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Gate Positions Determined for Kentucky Derby - 2004-04-29

The gate positions have been filled and the early favorites selected for the 130th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race. The first leg of U.S. horse racing's so-called 'Triple Crown' will be held Saturday at the famous Churchill Downs track near Louisville in the border state of Kentucky.

On Wednesday, the draw was held for the starting gate selections. The owners of Minister Eric took the number-seven gate, the most popular choice among past first picks. But the horse is not among the favorites to win the prestigious race.

The Cliff's Edge is listed by track officials as the early favorite (at 4-1odds). The horse is trained by former Kentucky Derby winning trainer Nick Zito. He says The Cliff's Edge was not initially his first choice from three horses he was training.

"I think with the other two I had, they were ahead of The Cliff's Edge," says Mr. Zito. "But in any other stable at this time, we were very, very fortunate, very blessed to have three horses of this caliber."

Ironically for trainer Nick Zito, his other horse in the Kentucky Derby is considered to have the least chance of winning. Birdstone is listed at 50-to-1 odds.

The undefeated Smarty Jones and Tapit are also strong favorites, with both horses starting from outside gates (15 and 18 respectively). John Servis trains Smarty Jones and says he made the best of his draw at number 11 by picking the 15th starting gate.

"We thought maybe we would force the hand of the speed horses who will try to go inside [toward the rail] of us. We like the idea of being the first horse in the auxiliary gate," says Mr. Servis. "It will give us a little more room so we do not get squeezed off early on."

, and Read the Footnote are also expected to race well. The betting odds for each horse will be constantly changing until just minutes before the start of the race Saturday. A total of 20 three-year-old horses are entered for the mile and one-quarter race (2.011 kilometers).

The Triple Crown also includes the Preakness in Baltimore, Maryland on May 15 and the Belmont Stakes in New York on June 5. The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978.