Kentucky Derby 143 Preview
posted May 03 2017, 01:04PM
story by Pat Infante
posted in All Sports, Betting

Preview of the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby.

Follow me on Twitter @PInfante97




 Lookin At Lee draws the dreaded 1 post but is a horse that still has a chance to finish in the superfecta at long odds. He seems to love the distance. He looks the type that would love to run in a marathon. He had a wild closing trip trying to find a path thru in the Arkansas Derby and eventually finished 3rd. Running his final 3/8ths in 37 ⅕ seconds. Just seems the type that as the races get longer he will get better.


 Thunder Snow is the Dubai shipper and winner of the UAE Derby. It's really tough handicapping these horses. They haven't raced any of the other derby horses thus far. They have run different differences. They use the damn metric system and they time the races differently. The good news is none of these shippers have ever been a factor to landing in the money so it hasn’t of mattered. He seems to be a decent horse based on beyer numbers and maybe this is the year a shipper can be a factor but until that happens and I have to rip up my tickets because of an international horse i'm just going to keep tossing them.


 Fast and Accurate comes into the derby as a major long shot after winning the Spiral Stakes on March 25th at Turfway Park. The field in the Spiral left a lot to be desired and the closing fractions ran by Fast and Accurate were very slow. I think he is really over matched in this race but he has been stationed at Churchill since the beginning of April and has had a couple good works over the track.


 Untrapped is an easy toss. Finished 6 in the Arkansas Derby beaten by 5 lengths after entering the stretch less than 2 behind the lead. Losing ground in the stretch seems to be a common theme with him which only tells me he won’t be able to handle the extra distance. His pedigree shows questions marks and his performances seem to confirm.


 Always Dreaming is the impressive, Todd Pletcher trained, winner of the Florida Derby. He is the son of 2012 Kentucky Derby second place finisher Bodemeister. Always Dreaming has good tactical speed to position himself well and sit off the pace and make his move around the turn for home, which is the classic derby winning move. He did close the Florida Derby with some fast fractions running the last ⅜ in 36 ⅖ seconds. I do see a couple of things in his past performances that one could make a case against him with. First, in the Florida Derby all the front end speed held as 4 of the 5 top finishers were in the front the whole way around. Second, outside of the Florida Derby the other Beyers he ran really were not overly impressive 71, 85, 88, and 59. Finally, both his other wins were very slow races where he got to set slow fractions vs sub par competition and take them all the way around and win. Is he a horse peaking at the right time? Maybe, and I always thought Todd Pletcher is one of those trainers that at some point we’d blink and he would have multiple Kentucky Derby wins. At the same time, I see Always Dreaming as very vulnerable. He did not draw a great post with a few speed horse outside of him, he could easily get pinned in traffic. I do think he is the type of horse that should he win the Derby, he should handle the Preakness with ease and set us up for an exciting Belmont.


 State Of Honor is one of the largest horses in the field and could play a role in the pace of the race as he likes to be on or near the lead. He last ran 2nd in the Florida Derby. He has 10 starts under his belt but only one win although he rides a 6 race streak of finishing in the money. He hangs tough in these races but he hasn’t put many other derby horses behind him in his 10 races. His beyers aren't anything special with his peak at a 91. Could he hang on to get a piece of the super? Sure, but that can be said for most of this field as there is a lot of similar horses in this crop.  


 Girvin is a horse that is somewhat overlooked considering his resume. He comes to Kentucky off back to back wins the latest being the Louisiana Derby. His regular jockey chooses to ride McCraken over him but in return he picks up Mike Smith who is one of the most highly regarded in the world right now. He is lightly raced having run only 4 previous times and the horses who ran in the Louisiana prep season certainly weren’t the best of competition. The beyers won’t blow you away but he did piece together two graded stakes wins coming into this race and not much of the field can say that. If you want to take a results driven shot on a horse you may get decent odds on he might be your pick. I kind of think he is what he is; a decent horse that was the best of a weak crop of horses in Louisiana. Worth noting he is also nursing a quarter crack


