The Runner Sports

2017 Kentucky Derby Preview

The first Saturday of May is upon us, and with it comes the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports: the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby.

Now two years removed from American Pharoah’s triumphant Triple Crown victory, the itch returns as we eagerly await to see if the best three-year-olds in thoroughbred horse racing can string together three of the toughest races they may ever face. The Kentucky Derby, of course, representing just the first leg of a daunting three-race stretch over the course of five weeks that includes the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Below the Twin Spires of the 142-year-old Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, the Kentucky Derby is one of the biggest races in the horse racing calendar. The $2 million purse pits “The Running of the Roses” as the 9th most valuable race in the entire world. The field, which can feature up to 20 horses, closer resembles HBO’s Game of Thrones ‘Battle of the Bastards’ cavalry charge than an actual competitive horse race as the field breaks from the gate.

The 1 1/4 mile distance is always a taxing burden on the young colts, often times representing the longest race many have ever run, much like this article might be the longest sports feature you ever attempt to read. It’s a blend of speed, pacing, closing ability, and sheer drive to dig through the stretch and secure the victory. This is a race that can quickly eat up the top talent in the sport and ruthlessly spit them back out, just like ESPN.

The $2 million guaranteed purse gets broken down as such: 1st place – $1.24 million, 2nd place – $400K, 3rd place – $200K, 4th place – $100K, and 5th place – $60K.

Weather, very unfortunately, does look very likely to be playing a factor into this weekend’s affair. Louisville is expected to see a bit of rain in the next few days. The ground crew will be dealing with a soaking rain left over from rains carrying on throughout the next 72 hours. On Saturday, in particular, the morning is slated to be a bit on the cooler side, with the first rains of the day scheduled for 10 am local time. A more threatening sustained downpour could crawl its way into the area by 1 pm and linger as late as 4. A damper for the earlier cards, the hope will be that at least by post time for the big race, the rains will have ceased, and the track condition as improved as much as possible. At best they’ll probably look at wet conditions, depending on how much sunlight they can get on the track, but more realistically considering the sustained rain in the coming days, we’ll likely face a sloppy track. The Derby was last run on a sloppy track as early as 2013, when Orb powered through the sweeping rains and mud.

The post time for the race is scheduled at 6:46 pm ET.

Looking At Lee

Post #1

Owner: L and N Racing, LLC

Trainer: Steven M Asmussen

Jockey: Corey J Lanerie

Odds: 20-1

Taking into consideration how large the Kentucky Derby field is, you’d likely assume the first post would be one of the toughest draws to receive. In a traditionally sized field, the rail is one of the best places to be, but here at the Derby, you quickly have 19 horse to your right that make things awfully tight awfully fast. That said, the first post has yielded a high volume of winners at the Derby. In fact, just one post has done better since 1900. Post 1 has featured 12 winners in that same time span, but just 8 since the implementation of a starting gate, which began in 1930. The more recent trend, however, not imposing such a positive notion. A winner hasn’t come from this gate since 1986 (Ferdinand).

There are two types of horses that truly thrive in this crowded post, however, that being a front-runner and closer. A horse attempting to set the pace can break, hug the rail, and clear the pack. A horse that likes to sit a little back can take the initial stretch a bit easier and let the crowd gather in front of them a bit, and then get to choosing their lanes to operate through. Looking At Lee has a bit of closing speed, and certainly won’t be looking to break and set the pace. So expect to see this horse dip a bit back and operate in more space.

The bad news is that if Churchill Downs remains in the shape it operated in for Friday’s action, the track might not be too forgiving to those looking to gain ground late. A rain-soaked track led to a number of closers failing to find that ground to work on and overpower the weakening pack Friday. On a fast track in the Arkansas Derby, Looking At Lee certainly managed to close some ground, but still came well off from threatening Derby favorite Classic Empire.

The fate of this horse could very well come down to how improved this track can get following the conclusion of rain Saturday. There should be a few hours to dry things up. The dryer the better. But even on a solid track, this horse is 0-3 when running against Classic Empire, and hasn’t placed higher than any of its Derby counterparts when racing against them other than Hence, who struggled mightily due to a possible injury in the Southwest Grade 3 Stakes. I think a middle of the pack finish should be an appropriately celebrated victory for Looking At Lee.

