Run for the Roses

Run for the RosesBy Ben Vining

2017 Kentucky Derby Details
Where: Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky
Post Time: Saturday, May 6, at 6:34 p.m. ET
Watch: NBC
Sound the bugle because here they come twenty derby horses are ready to run. The 143rd Kentucky Derby is upon us and life is grand it is time to get the past performances out and make a stand. Alright enough rhyming already and let us get down to business. This year’s derby is as wide open as it has been in a few years and that makes handicapping this race exciting. I have changed my derby pick about five times, but I have finally settled on one. You can only have one derby horse and at the end I will share my pick with you after I outline the twenty runners and what I expect from them. I will start from the rail and work my way outside.  

1. Lookin at Lee(20-1)- Let’s take a look at this runner and you have to look real hard because he will be the one coming from the back. The type of runner that will give us a thrill and let then let us down most of the time. Lanerie will get the mount and have the task to deal with the rail and all the horses coming down on him going into the first turn. He should drop way out of it early and see what he has late.

2. Thunder Snow(20-1)- an intriguing horse from Ireland who won his way here by winning the UAE derby. These horses have failed to run well on derby day, but with an event wide open as this one I give this one a chance. He will sit about six or seven horses deep early on and try to last late. Will he bring the thunder?

3. Fast and Accurate(50-1)- Trainer Mike Maker has said that he will send this horse straight to the lead, but to be accurate this horse is not that fast. He won the worst prep of all, The Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, and won it in a slow time. In a wide open race I do not think this one has a shot.  

4. Untrapped(30-1)- Failed to win any of the prep races for the derby and I am uncertain he can run a mile and a quarter. Trainer Steve Asmussen is pulling the blinkers off of this runner and if he doesn’t get trapped in the pack maybe he can stay the course and pick up some pieces.  

5. Always Dreaming(5-1)- Todd Pletcher is dreaming of another derby victory with this one. Bodemeister, who finished second in the KY Derby, is the sire of this one who I give a big shot. After watching the replays there were not a lot of runners who wowed me, but this one did. He won the Florida Derby impressively and had some great works leading into this race. Always Dreaming has been getting worked up in the mornings during routine gallops however and I question once he gets in front of 150 thousand fans if he will act up and use a lot of that energy.

6. State of Honor(30-1)- Another runner who did not win a prep race, but in my opinion looks to have a good one in him. The races he lost he lost to a horse that was just better that day, but State of Honor showed up and ran well every time. Probably the most consistent of the runners in this field and I honor the state trainer Mark Casse has him in. Great horse to use in the wagering.  

7. Girvin(15-1)- The name means small rough one and I am not sure how small he is, but I do know he is a rough one and a true grinder. Girvin comes in having won back to back preps in Louisiana the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby. He has been dealing with a quarter crack and had to miss a week of training for treatment. Girvin drew a good post and should settle into a nice spot when the gates open. Money Mike Smith gets the mount, but my money will be going elsewhere.  

8. Hence(15-1)- A lot of people love this horse and from what I am hearing he has made a good appearance on the track this week. Hence won the Sunland Derby which has been a key race this prep season, but I am a skeptic. The field was bunched tight and Hence was able to pass them all quickly and won at nice odds. He will not get that kind of trip in this race, but if he is good enough he will be there late. I am not sure he is good enough hence I will not be betting him.  

9. Irap(20-1)- Bluegrass winner at 31-1 odds and another runner from the Sunland Derby. I was not shocked that he won the Bluegrass as I had money on him to win, but I will not be betting him to win the KY Derby. Irap is quick and had a pace advantage in the Bluegrass and I question if the other horses were cranked enough to win as most were prepping for the derby. Will have a chance to be near or on the lead early and if he is improving like most say he is, he will run a big race at Churchill. I am trying to wrap my head around this one and I say he has a good shot at being in the mix.

10. Gunnevera(15-1)- Another horse who will potentially provide some excitement for his fans. Gunnevera loves to drop out of it and come flying late to win which he has pulled off four times in nine races. Reports are showing that he is not training well and has not made a good appearance this week and for that reason I will not be using him.  

