2017 Louisiana and Florida Derby Previews

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

March 29th 2017 – Updated April 1st 2017 12:30 PM EST

Another huge weekend on the Derby trail is coming up this Saturday with the Louisiana Derby and Florida Derby. Both races offer 170 Kentucky Derby points each.  Points are awarded as follows: 1st=100 points; 2nd=40 points; 3rd=20 points; 4th=10 points. Race favorites Gunnevera (64) and Girvin (50) have both clinched a spot in the 2017 Kentucky Derby field.  

Kentucky Derby Bubble Watch

The horses below are on the bubble. I have put the finish they will need this Saturday in order in order to get into the Kentucky Derby field.

Needs a 3rd place finish or better: State of Honor (22), Guest Suite (15)

Needs a 2nd place finish or better:  Three Rules (10), Local Hero (10), Talk Logistics (6) and any other horse in the Louisiana and Florida Derby fields that are not named above as they have scored zero Derby points.

Sub 1:50 Time

What you are really looking for in these two races is a winning time of less than 1:50 as seven out of the last ten Kentucky Derby winners posted a sub 1:50 in their final 9 furlong prep race. Nine out of ten had a sub 1:51 time.

Below are the starting fields and odds.

The Louisiana Derby  – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #11 at Fair Grounds – Post-Time: 5:21 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse//Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Patch – Gaffliaone/Pletcher – 9/2 
2. Hollywood Handsome  – Torres/Stewart -12/1
3. Local Hero  – Geroux/Asmussen – 7/2 
4. Senior Investment  – Hill/McPeek – 12/1 
5. Monaco – Maragh/Pletcher – 12/1 
6. Guest Suite – Albarado/Howard – 4/1 
7. Sorry Erik – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 30/1 
8. Girvin – Hernandez Jr/Sharp – 8/5
9. Hotfoot – Stevens/Van Berg – 30/1

Race Commentary: Girvin was the surprise winner of the Risen Star Stakes. I don’t think he is a fluke as he demonstrated excellent closing speed in that race. I like him again in this race. However, as we have seen thus far on the Derby trail, inconsistency has reigned supreme. Todd Pletcher’s has entered Patch and Monaco in the field. Overall, I feel that Patch is his best horse in this field. Pletcher has been a very hot trainer of late on the Derby trail. Patch’s sire Union Rags who won the 2012 Fountain of Youth Stakes and finished 3rd in the Florida Derby as a 3-year-old. I am not sure how good Patch is. However, I had the same questions about One Liner and Malagacy that were answered in the Southwest and Rebel Stakes.

My Prediction: 1) Girvin, 2) Patch, 3) Guest Suite, 4) Local Hero. However, I would probably key Girvin to win over Patch, Guest Suite, Local Hero and Senior Investment in a Superfecta bet. That is 8 over 1, 3, 4, 6 over 1, 3, 4, 6 over 1, 3, 4, 6.  A 50 cent bet of this type would cost $12.


The Florida Derby  – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #14 at Gulfstream Park – Post-Time: 5:40 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. State of Honor – Leparoux/Casse – 8/1  
2. Talk Logistics  – Bravo/Plesa – 30/1  
3. Charlie The Greek –  Reyes/Yanakov – 50/1 
4. Always Dreaming – Velazquez/Pletcher – 4/1 
5. Quinientos – Montalvo/Sanchez – 50/1
6. Coleman Rocky – Ortiz/Delgado – 30/1
7. Unbridled Holiday – Juarez/Biancone – 30/1 
8. Impressive Edge – Lanerie/Romans – 12/1 
9. Battalion Runner – Velazquez/Pletcher – 3/1  SCRATCHED
10. Three Rules – Saez/Pinchin – 8/1
11. Gunnevera – Castellano/Sano – 9/5

Race Commentary: Gunnevera is the most talented colt in this disappointing field. However, he will have to overcome the far outside post. Trainer Todd Pletcher will scratch either Always Dreaming or Battalion Runner and run one of them in another Derby prep race. The rumor mill says Battalion Runner was entered as a backup to Always Dreaming. However, I like Battalion Runner’s chances of winning better than Always Dreaming.

