Kentucky Derby 2017 Picks And Analysis

PACE

#17 IRISH WAR CRY (Curlin/ Polish Numbers) 6-1

 101 Beyer, 339 Tomlinson 

Pros: The only runner in the field to duplicate triple digit Brisnet Speed Figures around two turns, tactical type also will enter this boasting the highest last out Beyer for his Wood Memorial win (101), the only triple digit final prep Beyer. He rated off the pace nicely to win that race with authority over a tiring track. Son of Curlin is only three generations removed from the Mr. Prospector sire line and should have no trouble with the distance. His Tomlinson rating is the second highest in the field and is the BRIS Prime Power selection.

Cons: In between his impressive Holy Bull and Wood Memorial scores, he faded badly without excuse when setting the pace in the Fountain of Youth, so there appear to be some consistency questions here. Although the track was tiring at Aqueduct and his stretch move looked visually impressive, the fractions leave something to be desired, as he came home slowly (:39.03, 13.14), posting a meager Bris Late Pace figure of 80.

Conclusion: After bouncing back so strongly in the Wood Memorial, we are inclined to draw a line through his puzzling Fountain of Youth dud, an effort that was too bad to be considered believable when compared to his form elsewhere. He has won all of his other four career races, and has to be considered a contender for the win here.

His tactical speed should give him an edge in a race where closers must worry about traffic trouble in such a large field, while the pace on paper isn’t shaping up to be as hot as it typically is. We are partial to Curlin colts, as they tend to improve steadily into their three year old seasons, so a step forward here would be no surprise. Usable on top.

#5 ALWAYS DREAMING (Bodemeister/ In Excess) 5-1

97 Beyer, 291 Tomlinson

Pros: Promising Pletcher trainee decimated the Florida Derby field in his fifth career start, winning in a blazing 1:47.2, the fastest 9f prep time of this group and the fastest in that race since 1978. The track was surely playing fast that day, as evidenced by the relatively light Beyer (97) attributed to it, but what was most impressive was how he relaxed early and exploded through the stretch, coming home in a commanding :36.52 and :12.53 after racing near the lead. He is the only colt with two wins at 9f in this field, having won an allowance before his last, and descends from the Mr. Prospector sire line from a Derby runner-up sire, one of just two in this field.  He turned in an eye-popping work at Churchill, breezing 5f in :59.2 and galloping out like a monster.

Cons: He has burst onto the scene rather quickly, having just broken his maiden in January in his third attempt, so it is fair to wonder if a big bounce is coming off his last effort over a track that may not play quite as kindly to his style. He has finished races well on paper, but with added pressure up front, the bottom of his pedigree gives the indication that he could have some trouble going this far. Damsire In Excess shows an average winning distance (AWD) of 6.1 among his progeny, which is a field-low number, although he does hold the 10f record at Belmont Park, but apparently has not been able transfer this stamina to his grandchildren. The lowest Damsire AWD ever for a Derby winner is 6.3, and that was the other-worldly American Pharoah. Additionally, his Dosage profile of 5.00 is tied for the worst in the field. And, we’d be remiss not to point out that for all his success, Pletcher has just one Derby win over his 16 years of starters.

Conclusion: While we aren’t in love with this post draw, this colt has been red hot since being transferred to the Pletcher barn and figures vie for favoritism. He looks to be sitting on unlimited potential as he attempts to avenge his sire’s narrow defeat in this race by utilizing similar tactics. He’s a logical win contender that should be used defensively in multi-race wagers and exactas, although this space will take a stand against him on the top line in narrower spots like the trifecta, and we don’t consider him to provide value as an outright bet. The combination of his likelihood to bounce, his relative lack of seasoning and potentially distance-challenged pedigree give some reason for concern at these odds.

