Kentucky Derby # 143 (Grade I)

5/6/2017 Churchill Downs-Race 12

The Kentucky Derby-$2,000,000—Grade 1

1 & 1/4 Miles on Dirt for Three-Year-Olds

Post Time: 3:46 P.M. PST

Analysis by Michael Patricks

No, it’s not Christmas morning but it unquestionably feels that way for horse players throughout the world as Kentucky Derby 143 has finally arrived.  It’s typically my style to add a touch of prologue before diving into the analysis, however, since I haven’t been faced with this much of a writing assignment since the California Bar Exam I’m careening directly into the Derby analysis.

Enjoying what you read? Each week I break a race down from around the country and it’s posted on The Grapevine, the official blog of the Sonoma County Fair.  You can access the blog at:

1-Lookin At Lee 30/1 ML- I’ve been on the record as being one of his most ardent supporters throughout his three-year-old season.  While he hasn’t tasted victory in quite some time the flip side to that is he’s been improving with each performance of late.  His third place finish in the Arkansas Derby was a dramatically improved effort especially given the fact his jockey had him all over the joint like a drunken sailor inside the final quarter-mile.  ‘Lee was closing like gangbusters through the Oaklawn Park stretch and ran by some respected rivals in the process, including stable mate Untrapped. The elephant in the room is his post position draw for this race.  It’s hardly a secret that the rail in a 20-horse field is a real death knell.  Only the great Ferdinand (1986) has won breaking from the rail since 1964.  Lookin at Lee’s sire, Lookin At Lucky, drew the rail in 2010 as the favorite and could never get into the race, but did bounce back to take the Preakness two weeks later.  2011 Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch drew the rail the following year and failed to complete the course and subsequently was retired after that race.  Ironically, the upside may be that ‘Lee is not a good gate horse and it may actually be a blessing if he breaks a beat slow, thus allowing him to find his feet and plot a more unencumbered course from there.  If you’re planning on sleighing the Kentucky Derby Superfecta, you would be wise to still consider using him underneath in your vertical equations since the added distance will certainly be his friend, yet others appear far more likely to have a date with destiny and a bed of roses around their neck under the Twin Spires; rates underneath.

2-Thunder Snow (Ire) 20/1 ML- Irish-bred likes to be forwardly placed and as such his hand will be forced from a deep inside draw to be put into the race early, or risk getting shuffled back and completely taken out of his game.  To his credit, Thunder Snow did beat a crowded field of 15 rivals in the UAE Derby but he did get a little goofy in the stretch with his lead changes before finally getting down to business and prevailing in the dying strides.  To win the Kentucky Derby, Thunder Snow will have to put together a professional effort and keep his composure while racing near the fence.  His chances of working out a comfortable three-wide journey up the back stretch like he did in the UAE Derby from the two-hole are slim to none.  And quite honestly, 20/1 on Thunder Snow feels like an underlay relative to his actual chances at victory and the poor history horses have had coming in from Dubai after a mere six weeks from their UAE Derby win (See Lani last year).  If he’s your guy, demand a big price at the window.  Frankly, I’m just not enthusiastic about this one’s chances and I’ll be casting him aside; pass.

3-Fast and Accurate 50/1 ML- Could have been haltered for a scant $30,000 claiming price in December of last year when he broke his maiden over the Polytrack at Turfway Park.  Fast and Accurate earned his way here by pulling off a 24/1 caper at Turfway over the synthetic surface in the Spiral Stakes.  In the Spiral, his stable mate En Hanse actually took far more money than he did (6/1) and somewhat surprisingly set the pace before he bid a hasty retreat to the field, allowing Fast and Accurate to garner the headlines at a $51 win mutuel.  The odds are likely to more than double in the Kentucky Derby and Fast and Accurate has shown no indication that running on dirt is what he wants to do so it’s extremely difficult to be too rhapsodic about his chances on Saturday.  From his inside draw you can expect yet another dashboard confessional effort where he is forwardly placed to begin with but the inevitable sounds of “Beep, Beep, Beep” will be coming from him as he starts to back up the truck somewhere down the back stretch.  Many people have asked who I believe will finish last in the Kentucky Derby for office pool purposes and he’d have to be at the head of the class for that dubious distinction, but hey, his connections have a ticket to the big dance so good for them; take under 2.5 mentions by name from the track announcer, as I believe that’s accurate.

