Who Will Win The Kentucky Derby
Kentucky Derby 2017 Handicapping
By all accounts it has been a strange Kentucky Derby prep season. Unlike the past few years, when horses such as Nyquist, American Pharoah and California Chrome asserted themselves as favorites before the big race, 2017 has seen one contender after another fail to put consistent prep races together that would mark them as The One To Beat the first Saturday of May.
With the running of the Arkansas Derby on April 15, the final points standings for the Derby have been set, and the top 20 horses have all earned a spot in the starting gate. The official entries will be taken in the week before the race, and one or more of the top 20 could drop out due to injury or the owner deciding for some reason not to run (ie; they don’t think they have a chance to win.) With that caveat here’s a look at some of the more interesting entries, as per the points standings, with Future Odds from Sportsbook.ag.
Kentucky Derby Contenders
Girvin (18-1): First in the points standings, Girvin gets in by winning the Risen Star Stakes and the Louisiana Derby, both at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. The knock against him is that he beat weak fields at slow (if you believe in speed figures) times, but note his final time in the LA Derby puts him right in the middle of the top contenders. Note also that his jockey has chosen to ride McCraken, another top contender, in the Derby. Needs his very best.
Classic Empire (11-2): Won the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Arkansas Derby to finish second in points. Has had a troubled 2017, running a dull third in his season debut and then dealing with injuries and an interrupted training schedule. Classic Empire is known as a bit of a head case but seemed to put it all together to win the Arkansas, and is loaded with natural talent. Serious contender.
Irish War Cry (13-2): Fifth in the points, Irish War Cry won the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. He came out of nowhere to win the Holy Bull running on an easy lead, and then looked terrible finishing seventh in his next race.
The Wood, however, proved that he could win from stalking just off the pace, and he won by more than three lengths, although the time over the last 1/8 of a mile was fairly slow. In with a chance.
Always Dreaming (6-1): Came up from the lower levels to win the Florida Derby in the fastest time of the major preps, which was enough to put him seventh on the leaderboard. His inexperience at the stakes level is a question mark, but there’s no doubt he has the speed to win if he can handle the large field. Could go wire-to-wire.
Gunnevera (15-2): One of the more experienced runners in the field, having run in five straight Derby points races, Gunnevera won the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes and the Fountain of Youth. He’s been in the money in his last four races, and although he probably lacks the overall speed of some of the others, another top 3 finish wouldn’t surprise. Consider in exotics.
State of Honor (50-1): Canadian-bred has yet to win at the stakes level, but he’s a front-runner who makes others work hard to get by him, as evidenced by his running third, second and second in his last three graded-stakes starts. Distance might be a question, but he’s an improving colt who could stick around for a piece at a huge price. Exotics bomber.
Hence (22-1): Something of an unknown, he won the Sunland Derby in New Mexico at odds of 11-1, and in a time only a shade slower than Always Dreaming won the Florida Derby. Normally not considered a key prep for Kentucky, the Sunland takes on added significance given that the fourth-place finisher has come back to win the Blue Grass Stakes, and the second-place finisher ran second to Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby. Lucrative longshot.
McCraken (6-1): Was considered the top choice by many coming into 2017, but like Classic Empire, injuries set back his training and he barely made the field on points, with a win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay and a third-place showing two months later in the Blue Grass Stakes. Jockey Brian Hernandez has chosen to ride McCracken over Girvin. He’s probably the better horse, but his come-from-behind style is not often a recipe for success in the large Derby field, where traffic jams are common. Contender with a good trip.
SBS Future Picks
#1 – Classic Empire
#2 – Always Dreaming
#3 – State Of Honor
#4 – McCraken
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