Kentucky Derby 2017 cheat sheet

With the Kentucky Derby just around the corner, it’s time to brush up on this year’s field for the first jewel of the Triple Crown at Churchill Downs. Whether you are interested in making a couple of bucks on the race or just want to know a little bit about this year’s runners, we’ve got you covered with our 2017 Kentucky Derby Cheat Sheet.

Once post positions are drawn, we’ll put the field in post position order and add morning-line odds, and we’ll also be sure to update with any changes to the riding assignments in the coming days.

Girvin

Jockey: Mike Smith

Trainer: Joe Sharp

Owner: Brad Grady

Career record: 4 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $874,400

Earnings per start: $218,600

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 102

Kentucky Derby points: 150

Pedigree: Tale of Ekati – Catch the Moon, by Malibu Moon

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Girvin put concerns over a quarter crack to rest with a solid five-furlong workout at Keeneland on April 29, and all systems appear to be set on go for a start in the Kentucky Derby. He will enter the 143rd run for the roses as the only horse in the field who has a pair of graded stakes wins during 2017 (Thunder Snow has won two consecutive group stakes, the foreign equivalent to graded stakes, in Dubai). Girvin has won three out of four starts, with the only blemish a game runner-up effort on turf, and he has a good stalk-and-pounce running style for the Kentucky Derby. On the other hand, he’s yet to race outside of Fair Grounds, and defeated many of the same horses in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby as he did in the Risen Star Stakes (although Senior Investment’s subsequent win in the Stonestreet Lexington Stakes boosts the Louisiana Derby field somewhat). Sire Tale of Ekati won the 2008 Wood Memorial, ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby, and sixth in the Belmont Stakes. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith won the 2005 Kentucky Derby with late-closing 50.30-1 longshot Giacomo and has finished second four times, most recently aboard Bodemeister in 2012. Girvin will be trainer Joe Sharp’s first Kentucky Derby starter.

Classic Empire

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: John Oxley

Career record: 7 starts – 5 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $2,120,220

Earnings per start: $302,889

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 116

Kentucky Derby points: 132

Pedigree: Pioneerof the Nile – Sambuca Classica, by Cat Thief

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Classic Empire gives the 2017 Kentucky Derby field a welcome class boost as he aims to follow Street Sense (2007), American Pharoah (2015), and Nyquist (2016) as 2-year-old champion males of this century who have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby as 3-year-olds. After weeks of uncertainty, last year’s Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner returned to top form with a late-charging run to take the April 15 Arkansas Derby. In that race, he sat a bit farther off the pace than in his stakes wins last year, and responded impressively when angled out and asked for his best by jockey Julien Leparoux. He co-owns the highest Equibase Speed Figure in the 2017 Kentucky Derby field, along with Gormley. Young sire Pioneerof the Nile finished second in the 2009 Derby behind Mine That Bird and has already ensured a long career at stud by siring 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Leparoux’s best finish in the Derby to date is fifth, which he did in 2007 and 2015, the latter coming aboard the Mark Casse-trained Danzig Moon for Casse’s best showing. Owner John Oxley already has a Kentucky Derby win; that came in 2001, when Monarchos wore the roses after finishing 1 ¼ miles in 1:59.97, the second-fastest time in Derby history behind Secretariat’s 1:59 2/5.

 

Gormley

Jockey: Victor Espinoza

Trainer: John Shirreffs

Owners: Jerry and Ann Moss

Career record: 6 starts – 4 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $920,000

Earnings per start: $153,333

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 116

Kentucky Derby points: 125

Pedigree: Malibu Moon – Race to Urga, by Bernstein

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Horses based in Southern California have won four of the past five Kentucky Derbys, but this year’s Golden State group is coming into Churchill Downs short of the usual luster, due in part to Mastery’s injury and a slowly-run Santa Anita Derby. Gormley is the most accomplished of the California contingent, and a case could be made that his two losses came when he simply could not keep up with superior horses (Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and Mastery in the San Felipe Stakes). His best effort places him in the exacta come May 6, and he showed an encouraging ability to rate off of the pace in the Santa Anita Derby. His sire, Malibu Moon, only raced twice but has become one of the best representatives of the A.P. Indy stamina line, and he already has a Kentucky Derby winner among his progeny in 2013 hero Orb. Victor Espinoza, newly elected to the racing Hall of Fame, has won the Kentucky Derby three times (tied for third with six others) aboard War Emblem (2002), California Chrome (2014), and American Pharoah (2015). John Shirreffs won the 2005 Derby for owners Jerry and Ann Moss with Giacomo, and he and the Mosses are also represented by Royal Mo this year.