My Prediction:  With Battalion Runner getting scratched, I would key Gunnevera to win over State of Honor, Three Rules, Always Dreaming and Talk Logistics. That is #11 over, 1, 2, 4 and 10. A 50 cent bet of this type would cost $12. 


On the docket…

My next blog will include updated Kentucky Derby contender rankings which I will post by Monday evening.

–Michael

Oaklawn Park ‘Deja Vu All Over Again’ – Malagacy! Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

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Malagacy wins the Rebel Stakes

March 20th 2017

Just like it was with One Liner at Oaklawn Park in the Southwest Stakes last month, a lightly-raced Todd Pletcher-trained colt making the first two-turn start of his career, Malagacy, won the Rebel Stakes. Todd Pletcher now has three very promising Kentucky Derby contenders.

Overall, the Rebel Stakes (shown below) was sort of a weird race, the kind you usually get in a wet race but this happened on a dry, fast track. The race favorite, the Bob Baffert-trained American Anthem, finished 10th. And the 4th race favorite, Royal Mo, finished ahead of him in 9th place. Bob Baffert had won six out of the last seven Rebel Stakes races. 

And now the really weird part, the Keith Desormeaux-trained colt, Sonneteer at 112-1 odds, finished 2nd. Sonneteer has yet to break his maiden in 10 starts and he had never eclipsed the 80 Beyer Speed Figure mark in 9 previous starts. But he did in this one however. Of course, this surprise finish killed everyone’s exotic bets, right down to the Exacta. I feel your pain in Hot Springs (inside joke). And consequently, a 50 cent Trifecta paid out $943 and a 10 cent Superfecta paid out $1,138.28. Oaklawn didn’t publish $1 Superfecta winnings, which would have been over 11 grand, because nobody was stupid enough to make that bet.

At any rate, there’s really no clear-cut Derby favorite at this point. This Kentucky Derby class is very deep in talent but lacking consistency. If I were Unique Bella’s owner, I would give strong consideration for entering the filly in the Kentucky Derby instead of the Kentucky Oaks if she runs well in her next start.

Below are my updated Kentucky Derby contender rankings and I am writing them in pencil:

Top Six 2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) One Liner – The undefeated son of Into Mischief. His win in the Southwest Stakes earned him a triple digit 102 Beyer Speed Figure, tied for 2nd best of this class in their 3 year-old campaign. I wrote a Kentucky Derby profile on him for US Racing that you can read by clicking HERE. There are questions regarding how he will take to added distance but for now, he’s my #1 for now. Next Start:  Unknown but probably the Florida Derby on April 1st or the Wood Memorial on April 8th

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.85 2017 Southwest Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2017 Southwest Stakes

2) McCraken – The son of Ghostzapper is undefeated in 4 starts. One of his big wins was in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. So there are no concerns of how he will take to the track surface at Churchill Downs. Latest report from Ian Wilkes is that he has filled out and getting stronger, uh oh! Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.45 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes 

3) Classic Empire – The 2-year-old Eclipse champion disappointed in the Holy Bull Stakes with a third place finish. Later it was found that he was suffering from an undetected foot abscess. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE).  Classic Empire had a minor issue in a previous workout and refused to run. However, he ran 4 furlongs in 48.95 on March 12th at his Palm Meadows training center but refused to workout yesterday at Palm Meadows on March 19th. However, it gets more interesting. Today on March 20th, he breezed at an alternative Ocala Training Center. If Classic Empire is 100% physically and mentally healthy, he’s probably the most talented colt in this class. But I am dropping this “bad boy” back down a notch due to his most recent workout issue. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th. 