4-Untrapped 30/1 ML- The beauty of the Kentucky Derby—Exhibit A: Untrapped has run six times and hit the board in five races, never higher than 8/1 odds in any race and you look up on the tote board and see 30/1 morning line odds for him.  Untrapped was close to the fire in the Arkansas Derby and made a middle move under Mike Smith into contention around the far turn but could not make any real headway on Malagacy and Conquest Mo Money into the stretch.  This colt is a big-bodied individual that gives the impression he will appreciate the added ground but he hasn’t been finishing up his most recent efforts with the starch needed to win.  Trainer Steve Asmussen removes the blinkers after a one race experiment and that may allow him to finish up a bit better than he of late, but Classic Empire, Lookin at Lee, Sonneteer and Girvin have all handed his head in the last few races.  Asmussen’s main man Ricardo Santana comes back over to ride but it really feels more like a default scenario than one you can really take much hope or belief in.  Untrapped did run well on a wet track so perhaps give him a bit of a look if it turns up wet on Saturday, but short of that, going hard on him at the window looks like a grizzly bear trap in my estimation.         .

5-Always Dreaming 5/1 ML- Combing through his past performances you can’t help but be impressed by all the bullets he has in his holster heading into Saturday.  His 5/8ths work on April 28th was visually impressive to many clockers and Always Dreaming definitely has the talent to win the Kentucky Derby.  It’s well documented that Always Dreaming has a penchant to get over-aggressive in his morning activities and he’s been a real handful for trainer Todd Pletcher to train.  It’s my opinion that Always Dreaming was overeager in the Florida Derby and was extremely keen to get on with the job, though sheer talent alone carried him into the winner’s circle.  It’s difficult to quantify the quality of horses he beat in the Florida Derby as State of Honor will be a huge price in the Kentucky Derby and Gunnevera has quite a few critics to silence off his Florida Derby effort.  Always Dreaming is a volatile and talented son of Bodemeister who will have to mind his manners while putting forth the most workmanlike effort he’s ever displayed if he’s going to win on Saturday.  In my mind that makes him a wild card and when you’re gambling on wild cards you need better than 5/1 in a 20-horse field to feel good about doing so.  Don’t like the inside draw with a headstrong colt like him and he’ll have to wait in the gate for a while which should make him a bit antsy and serve as source of potential aggravation.  Every horse has critics to answer in order to win Kentucky Derby 143, but I’m not going to find out if he’s ready to answer his by following him into the fire at a short price; taking a stand against him and keeping my head out of the clouds.

6-State of Honor 30/1 ML- One of two for trainer Mark Casse who also sends out race favorite Classic Empire from post position 14.  Drawing next to Always Dreaming makes think State of Honor will be utilized as a hidden rabbit in this race, put into play early on in order to ensure a solid tempo for Classic Empire to run at.  If State of Honor locks horns with Always Dreaming early on, it will be reminiscent of two rocky mountain bighorns doing battle.  Always Dreaming will get the best of that tussle but it will most likely soften him up over the final quarter-mile.  State of Honor has lost ground through the lane in his three prior races and has not won over a dirt surface in his four starts.  Tapwrit has beaten him the last two times they faced each other and Always Dreaming blew him off the track in Florida.  This will be Jose Lezcano’s first time aboard State of Honor as well and taking everything into a whole this begins to look more and more like a send mission for Classic Empire’s benefit and that brands State of Honor as much more of a “participant” than actual competitor; can’t live with the Los Alamitos quarter horse type of approach to the Kentucky Derby.

