The Kentucky Derby will be here faster than you can put on your horseshoes with the 143rd running coming up May 6th. With me to talk about it is Michael Dempsey, editor of TurfnSport and OddsShark’s resident Kentucky Derby expert. Leading into the Derby Michael which horses and prep races impressed you the most? Well thanks for having me again this year.
Right now it’s a pretty wide open Derby, there’s going to be 20 horses. There’s been a lot of kind of chaos along the Derby trail. A couple horses that I’ve really liked one was Irish War Cry, he ran a very good race in the Wood Memorial which in recent years has not been real key Derby prep race but going back a few decades it has been and then the other horses I really liked is Classic Empire who’s one main favorites right now.
He really bounced back and won the Arkansas Derby last Saturday, so I think he’s going to be a serious threat as well. Okay, nice. Favorites have done well in recent years, do you see that trend continuing?
I certainly hope not because I’m more of a longshot player than a chalk player and we’ve actually, believe it or not, have seen four consecutive favorites when the Kentucky Derby. We may not see that again in the next 30 or 40 years. One of the main reasons that’s happened is the point system has changed, it used to be graded stakes earnings to get the top 20 horses, and what generally happened was there was along the way a couple sprint horses that are really good at maybe six furlongs would earn enough graded earnings to get into the race. Now Churchill Downs is using the point system so the sprinters aren’t getting in so the race seems to be run more form full.
You know when there’s a bunch of speed in the race a lot of times chaos will happen and we’ll see a horse coming from out of the clouds like we saw Mine That Bird and also Giacomo both came from way out of it at 50-1. The last few years without those speed balls the races have been a little more form full and that usually means that the race has been a little more traditionally, you know, favorited horses that have talent and that’s why I think we’ve seen the favorites win over the past four years in row. Okay that’s great insight and something horse handicappers will definitely want to keep in mind for this race. Classic Empire is getting a lot of attention lately what do you think of his chances? Well he’s going to be one of the favorites I mean he was our juvenile champion last year he won the Breeders Cup Classic. He came back this February and ran a really a disappointing race in the Holy Bullet Gulfstream Park.
He came out of that race for the foot abscess, his trainer also said he had bad back. He also didn’t want to work out in the mornings a couple of times, so they sent him to a farm in Ocala, they seemed to get them back in fine form he went to Hot Springs to Oakland Park and he won Arkansas Derby so he’s back on track, and traditionally I don’t usually like back horses that have hiccups along the way through the sprint, they usually don’t win, but Classic Empire might be able to overcome all those problems he had earlier this year just on sheer talent alone. Okay trainer Todd Pletcher may start four or five contenders here. Which one of his horses gives him the best chance? Well it looks like it’s going to be Always Dreaming who won the Florida Derby. That was his Stakes debut.
He’s pretty likely raced, only raced five times. He’s right now kind of battling for favoritism. I think morning line oddsmaker Mike Battaglia at Churchill Downs says he’s going to make Classic Empire the slight favorite, probably nine to two or five to one and then Always Dreaming is probably going to be the second choice, between five to one and six to one, and those two I think are going to battle for favoritism.
I think it will be Classic Empire but out of Pletcher’s horses he’s the most likely to win a couple of the other ones are kind of lightly raised. Todd Pletcher for those who follow horse racing closely, is the best trainer there is, you know maybe other than Bob Baffert. He’s won the Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer seven times but when it comes to the Kentucky Derby he’s 1 for 45 he’s only won one Kentucky Derby and that was with Super Saver. Now on the other hand out of those 45 horses that he’s run none have been the betting favorite, so he is that quite a few outsiders and it’s been a couple years where he’s run for five horses. He’s probably going to run four this year. Always Dreaming I think is the only one I might consider.
Tapwrit is a late runner, the other one’s Patch and Malagacy if he happens to run are kind of lightly raced. I don’t think they have enough foundation to to get there on the first Saturday of May. Okay, thanks. Are there any horses flying under the radar that have a chance, any good sleeper bets out there? Well there’s a few, I mean one that I like a little bit, is Hence and nobody’s probably heard of Hence.
He was trained by Steve Asmussen. He won the Sunland Derby which is a race that coming at New Mexico is where Mine That Bird came out of. The runner up in that race, Conquest Mo Money came back last Saturday and ran a very good second to Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby. So if Hence earned a really good Beyer Speed Figure he might be a horse at 15 or 20 to 1 or actually maybe leave a little bit of higher that has a decent chance. The other one is Chad Brown’s got Practical Joke who it is I think still has some upside. Chad Brown is one of the best trainers in the country and if I can get 25 to 1 30 to 1 on Practical Joke you know he’s probably going to go on at least one of my trifecta or superfecta tickets.
Okay, great stuff Michael as always enjoy the Kentucky Derby. We hope we’ve helped you out a bit here folks great stuff it’s going to be another fun race.