2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders and Review of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

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November 9th 2016

The 2016 Breeders’ Cup World Championships provided some stellar racing and the Juvenile race (shown below) arguably was the 2nd best race of the event behind the Beholder-Songbird battle in the Distaff race. In my race preview, I thought this year’s  BC juvenile would come down to Not This Time and Classic Empire. However, what I didn’t expect, is that these two would finish so far ahead of the rest of the field. Classic Empire won by a neck and Practical Joke galloped home to finish third and 7 1/2 lengths behind 2nd place finisher Not This Time.

Gormley and Klimt enjoyed the home-track advantage over the East Coast and Midwest horses. Yet both had very puzzling and unexpected poor performances finishing 7th and 8th respectively. I am not alarmed. Two year-olds often throw a mulligan in along the way and I expect both horses to bounce back in the future. However, it is now very clear entering 2017 that Classic Empire and Not This Time are the early co-Kentucky Derby favorites, much like we had with American Pharoah and Dortmund two years ago.

Below are my current 2017 Kentucky Derby contender rankings. I have only ranked five horses because I don’t feel that any other 2 year-olds thus far are on the radar of the top 2. The knee-jerk reaction would be to rank Classic Empire #1 after his big win. He would get my vote for 2 year-old Horse of the Year. But he only won by a neck and I feel that if this race had been 9 or 10 furlongs, Not This Time would caught and passed him for the win. When you rewatch the race, Not This Time got hemmed in a little behind the lead pack around the three-quarter pole and was forced to go wide to the outside. 

2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders 

1) Not This Time  Dale Romans is very high on this Giant’s Causeway colt, calling him “spooky good”. He is Liam’s Map half-brother, the two sharing the same dam (mother) in Miss Macy Sue.  I feel he will get better as he stretches out past 8 1/2 furlongs.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Giant’s Causeway
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Robby Albarado
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.64 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1022016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

2) Classic Empire – American Pharoah’s half-brother. Looks like his gate issues are behind him. I have been very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE).

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: DNF–>1st–>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

3) Practical Joke The Chad Brown-trainee has two Grade 1 stakes wins. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. But for now, he is the best after the top 2.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.84 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

4) Gormley He comes from the same owner/trainer combination that produced Zenyatta. He earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the 2nd start of his career–the FrontRunner Stakes (shown below)–beating the race favorite Klimt.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:1st–>1st–7th
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.57 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes

5) Klimt  Owned by Kaleem Shah and trained by Bob Baffert–the same combination that produced Bayern and Dortmund. Klimt’s sire Quality Road won the Florida Derby, Met Mile, Donn Handicap, Woodward Stakes. Quality Road suffered two quarter cracks that prevented him from competing in all three legs of the Triple Crown. 

Career: 6 Starts 3-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Quality Road
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.05 (calculated) – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Del Mar Futurity

–Michael

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