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    Default The Bum's Triple Crown Thread For 2017 Picks-News & More !

    2017 Kentucky Derby Odds
    May 2, 2017

    The 2017 Kentucky Derby takes place on Saturday May 6 from Churchill Downs, Kentucky.

    The first leg of the Triple Crown is known as “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” and certain horses are already receiving interest at the betting counter.

    With the race less than two weeks away, oddsmakers at Sportsbook.ag are offering up Fixed Odds for the upcoming event.

    Listed below are horses that could be part of the 20-horse field.

    Odds to win 2017 Kentucky Derby (5/6/17) - per Sportsbook.ag

    Always Dreaming 3/1
    Mc Craken 4/1
    Irap 11/2
    Classic Empire 6/1
    Gunnevera 6/1
    Irish War Cry 6/1
    Practical Joke 8/1
    Girvin 14/1
    Gormley 15/1
    Tapwrit 16/1
    Lookin At Lee 18/1
    Hence 20/1
    Thunder Snow 20/1
    J Boys Echo 25/1
    Battle of Midway 35/1
    Patch 35/1
    Sonneteer 35/1
    Untrapped 40/1
    Cloud Computing 50/1
    Fast and Accurate 50/1
    Royal Mo 50/1
    State of Honor 55/1
    Petrov 80/1

    Will there be a 2017 Triple Crown Winner? - per Sportsbook.ag
    Yes +550
    No -850

    Odds Subject to Change - Updated 5.2.17
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Derby Contenders - Part 1
    May 1, 2017
    By Anthony Stabile


    The first of our four part Kentucky Derby preview series features the three runners trained by Todd Pletcher - Always Dreaming, Tapwrit and Patch – as well as Gunnevera and McCracken.

    Pletcher will be looking to improve on his dreadful record in the Derby, with his lone win coming in 2010 when Super Saver bounded home in the slop. He’s run 45 horses in all and will tie his mentor, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, for the most horses started in the Derby if all three go on Saturday.

    G1 Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming leads the trio. Always Dreaming began his career with a pair of losses as a two-year-old in the barn of Dom Schettino before being transferred to Pletcher as part of a newly formed partnership between Brooklyn Boyz and St Elias Stables.

    He made his first start for his new barn on a Wednesday afternoon in late January, with Hall of Famer rider John Velazquez taking the trip to Tampa Bay Downs to pilot him to an easy, 11 ˝ length maiden tally going a mile and 40 yards, his first start around two turns and off of a five month layoff. He stretched out even further to nine furlongs on the undercard of the G2 Fountain of Youth undercard at Gulfstream Park and promptly won an entry level allowance/optional claimer by four lengths.

    Despite a pair of sharp tallies, Always Dreaming didn’t have a single Derby point to his name so Pletcher pointed him to the Florida Derby. Sent off as the 5-2 second choice in the wagering, Always Dreaming was never far from the lead, sitting a length or so off of pacesetter State of Honor before taking him on and rushing past on the turn on his way to a five length score in a solid 1:47 2/5 for the nine panels, a time that was over six seconds faster than his previous win at the distance.

    Always Dreaming, like all three Pletcher runners, did most of his training for this at his Palm Beach Downs winter base, where he worked twice, before firing a bullet on Friday, April 28 at Churchill Downs, going five furlongs in :59 3/5 under Velazquez. Velazquez won his lone Derby in 2011 aboard Animal Kingdom.

    Tapwrit, a $1.2 million yearling purchase by red-hot sire Tapit, will look to rebound from a dull, fifth place finish in the G1 Blue Grass. Tapwrit was blown out in his sprint debut before Pletcher added blinkers and stretched him out to break his maiden around two turns at Gulfstream Park West and win a minor stakes at Gulfstream, both at a mile.

    After a two month break, Tapwrit kicked off his sophomore season in the G3 Sam F Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. Reserved in mid-pack on the backstretch, new rider Jose Ortiz began to move on the turn and opted to go up the inside. Unfortunately, the hole never materialized and he was forced to alter course to the outside but by then it was too late as McCracken parlayed an outside trip into a victory. Tapwrit kept coming to finish second, leading some to believe he was actually best that day.

    Those of that belief were rewarded a month later in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby. With McCracken sidelined, Tapwrit was sent off as the 11-10 favorite and sat the same trip he did in the Davis. But this time, Ortiz circled his overmatched rivals before drawing off to a four-and-a-half length tally in stakes record time.

    Things didn’t go as well in Lexington, Kentucky at Keeneland in the Blue Grass. Sent to post as the 2-1 second choice, Tapwrit didn’t break well, had little pace to run at over a somewhat speed-favoring course and trudged home fifth, nearly a dozen lengths behind Irap, who was still a maiden going into the race.

    Perhaps Tapwrit “bounced” off of his top effort at Tampa and will get a better setup in the Derby. He finished his serious prep on Friday, April 28 with a five furlong move, in company with stablemate Patch, in 1:00 2/5.

    Speaking of Patch, he is just one of two set to contest the Derby while taking on the Apollo Curse at the same time. For those of you not familiar with the proverbial king of the “Derby Rules,” no horse has won the roses without a race as a two-year-old since Apollo did it in 1872.

    Patch, who got his name because he was born with just one eye, didn’t start until mid-January. He finished second in a sprint at Gulfstream before stretching out to break his maiden over the Hallandale Beach oval going a flat mile.

    Another in need of points, Pletcher shipped Patch to the Fair Grounds for the G2 Louisiana Derby. Under new rider Tyler Gaffalione, Patch was bothered a bit at the break from his rail draw but ,managed to make his way into contention on the far turn along the inside and stayed on to finish a good second to G2 Risen Star winner Girvin.

