Every year friends ask my advice and assessment of the Kentucky Derby. There is a big difference between being a horseman and a handicapper. No way do I consider myself to be an expert prognosticator at picking winners. I have studied thoroughbred breeding and racing and can tell you unequivocally that there are “no sure bets in this game.” The 2017 Kentucky Derby is especially difficult to handicap because of the field size (20 horses) and the fact that there is no clear cut “super horse.” Even the morning line favorite Classic Empire is a lukewarm (4/1) choice. Additionally, rain is predicted in Louisville for Saturday and many of the horses have not run on an “off track” which complicates the issue. That being said…here are my preferences. McCracken
I have liked this horse for some time and he may be the smart choice to have at #1. He was undefeated going into the G2 Blue Grass Stakes, at Keeneland, where he finished 3rd, in an odd race, behind Practical Joke and (30/1) upset maiden winner Irap. He is 3 for 3 at Churchill Downs and likes the surface. He is an impressive athlete with very good speed figures and I look for him to improve and bounce back from his last outing. He leaves from post #15 and is the second choice of the experts at (5/1) odds. Classic Empire
2016 GI Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Champion. He has had some adversity in 2017 finishing a sub par 3rd to Irish War Cry in the G2 Holy Bull Stakes on Feb 3rd. He was obstinate about training and moved to Ocala, Florida. Trainer Mark Casse seems to have him on the right track again after a huge victory in the $1 million GI Arkansas Derby. The question many people are asking is whether Classic Empire is the same powerful force he was at two. He may well be the best athlete in the field but needs to have his head right. He leaves from gate #14 and the experts have him as the (4/1) favorite. Irish War Cry
He drilled Gunnevera by nearly four lengths in the Holy Bull Stakes before finishing a disappointing 7th in the G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes where he may have displaced. He came back with a super race in the Wood Memorial wearing a figure-8 bridle. He needs to relax early and settle in behind the speed. It should be a cat and mouse game with Always Dreaming to see who gets first run. I feel that Irish War Cry has the most stamina of the pace horses. He leaves from gate #17 at a nice (6/1) price. Always Dreaming
He was the devastating winner of the GI Florida Derby and must have tremendous lung capacity, as did his sire (Bodemeister) and broodmare sire (In Excess). His works have been sensational and should be in the battle early on. There has been some concern about his over-aggressiveness in the morning and throwing his head. Todd Pletcher does not want to see him run his race in the paddock, he leaves from the #5 gate and is the co-second choice at (5/1). Longshots
With a full field of 20 nearly anything can happen.The winner must have a good clean trip and stay out of trouble. All the other entries are anywhere from (15/1) to (50/1) odds so there could be a very significant pay day. It is entirely possible (and probable) that one of the longshots will hit the board and make a mess out of the trifecta. Mudders
An already muddled outlook for a highly competitive edition of the Kentucky Derby could be more confusing with the addition of Mother Nature. Weather forecasts raise the possibility of storms and a wet and muddy track. Ten of the 20 starters have never run on a wet track so we don’t know if they will like the condition or not. Of the others, two that stand out are Classic Empire and Lookin At Lee who have already raced on a wet track at Churchill Downs. Classic Empire captured his career debut on a sloppy track and Lookin At Lee was second in the G3 Iroquois in the mud. Three others have had wet track victories: Gromley (G3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita), Hence (Maiden Win at Oaklawn) and Battle Of Midway (Career Debut at Santa Anita). Kentucky Oaks
On Friday May 5th, at Churchill Downs, 14 of the best 3-year old fillies in the country will line up to contest the $1 million Kentucky Oaks. I really like the heavy favorite #4 Paradise Woods at (5/2) odds followed by #10 Miss Sky Warrior at (9/2). Our fabulous sprinter Queen Negwer raced on the 2013 Kentucky Oaks undercard…what a thrill it was for everyone at Saddleback Stables! Derby Dare
Who do you like? We dare you to pick the Kentucky Derby winner for a chance to win one of Queen Maureen’s Saddleback Chocolate creations….The Triple Crown, hand sculpted solid chocolate square…your choice of dark, milk or white ($11.00 retail). Just for fun send us the name of your pick, along with your name, address, phone number and chocolate preference, for a chance to win. The winner will be selected at random from those who backed the right horse. Entries must be submitted by 5pm (CST) on Saturday, May 6th (only one entry per person please).
Kentucky Derby Post Positions And Odds
Lookin at Lee
Saeed bin Suroor
Fast and Accurate
Ricardo Santana Jr.
State of Honor
Battle of Midway
J Boys Echo
Irish War Cry
Enjoy “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports”
Wager Well, Mike
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