2017 Travers Stakes Preview

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August 22nd 2017 – Updated August 26th 4:38 PM CST

The 148th running of 2017 Travers Stakes has the most competitive field of 3-year-olds that we have seen all year. Entries include the Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, the Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing, the Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit and the Haskell Invitational Stakes winner Girvin.

The Travers Stakes is a Grade 1 Stakes race that carries a $1.25 Million dollar purse. It’s not a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic but might as well be as the race winner will probably be viewed as the leading 3-year-old in North America entering the Classic.

Below are the entries, post-positions, jockeys and morning-line odds:

The 148th Travers Stakes

1 1/4th Mile – Race #11 at Saratoga – Post-Time: Saturday August 26th 4:44 PM CST. Televised by NBC

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Cloud Computing – Castellano/Brown – 8/1
2. Giuseppe the Great – Gafflione/Zito – 20/1
3. West Coast – Smith/Baffert – 4/1
4. Tapwrit – J. Ortiz/Pletcher – 7/2
5. Good Samaritan – Rosario/Mott – 5/1
6. Girvin – Albarado/Sharp – 10/1
7. Always Dreaming – Velazquez/Pletcher – 6/1
8. Lookin At Lee – Santana Jr./Asmussen – 30/1
9. McCraken – Hernandez Jr./Wilkes – 12/1
10. Irap – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 8/1
11. Gunnevera – Zayas/Sano – 20/1
12. Fayeq – Saez/McLaughlin – 30/1

Race Analysis: This race is wide-open. There are about six or seven horses in this field that I would not be surprised at all if they won. Right now, I like about three horses for the win: West Coast, Good Samaritan and Gunnevera. So I may try a 10 cent superfecta keying those three horses over 3 others which would cost $18. 

Girvin is one horse I am sure that I would include underneath because he has shown me a willingness to battle. I also like a rested Tapwrit’s possibility of hitting the board. And Always Dreaming has proven that he has won at the 10 furlong distance and he usually puts himself in striking distance. The question will be, will Always Dreaming  fade out like he did in the Jim Dandy?

Last year, when Arrogate won the Travers in a 14 horse field at 11.7 to 1 final odds and race favorite Exaggerator finished out of the money, a 10 cent superfecta paid out $1,045.60. It’s not likely to pay as much this year with a 12 horse field even if a longshot wins. But if Gunnevera or some other longer shot wins, it should still pay out nice.

I am really warming up to Gunnevera in my exotics because I loved his last start in the Tangelo Stakes at Gulfstream Park (shown below). It was nearly 3 weeks ago, so a tune-up for the Travers. Yes, it was against a weak field but he absolutely smoked this field in the final 2 1/2 furlongs. I calculated his final 2 1/2 furlong speed at 38.08 mph. He’s a closer but he had no early speed to run at in this race to aid his closing style.

Betting Advice: When bettingI prefer races where I feel that there are one or two clear favorites from my research and this isn’t one of them. I don’t think this is a great betting race for Win bets and Exacta bets, it’s just too unpredictable.

However, there will be a lot of money plunked down on this race and there is money that can be made. I normally don’t like Superfecta bets as they are too hard to hit. I can usually hit three out of four horses but one horse usually surprises me. That being said, a superfecta bet appears to be the way to go for this race. Over the last ten years, a 10 cent superfecta in the Travers, on average, paid out between $450-$500.

So I am going with a smaller outlay/big reward approach. I am going to place a 10 cent Superfecta keying 3 horses to win: West Coast, Good Samaritan and Gunnevera. So 3,5,11 over 3,4,5,6,7,8,11 over 3,4,5,6,7,8,11 over 3,4,5,6,7,8,11. This 10 cent super will cost $36. If it hits, you should cover your bet at the minimum for a potential $1000 payback if a longer odds horse like Gunnevera wins. If it doesn’t, well it’s just $36 lost–nothing to cry about.

Final Update: I see nothing new to wager on but I am liking how the odds are shaking out thus far. My superfecta bet above was edited, earlier edit didn’t take. 3,5,11 over 3,4,5,6,7,8,11 over 3,4,5,6,7,8,11 over 3,4,5,6,7,8,11. This 10 cent super will cost $36.


On the Docket…

My next blog will be updated Breeders’ Cup Classic contender rankings. I decided that the Travers Stakes deserved more attention, so I decided to wait until after the Travers to post my next updated Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings. A big hint, it won’t have Arrogate #1.


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael

2017 Haskell Invitational Preview

haskell

July 30th 2017

The 2017 Haskell Invitational probably has the most competitive field of 3-year-olds that we have seen since the Belmont Stakes. The Haskell is a Grade 1 Stakes race that carries a $1 Million dollar purse. It’s a “Win and You’re In” race as the race winner will earn a starting spot in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

At the 9 furlong distance (1 1/8th mile), any horse in the field has the ability to win this race. All have won a graded stakes race but none have a Grade 1 win yet on their resume.

Below are the post-positions, jockeys and morning line odds:

The Haskell Invitational Stakes

The Haskell Invitational – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #12 at Monmouth Park – Post-Time: Sunday July 30th at 4:47 PM CST. Televised by NBC

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Irish War Cry – Maragh/Motion – 5/2
2. Battle of Midway – Prat/Hollendorfer – 5/1
3. Timeline – Castellano/Brown – 3/1
4. Practical Joke – Rosario/Brown – 4/1
5. McCraken – Hernandez/Wilkes – 9/2
6. Hence – Lopez/Asmussen – 12/1
7. Girvin – Albarado/Sharp – 6/1

Race Analysis: Irish War Cry is the morning line favorite. However, I like Timeline for the win. He has already won at Monmouth Park in the 8.5 furlong Pegasus Stakes back in June (shown below) with a really nice time of 1:41.32. I sort of have a hunch that Timeline is a star in the making and that the Haskell will be his coming out party. The Chad Brown-trained colt is undefeated in four starts.