7-Girvin 15/1 ML- Can’t fault those who will cast their lot with the “Iceman” in that he’s 3-for-4 lifetime and has never run a bad race.  Girvin enters the Kentucky Derby as a fresh horse with five weeks of rest from his Louisiana Derby victory.  Girvin’s running style is highly tractable and he figures to be put in good position under big money rider Mike Smith to bring his optimal effort.  On the downside, Girvin is shipping out of Louisiana to run for the first time and must show he enjoys taking his show on the road.  Another negative is that he loses his customary jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. to one of the race favorites in McCraken.   Also, much has been made of Girvin having foot issues while training up to the Kentucky Derby as he is battling a quarter crack and will be fitted with a bar shoe on Saturday.  Mike Smith rode Kentucky Derby favorite Unbridled’s Song to a fifth place finish in the 1996 Kentucky Derby after he was fitted with a bar shoe to fight a quarter crack, so there is a bit of irony in that regard.  Beyer-wise, Girvin seems to class up a touch light and he will have to run his lifetime figure to seriously threaten for top honors.  Girvin won back-to-back Grade II’s in Louisiana and Brian Hernandez still opted for McCraken after his floundering Blue Grass—to me, that’s fairly damning evidence; beating Patch and Untrapped as he did in Louisiana won’t be good enough in here and the “Iceman on the Iceman” angle is unlikely to get the job done in my estimation; think the Iceman is going to be taken to flight school.

8-Hence 15/1 ML- One of three signed on for owner/breeder Calumet Farm and is the most highly regarded entrant between them.  This chestnut colt announced himself as one to watch headed into Louisville with a visually impressive, bold, sweeping move to the winner’s circle of the Sunland Derby.  His 97 Beyer speed figure puts him in the fold and all indications from trainer Steve Asmussen are that Hence is training up a storm and should acquit himself quite nicely on Saturday.  Hence has a tendency to get a bit washy around the neck area so if he’s lathered up a bit as he hits the track don’t view it as a negative entirely.  From the Sunland Derby, Conquest Mo Money (2nd) came back to run huge in the Arkansas Derby, Hedge Fund (3rd) ran well before getting snapped on the wire of the Illinois Derby and Irap (4th) returned to take down the Toyota Blue Grass from Keeneland.  Detractors will say Hence stepped up and capitalized on a torrid pace and thus looked better than he actually is and that his 97 Beyer is more papier mache than not.  Also, Daddy Nose Best won the 2012 Sunland Derby for Steve Asmussen and came back to run a nondescript 10th in the Kentucky Derby thereafter.  Ricardo Santana is Asmussen’s main rider and he lands aboard Untapped, however, Florent Geroux is Asmussen’s big money rider and he ends up right here.  Hence draws well and should have no problem getting the distance.  The pace should be situated to his liking and if the track comes up wet he’s already demonstrated he can handle it; you’d be wise to send out an invitation for him to join you for part of your wagering party if you’re planning on cashing vertical tickets on Saturday; must consider.

9-Irap 20/1 ML- As just mentioned, Irap heads into Louisville off his win in the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland where he rang the bell at 31/1 and stunned the racing world in the process. Heading into the Blue Grass, Irap was a maiden but had performed fairly well against graded stakes horses so his victory wasn’t totally unforeseen.  There’s been a lot of chatter around Churchill Downs this week about how nicely Irap has filled out and he seems to be headed in the right direction as far as his form is considered.  It’s obvious to say this right from jump street but if you missed the wedding at 31/1 last time do you want to go the funeral at a shorter price against a bigger field in the Kentucky Derby?  The answer to that question is obviously not, however, Irap should be handy in the race early on and there’s a real possibility he’ll be part of the equation turning for home.  He was on the wrong lead through the stretch of the Blue Grass and seemingly begged the field to pick him off but Practical Joke was only kidding about going by and obviously Irap closed escrow from there.  It’s my view that Irap had a perfect trip without a straw in his path in concert with all the main players failing to fire and that was the recipe for his success.  It’s likely he’ll regress to whatever his true mean is on Saturday but I wouldn’t talk you off including him on the bottom rungs of your Trifecta and Superfecta tickets. O’Neill and Gutierrez have combined for Derby success with I’ll Have Another in 2012 and Nyquist in last year’s renewal but I still prefer him underneath.

