LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- It appears that 19 horses will run Saturday in the 118th Kentucky Derby, probably the richest and most international field ever. The purse will be almost a million dollars.
In addition to the French-based Arazi, the odds-on favorite and already a millionaire, the lineup likely will include lightly raced but royally bred Thyer from Ireland and Dr Devious, an Irish-bred from England. Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally said yesterday that Dr Devious, who has four victories and three seconds in seven races, is his best Derby horse ever, and this will be McAnally's seventh Derby.
A.P. Indy, the California-based horse who has won $722,500 in posting five straight victories and is considered America's best Derby hope, has a Japanese owner and an English trainer. Long-shot Al Sabin is owned by Polish-born Henryk de Kwiatkowski, the man who recently bought and saved Calumet Farm. Dark horse My Luck Runs North is owned by Venezuelan Melvin Benitez.
No foreign-based horse has won the Derby, and an Arazi victory would not change that. Arazi is Kentucky-bred, American-born and half-owned by American aeronautics wizard Allen Paulson. Four foreign-bred horses have won the Derby, however, the first being Omar Khayyam (England) in 1917. The others were Tomy Lee (England, 1959), Northern Dancer (Canada, 1964) and Sunny's Halo (Canada, 1983).
* WARM FORECAST: The forecast for Saturday calls for breezy weather, with a high temperature of 79 and a chance of afternoon thunderstorms. All seats have been sold for months, but standing-room general-admission tickets are available for $30 -- they're $1.50 on non-Derby days -- and infield admission is $20. A crowd of 150,000 is expected.
* UNPREDICTABLE RUN: A favorite hasn't won the Derby since 1979 (Seattle Slew), and there's a reason for that: Three-year-olds going 1 1/4 miles for the first time are unpredictable, and there can be lots of unforeseen trouble with big fields.
So don't discount the little guy. Remember, Sir Barton arrived at the Derby in 1919 winless in six races, ran as part of a two-horse entry, won and went on to become the first Triple Crown winner.
* GAINED A MOUNT: Julie Krone has her first Derby mount, a loooong shot, Ecstatic Ride. Krone got her chance because the horse's regular rider, Gerard Melancon, could not get a license in Kentucky. A recovering drug addict, he admitted involvement in a race-fixing scheme in Louisiana in 1986. He was not indicted or suspended and has been drug-free since 1989, but the Kentucky commission denied his request to ride in the state.
Another prominent woman at the Downs is Shelley Riley, owner and trainer of Casual Lies. Riley, the only woman trainer with a Derby horse, and her husband, Jim, mortgaged their California home so they could buy Casual Lies at a Keeneland auction in 1990. They paid $7,500 for the 7-month-old baby who has now won five of nine starts and $445,628. They turned down $2.7 million for him in January.