With the field being so close in ability, exotic bets will be harder to hit here than your average seven horse field. However, if I played an exotic bet, I would key Timeline to win in Trifecta over Irish War Cry, Practical Joke and McCraken. That is 3 over 1, 4 and 5 over 1, 4 and 5 over 1, 4 and 5.


Jim Dandy Stakes Recap

It’s been a crazy year for horse racing. Good Samaritan, a turf horse who had never raced on dirt, beat Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and the Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing yesterday in the Jim Dandy Stakes (shown below).

In my preview for the race, I speculated that a closer would have a great chance of pulling off the win but didn’t think the talent was there in this 5 horse field. Obviously, Good Samaritan is more talented than anyone expected and he has made the transition from turf to dirt quite well.


On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the 2017 Whitney Handicap which is set for Saturday August 5th. Gun Runner and Keen Ice are expected entries.  The Whitney will be a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. With Arrogate’s recent loss in the San Diego Handicap, Gun Runner could quite possibly is the best racehorse in the world on dirt right now.


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael

A Preakness Stakes Rematch: Always Dreaming vs Cloud Computing

July 29th 2017

The Jim Dandy Stakes will provide an interesting rematch of Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing from the Preakness Stakes. From a betting perspective, I don’t like the this race. A small field, the best horses coming off significant layoffs. I think Always Dreaming wins. However, if he and Cloud Computing lock into an early battle, it provides a closer a great opportunity to steal a win. I am not sure that any of the other three horses will have the closing ability to pull this off.

Pavel is making his second start after a maiden win in a sprint race. Good Samaritan has primarily ran on turf and synthetic surfaces and he is making is his first start on dirt. Giuseppe the Great has never won a graded stakes race or raced beyond one mile.

For me, this is just a good race to watch and it will be televised live by Fox Sport 2. Live coverage begins 5 pm EST/4 pm CST.

Jim Dandy Stakes

The Jim Dandy Stakes  – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #10 at Saratoga – Post-Time: Saturday July 29th at 5:18 PM CST.

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Always Dreaming – Velazquez/Pletcher – 1/1 
2. Cloud Computing – Ortiz Jr/Brown – 6/5
3. Giuseppe the Great – Saez/Zito – 10/1
4. Pavel – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 6/1
5. Good Samaritan – Rosario/Mott – 12/1


Haskell Invitational Preview

Tomorrow, I will preview the Haskell Invitational. I should have this out early in the morning.

–Michael

 

2017 Preakness Stakes Sleeper

preakness_logo

May 19th 2017 – Updated May 20th 2017

Historically, new shooters don’t fare very well in the Preakness Stakes versus those who ran in the Kentucky Derby. I still think this year’s Preakness Stakes will be won by Always Dreaming or Classic Empire. But if you are looking for sleeper and somewhat of a longshot to win the 142nd Preakness Stakes, I like Conquest Mo Money. Why?

The son of Uncle Mo is fresh. He has never finished below 2nd in five career starts, something no other horse in this Preakness field can boast. This tells me that Conquest Mo Money is a horse who likes to win and be near the front. Re-watch the Arkansas Derby shown below and see how he battles and battles “fino alla fine” that’s Italian for until the end. He did this from the #11 post and he will start in #10 post in the Preakness.

At 15/1 odds, I may plunk down $10-15 for a Win bet on Conquest Mo Money as a hedge. A Place bet on Conquest Mo Money may pay out more than a win bet on Always Dreaming depending on how the live odds go. So that is another bet to consider.

If nothing else, I feel that Conquest Mo Money has to be a horse you include in your exotic bets (trifecta and superfectas). His Beyer Speed Figures have improved in every one of his starts. I like the upward trend and the willingness to battle that he displayed in the Arkansas Derby.

UPDATE:

Superfecta betting: I like #4 over 1,5,6,10

Trifecta Betting: I like 4,5 & 10 Boxed

–Michael

2017 Preakness Stakes Preview

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May 18th 2017 – Updated May 20th 2017

Below are the entries, post-positions and morning line odds for Saturday’s 142nd Preakness Stakes. Rain doesn’t appear to be in the forecast so that is a handicapping aspect we fortunately won’t have to worry about.

This should be a great race that will be won by either Always Dreaming or Classic Empire. Classic Empire had a really bad trip in the Kentucky Derby but he won’t in this 10-horse Preakness field. There are a few “new shooters” that could finish in the money in Conquest Mo Money and Multiplier but neither are a huge threat to win.

The Preakness Stakes – 9 1/2 furlongs. Race #13 at Pimlico. Post-time: 5:48 PM CST. Televised by NBC.

1) Multiplier (30/1) – The Illinois Derby winner. He laid down an impressive sub 1:48 time in this 9 furlong race. So I don’t understand the 30-1 odds here.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st
Sire:  The Factor
Trainer: Brandon Walsh
Jockey:  Joel Rosario
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.98 – 2017 Illinois Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  882017 Illinois Derby

2) Cloud Computing (12/1) – He ran an impressive 2nd in the Gotham Stakes but finished 3rd in a slow Wood Memorial. Judging how Wood Memorial winner Irish War Cry fared in the Kentucky Derby (10th place finish), I don’t see Cloud Computing figuring in my Preakness Superfecta.