10-Gunnevera 15/1 ML- Your bargain basement purchase in this lot of a mere $16,000, Gunnevera is a narrowly built, hard trying chestnut colt by Dialed In who likes to drop anchor and make one long and sustained run for glory.  The Gunnevera storyline is a very intriguing one as his trainer Antonio Sano was kidnapped twice in his native Venezuela with his family forced to pay a ransom for his freedom.  Gunnevera proved to be a tough customer as a two-year-old before returning as a three-year-old in Florida this spring, finishing second to Irish War Cry in the Holy Bull, winning the Fountain of Youth and running third behind Always Dreaming and State of Honor in the Florida Derby.  Gunnevera’s running style puts him at the mercy of needing pace to run at in order to clean up on the embattled leaders.  There should be ample pace in the Kentucky Derby and as touched upon, Gunnevera is a nimble and narrowly built colt who should be able to navigate a path to rally from.  The buzz around Churchill is that he’s looked ho-hum in his morning activities and he’ll need to really pick up his feet as he comes from the clouds on Saturday; the sentimental horse along with Patch, but since you can’t pick them all I’m going to try and beat him.

11-Battle of Midway 30/1 ML- As a northern California racing follower, it’s quite strange to go through past performances for a race and see a Jerry Hollendorfer-trained horse sitting at 30/1 on the morning line and realizing it’s for good reason.  Battle of Midway accrued a lion’s share of his points to qualify for this race by finishing second in the blanket finish of the Santa Anita Derby.  Battle of Midway ran hooked and under severe pressure the entire way and battled on nicely, staving off Royal Mo (AE #21) by half a length (though Royal Mo’s rider dropped his stick in the stretch).  This horse put in a professional effort in an allowance race at Santa Anita back in March where he rated and out finished the Santa Anita Derby favorite Reach the World.  He shows up in Louisville with just four races under his belt and as it’s said every year at this time, no horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Kentucky Derby without having at least one start at the age of two.  Battle of Midway is up against it from an experience and seasoning standpoint but given he’s only run four times he absolutely has a license to improve and fire his best number yet.  Stylistically, he appears to be still carving out his identity as to whether he wants to stalk the pace or be up on the lead and it’s important to know the cards you have in your hand when the gates open for the Derby.  Although he ran hard last time, he’s also about a length away from not being here at all.  Plus, the California shippers arrive under heavy scrutiny this year in the wake of Mastery’s ill-timed defection from the Triple Crown series; will hope to catch up with him down the road in 2017.

12-Sonneteer 50/1 ML- After writing my first ever sonnet prior to the Rebel where Sonneteer secured the requisite points to enter the Kentucky Derby, I’m back for an encore in his honor:

‘Tis Derby Day #143 –the hats adorned -the mint juleps are poured,

His groom leadeth the Colt from his stall for the walk over on track;

As much as it grieveth the betting public to think of the chances of this horse,

                Doubting Thomases and clockers were made to wonder if he just might like this course;

Circling the paddock the horse walks past unheralded and unknown,

Applause and praise emerge for the players on the overhead lights of the Twin Spires marquee;

Riders Up was the call the Nation heard say,

                A leg up to his jock as the 50/1 shot was sent out to My Old Kentucky Home;

Nary a win to his credit as he sought cap and gown,

                With 10 starts on his resume, the humble maiden hopes this be his true judgment day;

Into his wallet Longshot Louie goes,

All of you fools keep heading to the window, Sam the stooper boasts.

