Revenge gets nod

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

Jeff Mullins' status as one of horse racing's bad boys gained steam four years ago when he was quoted as saying "If you bet on horses, I would call you an idiot."

Those alleged idiots will support one of the California trainer's horses like never before in this Saturday's 135th Kentucky Derby after Mullins' colt, I Want Revenge, was tabbed as the 3-1 favourite for the opening jewel of the Triple Crown.

Millions of dollars will pour in on the colt, who won his previous two races and emerged as the clear favourite with the scratch of Quality Road because of injury earlier this week .

"It is every man's dream to win this race and to win it would mean a lot to me," Mullins told reporters in Louisville yesterday. "We just know that our horse is getting better with every race he runs."

The video and race charts of his most recent two efforts would support that. I Want Revenge won those races -- the Wood Memorial and Gotham Stakes at New York's Aqueduct Racetrack -- by a combined 10 lengths and did so impressively.

Though he will be a worthy favourite when he breaks from Post 13, the son of Stephen Got Even is not a prohibitive one. Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia made Dunkirk (Post 15) and Pioneer of the Nile (16) the co-second choices at 4-1 followed closely by another impressive challenger, Friesen Fire (6), at 5-1.

A full field of 20 was entered for the famed race, including the last minute addition of Nowhere To Hide for trainer Nick Zito. A spot opened up for the long shot when another fringe contender, Win Willy, was scratched yesterday due to injury.

Included in the group is Canadian champion Mine That Bird, a three-time stakes winner at Woodbine last summer, but a gelding who will likely go to the post significantly higher than his 50-1 morning-line odds.

The colt is based in New Mexico but did his best running here for trainer Dave Cotey, who will be an enthusiastic observer come Saturday's 6:10 p.m. post time.

"I'm anxious to see how he does," Cotey said yesterday of the Sovereign Award winner he owned and trained before selling him late last fall. "It may be a little optimistic (for the new owners) to be racing him there. But I do know the horse looks absolutely great."

Perhaps more so than any year, the road to the Derby has been a battle of survival. In the past four days alone there have been five defections including Canadian-owned and bred, Square Eddie, who was scratched Tuesday due to a recurring shin problem.

The attrition is not lost on Mullins, who is seeking his first win in a Triple Crown event.

"Over the next three days, I just pray the animal (stays) healthy," Mullins said. "There have been some defections and we feel for those guys."


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