Kentucky Derby 2013: Latest Buzz Heading Toward Epic Race at Churchill Downs

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Kentucky Derby 2013: Latest Buzz Heading Toward Epic Race at Churchill Downs
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The 2013 Kentucky Derby field is taking shape, and all that's left to do is race.

Every year on the first Saturday in May, the focus of the sports world shifts to Louisville, specifically Churchill Downs and the 1.25-mile dirt track that has played host to the Triple Crown's first leg for nearly a century.

It was underdog I'll Have Another conquering the legendary Run for the Roses in 2012. But the 139th running looks to be dominated by a handful of favorites.

With only a few more days of preparation left for the horses, trainers and jockeys, let's take a look at the latest buzz coming out of Churchill Downs.

 

Orb Sets Blistering Pace on Monday

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

One of the top favorites to win this weekend's Run for the Roses, Orb lit up Churchill Downs on Monday, according to Bloodhorse.com's Lenny Shulman:

Orb cut out fractions of :23 4/5, :35 4/5, :47 4/5, and was out five furlongs in 1:00 4/5. Orb left his work mate Overwhelming behind him...

The three-year-old colt, who has won four consecutive races and three in 2013, has early 6-1 odds to win this weekend's Kentucky Derby according to AllHorseRacing.ag, right behind 4-1 Verrazano. Following impressive wins at the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes and the Grade I Florida Derby, Orb will be a popular pick to win on Saturday.

Orb's trainer, Shug McGaughey is certainly pleased with how his horse has progressed as of late:

Between the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby he progressed so much mentally and physically, and in his works, I was amazed. In the Florida Derby he got more aggressive than he's been before and really wanted to go after those horses.

If Orb can maintain this sort of pace on Saturday, he'll be tough to beat.

 

No Bob Baffert-Trained Horses in This Year's Field

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Don't expect to see a ton of close-up shots of well-known horse trainer Bob Baffert on Saturday at Churchill Downs. 

The Hall of Fame trainer decided to pull Governor Charlie and Code West from the Derby lineup according to USA Today's C.L. Brown:

It's disappointing for the owners, but you have to be competitive...my owners are not going to run just for the heck of it. We're just going to watch. Good luck to everybody else.

The 60-year-old Baffert didn't like either of the horses' recent form or chances of finishing toward the top heading into the biggest race of the year.

Baffert has trained three Kentucky Derby-winning horses and boasts nine career Triple Crown race victories since 1997. That said, Baffert's patient approach certainly comes as no surprise.

This marks the first time since 2008 that Baffert will not have a horse in the Run for the Roses.

Fear the Kitten has snuck into the field of 20 thoroughbreds in the wake of Baffert's decision to pull his horses.

 

One Year After Winning, Mario Gutierrez Will Watch Instead

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Not only will Saturday's Kentucky Derby be without the iconic Bob Baffert, but last year's winning jockey, Mario Gutierrez, will also be nothing more than a spectator.

According to Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde, Gutierrez will participate in a few events at Churchill Downs earlier in the day on Saturday, but will watch the race like everyone else at home or in the stands this weekend. 

It will be nice, I get to watch it and not have any pressure.

The 26-year-old jockey rode I'll Have Another to a win in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and the 2012 Preakness Stakes last May before an injury forced the colt to miss the 2012 Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown.

It remains to be seen the next time we'll see Gutierrez atop a contender at the Kentucky Derby, but until we crown a new champion this weekend, his impressive feat at Churchill Downs a year ago will continue to be the talk of the town.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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