Also worth mentioning (and this will apply to his two other horses running) trainer Steven M Asmussen is 0-15 at the Derby.

Thunder Snow

Post #2

Owner: Godolphin, LLC

Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor

Jockey: Christophe Soumilon

Odds: 20-1

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. We rave about random statistical trends for a reason, IT WORKS! And sure, at some point, this trend will be snapped, but with a solid bit of data working behind it, it’s a bit of information I’ll stand by for now. UAE Derby winners have never placed better than 6th at the Kentucky Derby. Exhausting travel, quarantining, and a multitude of other reasons all seem to work against horses that by all accounts are great horses and have won a very high-profile race.

This horse looks impressive, although the stride comes off a bit choppy to my eye. Still, this horse just glides. He found himself buried in a 16-horse pack at the UAE Derby, so being crowded won’t be such a foreign thing to the international star. He comes in having won all three of his last starts, with jockey Christophe Soumilon taking the mount in all three races.

Sheikh Mohammed has never had a winner at the Kentucky Derby, his highest finish coming via Frosted in 2015. The staff likes what they’ve seen from this horse, and after being the talk of the town the last week as to whether we’d actually see him run, has held onto much of the attention at Churchill.

“He’s a class horse,” Saeed bin Suroor said. “… It is not easy to send a horse to the Kentucky Derby until you know there is a horse who has something there, has class. So far, our horse is doing really well.”

Another factor will be how he handles the mud. Not many in this field have had experience in poor conditions, so it’ll be the biggest wild card for most in terms of how they respond. I like for this horse to finish from 5th to 8th, threatening to set a new best for UAE Derby winners. The 2 post has the second highest in the money finish (28.7%) for what that’s worth to you.

 Fast and Accurate

Post #3

Owner: Hansen, K.; Skychai Racing, LLC; Miller, B.; and San Dollar Stable, LLC

Trainer: Michael J Makers

Jockey: Channing Hill

Odds: 50-1

Partly owned by downhill guru Bode Miller, we’ll see just how fast and accurate this horse can be in this inflated field of talent. Potentially the rabbit in this pack, at least briefly, Fast and Accurate may be in the mix early, but won’t likely be around long. The pedigree surrounding just a bit too daunting. Channing Hill enters this race sitting ranked 33rd in jockey standings via Equibase, but still falls well short of big race experience compared to some of his competition.

Ownership certainly feels good enough to dig deep into their wallets to run, though. After missing a fee deadline, owner Dr. Kendal Hansen had to fork over an extra $200,000 to run. “We missed the deadline by just four or five days after winning the Spiral, and I have to pay $200,000 to run in the Derby, so I’m trying not to think about it … The money I won from winning the (Spiral Stakes) just passes through my hands back over to Churchill. If I think about $200,000 to be in a race, it’s insanity, but for one chance to be in the Derby it’s worth it, it really is.”

From the analysis sector of the industry, there hasn’t been much positively written about Fast and Accurate, whose odds are likely to skyrocket Saturday, which makes him a fun low-risk bet that could quickly recoup those losses from the day should it hit. Everybody loves an underdog. Still, if you enter this race with high expectations of a win, you’ll just leave fast and furious.


Post #4

Owner: Michael Langford

Trainer: Steven M Asmussen

Jockey: Ricardo Santana, Jr.

Odds: 30-1

After looking like there was some fight left to be had in the Arkansas Derby, Untrapped withered away in the stretch to finish a disappointing 6th place, five lengths off Derby favorite Classic Empire. Despite the name, Untrapped might just have to 127-hour its way from the dense pack. While the gate next door has yielded abundant success, post 4 hasn’t quite shared the love. Super Saver was the last horse to secure the roses from this gate back in 2010, while Mo Tom cruised to an 8th place finish a year ago.

Perhaps in prep for the busy field, Untrapped rocked blinkers for the first time at the Arkansas Derby.

The hope will be that the decision to do so was what hampered his running in the stretch where he just never found the kick. At least so far the plan is not to go back to them.