#18 GORMLEY (Malibu Moon/ Bernstein) 15-1

90 Beyer, 265 Tomlinson

Pros: Showed a new dimension in his last when sitting a stalking trip behind a quick pace and overtaking the pacesetters in the stretch to win the Santa Anita Derby. That was a step forward from his previous race, when he led and faded badly at a shorter distance in the San Felipe. He has a solid two year old foundation underneath him, showing a Grade I win at 8.5f.

Cons: Let’s face it- the Santa Anita Derby was a pretty weak race, and the winning Beyer of 90 he received for it seems to confirm that suspicion. While he did pass several runners in the stretch, he didn’t do so especially quickly, coming home in :39.49 and :13.51, which seems to indicate he was passing tired horses.

Conclusion: If he can settle off the pace again like last time, a case could be made to use him underneath, but we will side with the colts who have shown better speed and more consistent ability to finish races.

#6 STATE OF HONOR (To Honor And Serve/ Elusive Quality) 30-1

90 Beyer, 240 Tomlinson

Pros: His grinding 2nd place finish in the Florida Derby was his best effort to date, as he showed some ability to relax off the pace and improve position in the stretch. Consistent type has hit the board in 7 of 10 starts and is plenty experienced.

Cons: Finding the winners circle hasn’t been easy, having just a single maiden win to his credit, and even that came in his third try, so this looks like an ambitious spot from a class standpoint. Even more concerning is whether he truly wants to run this far. He has either lost ground or position in the stretch in each of his six starts around two turns.

Conclusion: If he’s losing ground at the end of 8.5 and 9f races and figures to see a more contested pace here from an inside post at a longer distance, it is hard to make a compelling argument to support him.

#11 BATTLE OF MIDWAY (Smart Strike/ Concerto) 30-1

88 Beyer, 310 Tomlinson

Pros: Was involved in a rather torrid pace but held on gamely to finish 2nd in the Santa Anita Derby. He is a grandson of Mr. Prospector, which makes him closest in proximity in this field to the sire line that has won 13 of the last 25 editions of this race.

Cons: Unraced at two, he will have the dreaded Apollo curse to contend with, as no colt has won this race without a start in his juvenile season since 1882. As a result, he comes into this lightly raced having made only four career starts. His speed figures are well below the cut here and the Santa Anita Derby come home times are as well. The BRIS Late Pace figure he earned in that race (71) is the lowest in the field for a final prep on dirt.

Conclusion: Someday the Apollo curse will be broken, but this one would need to take a considerable step forward to even be a factor. A finish in the top half of the field seems unlikely.

JUST OFF THE PACE

#14 CLASSIC EMPIRE (Pioneer Of The Nile/ Cat Thief) 4-1 Favorite

94 Beyer, 284 Tomlinson

Pros: The reigning two year old champion got back to his winning ways in his last as he powered through the stretch to win the Arkansas Derby, coming home impressively in :37.42 and :12.20. He descends from Mr. Prospector, and shares a Derby runner-up sire with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. He is also one of just three colts in the field with a win over the track, having won both his starts at Churchill Downs last fall.

Cons: After a middling effort in his first start of the year in the Holy Bull, an injury setback forced him to miss training and wait for the Arkansas Derby, leading to foundation questions coming into this despite his strong juvenile campaign. He won there, but the 94 Beyer he received leaves something to be desired. From a pedigree standpoint, there is reason for distance concern on the dam side; damsire Cat Thief shows an AWD of just 6.7, the third lowest in the field, and the dosage profile of 5.00 is tied for the worst in the field. He has had a tendency to be a bit of a head case before races, so it is fair to wonder how the frantic environment on Derby day will affect him.

Conclusion: At his best, morning line favorite may be the most talented of the bunch, but you never like to see a horse come into this race rushed. He’ll essentially try to wheel back from his only true prep race after just three weeks of rest. Did he get enough out of the Arkansas Derby- a race where he was all out to beat a colt purchased for $8500 last fall, mind you- to take the necessary step forward here? A return to his two year old form likely wins this race, and he’s worth using defensively just in case, but there are plenty of reasons to try to beat him on top.