    Gunnevera will look to turn the tables on Always Dreaming after a third place finish in the Florida Derby for trainer Antonio Sano, who was kidnapped twice in his native Venezuela before coming to south Florida.

    Gunnevera came into this year with plenty of foundation under his belt. A three time winner as a juvenile, including scores in the G2 Saratoga Special and G3 Delta Jackpot, he had run six times in all before hitting the track this year in the G2 Holy Bull, his first start in 10 weeks. Irish War Cry was left alone on the front end, a development that usually doesn’t bode well for a deep closer like Gunnevera, but he still put in a mild late rally to finish second.

    Things went a bit differently in the Fountain of Youth. Three Rules, being chased this time by Irish War Cry, went a quick :47 second opening half-mile and the racetrack seemed to be playing favorably for horses coming from off the pace. Gunnevera took supreme advantage. Castellano turned him loose approaching the far turn and stormed past the embattled leader at the top of the stretch in route to a widening, daylight victory.

    It was evident early on the card that Gulfstream reverted to its speed-favoring ways on Florida Derby Day, a bad sign for the 11-10 favorite. Sure, Gunnevera got plenty of pace ton at but couldn’t muster any better than a third place finish despite putting in his patented late rally.

    Like the Pletcher runners, Gunnevera did most of his work for this in south Florida at Sano’s Gulfstream Park West base but completed his serious training with a “maintenance” move, according to Sano, over Churchill, going five furlongs in a leisurely 1:03 3/5 on Friday, April 28.

    McCracken will look to get back on track after suffering the first loss of his career when third in the Blue Grass last time out, just his second start in what’s been a bit of an abbreviated season.

    You couldn’t have asked for a better start to a career. All three of his wins, including the Street Sense and G2 KJC, as a juvenile occurred at Churchill Downs and he handled the progression in distance like an old pro.

    He made his first start this year off of an 11 week layoff in the Davis. While Tapwrit was getting into his traffic trouble, Brian Hernandez Jr. had his charge in the four path and made what proved to be a winning move off of the far turn to get the money by one-and-a-half lengths.

    A Tampa Bay Derby try was planned but had to be abandoned after McCracken strained his ankle preparing for the race. Trainer Ian Wilkes laid out a new plan, one that brought McCracken back to the bluegrass for the Blue Grass.

    By all accounts, McCracken did not have the best of trips at Keeneland. He broke awkwardly, rushed up a bit between horses down the backstretch then flattened out off of the turn to finish third. It wasn’t what you really wanted to see from a horse in just his second prep for the Derby, especially when he was originally supposed to have three.

    Unlike the vast majority of his rivals, he’s had the convenience of training at Churchill for the better part of the past month since Wilkes stables there. He finished his serious training with a sharp five furlong move in 1:00 3/5 on Sunday, April 30.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Derby Contenders - Part 2
    May 1, 2017
    By Anthony Stabile


    The second of our four part Kentucky Derby preview series features the two runners from the Mark Casse barn – Classic Empire and State of Honor – as well as the three from Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen – Hence, Untrapped and Lookin At Lee.

    In what has been one of the most topsy-turvy Kentucky Derby Trails in history, perhaps no contender has had a stranger journey to the Run for the Roses than Classic Empire.

    Classic Empire won four of his five starts as a two-year-old, including the G1 Breeders’ Futurity and G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile while on his way to tear end Eclipse honors. His lone defeat came in the G1 Hopeful when he wheeled at the start and dumped his rider as the 8-5 favorite. Behavioral problems nagged Classic Empire his entire life but the blinkers put on right before the Breeders’ Futurity seemed to help his cause greatly.

    Coming into this year, Classic Empire had about as much Derby buzz as a horse could have. Not This Time, the Juvenile runner-up, was retired and it looked like there was a margin even greater than the seven-plus length chasm back to the third horse in the Juvenile to the next best sophomore.

    That changed in a matter of moments after his seasonal bow in the G2 Holy Bull in early February at Gulfstream. Scratched down to a field of seven with the presence of the champ, Classic Empire was sent to post as the 1-2 prohibitive favorite despite the fact that he didn’t appear to be himself and was washed out on the track. He was cantankerous going to the gate and apparently left his race behind it, as he finished a non-threatening third despite sitting a good trip behind eventual winner Irish War Cry.

    After the race, Casse revealed that Classic Empire shipped to Gulfstream on the morning of the race from his Palm Meadows base, something he had never done and that a foot abscess had been discovered. A back problem that developed in the following weeks would preclude the champ from running in the second round of prep races. Then things got really interesting.

    Classic Empire refused to train. Workouts were aborted morning of as precious, missed time began mounting up. Casse decided to take him out of Florida and to a training center in Ocala, Florida. Classic Empire flourished and it was announced he’d have his final prep in the G1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, just three weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby.

    At Oaklawn in his first start at nine furlongs, Classic Empire didn’t have the best run into the first turn as he was forced to steady early but found his cadence down the backstretch under regular rider Julien Leparoux. He moved up approaching the turn but found himself in a dogfight with several others turning for home. He proved up to the task as he emerged from the pack in deep stretch with a powerful rally to get up by a half-length.

    Casse said after the race that he wouldn’t do much with Classic Empire in the short time between races and stayed true to his word. He breezed an easy half mile in :49 1/5 on Friday, April 28 over the Churchill Downs course, a track he broke his maiden and won the G3 Bashford Manor on as a juvenile.