1957 (Iron Liege) was the last time a horse finished worse than fourth in their final Derby prep race and ran to a victory. Untrapped has seen a decline in speed figures, but the biggest positive it has going might just be the fact that it’s run decently enough in the mud, with a place in the LeComte Stakes on a muddy track. Also worth noting that Ricardo Santana, Jr who broke Untrapped’s maiden here at Churchill in November will reassume the mount. He took Untrapped to a trio of second-place finishes as well in four races, including the LeComte place. Keeping an eye for this horse to finish somewhere between 8th and 11th.

Always Dreaming

Post #5

Owner: MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz, Teresa Viola, St Elias, Siena Farm, and West Point

Trainer: Todd A Pletcher

Jockey: John R Velazquez

Odds: 5-1

Todd Pletcher has had a tough go of things at the Kentucky Derby, but appears to have a true gem on his hands with Always Dreaming. A 1-45 record stares one of the best trainers in the sport directly in the eyes. The stars appear to be lining up for the group, though. Post 5 has yielded the second-most winners at the Kentucky Derby despite sitting very much nearer the middle of the 14-horse pack that breaks from the standard gate. California Chrome was the last winner here, and we all know the nice little run he went on to have.

This horse is blazing quick. In a workout on April 28, Always Dreaming torched the stopwatch for 1:40 through a full mile. He’ll gravitate towards the front, and may find himself in an immediate footrace with State of Honor, who breaks next door. The two dueled in the Florida Derby with Always Dreaming launching out of a cannon in the stretch to sail to the win by five lengths. He’ll have another 1/8th of a mile in this race, but creating that kind of separation where he did was beyond impressive.

Always Dreaming has won its last three starts, and John R Velazquez has had the mount in each of them.

Pletcher, with his three horses in the field, will tie D Wayne Lukas for all-time Derby starters. He’s desperate to have another winner to show for it. This horse is the real deal. While some are knocking the quality of the field in the Florida Derby, the time he ran it in was no joke. There should be some resounding disappointment if this horse doesn’t finish in the money.

State of Honor

Post #6

Owner: Conrad Farms (Manfred and Penny Conrad)

Trainer: Mark E Casse

Jockey: Jose Lezcano

Odds: 30-1

State of Honor is one to watch in terms of setting the pace. He’ll be looking to break very aggressively; State of Honor has been first at the second call in six of his 10 starts. And while the early speed has been impressive, the results haven’t quite held water. Seldom the bride the only honor this horse has earned has been maid of honor, posting four 2nd-place finishes, another pair of shows, and just one win in his 10-race career.

While State of Honor has held positioning for most of his races, he hasn’t quite found that burst of energy in the stretch to actually improve his standing come the finish line. He’s been in the money for most of his life, but in a deep field loaded with the top talent in the age group, it’s hard to see his standings and feel confident that he can continue to do the same. He’s seen a fair bit of Derby talent, and only finished in front of Gunnevera in the Florida Derby, who came from well behind to finish third.

Depending on the track condition, this horse may be able to get far enough out in front with its speed and keep enough separation to avoid having too much of the pack catch him even if he tires. Look for this horse to finish in the 3rd to 6th range.


Post #7

Owner: Brad Grady

Trainer: Joe Sharp

Jockey: Mike E Smith

Odds: 15-1

Winner of the Lousiana Derby, Girvin hasn’t quite been getting top level attention. He’s never run a Grade 1 stakes, but boasts three wins in four races. He hasn’t run outside of Fair Grounds, and a foot injury threatened his actual running this weekend. Depending on the status of the track and just what ailment plagues this horse, don’t be surprised to see Girvin as a scratch. Mud does not equal forgiving ground for an injured horse. Living to fight another day is far and away the better choice. With Brian Hernandez’ decision to ride McCraken, Mike E Smith will take over for his first mount with the horse. With some consistent speed to his name, Girvin could easily sneak his way into the money and nab some actual winnings for exotic bets. If there is indeed a concerning foot injury, the more likely thing to see is a finish in the 14-20 range.