Donnerail, Giacomo, and Mine That Bird all sleighed that first Saturday in May;

The cash of a lifetime in a lifetime of cashes shall this Kentucky Derby be his graduation day.

13-J Boys Echo 20/1 ML- Always seems to take money but more often than not fails to deliver on gambler’s expectations.  Many horses which will take part on Saturday have a conspicuous sort of one-off in their form where they didn’t fire or bring their best effort on race day but later vindicated themselves.  Conversely, J Boys Echo shows a bunch of middling form with a huge exception noted from his devastating win in the Gotham at Aqueduct.  The 102 Beyer speed figure from that race sticks out like a sore thumb and it appears to be an outlier from his typical body of work.  His usual rider, Robby Albarado, recently hurt himself and will be unable to take the call on Saturday so up goes Luis Saez.  Saez and Romans have had good success together and J Boys Echo has three steady drills over the Churchill strip.  Which J Boys Echo will we see on Saturday?  Is it the horse who likes to run 84 Beyer Speed Figures and defer to others in the stretch? Or is the horse that closed like a wild horse in the Gotham? It’s possible that J Boys Echo was entered to maintain his foundation and wasn’t fully cranked for the Blue Grass.  Many horses seem to have a tough time over the Keeneland surface and then rebound when the scene shifts to another venue.  Dale Romans should win a Kentucky Derby eventually, but Irap, Practical Joke, a flat McCraken, and Gunnevera have all taken care of him this spring.  As a result, I’m left to question who he’s beaten and will make him beat me on Saturday; leaving him out of the mix.

14-Classic Empire 4/1 ML- With the French Open just a couple weeks from commencing, so lift a tennis phrase in describing Classic Empire’s chances in Kentucky Derby # 143: It’s on his racket to serve this major out.  No one doubts the talent this mercurial son of Triple Crown-siring Pioneerof the Nile possesses, but more so than the 19 rivals in front of him his biggest enemy is unquestionably right between his own ears.  Any horse that can win his debut and first try against winners after breaking slowly from the rail is a serious race horse in my book.  It was that type of quality that’s bred into his composition that allowed him to win the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland and then grind Not This Time down to the nub in taking down the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, thereby earning the Eclipse Award as a two-year-old.  But then there’s the Classic Empire from the Hopeful who wheeled at the start and lost his rider or the Classic Empire from the Holy Bull that melted down at the starting gate and completely lost his composure in a lackluster third place finish that afternoon.  At least he draws well and should have plenty of room to operate coming out of the gate but you’ll need to keep an eye on him before the race as it’s entirely possible he may run his race before the starter even springs the latch.  He’s 2-for-2 at Churchill and if he minds his manners he’s the one to beat, but that and five bucks will buy you a latte if his mind is elsewhere… nevertheless, it’s his Derby to lose.

15-McCraken 5/1 ML- Son of Ghostzapper draws right next to post time favorite Classic Empire and will enter the first stall of the auxiliary gate as the horse to beat in some people’s minds.  It’s no secret this horse has a fondness for the surface with an unblemished record in three races and he’s been training up a storm in the morning for trainer Ian Wilkes.  McCraken was given the time needed to overcome his mild ankle strain and his connections will see if that decision pays dividends with a huge performance in the Run for the Roses.  His Blue Grass effort looked like a prep race to give the horse a bit more three-year-old foundation but the goal has always been the Kentucky Derby for McCraken.  If you view the Blue Grass as strictly a public workout then this horse is probably the one you believe will be standing in the winner’s circle with roses around his neck.  Jockey Brian Hernandez chose McCraken over Girvin and even though some say he made that choice because he rides first call for Wilkes as opposed to Joe Sharp, it’s my belief all bets are off when it comes to trying to win a Kentucky Derby.  This is a serious race horse and I’d be shocked if he doesn’t come up with a huge effort on Saturday.  Ian Wilkes studied under Carl Nafzger who trained Derby winners Unbridled and Street Sense. Those champs were ready to peak on the first Saturday in May and it’s my belief McCraken’s performance will be another brilliant chapter to add to the pages on the heels of those Derby winners; the pick.