    While stablemate Classic Empire figures to be off of the Derby pace, State of Honor should be right on it if he in fact is not setting it. Just one for six last year, he raced exclusively for Casse at Woodbine over the synthetic surface save one abysmal turf try.

    This season, State of Honor has raced four times in stakes races on conventional dirt in Florida. In his first try, he came from off the pace to finish second after duking it out with Todd Pletcher’s Sonic Mule in the Mucho Macho Man going a one-turn mile.

    In his next pair at Tampa, Casse added blinkers and State of Honor set the pace in both the G3 Sam F Davis and G2 Tampa Bay Derby. He dug in gamely to finish third behind McCracken in the Davis but gave it up a little more readily in the TB Derby when Tapwrit rolled on by.

    State of Honor returned to Gulfstream without the blinkers for the G1 Florida Derby and parlayed a solid trip from just off of the pace into a second place finish behind Always Dreaming over a course favoring front runners. It was his third runner-up finish to a Pletcher-trained runner this year.

    State of Honor has turned in the last of his three works at Churchill since the Florida Derby on Friday, April 28 going a half mile in :48 4/5. Jose Lezcano will ride.

    In the Asmussen barn, Hence is the most accomplished of the trio and in fact was the only one that punched his own ticket to Louisville without any help.

    Winless in three starts last season, Hence broke his maiden in his 2017 debut in the slop at Oaklawn. He stayed in Arkansas to try the G3 Southwest but failed to fire over a fast track and finished a well-beaten seventh.

    Asmussen shipped Hence to Sunland Park for the doubly lucrative G3 Sunland Derby. Not only did it offer an $800K purse but it awarded 50 Derby points to the winner. As is often the case in the annual prep in New Mexico, they flew up front early, going :45 3/5 to the half as Hence lingered towards the back of the pack. He moved up while wide on the turn and made the lead when they straightened for home before pulling away from the speed in the final furlong to win by almost four lengths.

    Hence has trained at Churchill since his score, some six weeks before the Kentucky Derby. He posted the last of his three major moves for this on Monday, May 1, going four furlongs in :48 4/5. Florent Geroux will ride for the first time.

    Untrapped and Lookin At Lee were both on the outside looking in when it came to the Derby due to a lack of points but did draw into the field after several defections.

    Untrapped broke his maiden in his second try last year, his lone start at Churchill, in a sprint as the 6-5 favorite. He earned points in his first three starts this year, runner-up finishes in both the G3 LeComte and G2 Risen Star, the latter behind Girvin, at the Fair Grounds before shipping to Oaklawn to run third in the G2 Rebel.

    Last out, Untrapped raced with blinkers for the first time and was a bit more forwardly placed in the early going. He made a move towards the lead on the turn and was in the first scrum off the turn but faded to finish sixth, five lengths behind Classic Empire.

    Ricardo Santana, Jr. was aboard for the first four starts of his career and will be again on Saturday. He posted his lone move for the race on Monday, May 1, going four furlongs in :50 2/5.

    Lookin At Lee is a bit of a “wiseguy,” live longshot going into the first Saturday in May and was one a lot of folks were hoping would find his way into the field, likely based on the fact that he is a closer who always seems to be making up a bunch of ground at the end of his races.

    Having already faced the starter nine times, Lookin At Lee is one of the most seasoned runners in the field but is winless in his last six starts. His two wins, including a minor stakes at Ellis, came around one turn. Asmussen added blinkers in his final juvenile try when he finished a dozen lengths behind Classic Empire in the B.C. Juvenile.

    This season, he’s raced exclusively at Oaklawn. A third place finish in the G3 Southwest was followed by a sixth place finish in the Rebel.

    His most impressive effort to date, one could argue, did come last out in the Arkansas Derby. Under Luis Contreras, Lookin At Lee was a couple of length closer to the front than usual but the forward placement was negated by the fact that he seemingly covered paths two through twelve from the far turn to the wire, eventually settling for third. If he kept a straight path, who knows what might have happened.

    He too posted his only work since on Monday, May 1, going four furlongs in :50 1/5. Corey Lanerie will be aboard for the first time.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Derby Contenders - Part 3
    May 1, 2017
    By Anthony Stabile


    The third of our four part Kentucky Derby series previews Irish War Cry, Girvin, J Boys Echo, Practical Joke as well as Fast and Accurate.

    Redemption has been a common theme on this long and winding Kentucky Derby Trail this year. A number of horses, for one reason or another, raced uncharacteristically poorly before regaining the spotlight in their subsequent start. And perhaps no horse did it better than Irish War Cry.

    Trained by Graham Motion, who won this in 2011 with Animal Kingdom, Irish War Cry won both of his starts as a juvenile sprinting, including a minor stakes at Laurel before getting loose on the lead and going gate-to-wire in the G2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream over juvenile champ Classic Empire.

    Irish War Cry put his undefeated record on the line in the G2 Fountain of Youth and the wheels came off the bus. Forced to chase a strong pace set by Three Rules, a position he had been put in before, over a track that wasn’t kind to front runners, Irish War Cry called it a day by the time they reached the far turn and folded like a cheap suit through the stretch, finishing over 20 lengths behind the winner as the 11-10 favorite.

    Motion offered no viable excuse for Irish War Cry and pressed on. It was decided he’d come north for his final Derby prep, the G2 Wood Memorial in New York at Aqueduct going nine furlongs. Motion made a rider change to Rajiv Maragh. Maragh, involved in two major spills in the fall of 2014 and summer of 2015, had missed almost all of 2015 and 2016 but has been riding tremendously since returning in November.