#9 IRAP (Tiznow/ Storm Cat) 20-1

93 Beyer, 307 Tomlinson 

Pros: Surprise winner of the Blue Grass broke his maiden in that race in his eighth try as the longest shot on the board, taking them all the way around. He has gained muscle and strength since that win and has been a clocker favorite over the track this week. He is well-bred for this distance, and being by Tiznow, figures to improve steadily into the year.

Cons: He got away with a pretty easy lead in his last race (:48.1, 1:12.1) and still lost a bit of ground in the stretch. The 93 Beyer he earned in that race is also on the low side. He took eight tries to break his maiden, so will face a class leap against these.

Conclusion: The Blue Grass result is likely more an indictment of the quality of that field than anything else. He is unlikely to get such an easy trip against a larger, tougher field. But if one wants to make the case that the race was actually better than it looked (and Thoro-graph figures do), we could see including him on the bottom of the superfecta.

#3 FAST AND ACCURATE (Hansen/ Green Dancer) 50-1

82 Beyer, 294 Tomlinson

Pros: He won the Spiral over the Turfway synthetic track to earn a spot here. Connections have emphasized that he will be sent to the lead from his inside post.

Cons: His lone start on dirt was easily the worst of his career. The Beyer he earned in the Spiral (82) is the lowest in the field, as is the Bris Late Pace figure (65). From a pedigree standpoint, he appears distance challenged on top and turf-oriented on bottom.

Conclusion: Derby fever at its very finest, especially considering his connections had to put up a $200,000 fee to supplement him.

#2 THUNDER SNOW (Helmet/ Dubai Destination) 20-1

94 Beyer, 250 Tomlinson

Pros: UAE Derby winner will try to become the first Dubai shipper to win this race, and just like they always do, he will have the advantage of having won at a longer distance than the rest of the field by virtue of the 9.5f there. His damsire AWD of 9.1 is the highest in the field, and he shows the strongest Dosage profile as well (0.89), so the distance would not appear to be a problem. The connections show confidence by shipping here, as he had been considered a strong contender for the Euro classics. He gets first time Lasix and could make a jump figure wise as a result.

Cons: The Beyer equivalent for his UAE Derby win came back a bit slow (94), and he is already up against history trying to ship from Dubai without having to overcome an edge in speed and talent. While his pedigree won’t limit his ability to get the distance, there is an argument to be made that it is more geared towards turf, and his leg action seems to confirm this. He will be forced early from a disadvantageous post inside the speed.

Conclusion: Until one of these shippers actually comes over and makes a solid impact in this race, you would need a pretty compelling reason to include one in your wagers, and we do not see that here.

#16 TAPWRIT (Tapit/ Successful Appeal) 20-1

96 Beyer, 312 Tomlinson

Pros: Posted a triple digit Brisnet figure (101) winning the Tampa Bay Derby, pulling away from the field in impressive fashion and delivering a triple digit Brisnet Late Pace figure (101) as well. Before that, he had finished well to be 2nd behind McCraken in the Sam Davis. He has flourished over the track since arriving.

Cons: Finished a puzzling 5th in his last outing in the Blue Grass, where he didn’t run a lick, coming home in :39.38 and :13.84, and only mustering a Bris Late Pace figure of 81. Sire Tapit has had recent success with his classic distance runners but most are still suited best to 9f races, and the bottom of the pedigree here is fairly sprint-oriented. Tapit is 0 for 7 as a Derby sire and none of his progeny have finished higher than 4th.

Conclusion: The results of the Blue Grass give one incentive to toss that entire field from consideration, and he was arguably worst of them all and least deserving of a mulligan. He lost the most ground in the stretch and didn’t come home at all, and it is difficult to see him completely reversing that form here, having beaten just one opponent in the field head to head in State of Honor, who is not one we are particularly high on.