Irap

Jockey: Mario Gutierrez

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Owner: Reddam Racing

Career record: 8 starts – 1 win – 3 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $772,600

Earnings per start: $96,575

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 101

Kentucky Derby points: 113

Pedigree: Tiznow – Silken Cat, by Storm Cat

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: He came into the April 8 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes as a maiden through seven starts and with the reputation of a runner content to cash second-, third-, and fourth-place checks … but Irap left Keeneland as the 31.30-1 upset winner of the Blue Grass and the latest Derby hopeful for the owner-trainer-jockey team of J. Paul Reddam, Doug O’Neill, and Mario Gutierrez. That trio already has two Kentucky Derby wins with I’ll Have Another in 2012 and Nyquist last year. Irap was well ridden by Julien Leparoux in the Blue Grass, as he was kept out of trouble to press the early pace before he took over the lead coming out of the far turn and then showed some fight to turn back Practical Joke’s late challenge. Still, in any of his previous starts he finished no closer than two lengths behind the winner, and he’ll have a tougher time pressing the pace in the Derby when joined by the likes of Always Dreaming and Classic Empire. He’s very well-bred, as his sire Tiznow won the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice, and his half-brother (same dam [mother], different sire [father]), is champion sprinter and leading sire Speightstown.

Irish War Cry

Jockey: Rajiv Maragh

Trainer: Graham Motion

Owner: Isabelle de Tomaso

Career record: 5 starts – 4 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $669,460

Earnings per start: $139,892

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110

Kentucky Derby points: 110

Pedigree: Curlin – Irish Sovereign, by Polish Numbers

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Irish War Cry will probably be one of the three or four top betting choices when the 20-horse Derby field leaves the starting gate, and deservedly so. The Wood Memorial Stakes presented by NYRA Bets victor has posted triple-digit Equibase Speed Figures in all four of his wins, and if you set aside his puzzling no-show seventh in the March 4 Twinspires Fountain of Youth Stakes, his résumé stands above that of any other Derby contender not named Classic Empire. Jockey Rajiv Maragh’s success in keeping Irish War Cry relaxed during what is always a hectic charge through the first turn in the Derby will be crucial to his chances. Maragh’s best showing among four Derby tries came in 2011, when Mucho Macho Man finished third. That same year, Graham Motion achieved Derby glory with Team Valor’s Animal Kingdom. Irish War Cry will be the first New Jersey-bred to race in the Kentucky Derby since Dance Floor ran in 1992 and finished third, and he’ll attempt to become the third Derby winner from the Garden State, joining Cavalcade (1934) and Regret (1915). His owner, Isabelle de Tomaso, is the daughter of Amory Haskell, the first president and chairman of the Monmouth Park Jockey Club. Irish War Cry’s sire Curlin finished third in the 2007 Derby before winning the Preakness Stakes and running second in the Belmont Stakes en route to the first of two consecutive Horse of the Year titles.

Thunder Snow

Jockey: Christophe Soumillon

Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor

Owner: Godolphin Racing

Career record: 8 starts – 4 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $1,627,692

Earnings per start: $203,462

Top Equibase Speed Figure: N/A

Kentucky Derby points: 100

Pedigree: Helmet – Eastern Joy, by Dubai Destination

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After being confirmed as a starter on April 29, Thunder Snow ships into Louisville from the Middle East as a definite “mystery horse,” although in terms of accomplishments, he’s among the top Kentucky Derby contenders with over $1.62 million in earnings and three group stakes wins. After winning one of his first five starts, he broke through in his last start as a 2-year-old with a five-length win in the Group 1 Criterium International in France, and then transferred that form to age 3 and to Meydan Racecourse’s dirt track earlier this year, taking the Group 3 United Arab Emirates 2,000 Guineas and the Group 1 United Arab Emirates Derby. The latter win came at approximately 1 3/16 miles, which comes closest to the Kentucky Derby’s 1 ¼ miles among all prep races and reflects well on this colt’s stamina. He ran down a game pacesetter, the Japanese horse Epicharis, to win the UAE Derby, and those two were well clear of the rest of the field. His pedigree is turf-oriented, as his sire Helmet was bred and raced in Australia, where he won a Group 1 stakes at about a mile, and his dam (mother) produced three other stakes winners in Great Britain and is closely related to several high-class European racehorses. The best Kentucky Derby finish for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum’s Godolphin Racing came in 2015, when Frosted finished fourth. That year also marked jockey Christophe Soumillon’s only appearance in the Derby, when he finished eighth aboard Mubtaahij.