Post #8

Owner: Calumet Farm (Brad Kelley)

Trainer: Steven M Asmussen

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Odds: 15-1

One of the biggest Kentucky Derby upsets all started in post 8, and from henceforth, this gate’s legacy will belong to Mine That Bird, who infamously rode to victory as a 50-1 shot in the 2009 Derby. While not quite a longshot, at 15-1 opening odds that are likely to come down a bit Saturday, Hence will at least be an intriguing pick that may earn you some solid money. He’s being pegged as the “wise-guy” pick, as the buzz has escalated into a near roar about this horse. It’ll get consistent money, and likely see some big late action. A winner hasn’t come from this post since 2009, but the speedy colt packs plenty of power to stun the top of this field. The 103 Brisnet speed posted in the Sunland victory was the fastest of any in this lineup.

As a horse that operates from the middle of the pack, the Kentucky Derby doesn’t quite play to the favor of this horse. It will also be the first time Florent Geroux will get the ride. Geroux is riding well this season, winning 23% of his 392 races (91) and finishing in the money 57% of the time.

Again, Asmussen hasn’t felt the love at the Derby. He’s got a couple of sure to disappoints in this field, so can he finally cash in with Hence? There’s plenty to like, and I might tie a rope to this horse with the two favorites and see if he can bring the winnings into a more respectable pot. That said I don’t see anything more than a place at hand; a finish in the 2nd to 5th range should be the expectations.


Post #9

Owner: Reddam Racing, LLC (J Paul Reddam)

Trainer: Doug F O’Neil

Jockey: Mario Gutierrez

Odds: 20-1

Irap might have the rhythm and rhymes, but so did MC Hammer, and he was merely a one and done bust. I don’t necessarily want to instantly forever associate this horse to a one-hit wonder, Irap has such little association to the parachute pantsed legend but that’s the first association I made. The truth behind the name is an even quirkier tale. Before Irap was named, he was treated for joint issues with Interluekin-1 Receptor Antagonist Protein therapy. A medical transportation van driver saw the word IRAP on his papers and assumed it was his name. Owner Paul Reddam decided to keep it.

Irap looks to be coming into his own at the perfect time, and could cash in on a Derby field that by consensus remain’s anybody’s race to steal. Doug F O’Neil has trained two of the previous five Derby winners, so apparently the guy knows what he’s doing. In fact, this trio of Reddam Racing, Mario Guiterrez, and O’Neil proved to be a winning formula when they won with Nyquist a year ago and again with I’ll Have Another in 2012. Can the trio make it back-to-back wins? It’d be quite the feat. O’Neil is in a small crowd with just Bob Baffert (who does not have a horse for just the second time since 2009) as trainers with multiple winners since 2000.

The 9 post has been an icy cold vixen to its occupants, however. A winner hasn’t broke here since Riva Ridge in 1972. He doesn’t much care for reasons why he can’t win, though, Afterall, he became the first maiden to win the Blue Grass Stakes. The Blue Grass winner hasn’t gone on to win here since 1991. Does he have another hit in him? No horse has finished even in the top three after having never won as a two-year-old, a description that fits the bill.


Post #10

Owner: Peacock Racing Stables, LLC

Trainer: Antonio Sano

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Odds: 15-1

Gunnevera jumped into the spotlight upon a massive close in the Florida Derby, where he worked from 8th place nine lengths back to finish 3rd, still a long six lengths off Always Dreaming. This all after a convincing win at the Fountain of Youth and a 2nd-place finish at the Holy Bull Stakes between Irish War Cry and Classic Empire. He’s demonstrated he’s got the moxie but it’ll be a matter of piecing it together. Closers had a tough go of things Friday so this crew will be rooting for the track to dry up quite a bit prior to post time.

The 10 post is the money spot in the pack. It’s generated 9 winners and finishes in the money 30% of the time. Last year’s tenant, Whitmore, finished 19th, but Giacomo last won here in 2005.

It’s been a tumultuous go of things to this point for trainer Antonio Sano, who was actually kidnapped not once, but twice in his home country of Venezuela before moving to the US in 2009. It’d no doubt be one big shining moment to see his horse get draped in roses and see just how far he’s come. Even without the win, he’s been on quite the ride and has one hell of a tale to tell.

Javier Castellano’s been a top rider in this country for some time, but he’s still in search of his first Derby win.

