Kentucky Derby 143 pick eyes ‘classic’ performance

CERace 12 | Grade I Kentucky Derby | 1 1/4 miles 

1. Classic Empire
2. McCraken
3. Irish War Cry
4. Always Dreaming
5. Gormley

Video of my Derby analysis on The Courier-Journal website: https://goo.gl/0wNxMh

Comment: This is an odd Derby from the perspective that I settled on about four contenders weeks ago, but I’ve talked myself on and off of each of them repeatedly — as all have question marks and all have great ability. After much deliberation, the pick is Classic Empire. With the exception of his race in the Grade II Holy Bull, he’s done nothing wrong on the track. He’s the only three-time Grade I winner in the field and is the juvenile champion. He should be just off the front pack, far enough from the pace to avoid being burned out with the early speed but close enough to avoid traffic trouble. McCraken is a perfect three for three at Churchill and is likely to improve off a respectable third in the Grade II Blue Grass Stakes. Of the top four, Irish War Cry interested me the least until I saw him in the flesh at Churchill Downs and now he’s almost my No. 2. He’s legit despite some suspect fractions in the Grade II Wood Memorial. Always Dreaming had the best final prep of this bunch and looked good working at Churchill, but when the trainer is changing reins and (exercise) riders in the final week, that’s not a plus. None of these four would surprise as a winner. The horse I didn’t care for entering the week that looked good training Friday is Grade I Santa Anita Derby winner Gormley. He’s a two-time GI winner. The exercise rider had the feet in the dashboard holding him back. In exotics wagering, there are very few that can be eliminated. Price horses that can hit the board and will be in my exotics: Practical Joke is a multiple GI winner. Hence looks good. Irap doesn’t look like a fluke. State of Honor was runner up to Always Dreaming in the Grade I Florida Derby. Sonneteer can hit the board despite being a maiden.

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