Kentucky Derby 2017 Horses
2017 Kentucky Derby Favorites
The last four Kentucky Derbys have been won by the post time favorite with 2013 hero Orb the biggest price among them at 5/1. The other three – California Chrome (2014), American Pharoah (2015) and Nyquist (2016) – were respectively 5/2, 5/2 and 2/1.
While another favorite could certainly wear the 2017 roses, bettors should make sure they receive at least 5/1 considering no horse in this field has near the credentials or momentum of any of the past four winners. In a field with nothing substantive separating most of the horses, it may be time for another Giacomo (2005) or Mine that Bird (2008) – both 50/1 shot winners.
Difficult as it may be to handicap this field, here’s a look at our top 10 contenders:
This ranking might a bit too low as this contender has at least proven he likes to win races. Having wintered at Fair Grounds, Girvin swept the Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby while earning mediocre speed figures against suspect fields. Still, it bears repeating that there’s just not much separating the horses in this Kentucky Derby. If Givin can take reasonable steps forward, he has as much a claim to the 2017 Derby as anyone else.
#9 Tapwrit 20/1
Like J Boys Echo, this horse ran very poorly in the Bluegrass Stakes. Some handicappers will point to his solid Tampa Bay Derby win, but this Todd Pletcher trainee needs a big rebound from his April 8 effort in Lexington. He was also beaten pretty handily by McCracken in the Sam F. Davis earlier this year, so he needs to turn the tables on several runners in this field to factor.
#8 Battle of Midway 20/1
It seems this colt’s best days are in front of him, but the Kentucky Derby might be a case of too much, too soon. Still, this guy is bred for 10 furlongs and ran a better race than his 88 Beyer Speed Figure indicated while finishing second in the Santa Anita Derby where he contested a fast early pace and simply couldn’t quite hold off a late charge from the more experienced Gormley. With a better ride, Battle of Midway can be in contention for a good part of the way and could land a share of the money.
#7 J Boys Echo 20/1
If things really heat up on the front end in the Kentucky Derby, J Boys Echo will certainly be the beneficiary. Trained by Dale Romans, this colt has shown flashes of ability including a 101 Beyer Speed Figure while winning the Gotham Stakes. On the downside, he was a no-show in the Bluegrass Stakes and that was his most recent race. Hard to pinpoint exactly where this one is coming into the Derby, but on his best day and with the ideal set-up, he can have a say in the outcome.
#6 Hence 20/1
The Sunland Derby winner may be sneaking into Louisville just under most handicapper’s radars, but this horse recorded a last-race Beyer of 97 while defeating Bluegrass winner Irap and Arkansas Derby runner-up Conquest Mo Money. He’s also training forwardly at Churchill Downs with onlookers noting his affinity for the surface. Against a field lacking a true stand-out, this colt could be very live at a nice price. Trainer Steve Asmussen has won the Preakness and Belmont and seems destined at some point to add the first jewel of the Triple Crown to his Hall of Fame resume.
#5 Gunnevera 12/1
Arguably the most consistent runner in the field, this feel-good story was purchased for just $16,000 as a yearling and has already eclipsed $1 million in career earnings.
While he only recorded an 88 Beyer Figure while finishing a well-beaten third behind Always Dreaming in the Florida Derby, Gunnevera had two viable excuses:
- #1 He broke from the 11-hole which is a notoriously difficult starting post at Gulfstream Park.
- #2 He was once again running against a speed favoring track. This runner should relish the extra distance of the Derby as much as a track that doesn’t promote speed nearly as much as the one where he’s made all three 2017 starts.
For those looking for a horse to key in all spots in wagers such as the trifecta or superfecta, Gunnevera could be the answer.
#4 McCracken 10/1
With just a single loss on his resume, it would be unfair to toss McCracken based on his third-place effort in the Bluegrass Stakes on April 8. After missing time with a minor ankle injury, this Ian Wilkes trainee ran like a horse who lacked premium fitness and likely gained much from a conditioning standpoint. He’s back to home base at Churchill Downs where he’s 2 for 2, but this guy is like most in the field in that he’ll have to have a career-best effort to find the winner’s circle.
#3 Always Dreaming 8/1
The upside here is huge as demonstrated by his domination of the Florida Derby. Always Dreaming earned a 97 Beyer Speed Figure in that race while being geared down in the final stages. There’s no reason he can’t continue his ascent, but trainer Todd Pletcher is just 1 for 43 in the Kentucky Derby and it seems like we’ve seen this sequence play out before with 2015 Florida Derby winner Materiality, who actually posted a 110 Beyer before flopping in the Derby.
#2 Irish War Cry 8/1
Outside of a dismal effort in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, it’s very hard to discredit anything this colt has done in 2017. Irish War Cry defeated Classic Empire soundly in the Holy Bull Stakes and recorded the fastest last-race Beyer Speed Figure of any Derby hopeful earning a 101 while winning the Wood Memorial. Still, the Graham Motion trainee has benefitted from easy trips in both his wins this year and may find life more difficult in the bulky Derby field.
#1 Classic Empire 5/1
This guy is the most credentialed and talented contender, and trainer Mark Casse and owner John Oxley have to feel extremely fortunate to be part of this field. The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner lost only once as a two-year-old and that was after throwing the jockey at the start. He posted a 101 Beyer Figure winning the BC Juvenile and began 2017 as the horse to beat.
That’s when the wheels started to come off. After a head-scratching third-place effort in the Holy Bull Stakes, it was discovered the colt had a foot abscess. The foot abscess was followed by back soreness and a reluctance to train. Classic Empire did not start again until April 15, but returned in style to win the Arkansas Derby. Now it appears handicappers are jumping back on his bandwagon as quickly as they dismounted earlier in the year.
The question is simple: which horse shows up on Derby day?
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