I’d like to tell you that I know who will win Saturday’s 143 rd Run for the Roses, the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Of course it’s the Super Bowl of thoroughbred racing and the first leg of American horse racing’s Triple Crown. While I do have some solid ideas of horses who should contend, the weather could be a factor and that changes everything.
2017 Kentucky Derby Exacta, Trifecta & Superfecta PicksThe current forecast for Derby day is a high of 61 degrees, with a 70 percent chance of rain in Louisville. Out of 142 previous editions of the Kentucky Derby, 14 have been run on a muddy (7) or sloppy (7) track. The last time we had a Derby on an off track was 2013. That year Orb splashed home as the Derby winner on the outside to win at odds of 6-1.A total of 22 horses are entered, two more than the maximum limit of 20. Also eligible are Royal Mo and Master Plan, who would need defections by early Friday morning to get into the 1¼-mile race. Here are four contenders I would use in versions of an exacta, trifecta and superfecta box for the race. The full field is below with jockey name.
Irish War CryThe colt had impressive wins in the Holy Bull Stakes and Wood Memorial, making it seem like the Fountain of Youth was an off day for him. After winning the Holy Bull, Irish War Cry looked like a lock for the Fountain of Youth … but he faded and finished in seventh place, losing by 21 3/4 lengths. “A real head scratcher,”; trainer Graham Motion said. Motion believes Irish War Cry started too fast and, as a result, he stiff-armed jockey Joel Rosario for the next race. Irish War Cry is a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, who finished third in the 2007 Derby. No New Jersey-bred horse like Irish War Cry has won the Derby since Cavalcade in 1934, and none has run in the race since Dance Floor took third in 1992. Irish War Cry starts from Post 17. Since the Derby began using starting gates in 1930, no winner has ever come from Post 17.
Classic EmpireThis Kentucky-bred colt is the betting favorite as of this writing and starts at Post 14, the final spot in the main gate. There have been two winners from Post 14, last Carry Back in 1961. Trained by Mark Casse, Classic Empire won the Arkansas Derby and was last year’s champion 2-year- old after winning the Breeders’ Cup Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The favorite has won the Derby in each of the past four years. It’s the longest such streak since the 1970s. The favorite has never won the Derby five years in a row. Casse has never won the Derby. Neither has Classic Empire jockey Julian Leparoux. Always Dreaming: Trained by Todd Pletcher, Always Dreaming drew the No. 5 post, which has produced nine Derby winners, most recently California Chrome in 2014. Those nine winners from No. 5 are tied for the most with the No. 10. Always Dreaming comes off an impressive five-length win in Florida Derby. The dark bay colt prefers to run at the lead or close to it. His sire Bodemeister finished second in the 2012 Derby. Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez have one Derby win apiece.
GunneveraGunnevera lost his first two starts, graduated third out in a Gulfstream maiden race, then boldly was sent to Saratoga by trainer Antonio Sano, whose confidence was rewarded in the Saratoga Special. The colt ran below his best form finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Futurity last October at Keeneland, but has run nothing but good races since. The colt has four wins in nine career starts. In the Fountain of Youth, Gunnevera and his regular rider, Venezuelan native Javier Castellano, flew home from last of 10 to win in a romp. Gunnevera’s sire, Dialed In, won the 2011 Florida Derby and finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby.Personally, I would like to see Patch win at 30-1. Patch had his left eye removed as a 2-year- old and didn’t race that year. He doesn’t wear a patch, just has a ping-pong ball-sized hole there. And he was named Patch way before losing the eye, which is ironic. It’s not unprecedented for a horse to race in the Derby without an eye but it’s pretty rare. Unfortunately, Patch drew the far outside post. Just one winner from 1930 has come from way out there: Big Brown nine years ago.
143rd Kentucky Derby Field1. Lookin At Lee 20-1 (Lanerie)2. Thunder Snow 20-1 (Soumillon)3. Fast and Accurate 50-1 (Hill)4. Untrapped 30-1 (Santana Jr.)5. Always Dreaming 5-1 (Velazquez)6. State of Honor 30-1 (Lezcano)7. Girvin 15-1 (Smith)8. Hence 15-1 (Geroux)9. Irap 20-1 (Gutierrez)10. Gunnevera 15-1 (Castellano)11. Battle of Midway 30-1 (Prat)12. Sonneteer 50-1 (Desormeaux)13. J Boys Echo 20-1 (Albarado)14. Classic Empire 4-1 (Leparoux)15. McCraken 5-1 (Hernandez Jr.)16. Tapwrit 20-1 (Ortiz)17. Irish War Cry 6-1 (Maragh)18. Gormley 15-1 (Espinoza)19. Practical Joke 20-1 (Rosario)20. Patch 30-1 (Gaffalione)
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