    Drawn outside in the field of eight, Irish War Cry found himself on the chase again. The result, however, was far different. Maragh attacked on the turn and after a brief encounter with the front runner, began to draw away in deep stretch to win by a widening three and a half lengths, a result the elicited a wonderful ovation from the faithful at the Big A as Maragh is a popular figure in the riding colony in the Big Apple.

    Motion decided to keep his New Jersey-bred son of Curlin away from the hustle and bustle of the Derby buzz, training him at his Fair Hills base in Maryland. He completed his major work on Sunday, April 30 with Maragh aboard, going six panels in 1:13 1/5, meaning he won’t have an official workout over the course before the race.

    Girvin led all three-year-olds with 150 points on the road to the Kentucky Derby. And for a while, once El Areeb went to the sidelines, was the only horse with two major prep wins under his belt for trainer Joe Sharp, perhaps best known until now for being the husband of former jockey Rosie Napravnik.

    Girvin, who has raced exclusively at the Fair Grounds in Louisiana, won his lone start as a juvenile in a dirt sprint. This year, in his first start after a seven week break, he closed nicely to finish second in a minor turf stakes.

    Sharp wheeled Girvin back in just three weeks for the G2 Risen Star. Dismissed at 8-1 by the betting public, Girvin took advantage of a solid :47 opening half mile, moved up on the turn after saving ground throughout and exploded in the lane to win by a couple of lengths.

    A month later in the nine furlong, G2 Louisiana Derby, Girvin raced wide but got a similar pace setup and the benefit of the extra sixteenth of a mile to grind out a length and a quarter score under his regular rider Brian Hernandez, Jr. Since that day, however, everything has seemingly gone the wrong way.

    First, Hernandez informed Sharp that he would stick with McCracken on the first Saturday in May. Sharp tried turning those lemons into lemonade by getting Hall of Fame, Derby winning rider Mike Smith to pilot his colt. “Money” Mike shocked the world with Giacomo to win the roses at better than 50-1 in 2005.

    Then, the keen eye of a Bloodhorse magazine reporter noticed Girvin was wearing bar shoes as he returned from training one day. Sharp hushed up on the matter, shipped Girvin from his base at the Churchill Training Center to Keeneland so he could train over their synthetic training surface. Many felt it was a move made to get Girvin out of the spotlight.

    It’s been said that Girvin will train with the bar shoes in the days leading up to the race but will run in conventional shoes. He finished his serious work on Saturday, April 29 going five furlongs over the main track at Keeneland in :59 3/5 under Napravnik and will ship to Churchill Downs on Tuesday.

    For you Beyer Speed Figure fans, the Derby runner that posted the highest number on the Derby Trail was none other than the Dale Romans-trained J Boys Echo.

    J Boys Echo broke his maiden second out and concluded his juvenile campaign with a fourth place finish behind Gunnevera in the G3 Delta Jackpot.

    J Boys Echo began this year in New York with a third place finish after an impossible, off the pace trip over an inside, speed biased inner track at Aqueduct in the G3 Withers from post 10 behind the aforementioned El Areeb.

    That best Beyer came next out in the G3 Gotham. A much hotter pace developed between the first two finishers in the Withers and J Boys Echo took advantage, sitting a much better trip from his rail draw to pounce on the turn and draw away to a three-plus length tally while posting a 102.

    Romans decided to bring J Boys Echo back to the Kentucky for the G2 Blue Grass. Things didn’t go well at all. He was bumped and troubled at the break, didn’t get much pace to run at over a course that favored speed and just never looked like himself. Many felt he “bounced” off of his top effort in the Gotham, finishing fourth.

    Regular rider Robby Albarado was injured a week or so back and will be forced to miss the Derby. The last time this happened to Albarado in 2011 he was replaced by John Velazquez aboard Animal Kingdom…..and the rest is history. Luis Saez gets the honors this time around. J Boys Echo has worked twice at Churchill, wrapping up his serious training with a five furlong move in 1:01 on Saturday, April 29.

    Only three runners in this years’ Derby have won multiple G1 races. Chad Brown’s charge Practical Joke is one of them.

    Practical Joke had one of the more accomplished juvenile campaigns. He won the first three starts of his career, including a pair of G1 races, the Hopeful at Saratoga and Champagne at Belmont. He ended the year nearly eight lengths behind Classic Empire in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he finished third after a bit of a rough trip in his first two turn try.

    After a four month break, Practical Joke returned in the Fountain of Youth and again didn’t have the best go of it. He broke just a tad slow, found some trouble on the first turn and when they straightened down the backstretch. Still, he moved up approaching the far turn and made it to the leaders before Gunnevera blew by to win by daylight and he settled for second money.

    While he had excuses in his first two starts around two turns, he had a good trip in the Blue Grass. A little more forwardly placed than he had been in his last two under Joel Rosario, who won this in 2013 with Orb, Practical Joke was in perfect position for the final three furlongs and had every chance to gun down the maiden Irap but couldn’t, finishing three-parts of a length behind the winner.

    Brown has been tinkering with blinkers during Practical Joke’s training leading up to this and he will likely run in the Derby with them on for the first time. He worked five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 on Friday, April 28 in his lone move over the course.

    Fast and Accurate punched his ticket to Louisville in the same fashion as Animal Kingdom, with a win in the G3 Spiral last out for trainer Mike Maker.

    It took Fast and Accurate four starts to break his maiden, finally doing so in a $30K maiden claimer at Turfway Park on the front end in his final start of 2016 when he raced on Lasix for the first time.