Always Dreaming

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owners: Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Teresa Viola Racing Stables, et al.

Career record: 5 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $648,900

Earnings per start: $129,780

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Kentucky Derby points: 100

Pedigree: Bodemeister – Above Perfection, by In Excess

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: A case can be made that the prep races at Gulfstream Park have made the biggest impact on the road to the Kentucky Derby as a whole, with Classic Empire and Irish War Cry shipping out from Gulfstream preps to win the Arkansas Derby and Wood Memorial, respectively. That makes Always Dreaming a leading candidate for win honors in the Kentucky Derby, despite the fact that he’s only contested one stakes race and scored his prior two wins as a 3-year-old against questionable competition. His career-best Equibase Speed Figure of 100 from the Xpressbet Florida Derby is lower than that of the other prominent Derby contenders, but his push-button, five-length win in that 1 1/8-mile race was one of the most visually impressive performances of the year by any horse, and if John Velazquez can navigate a similar trip in a much more crowded field on May 6, this colt should be right in the mix at the eighth pole. Always Dreaming’s sire Bodemeister ran one of the best opening nine furlongs in recent Kentucky Derby memory but could not hold off I’ll Have Another’s rally and settled for second in 2012. Todd Pletcher picked up his only Kentucky Derby win to date in 2010 with Super Saver, while John Velazquez’s Derby win came in 2011 aboard Animal Kingdom.

Gunnevera

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: Antonio Sano

Owner: Peacock Racing Stables

Career record: 9 starts – 4 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $1,170,200

Earnings per start: $130,022

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 107

Kentucky Derby points: 84

Pedigree: Dialed In – Unbridled Rage, by Unbridled

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Gunnevera is one of the most consistent Kentucky Derby contenders in the field, having won three graded stakes races and over $1.1 million, and you can rationalize his most recent effort – a late-closing third in the Florida Derby – by pointing out that he was compromised by the No. 12 post at Gulfstream Park, which led to jockey Javier Castellano taking him farther back than in his prior races through the first six furlongs. He’ll need a strong pace to set up his finishing punch, and he should get just that in the Kentucky Derby. The biographies of his connections – the Peacock Racing Stables syndicate and trainer Antonio Sano – make up one of the most intriguing storylines of this year’s Derby. Gunnevera is the first Derby starter for both his ownership group and his trainer. Javier Castellano was just elected to the Racing Hall of Fame, and his best Kentucky Derby finish to date is fourth-place effort aboard Normandy Invasion in 2013. Young sire Dialed In was the 5.20-1 favorite in the 2011 Kentucky Derby after winning the Florida Derby, but finished eighth.

Practical Joke

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Chad Brown

Owners: Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence

Career record: 6 starts – 3 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $1,015,800

Earnings per start: $169,300

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Kentucky Derby points: 74

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Halo Humor, by Distorted Humor

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After winning his first three starts last year as a 2-year-old – including two Grade 1 stakes – Practical Joke has run competitively without a victory in three consecutive graded stakes against the best of his generation. Tellingly, all three of these most recent starts have been in two-turn events, and that invariably brings up the main question about this talented colt – can he get the Derby’s 1 ¼-mile distance? Sire Into Mischief has had several notable runners in recent years, but most have maxed out at 1 1/8 miles, including multiple graded stakes winners – and 2013 Kentucky Derby also-rans – Goldencents and Vyjack. One plus in his column is retaining Joel Rosario, one of horse racing’s best finishers, as his jockey. Rosario rode Orb to a rallying victory in a rain-soaked 2013 Kentucky Derby. That year, the current reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown had his best finish in the Derby, with fourth-place Normandy Invasion. Practical Joke will be Brown’s fourth Kentucky Derby starter.

