My seventh straight Kentucky Derby is in the books and it seems to get better every year.
While the weather didn’t quite cooperate until late Saturday afternoon, the racing was terrific all weekend, setting up another big weekend May 20-21 in Baltimore.
Here are some post-mortem Derby thoughts and some forward looking commentary on the second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown….
- This year’s Derby was my first goose-egg missing the board with all four of my top picks in seven years. It was just one of those days.
- My top pick Irish War Cry sure looked like he was 6-5 at the top of the stretch and then spun his wheels in the four path heading for home. To add insult to injury, he wiped out my second choice, Classic Empire with his slanted start across the track.
- Speaking of the Juvenile champ, kudos to the connections for running right back in the Preakness and taking a shot at the Derby winner in Baltimore. He finished a strong fourth after the inauspicious start created by the Irish War Cry pinball effect.
- Regarding the Derby winner, Always Dreaming, I just didn’t trust him going into the race. His training regimen spooked me, and Bodemeister’s Derby thought he might not quite get the distance. So what does he do? Grabs the inside path, rates perfectly and pulls away in the stretch. That’s why they call it gambling.
- I asked jockey Corey Lanerie after the race if Lookin at Lee would relish the Belmont distance and catch Always Dreaming down the road, and he only said that there would be another chance. I guess it will be in Baltimore instead of New York. Sure, he could run again in the final leg, but a loss would probably make that unlikely. He seems to be a horse that would relish the distance going longer to me. His sire did win the Preakness, so maybe that’s the angle I should be following, but I’m not sold. He had a golden trip up the rail and admitted that he didn’t even ask him until the top of the stretch. His daddy won the Indiana Derby in the slop so he did have that going for him.
- Songbird worked a solid 5 furlongs at Santa Anita Thursday morning, and talk of a possible run in the Ogden Phipps on Belmont Stakes day is a possibility. Yes, please.
- Biggest disappointment for Derby weekend was not being able to see Miss Temple City run. She scratched due to the soft turf on Saturday.
- The Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) has its annual track ratings out in its May issue. Kentucky Downs topped the list for the third consecutive year.
- Buffalo once again was in the top five in television market ratings for the Derby, proving Western New York loves its horse racing:
Top markets for NBC’s Kentucky Derby telecast: Louisville 39.0/65; Ft. Myers 21.3/39; Cincinnati 18.8/37; Buffalo 17.9/31; Knoxville 17.0/28
— NBC Sports PR (@NBCSportsPR) May 7, 2017
- Mark Casse stated today in the NTRA’s national racing teleconference that State of Honor, the early pace-setter in the Derby, is headed to Woodbine to start prepping for the Queen’s Plate on July 2. “He’s on his way this afternoon to Woodbine to start thinking about the Queen’s Plate,” Casse said during the call. “We’re going to see how he trains and if all goes well, he’ll be in the Queen’s Plate.”
- His main challenger in the Plate is King and His Court, who was also briefly on the Derby trail in Tampa. He won the Wando Stakes last weekend at Woodbine.
- Javier Castellano will jump off Gunnevera and will ride Cloud Computing for Chad Brown in the Preakness. Hall of Famer Mike Smith picks up the mount on Gunnevera.
- Gunnevera could be one to watch in the Preakness, with the two Uncle Mo’s in the race along with Always Dreaming, it could be a little hotter up front then it was in the Derby. Stay tuned.
- Two others that will be in the gate in Baltimore that will also be coming into the race off a win, like Always Dreaming, are Senior Investment (Lexington Stakes) and Multiplier (Illinois Derby).
- Pletcher will have a number of horses running over the two days at Pimlico. Horses anticipated to come from Belmont Park will be Hedge Fund for the Sir Barton, Clipthecouponannie for the Skipat, possibly Madefromlucky for the Pimlico Special and Bode’s Dream and/or Nonna Bella for the Miss Preakness.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.