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in the 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

4) Malagacy – Another undefeated Pletcher colt in three starts. There were questions regarding how he would take to added distance but Todd Pletcher believed from training that he would handle the step up in distance well and he proved him right by winning the Rebel Stakes. I will have a Kentucky Derby profile of Malagacy on US Racing’s website in the next few days. Next Start: The Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 15th.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Shackleford (Finished 4th in the 2011 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Javier Castellano 
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.00 – 2017 Rebel Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – Gulfstream Park 2/12/17

5) Tapwrit – The Tampa Bay Derby winner. He finished 2nd to McCraken in the Sam F. Davis Stakes back in February. His pedigree suggests that he will like added distance. And he has a greater trainer in Todd Pletcher behind him. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd>1st
Sire:  Tapit (Finished 9th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.36 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby

6) Girvin – The Risen Star Stakes 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 Kentucky Derby winner but one to keep an eye on and on your early radar for your Derby Day exotic bets. Next Start: The Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on April 1st.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati (Finished 4th in the 2008 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.08 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes

On my radar:  J Boys Echo, Gunnevera, Practical Joke, Irish War Cry, Iliad, El Areeb and Unique Bella although I haven’t heard anything to suggest she will skip the Kentucky Oaks in favor of the Derby. 


Who’s in the Kentucky Derby? Gunnevera (64), Tapwrit (54), Malagacy (50), J Boys Echo (53), Girvin (50), Practical Joke (34), Untrapped (34) and Classic Empire (32). All have enough Derby points historically to earn a starting spot in the Run for the Roses. 

–Michael

 

Mastery brilliant in the San Felipe but off the Derby trail. Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby contender rankings

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

March 13th 2017

Mastery performed brilliantly Saturday in the San Felipe Stakes (shown below) with an excellent time of 1:42.28 and 105 Beyer Speed Figure. However, he suffered a condylar fracture to his left front leg and will have surgery today. These are repairable and a horse can usually come back racing depending upon the severity. If not, they will have to be retired to stud. At any rate, Mastery is off the Derby trail and if all goes well, we could see him back racing in the 2nd half of the season.

I am almost afraid to have a Kentucky Derby favorite. My early Kentucky Derby Not This Time had to be taken off the Derby trail and retired back in November due to a soft tissue injury to his right front leg. My next Derby favorite, Classic Empire, has had foot abscess and back issues. Now this unfortunate news for Mastery who I briefly had as my #1 after Classic Empire’s 3rd place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes and One Liner’s Southwest Stakes performance.

In the grand scheme of things, the 2017 Kentucky Derby is so wide open at this point that it might be best to draw names out of a hat. Injuries and inconsistency have kept every handicapper on their toes. This has been kind of a weird year and it appears that the best Derby contenders aren’t on the West Coast this year. We will have a better handle on who the Kentucky Derby favorite will be after the three major final prep races on April 8th. But for now, here are my Top Six Kentucky Derby contenders.

Top Six 2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) One Liner – The undefeated son of Into Mischief. His win in the Southwest Stakes earned him a triple digit 102 Beyer Speed Figure, tied for 2nd best of this class in their 3 year-old campaign. I wrote a Kentucky Derby profile on him for US Racing that you can read by clicking HERE. There are questions regarding how he will take to added distance but for now, he’s my #1 for now. Next Start:  Undecided at this point. Todd Pletcher may opt to run him in one more race before the Kentucky Derby. My guess is that it will be the Florida Derby on April 1st.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.85 2017 Southwest Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2017 Southwest Stakes

2) Classic Empire – The 2-year-old Eclipse champion disappointed in the Holy Bull Stakes with a third place finish. Later it was found that he was suffering from an undetected foot abscess. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE).  Classic Empire had a minor issue in a previous workout and refused to run. However, he ran 4 furlongs in 48.95 yesterday (March 12th) at his Palm Meadows training center. If Classic Empire is 100% healthy, he’s probably the most talented colt in this class. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th. 

