Always Dreaming takes over the top spot on Scully's Kentucky Derby Top 10
The Road to the Kentucky Derby is charging forward and James Scully is fired up with his Kentucky Derby Report. Scully breaks down the action each week before listing his top 20 for the Kentucky Derby. We're paring it down even more, taking the top 10 from Scully's Report and throwing in tidbits from notes and/or connections' quotes when available.
McCraken ruled in James Scully's April 5 Kentucky Derby Report, but suffering his first career loss in the Blue Grass (G2) over the weekend saw the Ian Wilkes trainee slide from first to fourth on the top 10 list. That left the way clear for Always Dreaming to rise to the top off his effortless victory in the Florida Derby (G1).
Tapwrit, Battalion Runner and Iliad all departed the top 10, making way for Irish War Cry, Hence and Thunder Snow to join the roster. Irish War Cry captured the Wood Memorial (G2), Hence romped in the Sunland Derby (G3) and Thunder Snow is the undisputed top international runner off his U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) victory.
The others retained their top 10 status but were shuffled around a bit. Champion Classic Empire and J Boys Echo saw the most change, with the former rising from 10th to third ahead of his Arkansas Derby (G1) try on Saturday and the latter falling from fifth to eighth following a fourth-place run in the Blue Grass.
ALWAYS DREAMING – Impressive winner of Florida Derby in stakes debut, eligible to show more in Kentucky Derby
- Sire – Bodemeister
- Trainer – Todd Pletcher
- Race Record – 5-3-1-1
- :48.40 breezing 4f bullet at Palm Beach Downs on 3/25/2017
- Pletcher – "The horse has been training exceptionally well and we were confident he was going to run as well as he's capable of, and thankfully he did. I have to be honest with you, he was training so well that I would have been disappointed had he not run well, but that was a very impressive performance."
IRISH WAR CRY – Wood Memorial winner has posted two of the fastest performances this year, will be forward factor in Kentucky Derby
- Sire – Curlin
- Trainer – Graham Motion
- Race Record – 5-4-0-0
- 1:13.40 breezing 6f at Fair Hill on 4/2/2017
- Motion – "Things pretty much went as we hoped they would go. He settled just off the pace and I guess I was a bit concerned on the backside because he kind of moved up quite early to the leader and, from what (jockey) Rajiv (Maragh) told me, he felt like he had so much horse underneath him. My big question for him was how he thought about how he won, and he said he felt like he did it pretty comfortably really."
CLASSIC EMPIRE – 2yo champ reportedly training well for return, chance to regain Kentucky Derby favoritism with Arkansas Derby victory
- Sire – Pioneerof the Nile
- Trainer – Mark Casse
- Race Record – 6-4-0-1
- :50.00 breezing 4f at Winding Oaks Farm on 4/8/2017
- Assistant trainer Norman Casse – "We really like the post position. I feel like this racetrack suits him. He's got speed. His best races have been over really tight surfaces similar to this one. I think he'll appreciate this racetrack (Oaklawn Park)."
MCCRAKEN – Less-than-favorable trip & probably a little short returning from freshening in Blue Grass; Unbridled & Street Sense lost their final preps when Wilkes served as Nafzger's top assistant
- Sire – Ghostzapper
- Trainer – Ian Wilkes
- Race Record – 5-4-0-1
- :49.40 breezing 4f at Keeneland on 4/2/2017
- Wilkes – "I thought he was too fresh and too much on the bit and that is where missing that race (March 11 Tampa Bay Derby [G2]) showed up. He was a little too keen."
GUNNEVERA – Didn't run back to Fountain of Youth romp closing belatedly for third in Florida Derby, looks to offer much bigger late kick at Churchill Downs
- Sire – Dialed In
- Trainer – Antonio Sano
- Race Record – 9-4-2-1
- 1:01.80 breezing 5f at Gulfstream Park West on 3/25/2017
- Sano – "(Jockey Javier) Castellano told me the post position was a little problem, but the horse wasn't comfortable in the beginning. He finished strong but the horses in the front weren't stopping. I'm happy. This is an important race to win, but it was a good race for the next one."
GIRVIN – Must step up against deeper competition but brings winning attitude to equation, improving to 3-for-3 on dirt with convincing tallies in Louisiana Derby and Risen Star
- Sire – Tale of Ekati
- Trainer – Joe Sharp
- Race Record – 4-3-1-0
- 1:01.00 breezing 5f at Fair Grounds on 3/25/2017
- Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. – "He's such a talented horse. He puts a lot of confidence in you. Today my biggest thing was when I saw Local Hero settle as well as he did, I wanted to stay behind (him) and give myself a target. Every time I needed him he was there for me. Turning for home, he got to switching leads back and forth, but he was kind of just messing around."
HENCE – Class concerns but headed in right direction for Steve Asmussen off big win in Sunland Derby; chance to outrun long odds.
- Sire – Street Boss
- Trainer – Steve Asmussen
- Race Record – 6-2-1-1
- :47.80 breezing 4f at Churchill Downs on 4/10/2017
- Jockey Alfredo Juarez Jr. – "I knew there was a lot of speed in the race, so I was patient early. I swung him around horses to get a momentum point. After some left handed encouragement, he really started running big. This is by far my biggest win. I want to thank (trainer) Steve Asmussen for using me."
J BOYS ECHO – Posted fast score in Gotham two back but little went right in troubled 4th-place effort in Blue Grass; exotics contender has potential for better showing next time.
- Sire – Mineshaft
- Trainer – Dale Romans
- Race Record – 6-2-1-1
- 1:00.69 breezing 5f at Gulfstream Park on 4/1/2017
- Romans – "I thought we'd win the race, but he ran a credible race. You can go back in history and look at horses that run third or fourth in this race and come back and do well. I was hoping he would move forward off the other (last) race (when he won the Gotham). We’re gonna go (to the Kentucky Derby). He’s a good horse, and we'll see what happens. Twenty horses in a mile and a quarter race; a lot of stuff can go right."
PRACTICAL JOKE – Blue Grass runner-up making steady progress for Brown, seeking further improvement in third start from layoff
- Sire – Into Mischief
- Trainer – Chad Brown
- Race Record – 6-3-2-1
- 1:00.45 breezing 5f at Palm Meadows Training Center on 4/1/2017
- Brown – "He showed a lot of heart. I was disappointed with the trip but that was due to the (outside) post. (Jockey) Joel (Rosario) really didn't have a chance to tuck him in. The winner really ran a courageous race. He really ran fantastic and I thought my horse did, too. Post is so important and today even though it was a short field, it hurt us because he had to go wide. I am proud of his effort."
THUNDER SNOW – Classy colt took to dirt in Dubai and UAE winner will be one to follow in preparations at Churchill
- Sire – Helmet
- Trainer – Saeed bin Suroor
- Race Record – 8-4-2-0
- bin Suroor – "I talked to (owner) Sheikh Mohammed just now and we have nominated him for the Kentucky Derby but we are also considering the French, Irish, or even the English Derby. We are keeping our options open and we will make a decision when I talk to Sheikh Mohammed again."
Always Dreaming photo courtesy of Lauren King/Adam Coglianese Photography