn’t produce a clue. It was a Goldilocks work, neither too this nor too that. But it might have been just right. Exactly one week before the Santa Anita Derby, Exaggerator worked five-eighths of a mile in 1:02.80. Exactly one week before the Kentucky Derby, he worked five-eighths of a mile in 1:02.60. And although he hasn’t been flashy here or drawn attention to himself, he has made a positive impression. Exaggerator has lost to Nyquist three times, but the distance of the Derby could tilt the advantage his way.

  1. Nyquist, 3-1


Coady Photography

Coady Photography

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Jockey: Mario Gutierrez

Sire: Uncle Mo

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 7—7-0-0

Kentucky Derby points: 130

Comment: His final pre-Derby workout (a mile in 1:41 at Keeneland) “exceeded expectations,” according his trainer, Doug O’Neill. And although Nyquist has only jogged and galloped lightly here at Churchill, he has done nothing to dispel the very reasonable assumption that he’s the horse to beat.  After all, he’s the unbeaten champion, and this year after winning the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita, he traveled across the country and won the Florida Derby. He doesn’t draw attention to himself in the mornings, and he doesn’t dazzle in the afternoons. But he does everything asked of him. And so any skepticism would have to focus on whether he can be effective at Saturday’s classic distance. That’s the big unknown, of course, for most of these horses, the 1 1/4 miles. And if it looms even larger for Nyquist, that’s because his pedigree emphasizes speed over stamina. Nyquist, though, is probably the type of horse that can outrun his pedigree.

  1. Mor Spirit, 12-1

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Gary Stevens

Sire: Eskendereya

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 7—3-4-0

Kentucky Derby points: 84

Comment: Just when he was expected to move forward, Mor Spirit regressed in the Santa Anita Derby, finishing second, more than six lengths behind Exaggerator. But did he step back, or was the performance a consequence of the sloppy surface? That question remains. But the heavy-headed colt made a positive impression when he worked here Monday, five-eighths of a mile in 59.80 seconds. That put a smile on the face of his Hall of Fame jockey, who has ridden three Kentucky Derby winners (Winning Colors, Thunder Gulch and Silver Charm). And it refreshed the confidence of his trainer, Bob Baffert. This is a Derby with several contenders, Baffert said, and Mor Spirit is among them. “But whoever has racing luck,” he said, “is going to win this.” Only Ben Jones has won more Kentucky Derbies than Baffert, who has won four (with Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem and American Pharoah).

  1. Creator, 10-1

Coady Photography

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Ricardo Santana, Jr.

Sire: Tapit

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 8—2-4-1

Kentucky Derby points: 110

Comment: Creator has been one of the more impressive horses this week. He hasn’t worked particularly fast — he went a half-mile in 50.60 seconds Monday — but he has done everything easily and tirelessly. He seems to have arrived at a high level of performance at precisely the right moment. For three months now he has moved steadily forward and upward, winning for the first time and then finishing third in his stakes debut and then rallying from last to take the Arkansas Derby. And he’s one of the few Derby horses that might improve significantly at 1 1/4 miles. Beyond the finish line at Oaklawn Park, after he won the Arkansas Derby by a length, he galloped out so strongly that he found himself all alone, many lengths in front by the time his young jockey, Ricardo Santana, Jr., pulled him up. That stamina is evident on the bottom of his pedigree. Creator’s dam, Morena, won at 1 1/4 miles, 1 3/8 miles and 1 1/2 miles.

  1. Destin, 15-1

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Sire: Giant’s Causeway

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 5—3-1-0

Kentucky Derby points: 51

Comment: When Destin breezed here last week, he had to be urged to put a head in front of his workmate and urged some more to stay in front on the gallop-out. That wouldn’t be much of a recommendation except for the fact that his workmate was a 3-year-old named Stradivari, who has won consecutive races by a total of nearly 26 lengths. Destin and Stradivari finished together after five-eighths of a mile in 1:01.40 and stayed together as they galloped out. It was solid move, but it probably didn’t dispel any of the skepticism accompanying Destin into the Derby because he’ll be making his first start in eight weeks. Mine That Bird, Orb, Barbaro and Big Brown all won the Kentucky Derby after a final prep five weeks earlier. In 2011, Animal Kingdom won the Spiral Stakes at Turfway and then, six weeks later, won the Derby. Such an approach wasn’t unprecedented. In 1956, Needles also had six weeks between his final prep, the Florida Derby, and his victory as the 8-5 favorite in Kentucky. But eight weeks? That will probably discourage some horseplayers from supporting him; in the thoughts of many, the eight weeks will suggest a diminution of Destin’s chances. But is there another way to look at this, not through an historical window but perhaps through a window of trainer patterns? As it turns out, Destin’s trainer, Todd Pletcher, excels in these situations. Since 2010, Pletcher has won 706 races with horses returning in one-to-three months, according to Equibase. That’s 706 winners from 2,887 starters, or more than 24 percent. He’s even better with horses who return after layoffs of three months or more — 172 winners, or with more than 27 percent of his starters. Pletcher’s numbers suggest the eight weeks won’t be a problem; in fact, for him the approach could be an advantage, an asset.