 Hence is a wonderfully bred horse who took a big step forward and punched his ticket to Kentucky by winning the Sunland Derby. At the time it looked like he did not beat the greatest of fields in the Sunland Derby but he did run the race in 1:47 ⅕ only ⅘ of a second off the track record and was drawing away from the field at the finish. As prep season continued on, this race actually proved to be a strong race considering Irap came back and won the Bluegrass Stakes, Conquest Mo Money finished 2nd in the Arkansas Derby, and Hedge Fund came back and finished 2nd in the Illinois Derby.  In Hence’s previous start in the Southwest Stakes on February 20th, he was no match for the field finishing 7th and 13 lengths behind the winner One Liner. That don’t really seem to bother me though because these are 3 year old horses that can improve at any time.  All in all I feel like he is a horse peaking at the right time. I absolutely love the move he made in the Sunland Derby. He is likely to be the ‘wise guy’ horse of the race and he could not of drawn a better post position.


 Irap is the upset maiden winner of the Bluegrass Stakes. The Bluegrass turned out to be a really odd race and honestly I don’t know what to make of it. It was supposed to be a showdown between McCraken and Tapwrit and neither seemed to live up to expectations. The race had no pace at all and Irap comes home holding off Practical Joke to win at 31-1. Looking back at Irap, in his previous start in the Sunland Derby on March 26th he really flattened out down the stretch finishing 8 lengths behind the winner. It’s noteworthy that Irap has never finished worse than 4th in any of his 8 career races. Looking back to the Cash Call Futurity he did run within 5 lengths of Mastery, who was by far the best horse of this crop and likely easy derby winner had he not gotten hurt after the San Felipe Stakes. Mastery’s San Felipe was the most dominate performance of any horse this prep season and Irap being 5 lengths off of him in the Cash Call was the closest any horse has been to him in a two turn race. Another positive for Irap is he seems to really have filled out his frame if you look at him toward the beginning of the year and then look at him at the Bluegrass, he’s just a bigger horse. He is one of the great puzzles to solve in handicapping this derby as the opinions on him vary maybe more than any horse in the field. 


 Gunnevera is a horse that was purchased for just $15,000 and has already earned over a million dollars. He is the son of 2011 Florida Derby winner and Kentucky Derby favorite Dialed In. Like father like son, Gunnevera comes closing hard with big swooping strides like he is shot out of a cannon. He comes into the derby off a 3rd place finish in the Florida Derby, a race that I consider sneaky good. In that race he was taken 12 lengths back down the backstretch and he did make his move to finish 3rd but the speed on the front end held and 4 of the top 5 finishers were up front the entire race. If you want to fully see him close like a missile there are 3 races to look at; The Fountain Of Youth Stakes on March 4th, The Delta Jackpot on November 19th, and The Saratoga Special run all the way back on August 14th. In the Saratoga Special it was only a 6 ½ furlong sprint and he closed on a horse that looks like he is going to be a really good sprinter named Recruiting Ready. I love Gunnevera’s closing kick, it's the kind of move that hits the board in the derby time and time again. He has a really nice pedigree and I have no concerns with him wanting to go the distance. Now, like with any closer you have to worry about his trip and overall traffic problems that he can run into but this is a horse I feel good about.


 Battle Of Midway is figured to play into the early pace scenario. He comes out of what looks like a rare weak crop of California horses. Seems to be a consistently average horse that appears to be distance challenged. He did hold on to grab second to Gormley in the Santa Anita derby after setting a fast pace but ran his final ⅜ in 40 ⅕ seconds, in a perfect world you want to see your derby horse coming home in under 38 flat. He is out of a Raise A Native sire line that has produced 10 of the 17 derby winners this century. But you can find a positive in all these horses as these are the 20 best horses of the 20,000 born in 2014.