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
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) McCraken – The son of Ghostzapper is undefeated in 4 starts. One of his big wins was in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. So there are no concerns of how he will take to the track surface at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.45 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes 

4) Tapwrit – The Tampa Bay Derby winner. He finished 2nd to McCraken in the Sam F. Davis Stakes back in February. His pedigree suggests that he will like added distance. And he has a greater trainer in Todd Pletcher behind him. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd>1st
Sire:  Tapit
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.36 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby

5) Girvin – The Risen Star Stakes 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 Kentucky Derby winner but one to keep an eye on and on your early radar for your Derby Day exotic bets. Next Start: The Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on April 1st.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.08 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes

6Royal Mo The winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. A son of Uncle Mo like his half-brother Mo Town and last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist. Same owner/trainer combination as Zenyatta (Moss/Shirreffs) and his Derby trail rival Gormley. Next Start: The Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 18th. 

Career: 4 Starts 2-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)

Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.48 – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94  – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes

On my radar:  J Boys Echo, Gunnevera, Practical Joke, Petrov, American Anthem, Uncontested, Irish War Cry, Iliad, Untrapped, Malagacy, El Areeb and Unique Bella although I haven’t heard anything to suggest she will skip the Kentucky Oaks in favor of the Derby. 


Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park – March 18th

Coming up this Saturday at Oaklawn Park is another key race on the Derby trail that carries a $900,000 purse and 85 Derby points. The Rebel has historically spawned some great champions the past 15 years. Below are the rumored entries for the Rebel Stakes with notable Beyer Speed Figures (BSF). Royal Mo or American Anthem will probably be the early morning line favorite.

Royal Mo – Victor Espinoza/John Shirreffs  – 94 BSF in Robert B. Lewis Stakes win
American Anthem – Mike Smith/Bob Baffert  – 94 BSF in Sham Stakes 2nd place finish
Petrov –  Jose Ortiz/Ron Moquett  – 96 BSF in Southwest Stakes 2nd place finish
Malagacy – Javier Castellano/Todd Pletcher – 95 BSF at Gulfstream Park win
Uncontested – Channing Hill/Wayne Catalano  – 96 BSF in Smarty Jones Stakes win
Untrapped – Ricardo Santana Jr./Steve Asmussen  – 92 BSF in Withers Stakes win
Lookin At Lee – ?/Steve Asmussen – 83 BSF in Breeders Cup Juvenile 4th place finish
Silver Dust – Corey Lanerie/Randy Morse  
Silver Bullion – Ramon Vazquez/D. Wayne Lukas 

Notable winners of the Rebel Stakes since 2004

  • American Pharoah (2015) – The 13th Triple Crown champion and the first Grand Slam Champion of thoroughbred racing.
  • Curlin (2007) – 2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders Cup Classic winner who went on to win the 2007 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion award, 2008 Eclipse Older Dirt Male Champion award and Horse of the Year honors in 2007 and 2008.
  • Smarty Jones (2004) – who went on to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the 2004 Eclipse Male 3 Year Old Champion award
  • Lookin At Lucky (2010) – 2010 Preakness Stakes winner who went on to win the 2010 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion award
  • Lawyer Ron (2006) – who won the 2007 Eclipse Older Dirt Male Champion award
  • Will Take Charge (2013) – 2013 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion

Other notable Rebel Stakes runners: Afleet Alex who finished 6th in 2005 Rebel Stakes went on to win the 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes and the 2005 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion award. Oxbow finished 2nd in the 2013 Rebel Stakes and went on to win the Preakness Stakes that year. Creator finished 3rd in last year’s Rebel Stakes went on to win the 2016 Belmont Stakes.


Who’s in the Kentucky Derby? Gunnevera (64), Tapwrit (54), J Boys Echo (53), Girvin (50) and Practical Joke (34). All have enough Derby points historically to earn a starting spot in the Run for the Roses.

–Michael

Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings for Early March

 

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

March 6th 2017

The 2017 Kentucky Derby is WIDE OPEN. Usually by this stage of the Derby trail season, I have a couple of favorites and one usually goes on to win the Kentucky Derby. There is a ton of talent in this year’s crop of Derby hopefuls but many have proven to be inconsistent or hampered by injuries thus far. 