  1. Danzing Candy, 15-1

Trainer: Clifford Sise

Jockey: Mike Smith

Sire: Twirling Candy

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 5—3-0-0

Kentucky Derby points: 60

Comment: Danzing Candy can win the Kentucky Derby. He’s fast enough and good enough; he proved that in the San Felipe, where he led from start to finish in one of the year’s best performances. Could he do the same thing here at Churchill Downs in the Derby? Winning in such a fashion, with such a style, is rare in the Derby. In the last 40 years, it has been done only four times — War Emblem, 2002; Winning Colors, 1988; Spend A Buck, 1985; and Bold Forbes, 1976. The key obviously will be the pace, the early running. If Danzing Candy is pressured or challenged, or if he has a meltdown — he can be volatile, even combustible — then his chances will be seriously compromised. And his post position reduces his options to one: He has to go from the start. But if he’s left alone to cruise through an opening half-mile in, say, 47 seconds, he would instantly become a candidate to be the fifth horse in 40 years to lead the Kentucky Derby from start to finish.

  1. Gun Runner, 10-1
Coady Photography

Coady Photography

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Sire: Candy Ride

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 5—4-0-0

Kentucky Derby points: 151

Comment: The winner of the Louisiana Derby and the Risen Star Stakes, Gun Runner has lost only once in his career. But he, too, is more workmanlike than flashy. And if he fails to excite, that might be because he has the versatility and the athleticism to secure a good trip for himself and the good sense not to do more than is necessary. His works and gallops here have been like his races, successful but quiet. In keeping with his regular routine and schedule, he went an easy half-mile Monday in 50.40 seconds. His two prior works here, though unspectacular, were bullets, meaning they were the fastest of the morning — three-quarters of a mile in 1:12.20 and five-eighths in 1:00. Of most importance, Gun Runner has made progress in every race he ever has run; he has moved steadily, gradually and quietly forward in his development. He has drawn a good post position that should allow him to get to the rail and save ground in the group just behind the leaders. And so with another step forward Saturday, he could threaten to win the Kentucky Derby, which would seem richly appropriate since his trainer, Steve Asmussen, was recently elected to the sport’s Hall of Fame.

  1. Outwork, 15-1

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: John Velazquez

Sire: Uncle Mo

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 4—3-1-0

Kentucky Derby points: 120

Comment: Outwork is another of the horses that have impressed this week. In his most recent workout, he easily pulled away from stablemate Azar on his way to completing five-eighths of a mile in 1:01. And Outwork has continued to make a positive impression since then, but he hasn’t quite dispelled the memory of his Wood Memorial. Yes, he won, but he ran the second half-mile in 51.59 seconds on his way to completing the 1 1/8 miles in 1:52.92. It was the slowest nine furlongs in Wood Memorial history. Two races earlier at Aqueduct, on an equally sloppy surface, Lewis Bay won the Gazelle Stakes in 1:52.60. Lewis Bay, by the way, races here Friday in the Kentucky Oaks, and in doing so she might provide some perspective. For now, though, the opinion here is that Outwork, who’s lightly raced and inexperienced, could develop into one of the best horses of his generation, but he’s not there quite yet. And his outside post position, which will make demands upon his natural speed, probably doesn’t help his chances.

  1. Suddenbreakingnews, 20-1

Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel

Jockey: Luis Quinonez

Sire: Mineshaft

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 8—3-4-0

Kentucky Derby points: 50

Comment: Suddenbreakingnews’ final pre-Derby workout was outstanding — five-eighths of a mile in 59.60 by the official watch, with a final quarter-mile in 24.38 seconds. He seems to be getting over the surface beautifully here and could deliver a big effort in the Derby. It’s worth noting that he wore a shadow roll for his recent workout; it’s a piece of equipment he never has raced with. But that will change Saturday. His trainer, Donnie Von Hemel, said in the Derby Suddenbreakingnews will indeed wear the shadow roll, which is basically a sheepskin noseband. In 1992, Lil E Tee won the Kentucky Derby while wearing a shadow roll for the first time. Could it happen again? Suddenbreakingnews should enjoy the long stretch at Churchill, and he’s among the many horses that could benefit from a lively pace.