    This year, he won a split division of a minor turf stakes at Gulfstream in similar gate-to-wire fashion before coming from just off of the early pace in the Spiral.

    Channing Hill, aboard for the maiden tally, will be reunited with him for the Derby. He went five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 under Hill on Sunday, April 30. It’s worth noting his lone start on conventional dirt was easily the worst of his career as he trudged home fifth in a race at Parx.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Derby Contenders - Part 4
    May 1, 2017
    By Anthony Stabile

    The fourth and final Kentucky Derby preview takes a look at a Gormley, Irap, Thunder Snow, Battle of Midway and Sonneteer. Save Thunder Snow, a victory by one of the other four would give California-based runners their fourth consecutive victory in the Derby and fifth in the last six years.

    From the barn of John Shirreffs, who posted one of the biggest upsets in Derby history when Giacomo stormed home first at 50-1 in 2005, Gormley figures to be much closer to the pace than his predecessor ever was if his past performances are any indication.

    As a juvenile, Gormley won his first two starts, including the G1 Front Runner at Santa Anita before some trouble at the start helped lead to an off the board finish in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

    After a two month freshening, Gormley returned in the G3 Sham in early January. Over a sloppy Santa Anita surface, Gormley duked it out on the front end for the better part of the one mile contest and eventually got the best of American Anthem by a head.

    Another two month freshening and another Bob Baffert trainee awaited Gormley upon his return as Mastery was sent off as the heavy favorite in the G2 San Felipe. Under regular rider Victor Espinoza, a three time Derby winner who piloted War Emblem in 2002, California Chrome in 2014 and eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015, Gormley was in the unfavorable position of chasing the eventual winner while racing between horses most of the way. He was the first to cave as he backed up approaching the far turn to finish fourth, nearly 10 lengths behind the ill-fated winner.

    Shirreffs trained Gormley a bit differently heading into the G1 Santa Anita Derby. He slowed him down in the mornings, mostly by working him behind horses, and was rewarded with a thrilling half-length victory. Gormley lingered a handful of lengths off the pace as opposed to being right on it and was able to survive yet another dogfight through the lane as five or six of them appeared to have a chance in the lane.

    Gormley will have had three works in the four weeks between his races, all coming at Santa Anita. On Saturday, April 29, he covered seven furlongs in 1:26 1/5 at the Great Race Place.

    The impressive run of West Coast runners began back in 2012, when I’ll Have Another gave the trainer/jockey combo of Doug O’Neill and Mario Gutierrez their first taste of Derby victory. They liked the feeling so much they did it again last year with two-year-old champion Nyquist. In fact, they’re the only two mounts Gutierrez has had in the event.

    This year, they bring Irap, a horse that was a maiden until he upset the applecart at 31-1 when he captured the G2 Blue Grass at Keeneland last out.

    O’Neill tried everything with Irap. He ran four times as a juvenile, starting out his career with two turf tries that resulted in fourth and third place finishes, respectively. A well-beaten second to Mastery in the G1 Los Alamitos Derby followed before a fourth place finish in the slop some three weeks later on New Year’s Eve.

    This year, Irap started out with a second place finish in a watered-down renewal of the G3 Robert Lewis where just five faced the starter and second and fourth place finishes in the Mine That Bird and G3 Sunland Derby, both at Sunland Park.

    With O’Neill running four in the same-day Santa Anita Derby, Julien Leparoux took the reins from Gutierrez for the Blue Grass. Over a course that was kind to front runners, Irap was never more than a length from the lead and managed to hold off Practical Joke the entire length of the Keeneland stretch by three-quarters of a length despite racing on the wrong lead.

    Irap remained at Keeneland to prepare for the Derby, posting a mile move on April 21 in 1:44 followed by a similar move in 1:44 1/5 on Friday, April 28.

    One of the most powerful international entities in all of horse racing, Godolphin Racing, has been chasing the roses for the better part of the past two decades. They’ll do so again this year with Thunder Snow who is undefeated in two starts on dirt.

    Trained by longtime Godolphin conditioner Saeed bin Suroor, Thunder Snow raced exclusively on turf last year, winning twice, including the G1 Criterium International, from six starts.

    In his first start of 2017 off of a three-plus month layoff, he made his dirt debut in the G3 UAE 200 Guineas and thrashed a field of nine going a flat mile while carrying Derby-weight of 126 pounds, most of which was jockey Christophe Soumillon.

    A muddy track going 1 3/16 miles awaited Thunder Snow some six weeks later in the G2 UAE Derby on the undercard of the Dubai World Cup. Like he did in his prior start, Thunder Snow sat just off the early lead but didn’t make the lead until late in the game and won a stretch duel with accomplished Japanese runner Epicharis by a nose against a bulky field of 16.

    As is usually the case, Godolphin is marching to the beat of their own drummer. Thunder Snow didn’t arrive in the U.S. until Sunday, April 30, won’t hit the Churchill course until Tuesday due to quarantine, meaning it’s unlikely he’ll have a timed move before the race on Saturday.

    Battle of Midway will look to overcome the Apollo Curse in the fifth start of his career as he seeks his first graded stakes victory. For more on the Apollo Curse, please see the preview of Patch in Part 1 of the Derby Preview.

    Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Battle of Midway won his January 21 debut over a wet-fast course at Santa Anita before finishing a well beaten third as the 4-5 favorite in the San Vicente.

    A drop in class to the allowance/optional claiming ranks did the trick when he stretched out to two turns for the first time under his Derby pilot Flavien Prat. He won by a neck over the highly regarded but ill-fated Reach the World just a month before the Santa Anita Derby.