16-Tapwrit 20/1 ML- The beauty of the Kentucky Derby—Exhibit B: 1.2 million dollar purchase is a classic illustration of just how fickle the wagering dollar of a horse player can be.  Here’s a horse that is 3-for-6 lifetime, has won twice on dirt including the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby, was 2/1 against an 8/5 McCraken in the Blue Grass and now shows up at a savory 20/1 on the morning line for the Kentucky Derby.  This crop of three-year-olds has been all about forgiving bad races and watching horses bounce back with much better performances. It’s likely in my mind for that scenario to play out with Tapwrit in the Kentucky Derby.  His Blue Grass was awful and I would definitely know since I astutely selected him in the race and then watched him do next to nothing once the gates opened.  Tapwrit was unprepared for the start, got shuffled back, was pinched outside of horses entering the clubhouse turn, never seemed to take hold of the bit or get his feet into a good stride over the track,  and gave up the ghost readily from there, backpedaling to a well-beaten fifth place finish.  It was a Murphy’s Law kind of race in the Blue Grass but he’s due for better racing luck on Saturday.  Tapwrit draws well, should find a good spot early on and he’s being overlooked by many who have defected to the Always Dreaming camp.  In my calculations, this is the perfect scenario in which to invest.  Am I chasing this horse and trying to vindicate my poor selection on him in the Blue Grass some? Sure.  However, the positives far exceed the negatives on this horse and as Bob Barker would say, “The Price is Right.” Don’t be surprised if he gets a piece of it.

17-Irish War Cry 6/1 ML- In the interest of full disclosure I must confess I’m of Irish heritage.  In addition, I must confess that I picked against Irish War Cry in the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth in preference of Gunnevera.  Word on the street is that Irish War Cry is training over the surface like he owns the place and he’s the only one who can brag about having two triple digit Beyer Speed Figures in the field.   What makes me pause in terms of a complete endorsement of him is my questioning the company lines of who he’s dominated.  In the Holy Bull, he crawled to the front and walked the dog up the back stretch, dominating by open lengths over Gunnevera who came in off a considerable layoff and steamrolled a hapless Classic Empire.  The winning horses which have emerged from the New York prep races have had all had their heads handed to them in their follow up starts such as: Mo Town (Remsen), El Areeb (Withers), and J Boys Echo (Gotham).  Irish War Cry will have to buck that trend and the horses which finished behind him last time in Battalion Runner and Cloud Computing would each be monster prices in this race, yet were all very close to one another on the Wood Memorial morning line.  Understanding that St. Patrick’s Day falls on the 17th of March each year you know Irish eyes will be smiling if #17 crosses the finish line first on Saturday; he’s obviously one to fear for all the marbles and I’ve long been a big Graham Motion fan.  Motion won this race with Animal Kingdom in 2011.  I’m tossing this guy into the mix.

18-Gormley 15/1 ML- I’ll be surprised if Gormley takes more money than Tapwrit on Saturday though I’ve always respected him.  He was my second choice in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to Not This Time but took a fairly comprehensive beating in his own backyard that day.  Gormley was tenacious in his three-year-old debut, prevailing in a long stretch drive against American Anthem but then was handled with relative ease by California’s best three-year-old in Mastery.  Gormley showed tenacity and grit in the Santa Anita Derby and was able to get his head down after a long drive through the stretch.  His jockey Victor Espinoza is no stranger to winning this race and his connections are top notch.  The problem he faces is that he may be the best of a below average California crop, especially compared to recent years past with the likes of California Chrome, American Pharoah and Nyquist all debuting in the Golden State.  No one is under the illusion that Gormley is the quality of those runners and even though these connections must be respected, it’s my steadfast belief that the Santa Anita Derby is not a key race headed into this year’s renewal.  Ironically, Gormley Beyered higher when he was trounced by Mastery than he did in winning the Santa Anita Derby.  Given that Gormley appears up against it on paper and he now leaves the friendly confines of California to ship and run for the first time, it’s enough to curb my enthusiasm; outsider.

