2017 Kentucky Derby Cheat Sheet
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder
2017 Kentucky Derby Replay
All of a sudden Kentucky Derby time has rolled around and you haven’t been paying attention. Never fear, we’ve made it easy for you to get up to speed quickly!
If you’re already familiar with the field, pass it on to your friends, family and co-workers (especially if they keep asking “who do you like?”!)
Here’s a thumbnail sketch of this year’s field by post position including the morning line odds.
1. Lookin at Lee (20-1) – PLACE (2nd) – While he has yet to win a graded stakes, he’s made decent showings in the Oaklawn preps. Improving in each start, he finished 3rd to Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby last out. In that effort he was game in the stretch and had to bob and weave to find a way through. He doesn’t seem likely to win, but he does seem plausible for your exotics.
2. Thunder Snow (20-1)- The UAE Derby winner made an interesting impression last out greenly dueling with the well-regarded Epicharis in the stretch and re-rallying to get his nose down on the wire for the win. It’s also encouraging that he’s gone 2-2 since running on dirt. Given the relative wide-open feel of this year’s field, he’s an interesting prospect if he can build on that effort.
3. Fast and Accurate (50-1) – Connections of the Spiral winner have stated that their horse will be sent to the lead, and that’s in line with the running style that has produced two out of three of his wins. In his six starts he’s raced once on dirt, finishing more than 11 lengths behind the winner. Given his post he’s a good bet to be part of the pace scenario, that’s probably the extent of it.
4. Untrapped (30-1) – With the exception of his 6th in the Arkansas Derby last out, this mid-pack runner has stalked the pace and run 2nd or 3rd to be within 2 lengths of the winner in all of his graded starts. On the bright side he keeps on, but has yet to be good enough to win. And he doesn’t seem poised to make a big enough move forward for that to change.
5. Always Dreaming (5-1) – WINNER – Undefeated in three starts this year, the Florida Derby winner gathered favorable reviews for his graded stakes debut. In that 5-length winning effort he had a perfect trip to beat a questionable field, with the exception of Gunnevera, who was too far back early to make up enough ground in the stretch. After a few headstrong gallops he settled down and put in a favorable work over the Churchill surface. No doubt he’s talented, but this is tough spot to have one’s first real test.
6. State of Honor (30-1) – Classic Empire’s stablemate has spent the year running behind McCracken, Tapwrit and Always Dreaming. He’s garnered favorable reviews in the morning at Churchill but doesn’t seem likely to have his breakthrough moment in this spot, especially since he seems likely to be a part of the early pace scenario and possibly the pacesetter.
7. Girvin (15-1) – Unlike many in the field, the Louisiana Derby winner was a model of consistency at the graded level this year. Last week it came out that he was battling foot issues but he’s remained in training and doesn’t appear any worse for wear. He’s had the benefit of perfect trips in his last two wins and will need to step up here, but he would not be a surprise in the mix.
8. Hence (15-1) – The Sunland Derby winner has been a bit of a wise guy horse, making a favorable impression in the mornings at Churchill Downs. He made short work of the Sunland Derby field, which included Blue Grass winner Irap, and appears to be well positioned to move forward off that effort. At the very least you should consider him for your exotics, and maybe more.
9. Irap (20-1) – The question is whether the maiden-breaking upset winner of the Blue Grass is going in the right direction at the right time, or if he was simply the beneficiary of the right trip in a field of non-efforts. He certainly looked green in the stretch of the Blue Grass and is unlikely to get such an advantageous trip even if he is going in the right direction. But he’s made a very favorable impression since arriving at Churchill.
10. Gunnevera (15-1) – The winner of the Fountain of Youth was left with too much ground to make up in the Florida Derby and finished 3rd. He’s got one of the better late kicks in the field, and if he can avoid the usual traffic issues that come with a large field he could be in the mix late.
11. Battle of Midway (30-1) – SHOW (3RD) – After setting the pace and dueling the entire length of the Santa Anita Derby stretch, he finished second to Gormley by only a half length. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer stated his plan is to stay off the lead, and if he can do it he could be an interesting addition to your exotics given his proven tenacity.
12. Sonneteer (50-1) – Still a maiden after nine starts, this come-from-behind runner has been on the improve in his last two efforts. Most recently he finished a fast closing 4th in the Arkansas Derby with the fastest closing kick in the field. He’s made a great impression in the mornings and has the look of this year’s crazy longshot superfecta-filler.
13. J Boys Echo (20-1) – The Gotham winner was one of several well-regarded contenders to flop last out in the Blue Grass. He encountered traffic trouble when commencing his bid, and while he didn’t throw in the towel, he also didn’t move forward. That effort could be a toss but given that his only win this year came with a perfect set up it’s hard to know what to make of his chances. As with others, it remains to be seen if he moves forward off his last effort.
14. Classic Empire (4-1) – FOURTH – Last year’s Juvenile champion had a rocky start on the Derby trail after a no-show effort in the Holy Bull in January and subsequent foot absess. Last out in the Arkansas Derby he quelled concerns with a gutsy win after a rough(ish) trip. Clearly talented, the biggest question is whether or not he’s ready off of one good effort.
15. McCraken (5-1) – No one has made a better impression training at Churchill than the Sam F. Davis winner. After an early setback he ran 3rd in the Blue Grass, but did not appear fully cranked for the effort. He now appears ready and should give a good account of himself. If you’re looking for an alternative to the favorite, he’s worth considering.
16. Tapwrit (20-1) – After making two good starts at Tampa Bay Downs, including a 2nd behind McCraken in the Sam F. Davis and a win in the Tampa Bay Derby, he ran 5th in the Blue Grass more than 11 lengths behind longshot winner Irap. He’s made a good showing training at Churchill Downs over the last week, indicating that he seems likely to improve off his last effort.
17. Irish War Cry (6-1) – The Wood Memorial winner started the year with a wire-to-wire upset over Classic Empire in the Holy Bull and then turned in a non-effort in the Fountain of Youth. While he does have early speed he can also sit off the pace as he did in the Wood, although he’s unlikely to get the same perfect trip that produced that win.
18. Gormley (15-1) – The Santa Anita Derby winner had a clunker between two solid efforts. He was game in the Sham, dueling the length of the stretch for the win, but in the San Felipe he weakened in a duel to finish 4th. Last out he stayed a bit further back and was able put away the field. He appears to be fit but as with many others, the question is whether or not he can build on his last effort.
19. Practical Joke (20-1)- Last year’s Champagne winner has given a good account of himself in all of his subsequent races including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (3rd), Fountain of Youth (3rd) and Blue Grass (2nd). Last out he was the only one gaining on upset winner Irap in the Blue Grass, but couldn’t quite get there. A win here might be just out of reach, but he could be handy in your exotics.
20. Patch (30-1) – Much will be made of this inadvertently well-named one-eyed contender’s grit and bravery running inside for 2nd in the Louisiana Derby behind Girvin. But in a 20 horse field grit and bravery are always useful traits. He might not be ready for an upset in this spot but could be useful in your exotics.