J Boys Echo

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Dale Romans

Owner: Albaugh Family Stable

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $349,600

Earnings per start: $58,267

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Kentucky Derby points: 63

Pedigree: Mineshaft – Letgomyecho, by Menifee

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This colt will have a new jockey in Luis Saez, replacing injured Robby Albarado. J Boys Echo enters the Kentucky Derby off of a fourth-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes, where he was bumped at the start and also through the far turn. J Boys Echo has summoned a closing rally in each of his six starts, including his 3 ½-length score in the Gotham Stakes over Aqueduct’s inner dirt track, and in perhaps his most impressive effort, he overcame major trouble in midstretch to win his maiden last fall at Keeneland. But that race aside, it appears that he needs a perfect pace setup and a very clean trip to win, and the odds are against that happening in the Kentucky Derby. His sire Mineshaft, Horse of the Year in 2003, is a son of A.P. Indy and has sired several good stamina horses, including Belmont Stakes runner-up Fly Down, Effinex, It’s Tricky, and the aforementioned Dialed In. Trainer Dale Romans is a Churchill Downs mainstay, having grown up under the tutelage of his father, the late trainer Jerry Romans, and he’s finished third twice in the Kentucky Derby with Paddy O’Prado in 2010 and Dullahan in 2013. Dennis Albaugh’s family racing operation had their first Kentucky Derby starter in last year’s edition, seventh-place finisher Brody’s Cause. Brody’s Cause also carried Luis Saez to his best Kentucky Derby finish in four tries.

State of Honor

Jockey: Jose Lezcano

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: Conrad Farms

Career record: 10 starts – 1 win – 4 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $382,548

Earnings per start: $38,255

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Kentucky Derby points: 62

Pedigree: To Honor and Serve – State Cup, by Elusive Quality

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: State of Honor should be prominent in the early stages of the 143rd Kentucky Derby, especially if he replicates his efforts in his first three starts of 2017, when he finished second in the Mucho Mach Man Stakes, third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, and second in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby after either setting or contesting the pace through the first six furlongs. Those races preceded perhaps his best effort yet, when he settled farther back than usual in the Florida Derby but finished well to run second behind Always Dreaming. Overall, however, the Ontario-bred has just one win in 10 career starts, that coming in a seven-furlong race on Woodbine’s synthetic Polytrack surface. Jockey Jose Lezcano’s best placing among four Kentucky Derby starters came in 2010, when Ice Box finished second. To Honor and Serve is another young sire in this year’s Derby who was accomplished on the racetrack, although he did his best running at distances from one mile to 1 1/8 miles.

Tapwrit

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owners: Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and Robert LaPenta

Career record: 6 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $342,902

Earnings per start: $57,317

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 106

Kentucky Derby points: 54

Pedigree: Tapit – Appealing Zophie, by Successful Appeal

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Tapwrit could have been one of the top-tier Kentucky Derby contenders had he followed up his authoritative Tampa Bay Derby win with a similar showing in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. However, he was unprepared at the start of the Blue Grass and never really made an impression in a sluggish effort, which makes him one of the biggest question marks in this year’s Derby. Prior to the Blue Grass, he had all of the markings of a horse on the uptick, as he’d won three his prior four starts and finished a solid second to McCraken in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. He brought the highest auction bid among this year’s Derby field when purchased by his ownership group for $1.2 million at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale in 2015. His sire, Tapit, is currently the preeminent stallion in North America, although he’s yet to get a Kentucky Derby winner, and his dam, Appealing Zophie, won a Grade 1 stakes. Aaron Wellman’s Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners owned 2014 third-place Kentucky Derby finisher Danza, while Robert LaPenta owned 2010 runner-up Ice Box. In addition to winning the 2010 Derby with the aforementioned Super Saver, Todd Pletcher has finished second twice, and third three times. This will be jockey Jose Ortiz’s third Kentucky Derby; his best finish came in his 2015 debut with fifth-place finisher Samraat.

Malagacy

Jockey: TBD

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: Sumaya U.S. Stable

Career record: 4 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $616,800

Earnings per start: $154,200

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 111

Kentucky Derby points: 50

Pedigree: Shackleford – Classiest Gem, by Dehere

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: As of April 28, he’s yet to be confirmed as a Kentucky Derby starter, but Malagacy easily makes the field on qualifying points. He suffered his first career loss in four starts when fifth in the Arkansas Derby, although he competed well into deep stretch while in close quarters with runner-up Conquest Mo Money. Before that race, he posted open-length wins in his first three starts, stretching out in each race and culminating in a two-length win in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. His sire Shackleford carried his speed well in the 2011 Kentucky Derby but could not withstand Animal Kingdom, Nehro, and Mucho Macho Man late and finished fourth; he then came back to win the Preakness Stakes. If he does run on May 6, Malagacy will be the first Derby starter for Chilean native Oussama Aboughazale’s Sumaya U.S. Stable.

