Seven Kentucky Derby Horses in Seven Days: Gunnevera
The Cinderella story in the 2017 Kentucky Derby field would be Gunnevera, a potent late runner who was purchased for the bargain price of $16,000 as a youngster. Chestnut son of Dialed In stamped his ticket with a sensational 5 ¾-length win in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park two prior and had a decent last-out prep race when recording a closing third in the Florida Derby (G1).
Kentucky-bred made his first big impression on me when offering a stirring late run to catch a clear one in the Saratoga Special (G2) as a juvenile, getting up to win going away after he looked beaten for sure, and his win in the lucrative Delta Jackpot (G3) by 5 ¾ lengths looked pretty darn good, too.
Conditioned by Antonio Sano, a former leading trainer in Venezuela, three-year-old is also owned by South American interests. And Gunnevera has one of the top pedigrees in the Derby field for 10 furlongs. He certainly has plenty of foundation, making nine lifetime starts, the most in the field. I have no question about the colt’s fitness and ability to finish, posting a trio of triple-digit BRIS Late Pace numbers (101, 107, 102) leading up to this storied race.
He posted his final main work in Florida, drilling five furlongs at Gulfstream Park West, and his 1:03 3/5 move at Churchill was more of a maintenance move to get accustomed to the strip. Gunnevera could be the biggest late danger in this field but does have a bad habit of breaking slowly, though, and this is the one race a runner doesn’t want to be left behind at the start.
I love that perennial top jockey Javier Castellano, a Venezuelan native himself, will stay in the stirrups to ride Gunnevera when he had other options.
Gunnevera makes a belated run to challenge for a top-four finish after being well back early on.