Handicapping the 2017 Kentucky Derby

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

May 6th 2017 – Updated 5:30 PM CST

It appears that the weather, in the form of rain showers, will impact the early races today at Churchill Downs. The type of track conditions we get for the 143rd Kentucky Derby is an extrapolated guess.

I am banking on at least “Good” track conditions with a decent chance of “Fast” track conditions after the Churchill Downs crew gets some time to work on the track. “Good” instead of “Fast” track conditions will affect handicapping to some degree in this field. If it is “Sloppy” instead of “Good” then throw out all handicapping and be prepared for longshots finishing in the money.

Post time for the Kentucky Derby is 5:46 PM CST/6:46 PM EST and the race will be broadcast live on NBC. You can follow the live Kentucky Derby Odds by clicking HERE.

Below are my predictions based on “Fast” track conditions:

Win –>#14 Classic Empire & #5 Always Dreaming

I believe that the race will come down to Classic Empire and Always Dreaming and I am leaning towards Classic Empire if you read my blog last week (SEE). These are the two best horses in this field, however, both have a few issues of concern.

Always Dreaming is the fastest horse in this field. His time of 1:47.47 in the Florida Derby was the fastest since 1978 with Alydar’s 1:47-flat. However, the reports are that he has been amped-up since he first got to Churchill Downs to the point that trainer Todd Pletcher had to add draw reins and a new exercise rider to harness his aggression. The positive spin on this is that Always Dreaming appears to be ready to go. The concern is, will he be so amped-up in front of a huge Churchill Downs that he will expend a lot of energy before entering the starting gate? You want your Derby horse to be relaxed but focused.

With Classic Empire, he has raced in front of a big crowd at Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race and won. However, Classic Empire does have a history of being temperamental, having dumped his rider shortly after leaving the starting gate in the Hopeful Stakes. And then refusing to workout several times the past three months. It appears that he has worked past those issues. He also had a foot abscess problem that went undetected until after the Holy Bull Stakes 3rd place finish that affected his training schedule.

But Classic Empire’s temperamental demeanor and inability to train like trainer Mark Casse had planned pushed his final Derby prep to the Arkansas Derby three weeks ago. He supposedly acting happy but gained some weight in the process. Is he 100% fit and ready to go?

Note that Classic Empire has beaten the most starting entries in this Kentucky Derby field in Lookin At Lee, Gunnevera, Gormley, Practical Joke, Sonneteer and Untrapped. If he is 100% mentally and physically ready, he is the horse to beat as he seems to have a nose for the finish line.

Irish War Cry has been a lot of national handicapper’s pick to win the Derby. My concerns are that he failed to eclipse a 38 second final 3 furlong fraction, failed to eclipse a final winning time under 1:50 in his final prep race. Irish War Cry’s Wood Memorial winning time of 1:50.91 (101 Beyer) was slower than Frosted‘s 1:50.31 (103 Beyer) and Wicked Strong’s 1:49.31 (104 Beyer) winning Wood Memorial times. Both of these colts finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby.

Like Wicked Strong, Irish War Cry is a son of Curlin. Curlin finished 3rd in the 2007 Kentucky after demolishing the Arkansas Derby field in his final prep race by 10 1/2 lengths. So I just don’t see Irish War Cry as a huge threat to win but would recommend using him in your exotic bets.

My Advice: Divide your win bet between Classic Empire and Always Dreaming based upon their live odds by putting less money on the longer odds horse and more on the shorter odds horse. You should be able to double or triple your money if either of these two horses win.

For example, right now the current odds are 9/2 for Always Dreaming and 7/1 for Classic Empire. If you had $100 to bet and put $60 on Always Dreaming and $40 on Classic Empire at these odds, your $100 wagered would return $330 if Always Dreaming won or $320 if Classic Empire wins.

Trifecta –>#14-#5-#10 (Boxed)

If pressed for a straight Trifecta I would go with: 1st-#14 Classic Empire, 2nd-#5 Always Dreaming, 3rd-#10 Gunnevera but I would box this one.  A $1 Trifecta Box will cost $6.

As far as Exacta and Superfecta betting, for the Exacta I would probably do a Boxed Exacta with three horses (Classic Empire, Always Dreaming and Gunnevera). But note that this bet would cost the same as a Boxed Trifecta of the same horses. So wouldn’t throw big money in the Exacta for this race.

For the Superfecta, I don’t have a good recommendation as this Derby class is so unpredictable that I wouldn’t be surprised if a 50-1 slipped into the Superfecta. What I always do is bet $10 on straight 50 cent or $1 Superfecta of various combinations that I think might hit and including a few longshots. Just know that it is extremely hard to hit a Superfecta in the Kentucky Derby. However, I think it is worth throwing $10 at and hope you get lucky.  The payouts can be huge.


Upset Alert: The 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby is will be run in muddy, but fast sealed track conditions. This will be the great equalizer. 

This helps this year’s sentimental Derby favorite, the one-eyed horse Patch who drew the far outside #20 post. He is missing his left eye, so if he stays on the outside, he won’t get mud kicked up in his eye. The mud getting kicked in a horse eyes and face is sometimes what causes fast horses to not run up to their expectations.

Sloppy track conditions will bode well for horses like Gormley, Tapwrit, Irap, Untrapped, Hence, Lookin At Lee, Gunnevera and Classic Empire. All the aforementioned horses have raced on sloppy or muddy conditions with Classic Empire and Lookin At Lee having raced on sloppy/muddy conditions at Churchill Downs. 

I still like Classic Empire!


One comment

  1. Peter Setiawan · May 6, 2017

    Bonjorno , Till 144 Run for the Roses.


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