 

Hence

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Calumet Farm

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $462,601

Earnings per start: $77,100

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Kentucky Derby points: 50

Pedigree: Street Boss – Floating Island, by A.P. Indy

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Hence has the makings of a proverbial Kentucky Derby “buzz horse” due to the following attributes: 1. His win in the March 26 Sunland Derby looks better in retrospect considering that runner-up Conquest Mo Money almost won the Arkansas Derby and also-ran Irap upset the Blue Grass Stakes; and 2. He’s posted three quick workouts at Churchill Downs since that race (through April 27), for a trainer who usually doesn’t work his horses very fast. He was well-beaten in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 20, but rebounded strongly in the Sunland Derby to win going away by 3 ¾ lengths. Stallion Street Boss was a sprinter but has shown the ability to sire longer-distance horses such as 2014 Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Danza and last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia. Hence’s dam, Floating Island, was winless, but she is by A.P. Indy and is related to several top-class horses including Canadian champion Marchfield. Jockey Florent Geroux made his Kentucky Derby debut last year and finished third with the Steve Asmussen-trained Gun Runner. Hall of Famer Asmussen’s best showing in the Derby came in 2011 with runner-up Nehro; he also conditioned Curlin to a third-place effort in 2007. Calumet Farm leads all owners with eight Kentucky Derby winners, but all of those came during its legendary 20th century run when owned by the Wright family. Under current owner Brad Kelley, Calumet’s Oxbow finished sixth in the 2013 Derby prior to winning the Preakness Stakes. Calumet is also represented by Patch and Sonneteer among this year’s Derby contenders.

Fast and Accurate

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Mike Maker

Owner: Kendall Hansen, Skychai Racing and Bode Miller

Career record: 6 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $340,362

Earnings per start: $56,727

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 93

Kentucky Derby points: 50

Pedigree: Hansen – It’s Heidi’s Dance, by Green Dancer

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: The JACK Cincinnati Casino Spiral Stakes winner could be the longest shot in the Kentucky Derby field, as his current three-race winning streak has come on synthetic and turf racing surfaces and he was beaten by 11 ¾ lengths in his only start on dirt. Horses have shown the ability to make the synthetic-to-dirt transition in the Kentucky Derby, most notably winners Animal Kingdom (2011) and Street Sense (2007) but also 2012 third-place finisher Dullahan, so it can be done. If Fast and Accurate does manage to handle dirt, he figures to be an early pace presence, as that change in strategy has been a key contributor to his turnaround in form. Co-owner Kendall Hansen returns to the Derby after making a big splash in 2012 when his namesake colt, 2012 champion 2-year-old male Hansen, was a fan favorite (owned in partnership with Skychai Racing, he finished ninth). Olympic gold-medal skier Bode Miller recently bought an interest in the horse. Trainer Mike Maker’s top runner in the Kentucky Derby came with his first starter, 2008 eighth-place finisher Stately Victor.

 

McCraken

Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Trainer: Ian Wilkes

Owner: Whitham Thoroughbreds

Career record: 5 starts – 4 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $410,848

Earnings per start: $82,170

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 104

Kentucky Derby points: 40

Pedigree: Ghostzapper – Ivory Empress, by Seeking the Gold

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: McCraken’s position on the road to the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard belies his reputation as one of the most respected contenders in the field, and he’s got a good shot at winning … IF he can shake off the rust from a third-place showing in the Blue Grass Stakes, which came after a break in training due to injury. Two sharp workouts at Churchill Downs since the Blue Grass (as of April 27) indicate that he’s been able to do just that, and there’s a lot to like about his professional racing style, his affinity for Churchill Downs (three wins without a loss, including the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last year), and his pedigree and connections. Sire Ghostzapper won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and his speed figures have set the standard for 21st century dirt racehorses. McCraken will be trainer Ian Wilkes’s first starter in the Kentucky Derby. He worked as an assistant to Hall of Famer Carl Nafzger for many years, joining him shortly before Unbridled won the 1991 Derby, and contributing greatly to Street Sense’s Derby win in 2007. Wilkes trained 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned for owner Janis Whitham, who will also be represented for the first time in this year’s Derby with McCraken. Brian Hernandez makes his second consecutive Derby start after finishing 12th last year aboard Tom’s Ready.