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>3rd
Sire: Maclean’s Music
Trainer:  Chad Brown
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2006 Preakness Stakes Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.03 (estimated) – 2017 Wood Memorial
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  962017 Gotham Stakes

3) Hence (20/1)   He is probably a much better horse than his 11th place finish in the Kentucky Derby suggests. He is a deep closer and they typically don’t fare well in the Preakness.

Career: 7 Starts 2-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  7th–>1st-->11th
Sire:  Street Boss
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.10 – 2017 Sunland Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 932017 Sunland Derby

4) Always Dreaming  (4/5) – Always Dreaming is the fastest horse in the Preakness field and the deserved favorite. The son of Bodemeister has a stalking race style and late speed that should put him on or near the lead. I wrote a Derby profile on Always Dreaming for US Racing which can be accessed by clicking HERE.

Career: 6 Starts 4-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Bodemeister (Finished 2nd in the 2012 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher 
Jockey: John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.472017 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1022017 Kentucky Derby

5) Classic Empire (3/1) The 2-year-old Male Champion had a bad trip in the Kentucky Derby and really should be commended for salvaging a fourth place finish. He should be more of a factor in the smaller Preakness field. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and first wrote about him back in July (SEE). I see him stalking Always Dreaming in the Preakness but will he have enough to mow him down in the stretch? He is capable and we will see.

Career: 8 Starts 5-0-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Last 3 starts: 3rd—>1st–>4th
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile (Finished 11th in the 2009 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.93 – 2017 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 

6) Gunnevera (15/1) – His closer style of racing makes him less of a factor in the Preakness unless he is pressed up more on the pace. 

Career: 8 Starts 3-1-1-1   
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>7th
Sire: Dialed In (Finished 4th in 2011 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Mike Smith (1993 Preakness Stakes Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.51 (estimated) – 2017 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 972017 Fountain of Youth Stakes

7) Term of Art (30/1) – The Doug O’Neill-trained colt is looking to bounce back from a 7th place finish in Santa Anita Derby. He is justifiably 30/1.

Career: 9 Starts 2-1-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>3rd–>7th
Sire:  Tiznow
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.16 (estimated) – 2017 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 922017 San Felipe Stakes 

8) Senior Investment (30/1) – He is coming off a win in the Lexington Stakes but at best, I see him as a mid-pack finisher in the Preakness.

Career: 8 Starts 3-0-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>6th–>1st
Sire:  Discreetly Mine
Trainer:  Ken McPeek
Jockey: Channing Hill
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.69 (estimated) – 2017 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  89 2017 Lexington Stakes

9) Lookin At Lee (10/1)  A deep closer whose racing style, like Hence & Gunnevera, doesn’t match up well for the Preakness. I wrote an article on his longshot chances in the Kentucky Derby for US Racing (SEE). I don’t see a win or 2nd place finish here.

Career: 10 Starts 2-3-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 6th–>3rd–>2nd
Sire:  Lookin at Lucky (Won the 2010 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 & 2009 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Corey Lanerie
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.17 (estimated) – 2017 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2017 Kentucky Derby

10) Conquest Mo Money (15/1) – He earned enough points to start in the 143rd Kentucky Derby but he wasn’t Triple Crown nominated. Conquest Mo Money has never finished below second in five career starts and beat some quality horses in the Arkansas Derby. His Beyer Speed Figures are ascending.

Career: 5 Starts 3-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: Miguel Hernandez 
Jockey:  Jorge Carreno
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.01 (estimated) – 2017 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 932017 Arkansas Derby


Handicapping Advice

The Pimlico straight is 80 feet shorter than Churchill Downs and the Preakness is 1/2 furlong shorter than the Kentucky Derby. The turns at Pimlico have less banking so it is more difficult for horses to accelerate through the turns. All of this works against deep closers.

My gut instinct tells me that Always Dreaming is going to win this race, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Classic Empire pulls the upset. So I think Always Dreaming’s 4/5 morning line odds are a bit too short. These odds are shorter than the live odds (9/10) American Pharoah had for the sloppy 2015 Preakness Stakes.

The Preakness exotic bets usually don’t pay out well unless longshots finish in the top 3 or the favorite gets beat. I generally feel that the best Superfecta candidates are: Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Conquest Mo Money and Multiplier. You can usually count on one of the speed horses having an off day so you will want to throw in one closer. It is difficult to figure out which closer will come out ahead of the others. I generally feel that the closer who gets pressed up a bit on the pace will have the best chance of finishing in the money.  I feel that Gunnevera is the most likely candidate of this group.

Overall, I don’t see this a big payout race unless the totally unexpected happens. So I would play it conservative.


UPDATE:

Superfecta betting: I like #4 over 1,5,6,10

Trifecta Betting: I like 4,5 & 10 Boxed

–Michael

Three stars of the Kentucky Derby and a look ahead to some great racing

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

May 12th 2017

After the dust has settled on the 143rd Kentucky Derby (or should it be after the dirt has dried?), there is plenty to discuss and look forward to in the sport of horse racing. I purposely waited to publish this blog to soak everything in and analyze what was another great Run for the Roses.

First, this year’s Kentucky Derby posted the best overnight television ratings since 1992. The viewership of this year’s Kentucky Derby is roughly what the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 get combined. I felt the sport of thoroughbred horse racing was making a comeback in popularity prior to the Derby. So this information only confirms my belief.

