Kentucky Derby Picture Gets Crazier

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D.S. Williamson

April 10th, 2017

The Kentucky Derby picture went from a Monet to a Hieronymous Bosch this past weekend. We went from understanding that, yes, there were lillies in a pond, to not knowing what the heck is going on. That's the only way I can describe exactly how crazy the Kentucky Derby picture has become.

Let's check out what happened in the three Derby preps on April 8. I've added favorites and off odds along with winners and off odds.

Wood Memorial

Favorite:  Battalion Runner    $2.05 to 1 Winner:  Irish War Cry            $3.50 to 1

Battalion Runner, the lightly raced son of Unbridled's Song and a Tapit mare, Tamboz, went off at a bit over 2 to 1. Jockey John Velasquez got the Todd Pletcher trained colt out quickly. He ran a quarter-mile in 23.50. He go the half in 47.34. He got 6 furlong in 1:11.83. At the top of the stretch, it appeared as if Velasquez was going to hold off Rajiv Maragh aboard eventual winner Irish War Cry. But, the Graham Motion trained son of Curlin proved too much in the stretch.

Both horses may end up running in the Kentucky Derby on May 6. Irish War Cry may go off the favorite  on the First Saturday in May because he bounced back in the Wood Memorial with a terrific race after bombing badly in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. He's got 3 wins from 4 starts.

Battalion Runner only has 40 points. He could get shut out of the Derby starting gate. Cloud Computing, like Battalion Runner, has 40 points. He doesn't appear ready to win the Run for the Roses.

Bluegrass Stakes

Favorite:  McCraken     $1.60 to 1 Winner:   Irap                 $31.30 to 1

31 to 1 shot Irap, trained by Doug O'Neil and owned by J. Pau Reddam got the perfect set up in the 2017 Bluegrass Stakes. Irap chased front-running Wild Shot through fractions of 23.79, 48.34, and 1:12.36. The race set up for the son of Tiznow, who looked good holding off both Practical Joke and race favorite McCraken.

I'm not sure what to make of Irap's win in the Bluegrass Stakes. There was a point during the race when jockey Brian Hernandez allowed McCraken to settle behind all other horses. That point happened after they had run the half-mile. I think losing so much ground after a slow half-mile is what did McCraken in. With a better ride, McCraken may have won.

That's not to say that Irap doesn't improve on May 6. His dad, Tiznow, was a late blooming three-year-old that won the Breeders' Cup Classic after not running in any one of the Triple Crown races. Maybe, Irap is going to improve much faster than his dad did.

Santa Anita Derby

Favorite:  Iliad             $3.00 to 1 Winner:   Gormley       $6.20 to 1

Gormley got a perfect trip in the Santa Anita Derby. Jockey Victor Espinoza, who knows how to win on the First Saturday in May, set Gormley about 4 to 5 lengths behind a three horse speed duel among American Anthem, Battle of Midway, and Royal Mo. The three speedsters ran the first quarter in 22.60. They got the half in a blistering 46.55.

Gormley did have to go wide around the final turn. But, he didn't have to go as wide as Iliad did. In fact, Iliad not only went 6-wide, but he also had to put on the breaks at the 7/8ths. Still, it's hard to see Iliad having the lungs to run 1 1/4 miles. The problem with picking Gormley to win the Kentucky Derby is that he ran the 1 1/8 miles in the Santa Anita Derby in a slow 1:51.16. That's way too slow for Gormley to win the Run for the Roses.

This weekend Classic Empire runs in the Arkansas Derby while Bob Baffert might try to secure a spot in the Derby starting gate by winning the Lexington Stakes with West Coast. Last year's 2-year-old champ faces the Todd Pletcher trained Malagacy, Petrov, and Untrapped. No word yet on who might battle Baffert's three-year-old in the Lexington Stakes.