THE 2017 Kentucky Derby final field will be announced on Thursday, but we’ve taken an earlier look at which thoroughbreds represent the best betting value.
The Run to the Roses is one of the most popular betting races in the world and the group one feature at Churchill Downs in Kentucky will attract a global audience of millions.
We look at the latest Kentucky Derby news and preview the horses which have taken our fancy ahead of the US$2 million middle distance feature on Sunday morning.
Latest 2017 Kentucky Derby news
Champion international trainer Saeed bin Suroor will likely start Thunder Snow in Sunday’s Kentucky Derby and the Godolphin trainer is confident about its chances.
“Thunder Snow is a colt of the highest class and I hope that he can step up in the Kentucky Derby” bin Suroor said.
It’s currently an each way chance at $15 with Bet365.com and it’s looking to join past weather-related winners such as Thunder Gulch and Typhoon II.
“He is a big, strong colt, who is improving all of the time and acts on dirt, and we are looking forward to seeing him take on the best three-year-olds in America,” bin Suroor added.
Thunder Snow had a track gallop on Wednesday where Godolphin rider Daragh O’Donohoe was pleased with the effort.
“We wanted to make sure he had a nice jog before we cantered him off and it was a good idea because he’s never had people so close around him,” O’Donohoe said. “That was the first time he’d been with a pony, as well; it was a good lesson.
“It was really nice to get him out because he was getting pretty fresh in that barn. He’s got a very high recovery rate so there’s not a lot that fazes him. He was pretty professional out there on the track and I was actually pretty surprised because we’re used to our own private gallops at Al Quoz in Dubai.
“We don’t see a lot of traffic so his behavior this morning was exceptional. He floated over the track and I had no problems on him. He moved well, he’s breathing well. He changed leads a couple times on the bend. I was really happy.”
— Eric Fisher (@ericfisher) May 1, 2017
Another trainer excited about his chances in the Kentucky Derby is Antonio Sano, who lines up Gunnevera.
The three-year-old finished off well for third in the Group 1 Florida Derby and believes he has the right horse to take out the race.
“Every day, I get more excited. I get nervous. It’s my first time at Churchill Downs. I am proud my horse is in the Kentucky Derby. All of the horses in the Kentucky Derby can win,” Sano said.
Sano hails from Venezuela, but spent most of his time training in Argentina. He trained over 3,300 winners in the country, but was kidnapped twice and held for ransom – the last time for 36 days.
“I hope he can win the Kentucky Derby. It would be a big gift for the people of Venezuela at this moment. In Venezuela, people are killing people. People have no food. Very sad,” Sano said.
“Last night, it was impossible to sleep. I can’t sleep. I kept thinking about the Kentucky Derby, the race, the post positions.
“Every day, I stop to think, ‘My horse can win the Kentucky Derby.”
Kentucky Derby top pick – Classic Empire
Classic Empire is the current Kentucky Derby favourite at +550 with Bet365.com and it’s a horse which has had to overcome its fair share of troubles.
The Mark Casse-trained colt won the Two-Year-Old Horse of the Year after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but in two subsequent starts it failed to fire. The reason was a foot abscess and a possible back injury, so Casse sent it back to the farm where it grew up in the hopes that it would relax.
“He wasn’t happy. He was not behaving the way we would like him to behave,” Casse said.
“It was something that we talked about doing anyway all along. At that point in time, I thought it was the only thing we could do.
“I’ve been doing this a long, long time and we have these sort of hiccups all the time, just never with a champion. And never with a horse that is the favorite for the Kentucky Derby.”
That forced bookmakers to let Classic Empire drift in the market, but Casse knew his star would get back to its best and told his friends to “take all the action you can get”.
“I told them we may be down, but we’re far from out,” he added.
It enters the Kentucky Derby having won the Group 1 Arkansas Derby which has always been a good form guide in the past and Casse believes his runner is in the ‘great’ category.
“I’ve always said good horses win when everything goes their way; great horses win when nothing goes their way,” Casse said. “And I think he’s a great horse. But I guess we’ll determine that (Sunday).”
Kentucky Derby next best – Irish War Cry
Irish War Cry is on the second line of betting at +750 with Bet365 and there’s plenty of pressure on the shoulders of the New Jersey-trained colt.
The Graham Motion-trained son of Curlin could save the state of racing in New Jersey if the three-year-old is to win the Derby on Sunday.
It enters the race with excellent form, which included a last start win in the Group 2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. That win came over the likes of Classic Empire so the form out of that race should stack up.
It has tasted defeat at only one of its five starts to date, which came in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes behind race-rival Gunnevara ($17), but the rise in distance last start helped and that’s a good sign for Sunday’s feature.
Irish War Cry ran over a mile at Churchill Downs on Wednesday morning and Graham Motion thinks his colt will adjust to conditions throughout the week.
“He was a little bit on the muscle today, being his first time out here,” Motion said. “He didn’t train (Tuesday morning) obviously, with traveling.
“He was a little sharp, but I think he’ll settle down as the week goes on.
“One day the horse that won the Wood will win the Derby.”
Kentucky Derby rough chance – Patch
We’re not going to ignore the feel-good story of the Kentucky Derby. Patch is a one-eyed colt which will be lined up by champion trainer Todd Pletcher.
The three-year-old had its eye removed as a juvenile after inflammation built up in the socket. The loss of vision hasn’t deterred it from running fast and its run for second behind Girvin in the Louisiana Derby was good enough form to consider for this.
Pletcher has trained one-eyed horses in the Kentucky Derby before and it would certainly make for a nice story come race day.
Patch is long in the market at $26, but punters should be able to secure a nice place price with Ladbrokes.com.au on Sunday morning.