STALKERS

#13 J BOYS ECHO (Mineshaft/ Menifee) 20-1

102 Beyer, 302 Tomlinson

Pros: His win in the 8.5f Gotham two back earned the highest speed figures of any prep (102 Beyer, 104 Brisnet) and was also his second consecutive triple digit Bris Late Pace figure, one of only three colts in the field to do so.

Cons: He wasn’t able to duplicate his Gotham effort in his final prep as he finished 4th in the Blue Grass. While he can be given the benefit of the doubt to some extent having endured a pretty rough trip, he simply didn’t do any running in the stretch once he finally had a clear path (:38.53, 13.29 final fractions).

Conclusion: The Blue Grass was a strange race and the feeling here is that he deserves a bit of a mulligan for that effort. It wouldn’t be the first time a colt has run poorly there and come back with a big effort in the Derby. While we’d have liked to have seen him come home a bit quicker that day, our fears are somewhat eased by the fact that he’d closed so impressively in his two races prior. Perhaps the rough trip simply broke his will to run, and while he won’t be made any promises to have it any easier in this large field, he appears usable underneath as a potential underlay and forgotten horse. A return to his Gotham race puts him squarely in the mix, on paper at least.

#7 GIRVIN (Tale of Ekati/ Malibu Moon) 15-1

93 Beyer, 216 Tomlinson

Pros: Lightly raced colt dominated the Fairgrounds preps, taking both the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby from off the pace. Grinding type came home well enough in the latter, finishing his final 1/8 in :12.97.

Cons: He has history to buck in terms of seasoning, having raced only four times to date and only three times in dirt. While he has proven his ability to win races, he has done so with slow times and speed figures (93 Beyer), leading many to question the quality of the fields he has beaten. The top of his pedigree seems fairly speed laden, and this observation is confirmed by his field low Tomlinson Distance figure (216). He’s had some setbacks leading up to this, as a quarter crack delayed his workout schedule.

Conclusion: There simply isn’t anything that makes him stick out here among these, and it is hard to make a compelling argument to use him, that being the case, especially with so little experience. He’s a fine colt that always accounts well for himself, but the five week layoff in combination with the foot problems make him hard to support; seems a pretty safe bet to finish somewhere towards the middle of the field at best.

#19 PRACTICAL JOKE (Into Mischief/ Distorted Humor) 20-1

92 Beyer, 320 Tomlinson

Pros: Shows solid foundation and class lines, having won the Grade I Champagne around one turn as a two year old before a distant 3rd place finish in the Breeders’ Cup. He picked up some ground in the stretch last out when runner-up in a strange edition of the Blue Grass, covering the final 1/8 in a respectable :12.89. He will go third off the lay for Chad Brown here.

Cons: It’s possible he is more of a dirt miler and may prefer one turn races, as indicated by both his pedigree and form lines to date. Although he did make up some ground late in his last, he did so running close to a slow pace set by a maiden. More concerning was his prior race, where he backed up five lengths in the stretch after the mile mark. He also lost ground at a similar stage in the Breeders’ Cup. He is winless this year and would need to take a big step forward figure-wise.

Conclusion: While he admittedly has upside, our preference in this race is not for closers who seem to want to close at shorter distances, and that appears to be the case here.

#20 PATCH (Union Rags/ AP Indy) 30-1

89 Beyer, 236 Tomlinson

Pros: Made an impression in his last, when 2nd in the Louisiana Derby in just his third career start. He appears well bred on the bottom, and is the only colt in the field to have two Belmont winners in his immediate family.

Cons: With only three career starts, he is the least seasoned colt in the field, so it is fair to wonder if this is too much too soon. He also did not race as a two year old, so he has a lot of history to buck. He stands to improve off his last effort, but it needs to be said that he has never broken the 90 Beyer threshold.

Conclusion: One-eyed colt would need to improve drastically to be a factor here, so we will focus on more seasoned runners, while keeping an eye on him for races later in the year. Fun fact- by nature of his missing left eye and wide post draw, he won’t see a single horse coming out of the gate.