Battle of Midway

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer

Owner: WinStar Farm and Don Alberto Stable

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $290,000

Earnings per start: $72,500

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 107

Kentucky Derby points: 40

Pedigree: Smart Strike – Rigoletta, by Concerto

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This well-bred colt is inexperienced but talented, as he’s posted three triple-digit Equibase Speed Figures in four career starts. Battle of Midway set a contested pace in the April 8 Santa Anita Derby and held on gamely to finish a half-length behind Gormley, who had a perfect setup behind the leaders. He’s bred for the distance, by leading sire Smart Strike and out of a dam (mother) who won a Grade 1, 1 1/16-mile stakes race as a 2-year-old. Along with Battalion Runner, he appears to have the most upside among the horses who figure to contest the early pace in Derby 143. California-based Jerry Hollendofer has finished fifth twice in the Kentucky Derby, most recently with Chocolate Candy in 2009. WinStar Farm won the Kentucky Derby in 2010 with Super Saver, while this will be Don Alberto Stable’s first Derby starter. Battle of Midway will be the first Derby mount for Flavien Prat, who’s currently ranked seventh in earnings for North American jockeys in 2017.

 

Patch

Jockey: TBD

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: Calumet Farm

Career record: 3 starts – 1 win – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $230,020

Earnings per start: $76,673

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105

Kentucky Derby points: 40

Pedigree: Union Rags – Windyindy, by A.P. Indy

Color: Bay

Running style: Press

Notable achievements and interesting facts: He’s only raced three times, making him the least experienced starter in the Derby field. But in his last two starts, Patch has posted triple-digit Equibase Speed Figures, and he held on well to finish a clear second behind Girvin in the April 1 Louisiana Derby. He’ll likely be part of the mid-pack group if all goes well in the early stages of the Derby, and will need to make another large leap in performance to have a chance to win. There’s stamina in his pedigree on both sides, as his young sire Union Rags won the 2012 Belmont Stakes and his winning dam (mother) also produced Indiana Oaks winner Tiz Windy. Patch is from the family of champion filly Banshee Breeze, who racked up five Grade 1 wins at 1 1/8 miles or longer. This handsome colt has also become a fan favorite in this year’s Derby, as he’s missing his left eye, but with no loss of racing ability. Despite his name aligning with his vision, Patch’s name was a play on his sire’s moniker, before the injury that caused the loss of his eye.

Battalion Runner

Jockey: TBD

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: St. Elias Stable

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $200,600

Earnings per start: $50,150

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108

Kentucky Derby points: 40

Pedigree: Unbridled’s Song – Tamboz, by Tapit

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: He’s the last of Todd Pletcher’s projected five starters in the Kentucky Derby, which would tie the all-time record for most starts in the classic set four previous times, twice by Pletcher. Like Patch – and to a slightly lesser extent, Malagacy and Always Dreaming – Battalion Runner is inexperienced but very talented, posting triple-digit Equibase Speed Figures in his most recent three out of four career starts. He could be the “speed of the speed” in the Kentucky Derby depending on post position and jockey strategy, and if he continues to make the sort of progression he showed in the Wood Memorial, where he held on to finish a clear second behind Irish War Cry, he could give his connections a thrill by receiving the first namecheck at the top of the Churchill Downs stretch from NBC racecaller Larry Collmus. The late sire Unbridled’s Song has not been represented by a Kentucky Derby winner but is otherwise recognized as one of the industry’s elite stallions, as evidenced by his current superstar son Arrogate. Battalion Runner’s dam is a full sister to Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Tapizar. He will be the first Kentucky Derby starter for Vincent Viola’s St. Elias Stable, who co-owned 2015 two-time Grade 1 winner Liam’s Map.