Secondly, this year’s Derby had three awesome performances but unfortunately, history will only remember Always Dreaming’s performance. 

Derby Day’s Three Star Performers

I felt that the Kentucky Derby’s three star performers were Always Dreaming, Lookin At Lee and Classic Empire.

Always Dreaming

Always Dreaming took the lead at the 3/4th mile mark and held on to the finish. You have to have a lot of horse to be able to do that over the final 4 furlongs of a 10 furlong race. He received a 102 Beyer Speed Figure for this performance. He is a popular horse too. The Derby profile I wrote on Always Dreaming for US Racing was the 2nd most viewed article on the site from April 1st to Derby Day. Always Dreaming is the real deal and will deservingly be the Preakness Stakes favorite.

I had previously thought that there was no way that we would have a Triple Crown contender this year entering the Belmont Stakes because this class was deep in talent but inconsistent. But after Always Dreaming’s performance in the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby on a muddy track, I have changed my mind.

Looking At Lee

I liked Lookin At Lee as a longshot and wrote about it for US Racing “Is there a Mine That Bird in the 2017 Kentucky Derby field?”

With 20-1 morning line odds, I knew with him drawing the rail (#1 post) that this would scare off bettors and his live odds would lengthen. But I liked his chances in a 10 furlong race with Corey Lanerie on board. Lookin At Lee displayed great late speed and a fighting spirit in the Arkansas Derby. He didn’t get the best trip in that race. But he ran a great race in the Kentucky Derby and Corey Lanerie did an outstanding job as his jockey. He was going to pull off another Calvin Borel Rail-Run and he was probably about length behind Always Dreaming at one point entering the stretch. He was coming like a freight-train. But jockey John Velazquez moved Always Dreaming over to the rail which broke Lookin At Lee’s momentum and forced Corey Lanerie to move to the outside to have a shot at the win.

If you are Steve Asmussen, you’ve got to be grinning like a Cheshire Cat with 33-1 odds Lookin At Lee’s performance and the $400,000 that he picked up for 2nd place.

Classic Empire

Although he finished what would appear to be a disappointing fourth in the Derby, he ran a great race. He got knocked around jockeying for position coming out of the gate. Then he suffered lacerations on his eye that resulted in the eye nearly swelling shut the next day. He is doing fine now and the eye is quickly improving. But just like the Holy Bull Stakes, I knew something was ailing him by his final fractions times. This was not the Classic Empire–the champion–that we know. He ran better in the slop at Churchill Downs in the very first start of his career as a 2-year-old. But despite all of this, he still managed to salvage fourth place. Classic Empire will strike back at some point this season.

Finally, Preakness Stakes Day is going to be a can’t miss event if you are within driving distance. 

Preakness Stakes Weekend

The Preakness Stakes field is expected to include Always Dreaming, Lookin At Lee, Classic Empire, Gunnevera, Hence, the Illinois Derby winner Multiplier and the rested runner-up in the Arkansas Derby–Conquest Mo Money. A smaller field will eliminate the possibility of the bad trips that a few of the Derby horses had. So I am expecting that the Preakness Stakes will be a closer race than the Kentucky Derby.

But an equally great race will be the Pimlico Special Stakes that will be run at the same 9 1/2 furlong distance as the Preakness Stakes. Shaman Ghost is expected to be an entry and he is probably the 2nd or 3rd best horse in the Older Division behind Arrogate. But he will be facing a new hotshot contender in the Todd Pletcher-trained Send It In. The son of Big Brown posted a 119 Beyer Speed Figure (BSF) in the 1 1/4th mile Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct on April 8th. This is tied for the best Beyer Speed Figure this year with Arrogate’s 119 BSF in the Pegasus World Cup.

It will be interesting to see how Send It In fares in the Pimlico Special as we could be looking at a major contender for Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this fall. And it will be interesting to compare the times of the Preakness Stakes winner vs the Pimlico Stakes winner.

And the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes is always a good race for 3-year-old Fillies. It is expected to include undefeated Jenda’s Agenda.  I can’t wait!

–Michael

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.


UPDATES:

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!

–Michael

2017 Kentucky Derby Preview

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

May 3rd 2017

Below are the entries, post-positions and morning-line odds for the 2017 Kentucky Derby. I will write another blog by Saturday with my with Derby picks but Classic Empire and Always Dreaming will be the only two horses I will lay money on to win provided it is a dry race. If the odds stay 4/1 for Classic Empire and 5/1 for Always Dreaming, you could bet $56 on Classic Empire and $44 on Always Dreaming and double your $100 investment ($226-$220) if either of these two horses win.

Be sure to check out my feature article for US Racing titled “Is there a Mine That Bird in the 2017 Kentucky Derby Field?”

2017 Kentucky Derby Starting Field

1) Lookin At Lee (20/1)  Like Gunnevera and Sonneteer, he is a deep closer who raced against some of the best in this class. He didn’t win but acquitted himself well. While he is not a huge threat to win on a dry, fast track, he certainly has a chance on a wet track. I wrote an article on his chances in the Kentucky Derby for US Racing which can be accessed HERE

Career: 9 Starts 2-2-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>6th–>3rd
Sire:  Lookin at Lucky (Finished 6th in the 2010 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Corey Lanerie
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.17 (estimated) – 2017 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – 2017 Arkansas Derby

2) Thunder Snow (20/1) – Godolphin Racing’s UAE Derby winner. UAE Derby winners haven’t fared all that well in the Kentucky Derby but I generally feel the Irish-bred colt’s chances are better than last year’s UAE Derby winner Lani. Lani finished 9th in last year’s Derby.