#4 UNTRAPPED (Trappe Shot/ Giant’s Causeway) 30-1

89 Beyer, 285 Tomlinson

Pros: A bit of a strange pedigree finds him with mostly speed influences on top but strong stamina influences underneath. Damsire AWD of 8.2 is tied for tops in the field for dirt, and he is one of three runners to have won over the Churchill track.

Cons: Enters the race with only a maiden victory to his credit, and has seen his speed figures decline over his last three starts as distances have increased. There doesn’t appear to be much evidence that he wants to run this far, and his off the board finish in the Arkansas Derby in his final prep for this doesn’t exactly set him up well.

Conclusion: A definite outsider among these.

CLOSERS

#10 GUNNEVERA (Dialed In/ Unbridled) 15-1

97 Beyer, 343 Tomlinson

Pros: Impressive winner of the Fountain of Youth stakes showed an explosive turn of foot in that race, and had pace going against him when finishing a middling 3rd in the Florida Derby last out. Even so, he was coming home well in the stretch, finishing the race with speedy fractions of :36.22 and :12.23. His final 3/8 time in that race is the fastest of any in the field for final preps. He is the only colt in the field to post three consecutive triple digit Bris Late pace figures and his strong pedigree statistics (including the field high Tomlinson of 343) seem to confirm that he will be happy with the added ground here.

Cons: He didn’t need to win the Florida Derby and he didn’t do himself any favors falling ten lengths back off the pace on a speed favoring track, but it is hard to view that effort as anything other than a step back following the Fountain of Youth.

Conclusion: The move he made in the Fountain of Youth is exactly the sort of move that wins this race. In previous wins he had been able to remain in touch with the leaders more easily than he did in the Florida Derby, so he doesn’t have to come from the clouds to win this. He doesn’t have any statistical red flags and is the only colt in the field that can claim that. One thing is for sure, this consistent colt will be coming late, and we are admittedly suckers for closers in this race. The pick at likely juicy odds.

#15 MCCRAKEN (Ghostzapper/ Seeking The Gold) 5-1

 95 Beyer, 320 Tomlinson

Pros: Appears the horse for the course, as he is undefeated in three starts at Churchill, so we know he likes the track. He is well bred to handle the distance, as evidenced by his strong Tomlinson and Dosage (2.43) data. An impressive winner of the 8.5f San Davis two back, he doesn’t show many glaring weaknesses and has been working perhaps most impressively of all at Churchill.

Cons: A slight setback de-railed his prep plans, forcing him to skip the Tampa Bay Derby and contest the Blue Grass off a two month layoff. As a result he may have needed that race when a disappointing 3rd in his last. Still, he didn’t appear to have any excuse in the stretch, coming home in just :38.18 and :13.19. For all his talent and potential, he has still yet to run a big figure, topping out with a 95 Beyer for his Sam Davis effort.

Conclusion: An early choice to contend for favoritism here, it would require quite the leap of faith to endorse this colt for the top spot given his slow speed figures and closing fractions, not to mention the fact that he just lost to a maiden. However, Blue Grass results haven’t always translated meaningfully to the Derby, and he does seem to check off a lot of boxes and clearly loves the track, so it would be no surprise to see him run well and grab a spot on the board here; will use underneath, but looks like an underlay at these odds for the win.

#8 HENCE (Street Boss/ AP Indy) 15-1

97 Beyer, 285 Tomlinson

Pros: The Sunland Derby winner has seen the form of that race elevated with the runner-up Conquest Mo Money coming back to run within a half length of favored Classic Empire, and the easily beaten Irap coming back to win the Blue Grass. He finished impressively in that race, coming home in :37.58 and :12.39 after racing close to a hot pace. He descends from Mr. Prospector on the top of his pedigree and the bottom is laced with stamina, so he should handle the distance just fine here. He will enter this race with the highest last out Brisnet figure in the field (103).