Untrapped

Jockey: TBD

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Michael Langford

Career record: 6 starts – 1 win – 3 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $219,658

Earnings per start: $43,276

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Kentucky Derby points: 34

Pedigree: Trappe Shot – Exit Three, by Giant’s Causeway

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Untrapped posted three solid placings in Kentucky Derby preps from January to March – second in the Lecomte Stakes and Risen Star Stakes and third in the Rebel Stakes – but had no response when prompted by Mike Smith to challenge for the lead in the Arkansas Derby and faded to finish fifth. That was his only off-the-board finish in six career starts, which is a good indication of his consistency, but the fact remains that he’s only won one of those starts, and that was at 6 ½ furlongs back in November. He’s related to several prominent racehorses on his dam’s side, including champion Johannesburg, top-class filly Preach, and last year’s Charles Town Classic winner Stanford. Trappe Shot was a graded stakes-winning sprinter who has yet to show much ability as a sire of stamina. Untrapped will be the first Kentucky Derby starter for owner Michael Langford, who was recently interviewed by Sara Dacus for America’s Best Racing.

Lookin At Lee

Jockey: TBD

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: L and N Racing

Career record: 9 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $452,795

Earnings per start: $50,311

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Kentucky Derby points: 32

Pedigree: Lookin At Lucky – Langara Lass, by Langfuhr

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Given the right pace setup and a relatively trouble-free trip, Lookin At Lee could be a nice superfecta filler at long odds in the Kentucky Derby, but anything more than that would be a Giacomo-style surprise. He weaved through traffic to nab third in the Arkansas Derby, and his performance in that race, along with his rallying second to Classic Empire in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity last fall at Keeneland, appears to be his ceiling. Sire Lookin At Lucky finished sixth in the 2010 Derby before winning the Preakness. Lookin At Lee is the first Derby starter for the Tulsa, Ok.-based L and N Racing partnership.

Sonneteer

Jockey: Kent Desormeaux

Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

Owner: Calumet Farm

Career record: 10 starts – 0 wins – 4 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $284,445

Earnings per start: $28,445

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Kentucky Derby points: 30

Pedigree: Midnight Lute – Ours, by Half Ours

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Similar to Lookin At Lee, this one-dimensional closer will need the right setup to make noise on Derby day, but despite still being a maiden through 10 starts, there are a couple of arguments to be made for including Sonneteer on trifecta and superfecta – and maybe even exacta – tickets. First, he’s posted his best two Equibase Speed Figures in his last two starts, which came at Oaklawn Park in the Rebel Stakes (finished second at 112.30-1 odds) and Arkansas Derby (finished fourth). That racetrack has been the key strip in recent years in producing horses that fire on Derby day at Churchill Downs, and in both the Rebel and Arkansas Derby, this colt only got it into gear once he hit the homestretch. Second, his fraternal trainer-jockey team of Keith and Kent Desormeaux finished second in last year’s Derby and won the Preakness with Exaggerator, and Kent Desormeaux has three Derby wins (Real Quiet in 1998, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 and Big Brown in 2008) to his credit. Sonneteer’s sire, Midnight Lute, was a champion sprinter, but as trainer Bob Baffert pointed out, he was kept at shorter distances due to a breathing problem that caused him to miss the Triple Crown in 2006. One would expect Kent Desormeaux to sit Sonneteer as far back as possible through the opening mile on May 6, and then try to find the easiest path through the field as many of them tire en route to grabbing a Derby placing at juicy odds.

 

Royal Mo

Jockey: Gary Stevens

Trainer: John Shirreffs

Owners: Jerry and Ann Moss

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $267,200

Earnings per start: $44,533

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 107

Kentucky Derby points: 30

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Royal Irish Lass, by Saint Ballado

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Royal Mo entered the April 8 Santa Anita Derby off of the only dud race in his six-start career, a ninth-place showing in the Rebel Stakes in Arkansas. With new rider Gary Stevens aboard back in Southern California, he contested a solid pace with Battle of Midway and American Anthem and continued on with the former into deep stretch before both were passed by Gormley. The fact that Hall of Famer Stevens keeps the mount on Royal Mo for the Kentucky Derby is a big boost to his chances, although he remains an outsider. Stevens has won the Kentucky Derby three times, with Winning Colors (1988), Thunder Gulch (1995), and Silver Charm (1998), and he’s also finished second three times, most recently with Firing Line in 2015. Sire Uncle Mo has rapidly ascended to the top rank among North American stallions, due in part to the fact that a Kentucky Derby winner emerged from his very first crop of foals to race when Nyquist took the honors last year.

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