My surefire early Kentucky Derby favorite, Not This Time, had to be retired due a soft tissue injury to his right front leg back in November. My next favorite, Classic Empire, has been hampered by a foot abscess that explained his lackluster performance in the Holy Bull Stakes. Now he is bothered by back issues and refused to run in his last workout at his Palm Meadows training center. This will set his training schedule back a bit but there is still plenty of time to get him healthy and entered in one of the final Derby prep races.

With as inconsistent as many of the 3 year-olds have been in my previous Top 10 Kentucky Derby contender rankings, I decided to limit my new rankings to the Top Six Derby contenders. As you can tell, I wasn’t blown away with the performances in the Gotham and Fountain of Youth Stakes. J Boys Echo received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 102 for his Gotham Stakes win despite a very pedestrian time of 1:46.34 for 8 1/2 furlongs. The 2nd slowest Gotham Stakes ever? 102 Beyer? To borrow a phrase from the character Spicoli in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High: TOTALLY confusing Mr. Hand. Perhaps on an off track but it was a dry, fast track?

Then Gunnevera received a preliminary 97 Beyer Speed Figure for his Fountain of Youth Stakes win, the same Beyer Speed Figure as Irish War Cry received in the Holy Bull Stakes, despite Gunnevera running the same 8 1/2 furlong distance on the same Gulfstream Park track–1.73 seconds slower. You’ve got to be kidding me Andrew Beyer. Expect both of these speed figures to be adjusted downward.

And to make the 2017 Kentucky Derby even more up in the air, my new #1 Kentucky Derby Contender, One Liner, doesn’t have a pedigree that suggests that he should be ranked #1. But sometimes with pedigrees, there is a paralysis in overanalysis. We will see how this plays out over the next 5 weeks. However, I have been scrambling ever since Not This Time was retired and Classic Empire’s foot abscess issues.

Top Six 2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) One Liner – The undefeated son of Into Mischief. His win in the Southwest Stakes earned him a triple digit 102 Beyer Speed Figure, the best of this class in their 3 year-old campaign. I wrote a Kentucky Derby profile on him for US Racing that you can read by clicking HERE. There are questions regarding how he will take to added distance but for now, he’s my #1 for now. Next Start:  Undecided at this point. Todd Pletcher may opt to run him in one more race before the Kentucky Derby. That is risky as he may not earn enough Derby points if he falters with a third place or worse finish.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.85 2017 Southwest Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2017 Southwest Stakes

2) Mastery His 8 1/2 furlong time of 1:41.56 in the Los Alamitos Futurity is the best so far from this class. Bob Baffert is very high on this colt.  Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Candy Ride
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.562016 Los Alamitos Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/22/16

3) McCraken – The son of Ghostzapper is undefeated in 4 starts. One of his big wins was in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. So there are no concerns of how he will take to the track surface at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.45 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes 

4) Classic Empire – The 2-year-old Eclipse champion disappointed in the Holy Bull Stakes with a third place finish. Later it was found that he was suffering from an undetected foot abscess. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE).  He is tied with One Liner for the highest Beyer Speed Figure (102) in this class for races greater than 8 furlongs. Next Start: Unknown due to his recent back issues. However, trainer Mark Casse is still hopeful of entering him in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 8th. If this doesn’t pan out, he still has the Arkansas Derby the following Saturday.

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
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

5) Girvin – The Risen Star Stakes 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 Kentucky Derby winner but one to keep an eye on and on your early radar for your Derby Day exotic bets. Next Start: The Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on April 1st.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.08 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes

6Royal Mo The winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. A son of Uncle Mo like his half-brother Mo Town. Same owner/trainer combination as Zenyatta (Moss/Shirreffs) and his Derby trail rival Gormley. Next Start: The Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 18th. 

Career: 4 Starts 2-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)

Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.48 – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93  – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes


Who’s in the Kentucky Derby? Gunnevera (64), J Boys Echo (53), Girvin (50) and Practical Joke (34). All have enough Derby points historically to earn a starting spot in the Run for the Roses.

–Michael