The 143rd installment of the Kentucky Derby features 20 promising 3-yr olds ready to run 1-1/4 miles over the famed Churchill Downs dirt course. This G1 $2,000,000 race is also the race that every handicapper hangs his hat on. The race that every novice and weekend horseplayer will ask about. The greatest two minutes in sports.
Since the Churchill meet kicks off on Derby week, we will start with the Brisnet track bias statistics from last fall. Of the 111 dirt routes, 22% were won wire to wire with a very fair distribution across post positions. As usual, the folks in Kentucky keep a track that runs fair.
With 20 horses expected to go postward, there is the possibility that every runner encounters road trouble. Even speed horses can have a tough time in the cavalry charge out of the gate. We cannot predict a good trip for anyone so I will be looking for horse that have shown the ability to overcome adversity. I will also be trying to separate the horses on the improve as opposed to those who have peaked in the preps and are coming off.
The Derby also has a history of rattling even the greatest trainers and jockeys so we never know what to expect. Trainer Todd Pletcher, who is in the conversation of greatest trainers of all time, is a mere 1 for 47 in the Kentucky Derby. And 2 time eclipse award winning jockey Julien Leparoux would need to directions to the Derby’s winner’s circle.
This year’s field is lacking a standout performer and the race is wide open. I will start with the horses that I don’t think have a chance. Girvin, winner of 3 of 4 lifetime, has had training issues. He missed a scheduled workout, was sent to Keeneland, and has since been undergoing aqua therapy for a quarter crack. Trainer Joe Sharpe would never recover if Girvin breaks down in the derby.
Thunder Snow, winner of the UAE Derby, is shipping in from Dubai for Godolphin Racing. The Dubai contingent has never had much success in winning the Derby. State of Honor is 1 for 10 lifetime. Enough said. Fast and Accurate is an all-weather and turf horse and should be renamed “Accurate” cuz he sure doesn’t look fast enough for this bunch.
The pace of the race should be set by Irap, Always Dreaming, Irish War Cry, Battle of Midway, Fast and Accurate, State of Honor, Malagacy and Conquest Mo Money. Those are a lot of speed horses, all of whom have put up very nice early speed figures but none of which absolutely need the lead. This race will not be stolen on the front end.
They will be followed by stalkers Gormley, Girvin, Classic Empire, Practical Joke, McCraken, and Patch.
The likely post time favorite will be Classic Empire. Coming off of a closing victory in the Bluegrass where he encountered road trouble, Classic Empire deserves every dollar bet on him. I like that he performed admirably in a race he looked to need, and he overcame adversity in a winning effort. He will be in my gimmicks, but I can’t accept a short price on derby day.
The horse I landed on to be my top derby pick is Irish War Cry. This Graham Motion trainee is coming off of a brilliant win in the Wood Memorial where he ran 3-wide through the first turn. He was right on Battalion Runner’s blistering pace throughout and still had something left when asked in the lane and pulled away to win by 3-1/2 lengths. He is 4 for 5 lifetime with his only loss being a bad race over Gulfstream Park’s unpredictable surface in the Fountain of Youth.
My next choice is Battle of Midway. He dueled 3 across with American Anthem and Royal Mo in the Santa Anita Derby to a 22.66 quarter and 46.55. Anthem faded badly but the other 2 were there at the wire as Gormley barely pulled ahead to win. Royal Mo (who probably won’t have enough points to run) ran the whole race three deep. While Gormley’s win was a perfect setup, Battle of Midway and Royal Mo’s runs were most impressive..
The betting strategy will be a bit different this week. A straight win bet won’t pay enough for the risk of a 20 horse field and the derby has a habit of paying deep dollars in the gimmicks. So we will did a little deeper into trifectas and superfecta. My key horse will be Irish War Cry, who would be my pick if I was forced to pick a winner.
Here’s the strategy: for trifectas I will key Irish war Cry on top of 5 horses, Classic Empire, Battle of Midway, Always Dreaming, Conqust Mo Money and Hence.
For Superfectas I will add a couple horses to the top and use the same others below for 2nd and 3rd, while we dig deeper for 4th.
Irish War Cry
Battle of Midway
With (2nd – 3rd )
Irish War Cry
Battle of Midway
Conquest Mo Money
|Irish War Cry||Gunnevera||Conquest Mo Money|
|Classic Empire||Practical Joke||Always Dreaming|
|Battle of Midway||Hence||McCraken|