Nunnsense: KY Derby 143 Preview


I want you to win money on Derby day. The best way to win is to have a little bit of knowledge as to what you are doing. No matter if you are betting a lot of money or you are just betting $2 to show on a horse, you should be well-informed before making your choice. I want to help you win some money.

Many people just pick their horse by the name or color. Mathematically speaking, no matter what horse you pick, that horse has a 1 in 20 chance of winning. Realistically speaking, there are several horses that won’t win unless all the other horses fall down. You can eliminate those horses from your betting strategies.

Here are a few factors I use in determining my Derby horse…

  •  Beyer speed figures are something I like to use. You can find them in the Daily Racing Form. I like to see the numbers steadily increase in every race leading up to the Derby. When I see a horse make a huge jump in the race before Derby, I assume that in the Derby race that horse will have a regression therefore I throw them out of my exotic bets.
  • Closers, or deep stretch runners, are not a good idea for a win bet but could be very profitable to include in the bottom of trifecta or superfecta bets. In the past 54 KY Derby’s, 51 of the winners were either in first or second place with only a furlong to go. So you want to pick a horse with tactical speed, or a horse that has a running style that places him closer to the lead.
  • Since the inception of the point standings to gain entrance into the KY Derby, the favorite has won every year. Yes it’s a very small sample size being that it’s only been 4 years but all 4 years the favorite has been the one wearing the roses. Also, the points leader has finished in the top 3 every year. Again, it’s a very small sample size but shouldn’t be ignored.
  • The final prep race is always the most important. If a horse runs poorly in his last prep race, he doesn’t have time to recover his form. If a horse runs well his last prep race but is all out in doing so, he likely will need a race to recover. I like a horse who runs well but has a little gas left in his tank after the race.
KY Derby - Sporting News
Photo: Sporting News

Here are the contenders for Derby 143 and my projected odds. (in no certain order)…

  1. Classic Empire – He has been dubbed the “Bad Boy” of racing because he has refused to train at times. He does what he wants, when he wants. But when he wants to run, there is nobody better. He is the 2 year-old champ. After winning the Breeders Cup Juvenile at 2, he stated off his 3 year-old campaign with a third place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes. After a post race inspection it was discovered that he had a foot abscess. It has taken him a while to get fully healthy, but he is back. He just won the Arkansas Derby and was deemed to be only at 85%. The half-brother to American Pharoah will be 100% on Derby day and, in my opinion, it will take an unbelievable performance by someone else or some extremely bad racing luck to beat him. In his 7 lifetime starts, he has won 5. The 2 losses were the third when he ran with the foot abscess and when he lost his jockey at the start of another race. If he had won both of those races we would be discussing if he could win the triple crown. Trainer: Mark Casse Jockey: Julien Leparoux  Should be morning line favorite at 3-1 
  2. Always Dreaming  – The winner of the Florida Derby has done nothing wrong. He won the Florida Derby and seems to keep improving. However, he is a Todd Pletcher horse and Pletcher dominates at  Gulfstream Park. Pletcher’s form that helps his horses dominate Gulfstream, doesn’t translate to other tracks. His only Derby winner, Super Saver, ran his prep races away from GP. Always Dreaming ran his last 2 races at GP and won both. His 2 races prior were away from GP and he finished 2nd and 3rd. Just something to think about before placing a win wager on him. That being said, he is still the fastest horse in the race and good enough to finish in the top 5. Trainer: Todd Pletcher, Jockey: John Velazquez. Odds should be 4-1.
  3. McCraken – Affectenately know as “Crackers,” he seemed to be the one to rival Classic Empire as Derby favorite but experienced an ankle injury. It pushed his training back and his last prep race was the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Most people are down on him because he ran 3rd in that race and was beaten by a long shot who had never won a race. While that may be true, it should also be noted that after the jockey saw that he couldn’t catch the leader he eased up and just jogged home to save plenty for the Derby. So the question remains, is he good enough to win? I think he can If the top 2 falter. I won’t bet him to win or place but he should not be omitted from your superfecta. Trainer: Ian Wilkes,  Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr. Odds: 12-1.
  4. Irish War Cry – He upset Classic Empire in the Holy Bull Stakes only to find out later that Classic Empire was hurt. He finished seventh, beaten 21 lengths, as the even-money favorite on March 4th in the Fountain of Youth. He rebounded to win the Wood Memorial after a jockey change. Although he was conceived in KY, we was born in New Jersey. That combination has produced only two Derby winners — the filly Regret (1915) and Cavalcade (1934). I won’t put a penny on him. Trainer: Graham Motion, Jockey: Rajiv Maragh. Will probably be your third betting choice at 9-1.
  5. Hence –  He has become the “Buzz” horse. I really like him to be in contention and was hoping no one would notice so I could get a good price in my exotic bets. He won the Sunland Derby coming from11 lengths back to pull away in the stretch for a 3 ¾-length romp. He finished fast in the Sunland Derby with a final eighth of a mile in :12.39 and three-eighths of a mile in :37.63. The Sunland Derby is not typically a race where KY Derby caliber horses come from but he left eventual Blue Grass Stakes winner Irap,  8 ½ lengths in his wake and defeated eventual Arkansas Derby runner-up Conquest Mo Money by 3 ¾ lengths. Trainer: Steve Asmussen, Jockey: Alfredo Juarez. Hoping to get 20-1.
  6. Gunnevera – He is another closer and I will be putting him as high as the 3rd spot in my exotics. He finished third in the Florida Derby. Trainer: Antonio Sano, Jockey: Javier Castellano. Odds: 10-1
  7. Girvin – He is a horse I could definitely see winning. I will be using him on top of all my exotic bets. He is the current points leader (150) in the KY Derby points standings. I was worried when regular jockey Brian Hernandez decided to ride McCraken instead of Girvin but picking up Hall of Famer Mike Smith isn’t so bad even though he doesn’t have a great KY Derby record. Trainer: Joe Sharp, Jockey: Mike Smith. Odds: 12-1.
  8. Patch The sentimental choice because he lost his left eye. He is the value play. Odds: 30-1
  9. Gormley – Best of the West Coast horses. Unfortunately this year’s crop from the west are not that great. Could be over bet. I’ll pass on this one. Odds: 16-1
  10. Practical Joke – I was very high on this one but an all out performance in the Blue Grass Stakes that still didn’t get him the win against a maiden has him off my radar. Distance is also an issue for him. Odds: 15-1
  11. Thunder Snow – Winner of the UAE Derby. Dubai horses haven’t exactly done well in Ky. May not even make the trip to Churchill. Odds: 30-1
  12. Irap – 18-1
  13. J Boys Echo – 35-1
  14. State Of Honor – 40-1
  15. Tapwrit – 25-1
  16. Malagacy – 18-1
  17. Battle Of Midway – 30-1
  18. Fast and Acurate – 70-1
  19. Batallion Runner – 16-1
  20. Untrapped – 60-1
  21. Lookin At Lee – 25-1

My Wagers…

I bet Classic Empire to win in the first Ky. Derby future wager pool and received odds of 6-1 so I will not be placing any more win or place bets on Derby day.

I will play a trifecta and here is what I would bet as of today. Post positions, weather and track conditions could change my wager.

  1. Classic Empire, Girvin
  2. Classic Empire, Girvin, Always Dreaming, Hence, McCraken
  3. Classic Empire, Girvin, Always Dreaming, Hence, McCraken, Gunnevera (could include Lookin at Lee or Batallion Runner in this 3rd spot)


As Always, GO CARDS!

(and Classic Empire)

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