Whether he’s staving off the pack and closing on the leader or passing those speedsters in the stretch, Gunnevera should be somewhere in the mix at the conclusion of this race. Don’t panic when this horse looks dead in the water early, he’ll be coming around the pack when he comes. A win is not out of the question; look for this horse between 1st and 5th.

Battle of Midway

Post #11

Owner: Don Alberto Stable (Carlos Heller) and WinStar Farm, LLC (Kenny Troutt)

Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Odds: 30-1

For the history junkies out there you’ll likely have your willy tickled a bit just by the name here. The Battle of Midway was arguably one of the crucial turning points of the Pacific front of World War II. His impact on this race will, unfortunately, fall short of the legacy in which he is named for.

The Derby has been swarmed with California kids over the last couple of years (four of the last five winners) but they don’t come in as quite the daunting fleet as you’d imagine this year. After a really tough battle to finish second in the Santa Anita Derby, Battle of Midway has never finished outside the money in four career starts. He didn’t run as a two-year-old, something that we don’t really see all that often for Derby hopefuls. No horse since 1882 has won with that same distinction. Derby horses are coming in seeing more races than ever before, so the lack of experience is no doubt the biggest factor driving away the confidence.

While the next door 10 has plenty of reason to celebrate, the 11 post has had just two winners.

The dense pack, packed paddocks, and talented field around him will likely result in this horse simply misfiring. A bright future no doubt lays ahead, WinStar doesn’t just jump on anything, they bought him after his Santa Anita showcase, but this will merely be the tune-up for what’s to come.


Post #12

Owner: Calumet Farm (Brad Kelley)

Trainer: J Keith Desormeaux

Jockey: Kent Desormeaux

Odds: 50-1

The Desormeaux brothers have quite the doozy on their hands here. A maiden (winless horse) hasn’t captured glory in the Kentucky Derby since Brokers Tip in 1933. Leaning slightly more to the closing side of the race, Sonneteer may strike gold and serenade bettors as he climbs past tiring opposition. It’s more likely for him to fail to find the kick after the quick start and less than perfect track conditions. Some are rolling the dice here with the long odds and hoping his pace will give a slow and steady ride into the money. I’ll be keeping my eye on this horse to be in the 6-11 range.

J Boys Echo

Post #13

Owner: Albaugh Family Stable, LLC (Dennis Albaugh)

Trainer: Dale L Romans

Jockey: Luis Saez

Odds: 20-1

After getting bumped in the start J Boys Echo never quite found his way into the mix of the Blue Grass Stakes. He clawed back to finish 4th, but was six lengths back of Irap. A real shame too as it could have told us so much more about this horse who dazzled in the Gotham Stakes previous to the Blue Grass, which he ran in impressive speed figures.

Luis Saez will get the mount for the first time after regular jockey Robby Albarado was injured at Keeneland a few weeks back. Louisville native Dale Romans is still knocking on the door for his first Derby win. It might just the most coveted of his hopes and dreams. “He’s won the Breeders’ Cup, he’s won the Travers, he’s won the Dubai World Cup,” Bailey Romans said of her father to Wave 3 News. “But the Kentucky Derby is in our backyard. And this is the race everyone wants to win.”

This horse might threaten the money, but I think Romans will need to plan that celebration for another day.

Classic Empire

Post #14

Owner: John C Oxley

Trainer: Mark E Casse

Jockey: Julien R Leparoux

Odds: 4-1

The odds on favorite still hasn’t quite won over the country. All the talk is how this year’s Kentucky Derby lacks a bona fide favorite. Big money is expected for Classic Empire, but it won’t be too surprising to see him not create too much more separation from his counterparts right up to post time. The biggest concern when looking through the PPs for this horse is the relatively lifeless run he had at the Holy Bull. He just never had the kick. He found that at the Arkansas Derby over two months after, but it will forever be a stain on what had been a relatively clean sheet. Because it certainly wasn’t perfect. The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner gave everybody a scare when he wheeled out wide in a September 2016 start, bouncing to the outside rail and losing jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr in the process. He went on to win his next two races before the Holy Bull letdown.

He’s run well at Churchill, and has some sloppy track experience. A foot abscess has resulted in fits of unwillingness to train over the last month, but he came to life to win the Arkansas. Is he healthy is the big question for many. There’s not much reason to be concerned in the most recent spectrum of time.