  1. Mo Tom, 20-1

Trainer: Tom Amoss

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Sire: Uncle Mo

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 7—3-0-3

Kentucky Derby points: 32

Comment: Mo Tom also appears to be training smartly going into the Kentucky Derby. The longer he’s on the track in the morning, the stronger he seems to get. He’ll do his best running down the lane, and with a change of luck he could have an impact. At Fair Grounds in New Orleans his racing luck left him up to his neck in the soup, a spicy bouillabaisse. He had a troubled trip when third in the Risen Star Stakes. And if not for a nightmare of a journey, he would have finished no worse than second in the Louisiana Derby. As it turned out, jockey Corey Lanerie had to stomp on the brakes for a sixteenth of a mile, and Mo Tom finished fourth as the 2-1 favorite. This is another live long shot.

  1. Brody’s Cause, 12-1

Trainer: Dale Romans

Jockey: Luis Saez

Sire: Giant’s Causeway

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 6—3-0-1

Kentucky Derby points: 114

Comment: Brody’s Cause looked very sharp, striding out with bravura, in his final pre-Derby workout here, five-eighths of a mile Saturday in 1:00.20. He obviously loves Churchill, having scored his maiden victory here last September. Or maybe he’s just peaking. In winning the recent Blue Grass Stakes, he ran the fourth quarter-mile in 24.62 seconds and the final furlong in 12.94 to draw clear by almost two lengths. He had a good trip, and the Keeneland surface appeared to favor late-running types that day. But Brody’s Cause could be approaching his best race.

  1. My Man Sam, 20-1

Trainer: Chad Brown

Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Sire: Trappe Shot

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 4—1-2-0

Kentucky Derby points: 40

Comment: With a single victory on his resume, My Man Sam isn’t very accomplished, but he has made a positive impression here and appears to be training sharply. In the recent Blue Grass Stakes, My Man Sam rallied from last, raced wide in the second turn, even wider into the stretch and got up to finish second. At this point, he’s more exciting than successful, which is to say he does most of his serious running in the stretch and has yet to win anything other than a maiden race. But he actually ran the final three-eighths of a mile of the Blue Grass a little faster than Brody’s Cause. And while that style seldom wins the Kentucky Derby, it often produces a consolation prize.

  1. Whitmore, 20-1

Trainer: Ron Moquett

Jockey: Victor Espinoza

Sire: Pleasantly Perfect

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 6—2-2-1

Kentucky Derby points: 44

Comment: With about three-sixteenths of a mile remaining, Whitmore looked like he just might win the Arkansas Derby. But he couldn’t finish with Creator, and in the final furlong Whitmore couldn’t stay with Suddenbreakingnews. That said, Whitmore remains one of the more reliable and admirable horses in the 142nd Kentucky Derby: He always gives a complete effort. The classic distance could be beyond his reach. On the other hand, wide trips have compromised his chances in recent races, and with Victor Espinoza taking the reins perhaps the luck will change. Espinoza, of course, will be attempting to become the first jockey ever to win three consecutive Kentucky Derbies.

  1. Majesto, 30-1

Trainer: Gustavo Delgado

Jockey: Emiseal Jaramillo

Sire: Tiznow

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 6—1-2-2

Kentucky Derby points: 40

Comment: Majesto, the Florida Derby runner-up, has made a positive impression. But is he good enough? Well, one morning here at Churchill, long before sunrise, when the track was smoldering in artificial light, Gustavo Delgado said, “It can happen; it can happen.” And maybe it can. But even Delgado would admit a Majesto victory is improbable. Delgado, by the way, has trained three of the seven Triple Crown winners in his native Venezuela. And Emiseal Jaramillo has ridden four of the seven Triple Crown winners. Don’t underestimate. This long-striding colt is improving, and his connections know how to win.

  1. Shagaf, 20-1

Trainer: Chad Brown

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Sire: Bernardini

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 4—3-0-0

Kentucky Derby points: 50

Comment: Shagaf has trained well here, and he’s one of the best looking horses in the Derby. It’s easy to see why everyone was so excited about this colt early in the season. But from here, it comes down to this: He’s just not fast enough. Except for a little bump at the top of the stretch, Shagaf had a perfect trip in the Wood Memorial. He didn’t get involved in the hot pace, he saved ground and he found running room in the lane. He had every opportunity to win; all he had to do was run the final three-eighths of a mile in about 39 seconds and he would have won by daylight. But he had little to offer when clear, and so he finished fifth, four lengths behind Outwork. Perhaps Shagaf didn’t like the sloppy-saturated Aqueduct surface, and it’s that possibility that will give his faithful fans some Derby hope.

  1. Mohaymen, 10-1

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin

Jockey: Junior Alvarado

Sire: Tapit

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 6—5-0-0

Kentucky Derby points: 80

Comment: Mohaymen’s a beautiful colt, and he could run a huge race in the Derby. He could even win, which is what many would have predicted not too long ago. So why do I have him this low in the rankings? Well, it’s simple really: He has trained like a time bomb. And he’s set to go off Saturday afternoon. Except for his visit to the paddock Wednesday, when he was poised and calm, Mohaymen has simmered all week. He has argued with exercise riders; he has lunged and pulled and generally insisted on having things his way. And his way means headlong. That’s not how you want to see a horse approach a 1 1/4-mile race. Did he peak too early, when he won the Fountain of Youth perhaps? On the other hand, was his fourth-place finish in the Florida Derby an aberration, a bad day at the office? After all, he didn’t have the best of trips. He remains one of the most intriguing horses in the Derby.