    In that race, Battle of Midway unexpectedly contested a very fast early pace and was the last one standing from the speed duel in the stretch but couldn’t hold off Gormley and having to settle for second.

    Battle of Midway was sold after that race but will remain with Hollendorfer. He too stayed in SoCal to do his Derby training, working three times including a six furlong drill in 1:13 2/5 on Friday, April 28, the day before he arrived at Churchill.

    In what has been one of the wildest Derby Trails, perhaps Sonneteer could produce the wildest result of all since he is still a maiden after ten starts. The last maiden to win the Derby was Broker’s Tip in 1933.

    Last year, the Desormeaux brothers, trainer Keith and brother Kent, a three time Derby winner having scored in 1998 with Real Quiet, in 2000 with Fusaichi Pegasus and with Big Brown in 2008, finished second with Exaggerator. One would think they’d be thrilled with a similar finish this year.

    Sonneteer has hit the board in six of his 10 starts, including a runner-up performance in the Rebel at Oaklawn Park two starts back at 112-1. Last out, he closed from last to finish fourth, beaten two lengths, in the G1 Arkansas Derby.

    He’s had a solitary work since the Arkansas Derby, going a half-mile in a strong :47 at Churchill on Monday, May 1 under jockey Corey Lanerie, who was subbing for Kent Desormeaux, who had travel issues.
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    Kentucky Derby 2017: 5 horses to watch
    May 1, 2017


    The Kentucky Derby is up for grabs.

    The starting gate will once again be full with 20 horses vying to wear the garland of red roses.

    Most of the 3-year-olds will be running 1 1/4 miles for the first time on Saturday. Besides the distance, the traffic-choked conditions typically eliminate half the field in the opening quarter-mile.

    Here are five horses to watch:

    ALWAYS DREAMING


    Appears to be coming into his own after impressive five-length win in Florida Derby. Always Dreaming has the potential to be the first Derby favorite for trainer Todd Pletcher, who will have two other starters in the race. The dark bay colt prefers to run at the lead or close to it. His sire Bodemeister finished second in the 2012 Derby. He has three wins in five career starts and earnings of $648,900. Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez have one Derby win apiece. The main knock against the colt is that his two wins as a 3-year-old have come against lesser competition.

    CLASSIC EMPIRE

    The colt won last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile on his way to earning 2-year-old male champion honors. Then again, only three other colts have won year-end honors since 2000 and gone on to win the Derby the following season. Classic Empire has the highest earnings of $2.1 million among the horses expected to make the field, with five wins in seven career starts. He's coming off a win in the Arkansas Derby. Trainer Mark Casse has never won the Derby and neither has jockey Julien Leparoux. His sire Pioneerof the Nile was second in the 2009 Derby and he also sired 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah.

    GIRVIN


    The colt topped the Derby leaderboard with 152 points earned in prep races. But the Louisiana Derby winner has a crack in his right front hoof that has compromised his training in the last week. Trainer Joe Sharp has used a special shoe, a hyperbaric chamber and therapeutic waters to get Girvin in shape to run on Saturday. Sharp is married to retired jockey Rosie Napravnik, who exercises the colt and is her husband's assistant. Girvin has won three of four starts, with his only loss on turf. His jockey is Hall of Famer Mike Smith, who has a reputation for winning big-money races. Smith has never ridden Girvin, but he picked up the mount after Mastery, his top Derby contender, got hurt.

    GUNNEVERA

    The chestnut colt is a closer ready to pounce if he gets set up by a strong early pace. His earnings of $1.1 million are second-most on the Derby leaderboard. This is the first Derby starter for trainer Antonio Sano, who survived two kidnappings in his native Venezuela before moving to Miami. Jockey Javier Castellano, also from Venezuela, was just elected to racing's Hall of Fame and in search of his first Derby win. His best finish was fourth in 2013. The colt has four wins in nine career starts and finished third in the Florida Derby. His sire, Dialed In, won the 2011 Florida Derby and finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby.

    IRISH WAR CRY


    Had solid victories in Holy Bull and Wood Memorial, making it seem like the Fountain of Youth was an off day for him. The colt is a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, who finished third in the 2007 Derby. Has four wins in five career starts. The chestnut colt likes to press the pace. No New Jersey-bred horse has won the Derby since Cavalcade in 1934, and none has run in the race since Dance Floor took third in 1992. Owner Isabelle de Tomaso, who is in her 80s, is the daughter of Amory Haskell, for whom the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park is named. Tomaso was a race car driver in the 1950s. Trainer Graham Motion won the Derby with Animal Kingdom in 2011; jockey Rajiv Maragh has never won it.
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    Day's unlikely Derby win turns 25
    May 1, 2017


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) This was no time for Pat Day to be patient.

    It paid off for a lifetime.

    Known for being a strategic jockey, Day was aboard 16-to-1 longshot Lil E. Tee when the horse broke well from the gate and held his ground in the pack until he found a hole.

    The horse rallied from 10th to stalk overwhelming favorite Arazi late and then pass Casual Lies to win the 1992 Kentucky Derby in 2:03.04. Day jumped off and gave praise, throwing his hands to the sky in triumph.

    That pose would eventually be immortalized in bronze in the paddock at Churchill Downs. Day, a Hall of Famer, relives how it felt to get his signature victory every time he visits.

    Tuesday marks 25 years since Day rode from the No. 10 post position to an upset victory at Churchill Downs. That 1992 win in his 10th attempt turned out to be Day's only triumph in the Run for the Roses.

    ''With Arazi, I thought the race was for second place,'' Day, 63, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. ''Arazi opened up a four, five-length lead, but I started to think maybe I could run for second place.