11. Battle of Midway(30-1)- Our first California horse, one who will have to battle from the middle with his eleven post. Jerry Hollendorfer is a good trainer, but I do not think Battle of Midway is a top notch horse. He will be up close early and try to hang on late, but I think this is a battle he will lose. The California horses are usually the top horses in the race, but this year it is a different story.

12. Sonneteer(50-1)- The lone maiden in the race which means he has not won. O for ten, but he may provide some excitement down the stretch. This runner ran in the Arkansas Derby with Lookin at Lee and they were both closing from way out of it. As far as times go Sonneteer finished up faster, but Lookin at Lee was all over the place. If you like Lookin at Lee then you should also like Sonneteer. I do not like either to win, but it is possible Sonneteer can crack the top four.

13. J Boys Echo(20-1)- Dale Romans the trainer of this one usually has his horses ready for the big stage and J Boys Echo could be sitting on a big effort. His win in the Gotham at Aqueduct was pace aided, and his following race in the Bluegrass he was against the pace. If Romans has him ready he might surprise some people. He certainly has the pedigree to win.

14. Classic Empire(4-1)- This year’s morning line favorite and last year’s two year old champ. Mark Casse has some nice runners this year and this is probably his best horse. The sire is Pioneerof the Nile who you may have heard of. He is the sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and he himself finished second in the derby to the famous Mine That Bird. Classic Empire will sit about midpack in this one and close. Will he be good enough or did he use too much energy winning the Arkansas Derby three weeks ago? He may just run a classic for the Casse empire, but he is not my pick to win.

15. McCraken(5-1)- Let’s get crackin with this local favorite. Local trainer, local jockey, local horse, McCraken has the homefield advantage in this race. Three for three at Churchill Downs and has only one loss to his resume, but it was his last race. This runner missed some time after his impressive Sam F. Davis win down at Tampa Bay Downs and came back to run third in the Bluegrass. If you watch his race he had a nice gallop out and probably was not a hundred percent as the Kentucky Derby is the goal. The clockers at the track say he is training beautifully leading into the race. McCraken could very well be your winner, but I am going to take a stand.

16. Tapwrit(20-1)- Another Todd Pletcher runner with a shot in here. Tapwrit is another horse that wowed me when I watched the Tampa Bay Derby replay, but he raced a clunker in the Bluegrass. I feel he was using the Bluegrass as a glorified workout and will be ready when the gates open for the Kentucky Derby. It is hard to deny Pletcher’s 1-46 Derby record, but he has a good shot to win this year. Tapwrit is a major player.

17. Irish War Cry(6-1)- In my opinion Irish War Cry is the best horse in the race. He has a great pedigree (sired by Curlin) and a great trainer (Graham Motion). IWC is the only horse in the race with two triple digit Beyer Speed figures and both races were impressive. I love this horse, but he does have that one glitch to his resume where he did not run well in sandwiched between the good races. I like consistency and I am going to play against this one on top and hope I am not crying later.

18. Gormley(15-1)- This year’s Santa Anita Derby winner and the other California horse. The Santa Anita Derby was the fourth slowest in its history and therefore Gormley might be a little on the slow side. You cannot deny his desire to win as he has won four out of six races. I will play against this one, but he might be able to sneak into the exotics.

19. Practical Joke(20-1)- A grinder who has not won a race this year, but has been consistent. Chad Brown is good at getting his horses’ ready third start after a layoff and I think this runner is sitting on a giant race. Joel Rosario is the jockey and he has won a derby before and I think he has a real shot at winning this year’s Kentucky Derby. I have to pick a Derby horse and this is not a practical joke, but this year my horse is 20-1 ML long shot Practical Joke.  

20. Patch(30-1)- Finally we get the outside horse the horse that when the gates open will not see any of the other runners because he has no left eye. The third Pletcher runner in the field has a bad draw for this race and I am not big on this runner to begin with. He has only three career starts with a lone victory. This runner is slow and if he had two eyes I would still think he is slow.  


My Derby Horse is Practical Joke.  

Horses with best chance to win include Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, McCraken, Tapwrit, Irish War Cry.  

Horses I will throw out: Fast and Accurate, Girvin, Battle of Midway, Patch, Gunnevera


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