 Sonneteer is a maiden, winless in 10 starts. There have only been 3 maidens to win the Kentucky Derby, Buchanan (1884), Sir Barton (1919) and Brokers Tip (1933). He is a horse with an outstanding closing kick. He ran the fastest final ⅛ of a mile of any of the contenders in their final prep closing in an eye popping 11 ⅘ seconds in his 4th place finish in the Arkansas Derby. I'd expect him to be flying late passing tired horses.


 J Boys Echo is coming off a 4th place finish in the Bluegrass Stakes and came back down to earth after a breakout win in his previous start in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. He did have a rough trip in the Bluegrass with a rough jump out of the gate and kept getting jammed in traffic. To some extent traffic problems are always a possible problem for horses that are closers and in the Derby with 20 horses it don’t get much easier. In his Gotham win he exploded down the stretch with a visually impressive win. He ran a big 102 beyer to put himself on the map but if we are going to give him somewhat of an excuse for his trip in the Bluegrass we also must mention the perfect setup he got in the Gotham. After a speed duel broke out he got to comfortably sit about 6 lengths back with no one around him til it was time for the front to run out of gas and he could explode by them. Take away the potential he flashed in the Gotham and you have an average horse relatively speaking.


 Classic Empire is last year’s Eclipse award winning 2 year old champion and half brother to Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah. He capped his impressive 2 year old season winning the Breeders Cup Juvenile back on November 5th. Since then he has had quite an eventful winter only to come full circle and win the Arkansas Derby in what was an overall exciting and fantastic horse race. His eventful winter included, losing by 8 lengths to Irish War Cry in the Holy Bull Stakes on February 4th, then it was discovered that he had a foot problem, then a back problem, and on two occasions he just flat out refused to work out. That is not the only time he had an erratic behavior pattern back in September in the Hopeful Stakes he unseated his jockey right out of the gate of the race. How will he react to 170,000 screaming fans in Kentucky? As far as his racing ability when he is on, he is on. A legit horse with a fantastic pedigree that flashes real star potential if he can keep his head together.


 McCraken is the horse for the course as he has won 3 races at Churchill Downs as a 2 year old. His final prep was a disappointing third place finish in the Bluegrass Stakes. In the Bluegrass he just seemed to lack that closing kick that we got used to seeing with him in his 4 previous races which were all late running wins. A lot of people tend to think he wasn't cranked fully for the Bluegrass but I just don’t know how much I believe in that theory. If I want to give him a mulligan I’d rather point to the fact that the track just didn't play to his style on that day as all 3 of the expected closers seemed to disappoint in an odd race that had no pace. There has been a lot of talk about how his trainer Ian Wilks trains to peak on derby day, but I just don’t know if I buy those theories. Why wouldn’t he want to win a million dollar race when it only gets much harder in Kentucky? He was a Bluegrass Stakes win away from being the Derby favorite so now the opportunity is there to get a much nicer price on a horse that before the Bluegrass was considered by many the top of the crop.


 Tapwrit was the breakout star of the Tampa Bay prep season. He ran 2 good races there finishing 2nd to McCraken in the Sam F Davis on February 11th, then he won the Tampa Bay Derby exactly one month later and was just shy of the track record. From there he went into the Bluegrass and inexplicably tanked finishing 5th and was a complete non factor. Will he bounce back in the Kentucky Derby or was he a product of the quirky Tampa surface that always seems to never translate form good or bad to other tracks?


