My 2017 Kentucky Derby Picks

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D.S. Williamson

April 29th, 2017

The 2017 Kentucky Derby is 7 days away. It's time for me to make my picks for the Run for the Roses. In settling on my picks, I decided that value should be found among all participants.

I believe Classic Empire goes off the favorite. He shouldn't be more than a 5/2 favorite, 2 to 1 at the lowest. What that means is that including Classic Empire into all exotics is going should still yield nice profits.

First Place:  Irish War Cry

Irish War Cry has run one bad race in his life. That was the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes where he just threw in the towel. Trainer Graham Motion said that after looking at Irish War Cry following the Fountain of Youth, he couldn't find anything wrong with him. The son of Curlin proved Motion right by easily winning the Wood Memorial in his next race. The Wood Memorial, now a Grade 2, brought Irish War Cry's record to 4 wins from 5 starts.

It's difficult to find any issues with Irish War Cry. He doesn't need the lead. He appears capable of relaxing on the lead if he ends up with it. He proved in the Wood Memorial that he could lay off the pace and win. Motion trained Derby winner Animal Kingdom.

Unless he bounces, I think Irish War Cry is going to be tough to keep from wearing the garland of roses on May 6.

Second Place:  Hence

Horses don't often come out of the Sunland Derby and make an impact on the First Saturday in May. In fact, I'm not sure if any horse has come out of the Sunland Derby to make an impact on the Kentucky Derby.

Hence could be the first one. I was ready to blow this horse off until I studied his past performances. It took him four races to break his maiden. In his first try against winners, he bombed. That was to be expected because instead of running in an allowance first time versus winners, he tackled rivals in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Hence's connections are top notch. Steve Asmussen trains. Calumet Farms are the owners. Since he's from an A.P. Indy mare and sired by Street Boss, he'll have no issues going 1 1/4 miles. Hence could come flying late to win the Derby if Irish War Cry gets into a speed duel.

Third Place:  Classic Empire

There's no doubt that Classic Empire is a talented horse. But I wasn't as impressed by his Arkansas Derby win as so many others were. To me, he picked up the pieces while chasing a great miler in Malagacy as well as a speedball in Conquest Mo Money.

Could Classic Empire win? Of course, he could. I'm using him on top in a low-cost trifecta specifically because he can win the Run for the Roses. But since he'll be the favorite, it's hard for me to back him to win. Irish War Cry should offer more value.

Fourth Place:  Always Dreaming

Always Dreaming's Florida Derby win was as professional as it gets. I think he could bounce in the Kentucky Derby, though. From my perspective, he ran so well in the Florida Derby that there's a chance he takes a slight step back.

That's pretty much the only knock I've got against the Pletcher trainee. Like Classic Empire and Hence, I'm going to use Always Dreaming on top of my saver exotic plays while Irish War Cry is going to key my big money exotic plays.

Good luck with your Derby picks!