Santa Anita Derby winner Justify has opened as the favorite for the 2018 Kentucky Derby, with Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia listing the horse at 3/1 to win the first Triple Crown race.

Kentucky Derby odds Justify
Kentucky Derby favorite Justify trains before the Santa Anita Derby, which he won by 3.5 lengths. (Image: Santa Anita Park/Zoe Metz Photography)

While Justify only has three races in his career, he has won all three of them, and has done so by a combined margin of 20 lengths. He also drew the No. 7 post on Tuesday, a solid starting position that shouldnt impact his chances of winning the Derby.

Favorites All Land Reasonable Draws

That appears to be true of all of the other major contenders. European horse Mendelssohn (5/1) drew the No. 15 post, putting him in the auxiliary gate. Four of the last seven winners have come from this gate, and the No. 15 position has historically been one of the more successful placements.

Two other strong contenders were placed just on the inside of Justify. Audible (8/1) will be coming out of the No. 5 gate, while Good Magic (12/1) received the No. 6 position. Generally, starting closer to the inside of the track is considered advantageous, though being on either edge of the field has not led to much success in recent years.

Other favorites include the undefeated Magnum Moon (6/1), who has won both the Arkansas Derby and the Rebel Stakes and will start out of the No. 16 position, as well as Bolt dOro (8/1), who starts near the middle of the field at No. 11.

Its one of the toughest Derbies Ive ever seen and one of the best draws that Ive ever seen, said Bob Baffert, who trained Justify. All the important horses got good draws.

A total of 20 horses will start Saturdays race, providing a full field that may seem more like a cavalry charge than a typical horse race. But thats typical for the Kentucky Derby, where what happens in the moments after the horses leave the gate can make or break a run, even for the favorites.

Top Horses Seeking to Change Derby History

Several of the top picks will be looking to change some historic trends that go back to the very beginnings of the race, which has been run every year since 1875.

Both Justify and Magnum Moon are attempting to win the Kentucky Derby despite the fact that they didnt race as two-year-olds. The last horse to accomplish that feat was Apollo, who won the Derby back in 1882.

Meanwhile, Mendelssohn is looking to become the first horse coming from Europe to win the Derby. If any horse can break that streak, it may well be Mendelssohn, who won the UAE Derby by 18.5 lengths and is trained by Irelands Aidan OBrien, who is considered to be one of the worlds best trainers.

That pedigree has led some oddsmakers to list Mendelssohn as a slight favorite. For instance, British bookmaker William Hill has Mendelssohn at 7/2 odds to win the Derby, just ahead of Justify (4/1) and Audible (6/1). Others, like Ladbrokes, have installed Justify and Mendelssohn as co-favorites, with both horses listed at 4/1.

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