Career: 8 Starts 4-2-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Helmet
Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor
Jockey: Christophe Soumillon
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:52.21 (estimated) – 2017 UAE Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: Unknown

3) Fast and Accurate (50/1) – A 50/1 longshot. The Spiral Stakes winner has won his last three starts. His sire Hansen finished 9th in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Hansen was definitely better than his son. So I don’t see an above 10th place finish in this year’s Derby on a dry, fast track as a realistic probability.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Hansen (Finished 9th in 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Michael Maker
Jockey: Channing Hill
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.96 – 2017 Spiral Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 82 – 2017 Spiral Stakes

4) Untrapped (30/1) – Here is another horse that hasn’t won since his maiden. I generally feel that Untrapped is the weakest of the three Steve Asmussen-trained Derby entries. However, jockey Ricardo Santana Jr rode all three Asmussen Derby entries and probably could have had his choice of any of the three mounts. He chose Untrapped. I always take notice of this.

Career: 6 Starts 1-3-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>3rd
Sire: Trappe Shot
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.53 – 2017 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 922017 Withers Stakes

5) Always Dreaming (5/1) – Always Dreaming is the fastest horse in this Kentucky Derby field. His 1:47.47 in the Florida Derby is the best 9 furlong time in this class. The son of Bodemeister has a stalking race style and late speed that will bode well in the Kentucky Derby. I wrote a Derby profile on Always Dreaming for US Racing which can be accessed by clicking HERE.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Bodemeister (Finished 2nd in the 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.472017 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 972017 Florida Derby

6) State of Honor (30/1) – Always the bridesmaid, never the bride is the best way to describe this Mark Casse-trained Canadian bred colt. He hasn’t won a race in four starts during his 3-year-old campaign. However, he had 2nd place finishes in the Tampa Bay Derby and Florida Derby. I am not sure that he will like the 10 furlong distance as his sire To Honor and Serve seemed to excel more at 8 and 9 furlongs.

Career: 10 Starts 1-4-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  3rd–>2nd–2nd
Sire:  To Honor and Serve
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Jose Lezcano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.27 (estimated) – 2017 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  90 – 2017 Florida Derby

7) Girvin (15/1) – The Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby winner. His sire, Tale of Ekati, won the 2008 Wood Memorial and finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby. He has excellent closing speed. His Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby times were both faster than what Gun Runner accomplished the previous year. And Gun Runner finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. The only concern now is a quarter-crack that they are trying to heal before the Derby. 

Career: 4 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd>1st–>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati (Finished 4th in the 2008 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.77 – 2017 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  93 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes

8) Hence (15/1) – If you read my blog a few weeks ago on Kentucky Derby sleepers, you will understand why I like this Steve Asmussen-trained colt. His 9 furlong time, speed figures and final 3 furlong fraction time in his last race put him squarely in the top 5 of this class. He probably won’t get this same respect from bettors or other national handicappers. But if you are looking for a Derby Day sleeper in what has been a chaotic and unpredictable Derby trail season thus far, Hence and Gunnevera are probably your two best choices. With the way that Conquest Mo Money ran in the Arkansas Derby, Hence’s 3 3/4th length win over Conquest Mo Money in the Sunland Derby looks better and better.

Career: 6 Starts 2-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  1st–>7th–>1st
Sire:  Street Boss
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.10 – 2017 Sunland Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 932017 Sunland Derby

9) Irap (20/1) – The son of Tiznow has the same trainer/jockey combination of two previous Kentucky Derby winners in I’ll Have Another (2012) and Nyquist (2016). Since jockey Julian Leparoux will opt for his Classic Empire mount, trainer Doug O’Neil hired Mario Gutierrez. The two hope for back-to-back Kentucky Derby wins. Irap appears to be peaking at the right time and his Beyer Speed Figures (73,79,93) are ascending in his 3-year-old campaign.

Career: 8 Starts 1-3-1-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>4th–>1st
Sire: Tiznow
Trainer: Doug O’Neill (2012 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.39 – 2017 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  93 2017 Blue Grass Stakes

10) Gunnevera  (15/1) – The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot and 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes winner. His sire Dialed In won the 2011 Holy Bull Stakes, the 2011 Florida Derby and then finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. His closer style of racing, late speed and the additional furlong he’ll get in the Kentucky Derby should make him more of a factor at the end than he was in the Florida Derby. Having finished third in the Florida Derby should keep him a bit under the radar on Derby Day. I would recommend putting a closer or two in your Superfecta bets and Gunnevera has the most upside of any of the closers in this class.

Career: 7 Starts 3-1-1-1   
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Dialed In (Finished 8th in 2011 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.51 (estimated) – 2017 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 972017 Fountain of Youth Stakes

11) Battle of Midway (30/1) – He finished 2nd in the Santa Anita Derby. However, I don’t feel that the talent on the West Coast this year is anywhere near where it has been the last three years. He will win a Graded Stakes race somewhere down the line but I generally don’t like his chances in the Derby. Just like Patch, he didn’t race as a 2-year-old and no horse has won the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Smart Strike
Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.24 (estimated) – 2017 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  88 – 2017 Santa Anita Derby

12) Sonneteer (50/1) – The Desormeaux brothers colt has yet to break his maiden and will try to become the first maiden to win the Kentucky Derby since Brokers Tip in 1933. He is a deep closer and well deserving of his 50/1 odds.

