The Green Sheet: Kentucky Derby 143 Analysis & Graded Line

Kentucky Derby 143 Graded Line, Updated May 4, 2017

For a printable, PDF version of the graded line for Kentucky Derby 143 by The Green Sheet, click HERE.

May 6, 2017, weather forecast for Louisville, Kentucky: Rain showers early with overcast skies later in the day. 80% chance of rain with the best chance from 8:00 A.M.- 1:00 P.M. in the afternoon. Winds northwest at 10-15 miles-per-hour. —updated 5/5/17 @ 9:00 P.M. Eastern

RACE TWELVE–The Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (G1)

I’ve been on board the MCCRAKEN train since his second start last fall at Churchill Downs, when the bay Ghostzapper colt won the $83,000 Street Sense Stakes under the Twin Spires, and I see no reason to get off now, especially with the prospect of him going off in the 5-1 price range. The Whitham Family homebred loves Louisville, having won all three of his prior starts at Churchill by a combined total off seven and a half lengths, and he has yet to run a poor race in his career. Throw out his effort in the Toyota Blue Grass (G1) off a near two-month layoff, where he was a little too sharp, broke outward at the start, attended a slow pace and was one-paced the final furlong, as this is not his preferred or most effective running style. Look for jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. to keep him in the clear from his wide post draw, cover him up while getting him to settle, and make one-run from the five-sixteenths pole to the wire. He’ll get an honest pace in front of him to set up his late kick with STATE OF HONOR, FAST AND ACCURATE, and possibly BATTLE OF MIDWAY carving out honest splits for this 10-furlong trip with the likes of ALWAYS DREAMING, IRISH WAR CRY, PRACTICAL JOKE, and IRAP sitting just off the front-runners in a pressing, stalking style. He’ll be much tighter in his second start off a layoff, his latest breeze at Churchill Downs was sensational and he has a great mind which will allow him not only to switch off early and finish late but also to handle the Derby Day craziness. He’s never been on an “off” track, which is a concern, but he’s bred top and bottom to handle it (by Ghostzapper out of a Seeking the Gold mare), he only needs what all entrants need in this race, a clean trip and a bit of racing luck; rates top billing.

The chestnut colt GUNNEVERA is a dyed-in-the-wool closer that figures to benefit from an honest early pace, he acts as if he will relish the stretch out to this 10-furlong trip and, at 15-1 on the morning line, is an incredible overlay. Trainer Antonio Sano dominated Venezuelan racing to such a degree that he was kidnapped and held for ransom on more than one occasion, and the astute horseman, who picked out this son of Dialed In at public auction and bought him for $16,000, knows this guy like the back of his hand. He has won graded stakes at three different racetracks, and I have to think that getting him off the traditionally speed-favoring strip at Gulfstream Park, where he spent all winter, will only enhance his chances in this spot. He was victimized by an eventful, wide trip over a strip that was kind to front-runners in Hallandale Beach in the Florida Derby (G1), and he had to steady just as he was commencing his late run when IRISH WAR CRY beat him in the Holy Bull (G2), his first start off an extended layoff. I love that Javier Castellano–a great finishing rider–stays with him and this fellow caught and acted on a “sloppy” racetrack in his debut run at Gulfstream last summer. Look for the red horse with the blue bridle to be rolling late at double-digit odds; major player.

I’m not sure how stable CLASSIC EMPIRE is between the ears, but he’s a talented racehorse that loves to win, having done so in five-of-seven lifetime starts, the most recent of which was an impressive off-the-pace score in the Arkansas Derby (G1) over a field that was somewhat light in stature. Bay son of Pioneerof the Nile ws flat in the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) at 50 cents on the dollar but apparently he ran his race in the short van ride from Palm Meadows to Gulfstream Park that day. He has had some niggling, minor physical issues that caused him to miss some time after the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) debacle, but credit is due to Team Casse for getting him back on the good foot in Hot Springs. He’s another that is undefeated at Churchill Downs, and he was “full of run” in his career debut in Louisville, which was contested over a “sloppy,” sealed racetrack. He’ll likely improve in his second start off the sidelines and is fast enough according to the speed fig guys to be competitive. He should get a decent trip in the third flight but needs to mentally handle the extended pre-race–paddock, post parade, and gate–and blinkers have seemed o help him with his focus; contender.

I’ve been hot and cold on ALWAYS DREAMING since his authoritative win in the Florida Derby (G1), as he’s a talented colt that has never run a poor race and is a perfect three-for-three for trainer Todd Pletcher. On the down side, I’m not keen on a conditioner fiddling around with training equipment changes a few days before the biggest race of a horse’s career, as he has been galloping in draw reins the past few days to harness his aggressiveness, which has been on display since he arrived in Louisville. I’m not a big fan of draw reins, as they can make a horse tougher and change their action, but by all accounts he is accepting them and has been more settled with top exercise rider Nick Bush in the boot in the A.M. If he’s too keen breaking from the five-hole just to the inside of confirmed speedster STATE OF HONOR and is on the bridle from the opening bell, he’ll be cooked by the time the real running starts. On the positive side, he acts as if he’s tractable enough to rate and his sire, Bodemeister, ran one on the most impressive races to date in the 2012 Kentucky Derby (G1) setting a rapid pace and staying on to be a game second, and his broodmare sire, In Excess (Ire), was a speedster who could stay a classic distance of ground and set a track record at Belmont Park for a mile and a quarter (1:58 1/5). He’s a brilliant horse that has won three consecutive races by a combined total of 20 1/2 lengths, but he’ll get bet and the race shape from a pace perspective works against his chances if one believes he’ll be aggressive from the break. He has never been in the mud but is another that is bred to handle it; figures for part, taking a stand against for top honors.

SELECTIONS: 15-10-14-5

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