2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

When it comes to Kentucky Derby betting, knowing the contenders and top picks by the experts is a great place to start coming up with your own betting strategy for the race. The Kentucky Derby will bring together the best three year old race horses in the world on May 6, 2017. The qualification races are over and we can now get some idea of who will be in the field.  Twenty horses qualify for the Kentucky Derby based on points earned in the qualification races.  These horses are listed below in order of starting post position.  Should be a wide open race this  year as there isn’t a dominant favorite in the field.  Looks like a big class difference between the top half dozen or so entries and the rest of the field.

Listed below are the horses in order of posit position:

LOOKIN AT LEE (Track Odds 25-1):  Trained by Steve Asmussen, jockey Corie Lanerie.  Could be worth a flyer.  Should handle the distance well and could be a factor if he gets a favorable pace.

THUNDER SNOW (Track Odds 17-1):  Won the UAE Derby in Dubai by a nose.  Then again, UAE Derby winners haven’t done much in the Kentucky Derby.  Has talent but hard to see him doing much here.  Saeed bin Suroor is the trainer, Christophe Soumillon his jockey.

FAST AND ACCURATE (Track Odds 33-1):  Won the Spiral Stakes aka the weakest Derby prep race.  Undefeated in three career starts though against a dubious class.  Mike Maker will ride for Tyler Gaffalione.  Could be the biggest longshot in the field and deservedly so.

UNTRAPPED (Track Odds 59-1):  If Fast and Accurate isn’t the biggest longshot Untrapped could be.  Hard to see him doing well at the distance.  Won’t have enough at the end to win from off the pace and is too slow to hang with the pace setters.  Steve Asmussen trained, jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.

ALWAYS DREAMING ( Track Odds 9-2):   Impressive in his first Graded Stakes race as he won the Grade 1 Florida Derby by 5 lengths turning in a solid 97 Beyer.  His connections are Derby winning quality with jockey John Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher.  Could be peaking at the right time and don’t be surprised if he goes off as the Kentucky Derby post time favorite.

STATE OF HONOR (Track Odds 47-1):  Second in the Florida Derby last time out.  Will provide early speed in what should be a fast paced Derby but everything suggests that the distance will do him in.  Mark Casse trained with Jose Lezcano aboard.

GIRVIN (Track Odds 21-1):  This will be his first career start away from Fair Grounds.  Won the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and Grade 3 Risen Star but was far from dominant against a very pedestrian class of opposition.  Could be overmatched here.  Working in his favor—Mike Smith will ride and he’s as good as anyone at Churchill Downs.  Joe Sharp is his trainer.

HENCE (Track Odds 16-1):  Won the Sunland Park Derby (Grade 3) last time out.  That’s about all that can be said about this Steve Asmussen trained colt.  Florent Geroux will ride him in the Derby but everything suggests that he’s in over his head here.

IRAP (Track Odds 36-1):  Won the Blue Grass Stakes in a mild upset.  Unimpressive in the Sunland Derby.  The ‘glass half full’ view is that he’s showing improvement.  The ‘glass half empty’ view is that he’s faced overmatched opponents his entire career.  Trainer Doug O'Neill, jockey Mario Gutierrez.   Hard to see him stepping up in competitive class successfully.

GUNNEVERA (Track Odds 9-1):  Plenty of Graded Stakes experience is an upside.  Finished third in the Florida Derby last time out though he suffered from a brisk pace and early traffic.  Won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, second in the Grade 3 Holy Bull.  If he can avoid traffic in the Kentucky Derby he could be a factor though that’s easier said than done in a twenty horse field.  Javier Castellano will ride for trainer Antonio Sano.  If you’re expecting a fast pace in the Derby Gunnevera could be the made to order closer you want on your tickets.