For those who appreciate the value of bloodlines, he shares a sire with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, as both were sired by Pioneerof the Nile.

The far posts have been where the party has been in the last few years, as six of the last nine winners have broken outside of post 12. Posts 13, 15, and 16 have all seen recent winners. It might be time to add 14 to that list. A winner last broke here in 1961 (Carry Back). Leparoux is 0-9 in Derby attempts. Time for something to give perhaps?


Post #15

Owner: Whitham Thoroughbreds, LLC (Janis R Whitham)

Trainer: Ian R Wilkes

Jockey: Brian J Hernandez, Jr

Odds: 5-1

Similarly to Classic Empire, McCraken’s clean sheet was marred by his first career loss when he finished 3rd at the Blue Grass. You know the pedigree of this horse is good when we describe a show and 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.39 a significant letdown. It was an injury following his Sam F Davis win that derailed his prep for the Derby and may have played a big factor in the weaker showing at the Blue Grass. This year’s talent pool all seems to have seen some injury setback to one degree or another. Just how healthy is McCraken currently?

The previous six Kentucky Derby winners all won their final prep race. Will McCraken snap that trend? Brian Hernandez is riding nearly flawlessly and this is a horse that’s three for three on this track. Look for him in the money.

This is where American Pharoah began his path to a Triple Crown, but a reminder of just how constantly things change in horse racing, last year’s native, Outwork, finished 14th.


Post #16

Owner: Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and LaPenta, Robert V

Trainer: Todd A Pletcher

Jockey: Jose L Ortiz

Odds: 20-1

Tapwrit turned some heads with his win at the Tampa Bay Derby but quickly fell out of favor after laying an egg at the Blue Grass where he finished five lengths off the winner, Irap. If McCraken hadn’t been hurt would he have even won the Tampa? He was bested by his neighbor in the Sam F Davis.

With a purchase price of $1.2 million, Tapwrit is the most expensive horse partaking in this race. He’s shown some promise, and ownership would no doubt like to see a big purse justify the purchase price, but without any real rhyme or reason, the lackluster run in his last outing is a big turn off.

Irish War Cry

Post #17

Owner: Isabelle de Tomaso

Trainer: H Graham Motion

Jockey: Rajiv Maragh

Odds: 6-1

Will we finally see a winner from post 17? Irish War Cry will surely give us our best chance at it. I would have figured the Irish War Cry would be much more intimidating, but so far the tune has been closer to Katy Perry’s ‘Hot and Cold’ than anything else. Wins at the Wood Memorial and Holy Bull are brought down with a stinker at the Fountain of Youth where he ran 7th. He’s the only horse with more than one triple-digit Bris speed figure, though, posting three in his five races. So the talent is clearly there.

Look for Irish War Cry to work just off the pace. He possesses enough kick to stay in the fight late, and as long as he doesn’t bite on too fast of a pace or sit too defensively back, he’ll be right in the mix to be a threat to win some money.


Post #18

Owner: Mr and Mrs Jerome S Moss

Trainer: John A Shirreffs

Jockey: Victor Espinoza

Odds: 15-1

Gormley was the winner of the Santa Anita Derby, a highly regarded Derby prep race over the last few years. Sadly, that field is being written off as anything but impressive. As a result, Gormley enters flying a bit under the radar. Working four wide in the stretch at the Santa Anita, Gormley willed through a group of horses that all but died after a blistering quick start to the race.

This is a grouping that won with Giacomo back in 2005 but Gormley doesn’t look to match in glory. Victor Espinoza won back-to-back Kentucky Derbies from 2014 to 2015. A dull ride from Whitmore last year didn’t come anywhere near in threatening to become the first jockey to win the race three years in a row. Gormley looks like a true underdog to make noise in getting him back into the winner’s circle here.

Practical Joke

Post #19

Owner: Klaravich Stables, Inc (Seth Klarman) and William H Lawrence

Trainer: Chad C Brown

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Odds: 20-1

Practical Joke started his career a perfect 3-0, and while he hasn’t finished outside the money, his next three races (two 2nd-place and one 3rd) haven’t quite matched the early excitement. He’s a really great looking horse and I wish he could have pieced together at least a win in his final workups. Finishing seven lengths off the more impressive Classic Empire could be a whole lot more telling than the 3/4 length 2nd he posted behind Irap at the Blue Grass.