Career: 10 Starts 0-4-2-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>4th
Sire: Midnight Lute
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux 
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.52 (estimated) – 2017 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2017 Arkansas Derby

13) J Boys Echo (20/1) – The Dale Romans-trained Gotham Stakes winner. He received a 102 Beyer Speed Figure for the Gotham Stakes win which ranks near the top of the best Beyers for this class.

Career: 6 Starts 2-1-1-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>4th
Sire: Mineshaft
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Luis Saez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.99 (estimated) – 2017 Wood Memorial
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1022017 Gotham Stakes

14) Classic Empire (4/1) – My Derby favorite. The 2-year-old Male Champion proved he is back with his brilliant run in the Arkansas Derby (94 Beyer Speed Figure). Classic Empire is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and first wrote about him back in July (SEE).  He will try to join Street Sense and Nyquist as Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champions who went on to win the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd—>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile (Finished 2nd in the 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.93 – 2017 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 

15) McCraken (5/1) The son of Ghostzapper was undefeated in 4 starts before his disappointing 3rd place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes. One of his big wins came in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. So there are no concerns of how he will take to the track surface at Churchill Downs. I personally think 5/1 odds are way too short for this colt.

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.99 (estimated) – 2017 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 952017 Sam F. Davis Stakes 

16) Tapwrit (20/1) – The Tampa Bay Derby winner. He finished 2nd to McCraken in the Sam F. Davis Stakes back in February. But disappointed in his last start in the Blue Grass Stakes with a 6th place finish. His pedigree suggests that he will like added distance but you can’t ignore the performance drop when he went from 8 1/2 to 9 furlongs.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd>1st–>6th
Sire:  Tapit (Finished 9th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.23 (estimated) – 2017 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby

17) Irish War Cry (6/1) – The son of Curlin bounced back with a big win in the Wood Memorial. He earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure for his effort. Irish War Cry is a talented colt and I like his pedigree. However, I am concerned that he had a drop-off 6th place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes after winning the Holy Bull at the same distance and same track. Are we now due for another drop-off? I don’t think he will win the Derby but he still deserves strong consideration to round out your exotic bets. And I like his future in the other big races down the line.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in the 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Graham Motion (2011 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Rajiv Maragh
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.91 – 2017 Wood Memorial
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  1012017 Wood Memorial

18) Gormley (15/1) – The Santa Anita Derby winner. Same owner/trainer combination (Moss/Shirreffs) as Zenyatta, 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo and Royal Mo. If it rains on Derby Day, Gormley’s career best speed figure came in the sloppy Sham Stakes.

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>1st
Sire:  Malibu Moon
Trainer:  John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.16 – 2017 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  942017 Sham Stakes

19) Practical Joke (20/1) The Chad Brown-trainee has two Grade 1 stakes wins but both came as a 2-year-old. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. 

Career: 6 Starts 3-2-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.51 (estimated) – 2017 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

20) Patch (30/1) – The one-eyed Pletcher-trained colt will be a fan favorite on Derby Day.  I wrote an article on him that can be accessed by clicking HERE. Just remember that he failed to race as a 2-year-old due to the eye issue and no horse has won the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Union Rags (Finished 7th in 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Tyler Gafflione
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.97 (estimated) – 2017 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  892017 Louisiana Derby


On the docket…

My next blog will provide handicapping advice for the Derby.

–Michael

The Kentucky Derby Points System – Does it provide us a clue who the Derby winner will be? Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

April 25th 2017

The Kentucky Derby points system for entry into the Derby was created in 2012 and first used for the 2013 Derby trail season. Although we have a small of sample size with just four Derby prep seasons where this has been used, I thought it would be interesting to see if this points system is beginning to give us analytics that can be used to predict future Kentucky Derby winners.

Below are the top 3 finishers in the Kentucky Derby from 2013 through 2016 and where they ranked in the final Kentucky Derby points system along with the number of points they earned.

2013 – 1st – Orb (1st with 150 pts),  2nd – Golden Soul (39th with 14 pts), 3rd – Revolutionary (6th with 110 pts).

2014 – 1st – California Chrome (1st with 150 pts), 2nd – Commanding Curve (28th with 20 pts), 3rd – Danza (7th with 100 pts).

2015 – 1st – American Pharoah (4th with 160 pts), 2nd – Firing Line (12th with 58 pts), 3rd – Dortmund (2nd with 170 pts).

2016 – 1st – Nyquist (2nd with 130 pts), 2nd – Exaggerator (3rd with 126 pts), 3rd – Gun Runner (1st with 151 pts).

Conclusion

What the point system has taught us thus far is that the eventual Kentucky Derby winner was ranked 4th or better in the final point standings and accumulated at least 130 points. So let’s take a look at this year’s final Kentucky Derby points standings.

The top 4 are:

  1. Girvin – 150 points
  2. Classic Empire – 132 points
  3. Gormley – 125 points
  4. Irap – 113 points

Classic Empire and Girvin are the only two horses who fit perfectly into the previous Derby winner/points system mode with at least 130 points and a 4th or better placement in the standings. The 2015 points leader International Star did not compete in the Kentucky Derby so this means that the overall points champion won the Derby twice and finished 3rd in the other. So in three attempts, the overall points champion finished no worse than third. It will be interesting to see if this holds to form in this year’s Kentucky Derby and perhaps something to consider for your Trifecta wagering.

Below are my Top Six Kentucky Derby Contenders. I feel rather strongly that the Kentucky Derby winner will be one of these six horses provided that the Derby is run on a dry, fast track. This group of six has speed horses and closers.