    ''That's when I put Lil E. Tee to the test and he responded and blew past Arazi and Casual Lies. To say the least, it was satisfying.''

    His presence looms large at the track where he earned a record 2,481 of his 8,803 career victories, a total that includes five Preakness and three Belmont wins. The third annual Grade 3 Pat Day Mile will be run on Saturday in the run-up to the 143rd Derby.

    The silver anniversary of what Day calls his most significant achievement holds extra meaning because the colt's trainer, Lynn S. Whiting, died at 77 on April 19 following a struggle with cancer and a stroke.

    Day and Whiting celebrated the 20th anniversary of Lil E. Tee's victory and the jockey said they had looked forward to another joyous observation this week. The jockey paused while sorting through mixed emotions of recognizing the milestone without Whiting. He then recalled the glee he felt when he and his friend got to smell the roses together.

    ''He was just an astute horseman,'' Day said of Whiting, whom he began working with on Lil E. Tee as a 2-year-old.

    ''And all things being equal, you knew he'd get the best out of a horse. I had confidence in him and he had it in me.''

    Then, as now, the four-time Eclipse Award winner credited his faith in God for overcoming drug and alcohol abuse and enduring setbacks such as several competitive Derby finishes before and after his lone breakthrough.

    ''I was where God had me to be and doing what he had me to do,'' Day said. ''Whether I won or didn't win, Hallelujah! But I sure went to the wire with that feeling that I wanted to win.''

    Day had four seconds and two thirds in the Derby, begging the question of how many more times he could have won. Rather than wonder what if those other times, the jockey sometimes referred to as ''Patient Pat'' is thankful for having multiple opportunities to win the sport's marquee race.

    And Day's mastery of Churchill Downs stoked confidence that his spot in the winner's circle at the Derby was just a matter of time and opportunity. Lil E. Tee delivered with a performance that quickly and perfectly fell into place.

    ''It just goes to show that even the great jockeys don't get that many chances to win the Derby,'' said fellow Hall of Famer Steve Cauthen, who rode Affirmed to the Triple Crown in 1978. ''It was great for him to win the Derby and win it for Lynn Whiting.''

    Jubilant as he was, Day stresses that he would've been fine without that win. Fortunately for him, he never has to wonder otherwise.
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    Thunder Snow to run in Kentucky Derby
    April 29, 2017


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) UAE Derby winner Thunder Snow will run in the Kentucky Derby next weekend, giving the Godolphin team a chance to end its 0 for 9 skid in America's most famous race.

    Trainer Saeed bin Suroor said Saturday that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum decided to enter the colt in the May 6 race at Churchill Downs.

    The Arabs have been trying to win the Kentucky Derby since 1999. Their best finish was fourth with Frosted in 2015 under American-born trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

    Ireland-bred Thunder Snow is sixth on the points list that determines the 20-horse field for the 1 \\-mile Derby. His earnings of $1.6 million are the second-highest of any Derby runner.

    Thunder Snow won the UAE Derby in March and the UAE 2000 Guineas in February. He was the top 2-year-old in Britain last year, where he ran on turf and won the Group 1 Criterium International.

    Bin Suroor says the Kentucky Derby ''is a great race and one of the few international contests Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin have yet to win.''
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    Immigrants at Churchill fear deportation
    April 30, 2017

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) The backside of Churchill Downs hums with activity as workers clean stalls, bathe horses and lead the muscular animals on strolls to cool them down after workouts. The quiet is broken when they speak to each other and the horses - in Spanish.

    Though they do their work a world away from the grandstand and Millionaire's Row, where fans will sip mint juleps, don fancy hats and cheer for their Kentucky Derby favorites on the first Saturday in May, immigrants have become indispensable at Churchill Downs and other tracks, people in the industry say. Now, fear is spreading that a Trump administration crackdown on immigration will be a calamity both for the tracks and for many of their workers.

    While there's widespread acknowledgement that some jobs go to undocumented workers, many trainers rely on the H-2B visa program to supply immigrant workers legally, and the tightening of that program has contributed to a worker shortage.

    Some argue that the presence of foreign workers has a downward drag on everybody else's income. But Dale Romans, the second-winningest trainer in Churchill's history, says he can't find American workers to do the jobs.

    ''This is definitely a business that survives on an immigrant workforce,'' Romans said. ''Without it, I don't know what we would do.''

    The apprehension on the backside has been stoked by the election of Donald Trump, who staked out a role as an immigration hard-liner during the campaign and referred to some Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers.

    ''I wouldn't say it's an extreme fear, but there is nervousness'' among Churchill's immigrant workers, track chaplain Joseph del Rosario said. ''There's fear they're going to get kicked out just because they're not citizens.''

    Said one 53-year-old backside hand who has worked at racetracks across the country: ''I'm scared. Because one day, I don't know, they catch me and send me to Mexico.''

    The man, who agreed to an interview only on the condition his name not be used because he fears being exposed to immigration authorities, said his visa expired a couple of years ago but he has kept working, moving up the ranks in the barns where he works. His family has made a life in the United States; if he had to return to Mexico, he said, he'd probably toil in the avocado fields.

    Even workers here legally on visas worry about the threat of immigration crackdowns.

    ''A lot of people here, they're scared,'' said Cesar Abrego, a 46-year-old groom who came from Guatemala on an H-2B visa. ''With the president coming, everybody says, `Be careful.'''

    Like many of the immigrant workers, Abrego dutifully sends money back home. He has three children to support, and worries the visa program that sustains his family will be cut. He could find construction or roofing work in Guatemala, but believes his approximately $450-per-week take-home pay as a groom would be cut more than half.

