So the draw reins worked! Always Dreaming is the winner of the 143rd Kentucky Derby. Excellent ride by John Velazquez. Not a straw in his path, he took advantage of the rail which was the place to be, and the horse was the picture of composure leading up to and during the race. The pace meltdown that I anticipated between Always Dreaming and Fast and Accurate to the inside and State of Honor to the outside didn’t materialize. Fast and Accurate was anything but and State of Honor, though he broke and took the lead, didn’t set a fast pace.
Classic Empire might have been able to make a race of it, but was on the receiving end of a serious body blow that occurred as Irish War Cry and McCraken dropped over to save ground once the race began. Additionally, Classic Empire got smacked by a good clod of mud to an eye that word is has left him with a bit of a swollen eye and made a miserable run worse. Still, he persevered to a fourth place finish. He IS a racehorse.
And while undoubtedly, the wet track probably prevented some of the horses from having their best race, as I’ve thought it over, I keep coming back to the conclusion that was the undercurrent of the prep race season this year–these horses just were not good enough. The inconsistency in performance, the injuries and setbacks in training, and the fairly average, less than impressive performances that resulted in wins during the preps that were indeed valid indicators of what was to come from these horses in the Derby. Not much. Today, that point is underlined for me. During yesterday’s pre-race coverage Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss made a point that proved prophetic and further underscores my point: Always Dreaming was the only colt in the race who was undefeated in his races in 2017. It’s not to say that some of the losing horses won’t emerge from this race and go on to success(es) later on, but right now, this is the not ready for primetime crop.
So where do we go from here? Excellent question. I really don’t know. There are no reports that any of the horses came out of the race any worse for wear other than simply being tired (perhaps exhausted!). Always Dreaming’s connections indicated it’s their intention to move on to the Preakness. Some writers and commentators are already saying Always Dreaming is Triple Crown winning material. I’m not sure which, if any horses that ran against him yesterday will pursue him in Maryland. So far the only horses I’ve heard mentioned to potentially contest the Preakness are Royal Mo, who was Also Eligible for the Derby and Malagacy who was scratched from the Kentucky Derby field early and at that stage was mentioned as training on for the Preakness. I really don’t think Malagacy will be much of a match for Always Dreaming either.
A horse I think should go on and run in the Preakness is Thunder Snow. Not only did he not finish the Derby yesterday, he never really ran it. As Thunder Snow came out of the gate, within a few strides jockey Christophe Soumillon was nearly sideways in the saddle, somehow righted himself, and then Thunder Snow broke into a bucking fit. I suspect the position of the saddle and/or girth contributed to that outburst. I do not believe he balked and refused to race. Bottom line for me is he’s stateside, he didn’t run a step yesterday, why not take a shot at the Preakness? He’s already raced and won at the 1 3/16th Preakness Stakes distance when he won the UAE Derby to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Sheik Mohammed’s goal is to win the Kentucky Derby, but the Preakness isn’t a bad consolation prize. The only problem I see with Thunder Snow is he has what I think is a “grass stride,” and may not really be a good dirt runner. We’ll see.
Odds and Ends– Street Cry remains the only horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby as Classic Empire couldn’t turn the trick yesterday. Post 17 remains winless as Irish War Cry briefly contended and then faded. Best ride of the day goes to resident Churchill Downs rider Corey Lanerie who piloted poorly drawn Lookin At Lee from the one hole (where within 100 yards you will run into the rail in the 20-horse field if you aren’t real careful and real talented) to an amazing second-place finish.
Final order of finish for the Kentucky Derby:
1. Always Dreaming
2. Lookin At Lee
3. Battle of Midway
4. Classic Empire
5. Practical Joke
10. Irish War Cry
15. J Boys Echo
17. Fast and Accurate
19. State of Honor
20. Thunder Snow DNF
Thirteen days until the Preakness Stakes. Can’t imagine what happens next.