Kentucky Derby favorite Justify, shown here winning April’s Santa Anita Derby, has three wins in three starts. But can he and jockey Mike Smith break the Curse of Apollo? Photo Credit: Benoit Photo/Santa Anita Park.

TEMECULA, Calif. (May 3, 2018) – The Curse of Apollo. It sounds like the next superhero blockbuster, instead of one of the oldest trends in sports. And it could be a curse rebuffed or a curse renewed this Saturday during the most exciting two minutes in sports.

It is the first Saturday in May – the date for one of America’s iconic sporting events: the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. And what better place to watch and wager on that jewel of sporting Americana than the Pechanga OTB parlor.

Located inside the Poker Room on the second floor above Pechanga’s spacious casino, Pechanga OTB is offering reserved seats for $30 for the first two rows – which feature a personal television monitor at each seat — and $25 for the next two. Seats for viewing and wagering will also be available in the Round Bar on a first-come, first-served basis.

And further cementing Pechanga OTB’s status as a value play for any horse player is the special menu available to guests on Derby Day. For $10.95, guests have their choice of Chicken Adobo with White Rice or Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes and Brown Gravy, along with accompaniments such as Macaroni Salad and Assorted Fruit.

Of course, Derby Day is not complete without Pechanga’s twist on the official Kentucky Derby drink – mint juleps – which are available at Pechanga OTB and the Round Bar. As always, there is no charge for coffee, sodas or water.

“This is our first Triple Crown season since Pechanga OTB opened last August and we couldn’t be more proud to start it with such an incredible race,” said Richie Lopez, Pechanga’s assistant director of the poker room and OTB parlor. “You look at this field of amazing 3-year-olds and you just know you’re in for an exciting race and an exciting place to watch it at Pechanga OTB.”

With one of the deepest fields in recent Derby history, the 2018 Kentucky Derby is shaping up to be one of the most electric races in recent memory. The field is so deep that Hall-of-Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who will send two horses – including Santa Anita Derby winner and Kentucky Derby favorite Justify — out Saturday, told the New York Times this was one of the toughest Derbys that he’s ever seen.

Seven horses – seven horses with numerous pros and less-numerous cons to their resume – have legitimate shots at being draped in roses after the most exciting two minutes in sports. However, two of those: undefeated Justify (3-1 morning-line favorite) and Arkansas Derby winner Magnum Moon (6-1), did not race as 2-year-olds.

Enter the Curse of Apollo. The last horse to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old was Apollo – in 1882. Even standout horses such as Curlin (2007), who has sired three of the horses in this year’s Derby field, couldn’t turn the trick. And just three of the last 49 Kentucky Derby winners – a list that includes last year’s winner, Always Dreaming, did not win a race as a 2-year-old.

Both Justify and Magnum Moon are undefeated, which brings us to the equine freak that is Mendlessohn (5-1). How a horse that has won four races in four countries – including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar last fall – and its last race by 18 ½ lengths, be cursed almost defies belief. But that 18 ½-length romp in the UAE Derby doesn’t change the fact that UAE Derby winners are 0-for-13 in the Kentucky Derby, with no better than a fifth-place finish on anyone’s resume.

Speaking of undefeated horses, there’s Audible (8-1), who romped down the stretch to victory in the Florida Derby, a race that has produced the last two Kentucky Derby winners and three of the last five. Along with Magnum Moon, Vino Rosso and Noble Indy – all of whom won their Derby prep races — Audible is one of four horses noted East Coast trainer Todd Pletcher has in the field.

He has more than enough speed to compete in such a deep field and looked like he had plenty in the tank over the last furlong of the Florida Derby, but his pedigree suggests he may not have the stamina to close over 1 ¼ miles in this company.

Stamina shouldn’t be a problem for one-time favorite Bolt d’Oro, who fell out of Flavor Of The Month status with the ascendancy of Justify, who beat him by 3 ½ lengths in the Santa Anita Derby. With four victories, an 8-1 price-tag and with three-time Derby winner Victor Espinoza in the saddle, Bolt d’Oro may be one of the best value picks in the entire field.

Two others to watch are Good Magic (12-1), the Blue Grass Stakes winner who starts in the No. 6 post between Audible and Justify, and Vino Rosso (12-1), who won the Wood Memorial and can handle the bump-and-grind traffic of the Derby.

Regardless of who you like and why you like them, it’s always a good value bet to watch and wager on the biggest races of the year at Pechanga OTB.

Pechanga OTB is open Wednesday through Monday, with live simulcasts from America’s best racetracks featured on 22 flat-screens and on individual monitors at several of the 72 comfortable seats. Special events are planned for racing’s biggest days, such as Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, which means for more information on the numerous promotions, please see www.pechanga.com.