Cons: The Sunland Derby was run March 26, which means he will enter here off a six week layoff, and only two colts since 1929 have won this race with that much time between races. The Bris Late Pace figure (93) he earned for the Sunland finish is a bit of a head-scratcher, somewhat contradicting what appeared to be a solid closing effort, but perhaps demonstrates how well that race set up for him. He did not break his maiden until this year in his fourth attempt.

Conclusion: There has been quite a bit of wise guy buzz surrounding him as astute handicappers have realized the quality of the Sunland form in combination with his pedigree and running style. In truth, when comparing transitive results along with speed figures, pedigree and closing fractions though, one can easily make the argument that he stands right up to Classic Empire on paper, and he’ll likely be about four times the price, wise guy or not. He appears to be a solid value play, potentially on top in exactas.

#1 LOOKIN AT LEE (Lookin At Lucky/ Langfuhr) 20-1

91 Beyer, 319 Tomlinson

Pros: Enters with a solid foundation, having finished 2nd to Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Futurity as a two year old and 4th to him at the Breeders’ Cup. He closed like a freight train when 3rd in the Arkansas Derby, coming home in :37.02 and :12.05, earning a Bris Late Pace figure of 101 in the process. That was his second consecutive triple digit Late Pace figure, one of just three colts in the field to duplicate that feat. He is a great-grandson of Mr. Prospector and shows a strong Tomlinson.

Cons: He has yet to win in graded company and has yet to run fast, posting modest top speed figures (91 Beyer, 94 Brisnet). He drew the dreaded #1 post just like his Daddy did, although given his running style, that may not be as negative as it sounds.

Conclusion: The race would have to completely fall apart Giacomo-style for him to actually win it, but he is just the type of colt to simply keep coming late while others are backing up and crash the exotics at a huge price, as he figures to drop back early and enjoy a ground-saving trip. In fact, he may be the key to hitting a huge trifecta payout in our mind, and is a must-use on the second and third lines of that structure.

#12 SONNETEER (Midnight Lute/ Half Ours) 50-1

92 Beyer, 314 Tomlinson

Pros: Came home impressively when 4th in the Arkansas Derby last out, posting final fractions of :36.22 and :11.65, good for a Brisnet Late Pace figure of 109. All of those numbers are tops in the field for 9f. He descends from the Mr. Prospector sire line, and is the only runner here with a grandsire to have won this race.

Cons: The giant pink elephant in the room: He’s the only maiden in the field, winless in 10 career starts. A maiden hasn’t won the Derby since 1933. His come home times in the Arkansas Derby may be deceiving as he sat back far off the early pace. The bottom of his pedigree doesn’t appear to point to stamina, and shows a field low Damsire AWD of 6.1, and sire Midnight Lute was a sprinter, which may not be enough to balance it out.

Conclusion:​ Let’s be clear here- a maiden isn’t winning the Kentucky Derby. His closing style gives him a shot to pick up a piece, but we can’t support using him any higher than the last line of the superfecta.

PICKS SUMMARY:

  1. Gunnevera
  2. Irish War Cry
  3. Always Dreaming
  4. Classic Empire
  5. Hence
  6. Lookin At Lee
  7. McCraken
  8. J Boys Echo
  9. Sonneteer
  10. Irap
  11. Practical Joke
  12. Tapwrit
  13. Thunder Snow
  14. Gormley
  15. Girvin
  16. Battle of Midway
  17. Patch
  18. Untrapped
  19. State of Honor
  20. Fast and Accurate

HOW TO BET $100 ON THE KENTUCKY DERBY:

$10 Win, $20 Place- Gunnevera

$20 Place- Irish War Cry

$1 Exacta Box- Gunnevera, Irish War Cry, Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Hence

$0.50 Trifecta- Gunnevera, Irish War Cry/ Gunnevera, Irish War Cry, Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Hence, Looking At Lee/ Gunnevera, Irish War Cry, Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Hence, Looking At Lee, McCraken, J Boys Echo

USE IN MULTI-RACE WAGERS:

Gunnevera, Irish War Cry, Always Dreaming, Classic Empire

 

 

 

 

 

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