  1. Tom’s Ready, 30-1

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Jockey: Brian Hernandez, Jr.

Sire: More Than Ready

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 9—1-4-0

Kentucky Derby points: 44

Comment: Tom’s Ready, the Louisiana Derby runner-up, has quietly and inconspicuously had a good week. But being under the radar is just where this colt’s trainer, Dallas Stewart, seems most comfortable. Stewart has a talent for hitting the big moment squarely; even more, he has a talent for hitting the moment with a long shot. The bigger the moment, the longer the shot, the better the hit. In 2013, for example, Stewart sent out Golden Soul in the Derby; the colt finished second at 34-1. In the next year’s Derby, Stewart saddled Commanding Curve, who finished second at 37-1. Could Tom’s Ready be next?

  1. Trojan Nation, 50-1

Trainer: Patrick Gallagher

Jockey: Aaron Gryder

Sire: Street Cry

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 6—0-1-3

Kentucky Derby points: 40 points

Comment: Yes, Trojan Nation is a maiden — that is, he never has won a race. But history — or at least history of the distant variety — insists that even here, in the most famous of races, being a maiden doesn’t mean a horse is without a chance. Broker’s Tip was a maiden before winning the 1933 Derby. And Sir Barton, the first Triple Crown winner, was a maiden before winning the 1919 Derby. Since 1937, however (records before then are a little sketchy), nine maidens have raced in the Derby, the most recent being Nationalore, who checked in ninth in 1998. On The Mark was a maiden when he finished eighth in 1950, and that’s the best finish for the more recent Derby maidens.

  1. Oscar Nominated, 20-1

Trainer: Mike Maker

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Sire: Kitten’s Joy

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 7—3-2-0

Kentucky Derby points: 50 points

Comment: Not originally nominated to the race, Oscar Nominated could become only the second supplemental entry ever to run in the Derby. Greeley’s Galaxy finished 11th of 20 horses after he was supplemented in 2005.  (Unshaded was supplemented in 2000, but was then excluded when 20 other horses, the maximum field, were entered.) Oscar Nominated’s owners, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, put up the necessary $200,000 to supplement their horse that won the Spiral Stakes over Turfway Park’s synthetic track. But at such a cost, entering Oscar Nominated in the Derby represents a daring gamble. He never has raced over a dirt surface

  1. Lani, 30-1

Trainer: Mikio Matsunaga

Jockey: Yutaka Take

Sire: Tapit

Starts—wins-2nds-3rds: 6—3-1-0

Kentucky Derby points: 100

Comment: Lani has been here a few weeks now. Both his training and his path to the Derby have been unorthodox. In the mornings, he has consistently spent more time on the track than any other Derby horse, galloping and jogging for miles. In his workouts, though, he has been neither eager nor impressive. And, of course, he has come here from Japan by way of Dubai, where he won the UAE Derby. So having traveled halfway around the world into a completely unfamiliar environment and now finding himself in a strangely foreign setting, he’ll attempt to compete at the sport’s highest level. His connections deserve kudos for their sporting spirit. But can Lani really be a contender? In the $2 million UAE Derby, he stumbled to his knees at the start, moved boldly on the backstretch, raced three-to-four wide in the second turn and then got up in the final yards, defeating the formerly unbeaten filly Polar River. Lani overcame considerable trouble in an admirable effort. But here at Churchill Downs, history lines up solidly against him. No horse out of the UAE Derby has come close to winning the Kentucky Derby, the best finish being Master of Hounds’ fifth in 2011. Only eight horses that had been competing exclusively outside of North America have even raced in the Kentucky Derby: Dr. Devious finished seventh in 1992; Thyer 13th in 1992; Citadeed ninth in 1995; Ski Captain 14th in 1995; China Visit sixth in 2000; Curule seventh in 2000; Castle Gandolfo 12th in 2002; and Mubtaahij eighth last year. Like Lani, Ski Captain was based in Japan. (Venezuela’s Canonero II and Puerto Rico’s Bold Forbes both raced in America as juveniles and, of course, both won the Kentucky Derby. When the English colt Bold Arrangement traveled here in 1986, he first raced in the Blue Grass before finishing second in the Derby.) And so if Lani wins Saturday, his victory will be one of the biggest surprises in the Derby’s long history, right up there with Mine That Bird’s stunner in 2009.

Also eligible: Laoban and Cherry Wine.