Top Six Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) Always Dreaming   Always Dreaming is #1 in my rankings because he is the fastest horse in this Kentucky Derby field. His 1:47.47 in the Florida Derby is the best 9 furlong time in this class. The son of Bodemeister has a stalking race style and late speed that will bode well in the Kentucky Derby. I wrote a Derby profile on Always Dreaming for US Racing which can be accessed by clicking HERE.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Bodemeister (Finished 2nd in the 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.472017 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 972017 Florida Derby

2) Classic Empire  – The 2-year-old Male Champion proved he is back with his brilliant run in the Arkansas Derby (94 Beyer Speed Figure). He ran a great race and showed me something I hadn’t seen from him before dealing with traffic. For a brief moment, I didn’t think he was going to win. Somewhere between the 1/2 mile and 3/4th mile mark, he got boxed into group of horses. However, he managed to get clear, and when he did, he started making his move and then mowed down the field in the stretch. Classic Empire is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and first wrote about him back in July (SEE).  He will try to join Street Sense and Nyquist as Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champions who went on to win the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd—>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile (Finished 2nd in the 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.93 – 2017 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 

3) Girvin – The Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby winner. His sire, Tale of Ekati, won the 2008 Wood Memorial and finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby. He has excellent closing speed. His Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby times were both faster than what Gun Runner accomplished the previous year. And Gun Runner finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby.  He has moved up in my rankings because he fits every analytic I like in a Derby winner.

Career: 4 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd>1st–>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati (Finished 4th in the 2008 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.77 – 2017 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  93 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes

4) Gunnevera  – The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot and 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes winner. His sire Dialed In won the 2011 Holy Bull Stakes, the 2011 Florida Derby and then finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. His closer style of racing, late speed and the additional furlong he’ll get in the Kentucky Derby should make him more of a factor at the end than he was in the Florida Derby. Having finished third in the Florida Derby should keep him a bit under the radar on Derby Day. I would recommend putting a closer or two in your Superfecta bets and Gunnevera has the most upside of any of the closers in this class.

Career: 7 Starts 3-1-1-1   
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Dialed In (Finished 8th in 2011 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.51 (estimated) – 2017 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 972017 Fountain of Youth Stakes

5) Hence – If you read my blog a few weeks ago on Kentucky Derby sleepers, you will understand why I like this Steve Asmussen-trained colt. His 9 furlong time, speed figures and final 3 furlong fraction time in his last race put him squarely in the top 5 of this class. He probably won’t get this same respect from bettors or other national handicappers. But if you are looking for a Derby Day sleeper in what has been a chaotic and unpredictable Derby trail season thus far, Hence and Gunnevera are probably your two best choices. With the way that Conquest Mo Money ran in the Arkansas Derby, Hence’s 3 3/4th length win over Conquest Mo Money in the Sunland Derby looks better and better.

Career: 6 Starts 2-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  1st–>7th–>1st
Sire:  Street Boss
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Alfredo Juarez 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.10 – 2017 Sunland Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 932017 Sunland Derby

6) Irap – The son of Tiznow has the same trainer/jockey combination of two previous Kentucky Derby winners in I’ll Have Another (2012) and Nyquist (2016). Since jockey Julian Leparoux will opt for his Classic Empire mount, trainer Doug O’Neil hired Mario Gutierrez. The two hope for back-to-back Kentucky Derby wins. Irap appears to be peaking at the right time and his Beyer Speed Figures (73,79,93) are ascending in his 3-year-old campaign.

Career: 8 Starts 1-3-1-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>4th–>1st
Sire: Tiznow
Trainer: Doug O’Neill (2012 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.39 – 2017 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  93 2017 Blue Grass Stakes


Who’s in the Kentucky Derby? Girvin (150), Classic Empire (132), Gormley (125), Irap (113), Irish War Cry (110), Always Dreaming (100), Thunder Snow (100), Gunnevera (84), Practical Joke (74), J Boys Echo (63), State of Honor (62), Tapwrit (54), Malagacy (50), Hence (50), Fast and Accurate (50), McCraken (40), Battle of Midway (40), Patch (40), Battalion Runner (40) and Untrapped (34).

Lookin At Lee (32), Sonneteer (30), Royal Mo (30) and Local Hero (30) are on outside looking in and hoping for defections or scratches.  


Projected Kentucky Derby Odds 

Below are my early projected Kentucky Derby morning line odds that Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia will set.  Battaglia has gone on record stating that he saw enough from Classic Empire to make him the favorite.

Classic Empire (3/1), Always Dreaming (4/1), Irish War Cry (10/1), Girvin (10/1), Irap (10/1), Gormley (12/1), Gunnevera (12/1), McCraken (15/1), Hence (15/1), Patch (15/1), Malagacy (20/1), State of Honor (20/1), Thunder Snow (20/1), Practical Joke (20/1), Battalion Runner (20/1), Battle of Midway (30/1), Tapwrit (30/1), J Boys Echo (30/1), Untrapped (30/1) and Fast and Accurate (50/1).


On the docket…

My next blog will provide a more in-depth look at the projected Kentucky Derby field.

My next contribution to the Cyberworld is going to be a food, wine and cooking blog. I am a big fan of Anthony Bourdain and my travels to Italy left me with a desire to recreate the same awesome dishes I had there but can’t get here in the US in Italian restaurants. Stay tuned!

