Kentucky Derby 2017 – Post Script

As is my custom, I did a 20 horse analysis of the Kentucky Derby. First, the outcome. I threw up an airball in terms of my tickets, but my analysis was really a lot closer than that might indicated. Let me start with what I thought I did well. I had five horses that I put in the category of 3rd or 4th at best.

  • Lookin at Lee
  • Untrapped
  • State of Honor
  • Hence
  • Irap

I also have five horses I said had no chance whatever, even to finish in the money.

  • Thunder Snow
  • Fast and Accurate
  • Girvin
  • Sonneteer
  • Patch

Out of ten horses that I said had no chance to finish first or second, exactly one of them managed a top ten finish – Looking at Lee, who actually finished second. This is what I said about him.

Looking at Lee. On the positive side, he’s a plodding closer, which means the one post isn’t going to hurt him as much as if he was a speed horse, but on the negative side, he’s going to have to circle the field to be a factor at the end. The rule of thumb is that you don’t consider deep closers in the win slot. He’s also not cracked the win code since August at Ellis Park. I could put him in the 3rd or 4th spot, but I’m not seeing anything better for him.

Here’s where I was wrong about him. He didn’t have to circle the field. He was able to stay on what some were calling a golden rail, found a place to slip out in the stretch and finished second. I miscalled his trip, and had I figured that out I would’ve certainly given him a chance to make the place. Ironically, I had people tell me that based on my analysis they did put Lookin at Lee in the second spot and nailed the exacta. So of the horses I said were chanceless, including the ridiculous 6th choice in the betting Patch, all five were in the bottom 10, and of the horses I said backhole at best, four of the five finished in the bottom 10.

I thought three horses were the highest probability for the win slot. Irish War Cry, the horse I used on top, was in perfect position and simply spit the bit. I’ll have to get Motion’s opinion on that, but it was a huge disappointment. The other two horses were Classic Empire and Practical Joke, who finished fourth and fifth. Not horrible.  The potential exacta horses were:

  • Always Dreaming
  • Gunnevera
  • Battle of Midway
  • J Boys Echo
  • McCracken
  • Tapwit
  • Gormley

They all finished in the top ten except for J Boys Echo.

I obviously missed the winner. This is what I said about him.

Always Dreaming. He was always targeted to run to the front early, and given the post position there is little doubt that will be the strategy. He’s the co-second choice on the morning line off the strength of his Florida Derby win, and while he was impressive winning that race, I remember thinking what an odd finish it was. The current downside on the horse is that he seems to be over energetic, and the concern is that between expending extra energy before the race, he may shoot his wad early in the Derby. The Toddster has been working the horse with a draw rein in an effort to control the horse better, but the gimmicky solution may portend trouble on Saturday. Still, Pletcher is a master at improving horses rapidly, and this was a prime example. He didn’t break his maiden until January at Tampa, won an optional claiming race next, and then popped in the Florida Derby. One thing I thought about before that race was, how could this horse be 5/2, but I didn’t think the field was that strong. I looked at the dirt races from that day, and they seemed to either be won by front runners or deep closers, and in the Florida Derby the top two finishers were basically there around the track, while Gunnevera came from well off the pace, so track bias doesn’t seem to be in play. The pace was reasonable, neither particularly fast or slow. Always Dreaming ran a huge new top in that race, and given that he has to be in the mix. But given the potential of a lot of speed in here, I’ve got reason to pause. I’m not likely to put him in the top slot, especially at the odds.

After reading that, I can understand the people who thought he was a legitimate contender and wound up with the exacta. I wish I could give you a reason I didn’t like him more. Sure the Pletcher Derby record influenced me, and sure I thought being trapped on the rail would cause him to go too fast early and crap out late, but the rail turned out to be a great place to be and the pace was not killing. I simply called it wrong.

So all in all, I predicted nine of the top ten finishers, including the 40-1 shot Battle of Midway who was one of my exacta possibles, and the better than 20-1 shots Tapwrit, Gormley and Practical Joke. If I had been a little more insightful I might have made a ton of money, but that’s what makes the Derby such a tough race. If you want to focus your money, you better be dead on. And if you want to spread, you better have a pretty good bankroll.