After months of highlighting Derby preps in this space, it’s time to take a deep breath and return to our weekly racing notes for a week. Next week we’ll unveil our Derby Degrees of Separation post, an annual rite of Derby passage, ranking the 20 probable starters.
So what’s cooking in the Space Kitchen as we head full steam ahead into Triple Crown season?
- Is there anyone on the Derby trail right now that you’d put stock into a possible Triple Crown? The Wynn Las Vegas listed Classic Empire at 18-1 and no sweep of the three races is at 1-to-10.
— TwinSpires.com (@TwinSpires) April 20, 2017
- On that note, it’s a bummer that we won’t be able to see Unique Bella do her stuff on Derby weekend in the Oaks; hopefully we’ll see a sound recovery and see her later in the year. Another Alabama slammer at the Spa?
- My Derby spreadsheet went live last night. It features the current top 25 on the leaderboard, sorted by point total. Something I’ve put together since 2008 to help dissect the field with different statistics and information on each of the probable starters.
- The horse that jumped off the sheet happened to be Irap. Yes, you heard me correctly, Irap. Sired by Tiznow, who won the Classic twice and has decent Tomlinson numbers for both the distance and a wet track. His Beyers, if you’re into that sort of thing, have improved 10 points in consecutive races and his last effort was one point less than Classic Empire’s Arkansas Derby. I’ll be taking a closer look at this one.
- A field of eight will attack the Charles Town bullring on Saturday in the $1.25 million Classic. Last year’s winner Stanford (8-5) drew the rail and Imperative (3-1) is back to take another shot at the big money race which will be shown live on Fox Sports 2 on Saturday.
— Charles Town Classic (@CT_Classic) April 19, 2017
- Next weekend’s print column will focus on who I think could shock the world at big balloons in the most wide open Derby in years. Outside of Classic Empire and Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming, no horse can really make a solid case for low odds, so there could be serious value in trying to beat the top choice in such a big field.
- A couple prep races will be looking for their winners to capture the Derby winner for the first time in quite some time in the Louisiana Derby (1996 – Grindstone) and the Wood Memorial (2000 – Fusiachi Pegasus). Both Girvin and Irish War Cry come off impressive wins, respectively. Ironically Funny Cide (2003) ran in both races, finishing second in both. Monarchos (2001) also finished second in the Wood.
- In the last five years we’ve had two Florida and Santa Anita Derby winners and an Arkansas Derby winner wear the roses. You have to go back to 2010 (Super Saver) for the last Derby winner not to win his prep race coming into the Derby.
- With the Bills schedule released last night, a huge racing-football road trip double header could be in the works in October. Keeneland opening weekend for its fall meet is Oct. 6-7 and the Bengals game in Cincy is on Oct. 8, just an hour and a half up Route 75 from Lexington.
- I passed on making any Derby future bets this year, it’s like making money.
- Next week’s print column will look at who I think could be live longshots to use on Derby day. Stay tuned as Derby fever is turned up over the next two weeks.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.