Updated: May 4, 2012 4:22PM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Longtime Kentucky Derby oddsmaker Mike Battaglia was tempted to flip a coin as he evaluated whether Bodemeister or Union Rags should be made the favorite for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
Even Wednesday’s luck of the draw didn’t provide much separation between the two front-runners. Bodemeister, trained by Bob Baffert, drew the No. 6 post and Union Rags, trained by Michael Matz, claimed the No. 4 gate in the 20-horse field for the 138th “Run for the Roses” at Churchill Downs.
“I haven’t had two favorites this close since Street Sense and Curlin (in 2007),” said Battaglia, who has set the odds for the mile-and-a-quarter Triple Crown race every year since 1974.
Battaglia made Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister a 4-1 favorite with odds of 9-2 being assigned to Union Rags, which has four wins in his last six preps.
But once the race begins, Baffert said racing history and post positions won’t make much difference.
“All we can do is speculate, but until the gates open, you don’t know what any of the horses are going to do,” said Baffert. “There’s like four or five horses (that can win). It’s going to be competitive.”
Baffert would have preferred to have drawn an outside gate so jockey Mike Smith could get a better read on the early pace and adjust accordingly in guiding Bodemeister. “From post six, he’s going to have to be in front early,” said Baffert.
Matz expressed the same concerns about needing Union Rags to have a strong start from the No. 4 post.
“We’re going to have him run out of there a little bit, but that’s not the worse thing in the world,” said Matz. “My original thought was that I wasn’t crazy about it, but where everybody is, I don’t think it’s so bad.”
If nothing else, jockey Julien Leparoux will be able to keep an eye on the horse coming out of the No. 3 gate, Take Charge Indy with three-time Derby winner Calvin Borel aboard is one of three horses Battaglia has at 15-1 odds.
Borel -- or “Bo-Rail” -- has a knack for taking the shortest distance to the finish line and from the No. 3 gate he won’t have to do much maneuvering to get the Florida Derby winner to the rail after making the first turn.
“It’s a great spot,” said trainer Patrick Byrne. “Borel wanted three to eight and we got three. We were three in the Florida Derby.”
Dullahan, an 8-1 favorite ridden by another three-time Derby winner in Kent Desormeaux, will be between Union Rags and Bodemeister in the fifth stall.
Causing concern on the outside will be Hansen at 10-1 from the No. 14 gate, unbeaten Gemologist at 6-1 from the No. 15 gate and I’ll Have Another at 12-1 from the No. 19 gate.
Creative Cause also is at 12-1 even though he lost the cause to I’ll Have Another by two-and-a-half lengths at the Santa Anita Derby in California last month.
Joining Take Charge Indy at 15-1 are Daddy Nose Best and Alpha, starting next to each other in the No. 10 and No. 11 gates.
Went the Day Well (20-1), El Padrino (20-1), Daddy Long Legs (30-1), Prospective (30-1), Sabercat (30-1), Optimizer (50-1), Rousing Sermon (50-1), Trinniberg (50-1), Done Talking (50-1) and Liaison (50-1) complete the field.