 Irish War Cry has a very interesting story. He’s a New Jersey-bred, hailing from a state that has not produced a Kentucky Derby winner in 83 years. His breeder, Isabelle de Tomaso, is the daughter of Amory Haskell, the man who founded the modern Monmouth Park back in 1946. Even though he was bred in Jersey, don’t think he doesn’t have a strong pedigree. His sire is Curlin who sired last year’s Preakness and Haskell winner, Exaggerator. He is from a Raise A Native sire line that has produced 10 Kentucky Derby winners this century. The female side of his pedigree is equally as impressive as he carries Buckpasser in his X chromosome which has been linked to stamina. He is a horse that bursted onto the scene upsetting 2 year old champion Classic Empire in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 4th. Then he followed that up with an unexplainable 21 length loss in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes on March 4th. He then ships to Aqueduct for the Wood Memorial where he wins running a strong race where he showed he was able to sit off the pace and make the classic type derby winning move by exploding down the stretch. Previously they had a really hard time getting this horse to sit off the lead. It was good for his derby outlook to show he was able to run that type of race. It is also a plus that all the front running speed horses drew to his inside which means as long as he don’t get hung too wide entering the first turn he could set himself up to rate in a optimal position. I must admit I’m kind of rooting for him as a fellow Jersey bred. Playing horses based on a personal rooting interest is not the greatest thing for a gambler but all that aside it's clear he is a legit horse.


 Gormley is the winner of the Santa Anita Derby. He is a horse I have kind of gone back and forth with all winter. In his Santa Anita Derby win they kind of changed his running style letting him sit back a little further and make a closing run which obviously seemed to work. In his previous races he either sat on the pace or right off of it. He has 4 wins in 6 lifetime start but the field he beat in his 4 wins really left something to be desired. In the San Felipe Stakes he tried to sit right off of the freak of nature known as Mastery only to get burned out and finish 4th and more than 12 lengths behind. In the Breeders Cup Juvenile where he ran against good competition he was basically a non factor. He may benefit from the change in style, and he’s a nice horse,  but I think he could be outclassed in this race. Problem is that could've also been said about overlooked Santa Anita Derby winner and eventual Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another in 2012. I expect Gormley to go off at roughly the same odds as I’ll Have Another at 15-1.


 Practical Joke has a pedigree that suggest he can’t get the distance and because of that it has been since his 2 year old campaign that we’ve all been waiting for him to fall by the waste side of the derby trail. However, as the races keep getting longer, all that he has done is continue to finish in the money. In his 6 career races he has 3 wins, 2 places, and a show. He is a gutsy horse that keeps performing better than his pedigree suggest he should. He comes into the Derby off a 2nd place finish in the Bluegrass Stakes. A race in which he proved he could get a mile and an eighth with out losing ground in the stretch but at the same time he could not pass Irap, a maiden that came home in 13 flat in his last 8th of a mile. On March 4th he made his first start as a 3 year old and finished second in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes run at a mile and a sixteenth. So as the races get longer he consistently runs good races. Practical Joke is a physically imposing muscled colt, he is nimble and able to keep himself out of traffic. One thing that is being overlooked is the fact that there is an impressive list of horses that have all finished behind Practical Joke, those name include the likes of McCraken, Irish War Cry, Tapwrit, J Boys Echo, and Gormley. I expect him to run a good race and will use him underneath on exotic tickets and if the distance concerns finally come to fruition, so be it. I don’t want to be the guy at the roulette table that keeps betting on red because black keeps coming out only to lose all my chips.


 Patch is the lightly raced and somewhat overlooked other Todd Pletcher horse is the race.  He comes into the Derby with only 3 races under his belt. The last being his second place finish in the Louisiana Derby.  Patch is a one eyed warrior who lost an eye in a training accident. He is a horse that will likely be one of the longest shots on the board but a horse that I expect to outrun his odds. He has a good pedigree to suggest he will like the distance and is the type of horse to throw on the back end of your exotic tickets if you want to take a shot at a price.


Will Outrun Their Odds


There are a couple of horses that will go off at long odds that I like and I feel have a chance to finish significantly higher than their odds would suggest. First horse I like is IRAP. I feel he is flying under the radar considering he won one of the big 6 preps. Everytime you see this horse he just seems to get bigger and bigger. He has tactical speed to navigate a good trip and the pedigree to suggest he can handle the distance. Secondly, although I didn't like his final workout,  PATCH has the pedigree and ran a sub 38 second final ⅜ of his final prep to suggest he can improve in the derby and he should go off in the 40-1 range. PRACTICAL JOKE and STATE OF HONOR have the pace figures that suggest they are strong plays as exotics bombers. Finally, SONNETEER and LOOKIN AT LEE are couple of closers out of the Arkansas Derby could be running late at around 30-1.


