Churchill Downs instituted a new qualifying system that should make the field more competitive, but it prevents any fillies from running.
Jim Squires of the New York Times discussed two changes that he felt made the race more competitive as well as difficult to handicap. The first is a new points system where horses qualify in a series of races leading up to the Derby, rather than by winning stakes races - some of which weren't long enough to produce horses capable of keeping up for the entire ten-furlong race. The new system eliminates some of those sprinters. The second was a measure to prevent non-state-supervised veterinarians from injecting horses with race-day medications, which can greatly enhance a horse's ability to perform.
However, no female horses participated in the run of qualifying races, meaning none of the horses that participated in Friday's spirited Kentucky Oaks even had the opportunity to run in the Derby. Three fillies have won the Kentucky Derby, most recently Winning Colors in 1989, but none of the 19 horses running in the big race Saturday are female.
Although there are no female rides, there's a female rider. Rosie Napravnik, riding Mylute, is looking to be the first female jockey to win the derby. Mylute has 15-1 odds to gather the roses and is starting out of the No. 6 post. As Matt Gardner wrote, Mylute could be competitive after losing the Louisiana Derby by a neck.