19-Practical Joke 20/1 ML- Was one of the best juveniles on the East Coast and entered his sophomore season with tons of optimism and hope but has failed to deliver on the sizzle and puffery that has long surrounded him.  It’s no secret I’ve been a bit hard on this horse in my analysis but it’s only because it seems like he’s more into teasing than pleasing.  Practical Joke found some trouble in his seasonal debut in the Fountain of Youth but offered little resistance to Gunnevera and was out finished to the wire by over five lengths.  Five weeks later, Practical Joke returned in the Blue Grass and had a dream trip outside of Irap from the quarter pole to the finish line and could not go by him, despite the fact Irap was racing on his wrong lead and practically begging Practical Joke to go by in the stretch.  Jockey Joel Rosario asked this colt for everything he had through the stretch of the Blue Grass and he was unable to get the job done under a perfect set of circumstances.  My gut feeling is that the nine furlongs of the Blue Grass was definitely outside of his comfort zone and the 10 furlongs of the Kentucky Derby will be something he wants no part of.  Plus, Practical Joke draws extremely wide for this race and will have to find a way to work out a smooth trip into the first turn without going around the cape heading into the back stretch.  It will all have to go his way if he’s going to be the last one standing and after the dream set up last time in the Blue Grass where he failed to capitalize, I simply cannot live with him.  This horse could be a good “Miler” later in the season but he’ll be hearing crickets as he exits stage left on Saturday; unabashedly tossing him right out.

20-Patch 30/1 ML- Along with Gunnevera, this is the other sentimental entrant into this year’s Run for the Roses.  The third and final Calumet colt, Patch will be the last horse to load for the Kentucky Derby and ironically he will not be able to see any of the horses to his inside once they break from the starting gate because he has only one eye.  His left eye was removed due to excessive inflammation that incurred after an apparent training accident but that hasn’t deterred Patch from becoming one of the top 20 three-year-old points earners.  Patch is royally bred by Union Rags and out of an A.P. Indy mare and just like Battle of Midway, Patch will try and become the first horse since Apollo to win the Kentucky Derby without starting as a two-year-old.  Patch earned his way here with a credible finish in his debut against winners in the Louisiana Derby, unable to chase down Girvin who had more seasoning and experience. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione understandably bails on Fast and Accurate for Patch but make no mistake about it, this is an uphill run for sure.  Patch has just three races of foundation and will have to win the Kentucky Derby from the 20-hole with one functioning eye, and he will need to take down the 135-year ghost of Apollo with him in the process to be adorned with a bed of roses in the winner’s circle.  The quality of the competition that’s been faring in Louisiana is another question mark lingering over Girvin and obviously those which finished behind him, such as this colt.  Looking at Patch as a whole through these optics leaves me disinclined to be an investor in his chances on Saturday.  If Patch somehow gets the job done in the Kentucky Derby you can rest assured Hollywood will get to work on filming the story of Patch for the big screen; surely the sentimental selection but he’s not mine; gracias, pero no gracias.

As of Friday at 9 a.m. (PST) Churchill Downs is racing with a sloppy track and some races have been moved off the turf. Showers are in the forecast at various intervals on Saturday.  Be prepared for a track with some moisture in it from a handicapping perspective.  Hopefully the track will dry out by mid-afternoon for the Run for the Roses.

Selections: 15-16-17-8

#15 McCraken 5/1

#16 Tapwrit 20/1

#17 Irish War Cry 6/1

# 8 Hence 15/1