I’ll Have Another is the lone horse to claim a victory from this post, but with just 25 starts it’s not something to write home about necessarily.


Post #20

Owner: Calumet Farm (Brad Kelley)

Trainer: Todd A Pletcher

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Odds: 30-1

Patch comes with an exhilarating tale of personal loss and sacrifice. Ok, I don’t want to oversell it, but the horse lost its left eye prior to ever running a race. A justifiable reason to not ever even see that first race, Patch has done nothing but finish in the money. Two 2nd-place finishes, including a near comeback after being bumped in the Louisiana Derby, and win in February at Gulfstream Park. With his left eye gone, breaking from the farthest gate (and all the horses to the left) can’t be the starting spot Pletcher and Tyler Gaffalione would have wanted, but they’ll just have to rely on the guidance of Gaffalione to navigate the field. The two rode as a pair at the Louisiana Derby, although it will be Gaffalione’s first Derby mount.

An inspiring story that can translate the adversity of a horse to so much of our own everyday lives, don’t be planning on submitting a Patch script to Hollywood studios just yet, this horse is a longshot for good reason. Unraced as two-year-old, Patch enters with the least amount of experience on his resume. Since 1900, only Big Brown and Regret have won with such little race experience.

This horse is no Regret by any means.

A feel good story that’ll have some sympathy cheering, save the adoration for anything other than your wallet.


Chalk has owned this circuit for some time, and with such a highly bet event, exotics are the way to go. If you can comfortably find some winners beforehand, the pick threes to pick sixes, while difficult, can pot a bit of money even with favorites winning throughout. But sticking explicitly to the Derby there’s money to be made. In 2014, even as a 5-2 favorite, a $2 exact with California Chrome and Commanding Curve paid $340, while the trifecta including Danza netted $1712. Picking three correctly in a field of 20 is no easy feat, however.

Last year a small AI-based collective intelligence platform named Unanimous AI predicted the superfecta (top four horses) perfectly. They’ve got another prediction this year so I’m going to rock with it and see how it goes.

$1 superfecta- Classic Empire, McCraken, Irish War Cry, and Always Dreaming.

I’ll spread a little bit of my love and attempt to hit via a few different exotics.

$2 exacta- Classic Empire, Always Dreaming

$2 exacta- Always Dreaming, Hence

$2 exacta- Hence, Irish War Cry

For the sake of my grandfather, who was a giant WWII buff, I’ll play this trifecta.

$2 trifecta box- Always Dreaming, Hence, Battle of Midway

$2 trifecta- Always Dreaming, Hence, Gunnevera


What are your Derby day predictions? Will we see yet another favorite run for the roses or will an underdog have an exciting upset in store for us?

The Kentucky Derby can be caught on your local NBC affiliate as well as through the NBC Sports app starting a 230 pm ET. Earlier race action can be caught on NBCSN.

Follow along on Twitter as I’ll be talking races, betting, and all things Kentucky Derby all day Saturday.


Be Smart – Playing the Horses – Wager Responsibly

For many people, playing the horses is exciting and entertaining. They make thoughtful decisions about spending time and money.

  • Do not “chase” losses. Accept them as the cost of entertainment.
  • Use extra income to wager, not money needed for everyday expenses.
  • Set a time limit.
  • Balance playing the horses with other leisure activities.
  • Play the horses for entertainment, not as a way to make money.

Responsible wagering is what most people practice on a daily basis. For some, however, wagering or gambling becomes a serious problem that they are unable to control. This can lead to a state of compulsive or pathological gambling. Pathological gamblers cannot resist the temptation to gamble; they cannot stop regardless of their jobs, families or anything else.

If you or someone you know needs help for a gambling problem, call today.

1 -800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537)

Help is available 24 hours a day….every day.

Tyler Arnold

Tyler Arnold

I am the editor-in-chief of The Runner Sports. I watch more sports than is probably determined healthy and enjoy talking about them all. I am a firm believer in there being a "dropped peanut surcharge" at the ballpark when it's a good throw. Thanks for the read.
Tyler Arnold