A Very Live Longshot


HENCE has a bunch of reasons that I like him as a long shot. He has a maintain or improve pattern to his figures. He's shown finishing ability at 9F and did so with a lot of length to his stride and he didn't do it by "plodding" along, which suggests he could be one of the ones better suited for 10F. He has a foundation having run in 4 races that were more than a mile in length. He has experience in big fields with 5 of his 6 career races featuring field sizes of 10+. He won his last race which is always a plus. His speed figures, while maybe on the shorter side overall, certainly make him playable at a price.


The WIN Bet

First off let me say Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, and Irish War Cry all are very capable of winning this race but at the odds I expect them to go off at its just not a great bet to make. If you hold a futures ticket on Always Dreaming at 42-1 from future pool 2 or on Irish War Cry (pats self on back) at 26-1 from pool 1 or 2 then bravo, you did it right. But if you aren't one of the lucky ones and if one of those three is your horse you are going to have to use them in your exactas, trifectas, and supers. For me the derby is a pari-mutuel betting race anyway looking for that huge score. If you want 5-1 or 10-1 or whatever you can get that on any random Tuesday at your local race track. 

Now lets talk about a straight WIN bet. A week ago if I was to write this I would of picked Gunnevera, however as the week has progressed I just can’t ignore a horse that has had such glowing reports on how he has looked since settling in at Churchill. That horse is MCCRAKEN. This horse absolutely loves Churchill. He is 3-3 over the surface and everyone on the grounds at Chruchill echo the same sentiment, that he is an absolutely happy horse loving every second of training over the track. He is essentially playing the Super Bowl on his home field. Let's all remember had he won the Bluegrass Stakes he would be the undefeated favorite of the race with odds at about 3-1. I think the 5-1 morning line is preposterous and I figure he goes off between 9 and 12 to 1 and that is where i’ll take my shot. The added bonus of that bet is since he is a closer when they turn for home you can stand up and scream RELEASE THE MCCRAKEN!!!... and thats just fun... Enjoy the day and best of luck everyone!


My Favorite Trifecta Ticket

$1 cost = $120

5 Always Dreaming, 8 Hence, 9 Irap, 17 Irish War Cry W/ 5 Always Dreaming, 8 Hence, 9 Irap, 10 Gunnevera, 14 Classic Empire, 15 McCraken, 17 Irish War Cry W/ 5 Always Dreaming, 8 Hence, 9 Irap, 10 Gunnevera, 14 Classic Empire, 15 McCraken, 17 Irish War Cry.

Swinging for the fences with Hence and Irap but thats what this race is for. If one of them land on top or two of them finish in the top 3 your cashing a 4 figure ticket.


Bombs Away Exactas

$1 Exacta Box = $30

1 Looking At Lee, 6 State of Honor, 8 Hence, 9, Irap, 19 Practical Joke, 20 Patch

$1 Exacta Box = $20

1 Lookin At Lee, 9 Irap, 10 Gunnevera, 14 Classic Empire, 16 Tapwrit

Again swinging for the fences with these but thats what this race is for who cares if you lose and the exacta paid 30.80 or 72.60. Cash BIG tickets! Play for 2009, 2005, 2002, 2001 type payouts.


$1 Superfecta

17 Irish War Cry w/ 10 Gunnevera w/ 14 Classic Empire w/ 12 Sonneteer


Life Changing $1 Superfecta

20 Patch w/ 8 Hence, w/ 6 State of Honor w/ 17 Irish War Cry

$1 for a shot at close to a million dollar pay off should that combo hit. 


Follow me on Twitter @PInfante97

Pat Infante
I am from the Jersey Shore. Not the TV show, the actual geographical area. I have been in the car business for over 18 years. Being in the car busines...

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