–Michael

Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

April 16th 2017 – Updated April 24th 2017

After a wild Derby prep season that was marred by inconsistency and top contenders getting taken off the Derby Trail due to injury, below are my Top Five Kentucky Derby contenders and projected morning line odds. I feel that these six horses have the best chance of finishing in the money.  This can change based upon scratches as I like at least one horse who is on the outside looking in as far as Derby points. But Always Dreaming is my #1. The Kentucky Derby is most often won by the horse who gets to the 1 1/8th mile mark first and a closer or two often sneak into the superfecta. 

However, this has been kind of a weird year and I expect that the 2017 Kentucky Derby will be wide-open and exciting. I kind of get the sense that the year’s Derby could be one like we had in 2008 when 50-1 longshot Mine That Bird won.

Update: I was really high on Conquest Mo Money but his ownership has decided not to pay the $200,000 fee to enter the Kentucky Derby and focus on preparing for the Preakness Stakes. Cloud Computing is another eligible Derby runner who will skip the Run for the Roses.

At any rate, here are my top five and I will have a Top 10 out by tomorrow (Sunday April 23rd).

Top Five Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) Always Dreaming (3/1)  Always Dreaming is #1 in my rankings because he is the fastest horse in this Kentucky Derby field. His 1:47.47 in the Florida Derby is the best 9 furlong time in this class. The son of Bodemeister has a stalking race style and late speed that will bode well in the Kentucky Derby. I wrote a Derby profile on Always Dreaming for US Racing which can be accessed by clicking HERE.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Bodemeister (Finished 2nd in the 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.472017 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 972017 Florida Derby

2) Classic Empire (7/2) – The 2-year-old Male Champion proved he is back with his brilliant run in the Arkansas Derby (94 Beyer Speed Figure). He ran a great race and showed me something I hadn’t seen from him before dealing with traffic. For a brief moment, I didn’t think he was going to win. Somewhere between the 1/2 mile and 3/4th mile mark, he got boxed into group of horses. However, he managed to get clear, and when he did, he started making his move and then mowed down the field in the stretch. Classic Empire is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and first wrote about him back in July (SEE).  He will try to join Street Sense and Nyquist as Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champions who went on to win the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd—>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile (Finished 2nd in the 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.93 – 2017 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 

3) Gunnevera (12/1) – The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot and 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes winner. His sire Dialed In won the 2011 Holy Bull Stakes, the 2011 Florida Derby and then finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. His closer style of racing, late speed and the additional furlong he’ll get in the Kentucky Derby should make him more of a factor at the end than he was in the Florida Derby. Having finished third in the Florida Derby should keep him a bit under the radar on Derby Day. I would recommend putting a closer or two in your Superfecta bets and Gunnevera has the most upside of any of the closers in this class.

Career: 7 Starts 3-1-1-1   
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Dialed In (Finished 8th in 2011 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.51 (estimated) – 2017 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 972017 Fountain of Youth Stakes

4) Hence (15/1) – If you read my blog last week on Kentucky Derby sleepers, you will understand why I like this Steve Asmussen-trained colt. His 9 furlong time, speed figures and final 3 furlong fraction time in his last race put him squarely in the top 5 of this class. He probably won’t get this same respect from bettors or other national handicappers. But if you are looking for a Derby Day sleeper in what has been a chaotic and unpredictable Derby trail season thus far, Hence and Gunnevera are probably your two best choices. With the way that Conquest Mo Money ran in the Arkansas Derby, Hence’s 3 3/4th length win over Conquest Mo Money in the Sunland Derby looks better and better.

Career: 6 Starts 2-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  1st–>7th–>1st
Sire:  Street Boss
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Alfredo Juarez 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.10 – 2017 Sunland Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 932017 Sunland Derby

5) Girvin (10/1) – The Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby winner. His sire, Tale of Ekati, won the 2008 Wood Memorial and finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby. He has excellent closing speed. His Risen Star stakes time of 1:43.08 was 0.86 seconds faster than what Gun Runner accomplished the previous year (1:43.94). And Gun Runner finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. Girvin is probably not a huge threat to win the Kentucky Derby winner but he should be one to consider in your Derby Day exotic bets. 

Career: 4 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd>1st–>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati (Finished 4th in the 2008 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.77 – 2017 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  93 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes


Who’s in the Kentucky Derby? Girvin (150), Classic Empire (132), Gormley (125), Irap (113), Irish War Cry (110), Always Dreaming (100), Thunder Snow (100), Gunnevera (84), Practical Joke (74), J Boys Echo (63), State of Honor (62), Tapwrit (54), Malagacy (50), Hence (50), Fast and Accurate (50), McCraken (40), Battle of Midway (40), Patch (40), Battalion Runner (40) and Untrapped (34).

Lookin At Lee (32), Sonneteer (30) are on outside looking in and hoping for defections or scratches.  


Projected Kentucky Derby Odds 

Below are my early projected Kentucky Derby morning line odds that Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia will set.  Battaglia has gone on record stating that he saw enough from Classic Empire to make him the favorite.

Classic Empire (3/1), Always Dreaming (4/1), Irish War Cry (10/1), Girvin (10/1), Irap (12/1), Gunnevera (12/1), Gormley (12/1), McCraken (15/1), Hence (15/1), Patch (15/1), Malagacy (20/1), State of Honor (20/1), Thunder Snow (20/1), Practical Joke (20/1), Battalion Runner (20/1), Battle of Midway (30/1), Tapwrit (30/1), J Boys Echo (30/1), Cloud Computing (50/1) and Fast and Accurate (50/1).


On the docket…

My next blog will provide a more in-depth look at the projected Kentucky Derby field. I will have this out Sunday evening April 23rd.

–Michael