BATTLE OF MIDWAY (Track Odds 39-1):  Good effort in the Santa Anita Derby finishing second.  Another horse that isn’t fast enough to set the pace and not enough of a closer to win from off of it.  A solid, hard working horse trained by Jerry Hollendorfer with Flavien Prat set to ride him in the Kentucky Derby.  Could gut his way onto the board if everything breaks his way.

SONNETEER (Track Odds 36-1):  Winless in 10 career starts though has been solid throughout with only one finish lower than 4th.  Last time out finished 4th in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, before that finished second in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes.  Keith Desormeaux trained, brother Kent Desormeaux will ride.  Got into the field when Battalion Runner was scratched.

J BOYS ECHO (Track Odds 43-1):  This Dale Romans trained entry is something of a question mark. Got a perfect pace in his first career win in the Grade 3 Gotham turning in a 102 Beyer in the process.  Got a terrible pace in the Grade 2 Blue Grass finishing fourth against weak competition.  Jockey Luis Saez. 

CLASSIC EMPIRE (Track Odds 7-1):  Won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year and more often or not that’s enough to make a horse a presumptive Kentucky Derby favorite.  This year turned in an uninspiring third in the Grade 2 Holy Bull before winning the Arkansas Derby (Grade 1).  Didn’t show much there either beating an overmatched field by ½ length and turning in a so-so 94 Beyer Speed Figure.  Very tepid favorite at this point.  Julien Leparoux will will ride him in the Derby for trainer Mark Casse.

MCCRACKEN (Track Odds 6-1):  Very unimpressive last time out finishing third against a less than stellar field in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes.  Before that won the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis and last year won the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club.  Brian Hernandez Jr. will ride for trainer Ian Wilkes.  Every year there’s a horse that has a passionate fan base that emphasizes ‘potential’.  McCracken could be that horse this year.  Worth noting that this type of horse seldom wins the Kentucky Derby.

TAPWRIT (Track Odds 29-1):  Fifth in the Blue Grass.  Upside is he’s shown improvement every time out and has solid connections with trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Jose Ortiz.  Got a wide trip in the Blue Grass, won the Tampa Bay Derby before that.  Will have to show significant improvement to be a factor here.

IRISH WAR CRY (Track Odds 5-1):  ‘Solid’ is an adjective often used to describe this Curlin offspring.  Won the Grade 3 Holy Bull to start his three year old campaign before laying an egg in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth finishing 7th.  Recovered nicely in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial winning by 3 ½ lengths and posting a 101 Beyer speed figure.  Jockey Rajiv Maragh will ride for trainer Graham Motion.  A very solid contender.

GORMLEY (Track Odds 23-1):  Won the Santa Anita Derby from off the pace though far from a decisive win.  Prevailed by ½ length turning in a mediocre 88 Beyer.  Solid trainer in John Shirreffs and an excellent jockey in Victor Espinoza.  Hard to tell if Gormley is a closer based on his career performances.  Then again, his Beyers are nothing impressive.  Better speed up front and better closers off the pace in the Derby suggests that he’ll finish middle of the pack.

PRACTICAL JOKE (Track Odds 32-1):  Trained by Chad Brown, Joel Rosario will ride.  Every horse racing expert worth his salt insists that he won’t be able to handle the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 ¼ miles.  A decent year so far with a pair of seconds in the Grade 2 Blue Grass and Fountain of Youth.  Finished third in the Breeders Cup Juvenile.  Inability to seal the deal in the Blue Grass against ho-hum competition might validate the handicappers concerned about his ability to handle the distance.

PATCH (Track Odds 16-1):  Second in the Louisiana Derby.  He has talent but is very raw.  Hard to see him putting it all together by the first Saturday in May though he might do some damage later in the year.  Has become something of a media sensation as he only has one eye—the other eye was removed after an ulcer failed to heal properly.  Some concern about how he’ll handle the far outside post.  My thinking is that if a one eyed horse has the guts to get to this point he’ll be fine. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Keeping up to date on the latest contenders as the 2017 race nears is important for those who are really serious about Kentucky Derby betting odds.