    It's a complicated, time-consuming process for horsemen to get visa workers to their barns. Trainers typically hire immigration attorneys to handle the paperwork.

    The H-2B program is capped at 66,000 visas per year, and horse racing competes with many other industries for the coveted slots. Applications for the visas far outpace available slots. The crunch worsened when the program's ''returning worker'' exemption expired last September.

    Congress has not reauthorized the exemption, which allowed existing H-2B visa holders to keep returning on the same visas, which weren't counted against the cap. Immigration lawyers and members of horsemen's groups have been meeting with lawmakers in hopes of getting the exemption reinstated.

    ''The shortage of workers on the backside is severe,'' said Will Velie, an Oklahoma-based immigration attorney. Trainers unable to secure enough H-2B workers ''have a choice between turning away work or breaking the law if they can find people that are here undocumented.''

    At Barn 4 on the backside of Churchill, Romans' crew was down about 15 workers for the spring racing season at Keeneland in nearby Lexington, as the trainer prepared for the upcoming meet at Churchill. Romans' latest Kentucky Derby contender is J Boys Echo, winner of the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.

    The staffing shortage was more dire for trainer Gary Patrick, who races mostly at tracks in Indiana and Florida. The 70-year-old Patrick had to wield a pitchfork to clean 20 stalls each morning as he waited for visas to be approved for more immigrant workers he wanted to hire.

    ''I'm in a trap,'' said Patrick, who is in his 50th year as a trainer. ''I don't have any help and I'm killing myself. It's a bad situation for a trainer to be in. And I'm not the only one.''

    Patrick has tried to hire local help. He rarely gets a response, and those that show interest don't last long. ''Two of them did show up and I got about three days out of them,'' he said.

    Not everyone at the track believes there is no alternative to hiring immigrants. Longtime Churchill backside worker Marc Olinsky sees them as the reason wages aren't higher.

    ''The trainers hired these guys for nothing, and they ran anybody who earned a salary out of here,'' Olinsky said, while helping a farrier shoe a horse. ''I think immigrant workers that come here legally should do whatever they want to do in this country. And those that are illegal should get put in jail until they're sent home, period.''

    Velie noted that visa workers are paid above minimum wage. A groom makes about $15 an hour, twice the federal minimum wage, he said.

    ''The H-2B program isn't used by the horsemen as a way to lower wages or to get around hiring Americans,'' he said. ''It's a vehicle of last resort.''

    Baldemar Bahena's journey toward the American dream started as a teenager on the backside of tracks. When he left Mexico on a visa, he spoke a little English but had a knack with horses.

    More than 30 years later, Bahena oversees dozens of workers as Romans' top assistant. Bahena and his wife became U.S. citizens and they settled into a four-bedroom home in Louisville. Their two teenage children are college bound.

    ''He's a great American success story,'' Romans said of his friend.

    But Bahena, 49, worries the door of opportunity may be closing behind him for other immigrant workers toiling at racetracks in search of a better life for their families.

    ''They're good people,'' he said. ''They're working hard all the time. They're kind of scared.''

    Bahena voted for Trump because of the Republican's business background, and said he holds out hope the new president will make things better.

    ''I tell everybody, just chill out a little bit and I think in another year or something, it'll be all right,'' he said. ''I think he's going to change his mind because he's a real, real good businessman, and he's going to figure it out that these people are good people.''
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    Kentucky Derby is wide open as ever
    April 29, 2017


    Bob Baffert is sitting out the Kentucky Derby, and not by choice.

    Having the four-time Derby-winning trainer without at least one horse in the race for just the second time in 11 years indicates what an unpredictable winter it's been leading to the start of the Triple Crown.

    Baffert's best horse, Mastery, got hurt after crossing the finish line first in the San Felipe Stakes. None of his other 3-year-olds developed into Derby material. Instead, he'll aim for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks for fillies on Derby eve.

    This year's road to the 143rd Derby derailed other contenders because of injuries, including now-retired Not This Time, Klimt and Syndergaard.

    ''The amazing thing of getting a horse to the Derby is keeping him injury free,'' said Doug O'Neill, who trained last year's winner Nyquist.

    For the first time in four years, the winner likely won't be from California.

    ''It's as wide open as we've seen in a long time. You're going to have some big odds on whoever the favorite is,'' said Dale Romans, who trains Gotham Stakes winner J Boys Echo. ''It could be any horse this race. I don't think this really means it's a bad group of horses, I think it's an even group of horses.''

    There's Classic Empire, who boasts an impressive resume as last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner and champion 2-year-old. He won the Arkansas Derby and finished third in the Holy Bull Stakes, his only two starts this year.

    His path to Churchill Downs hasn't been smooth, however. He had a foot abscess and a back issue that prevented him from working out for a while. Twice in recent months, Classic Empire refused to train.

    ''I've never once counted him out. I know a lot of people have,'' trainer Mark Casse said. ''I feel that abilitywise, he is the most talented horse out there right now.''

    Casse also trains State of Honor, the Florida Derby runner-up.

    Todd Pletcher has three horses set to run May 6 in the 1\\-mile race, with Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming as his leading contender.

    Of course, big numbers are nothing new for the New York-based trainer.

    He had five runners in 2013 and 2007. Yet for his 45 career starters, Pletcher has never had a Derby favorite. That could change this year with Always Dreaming, who had the fastest time among 35 horses going 5 furlongs at Churchill Downs on Friday.

    ''He's got the right style to be really tough,'' O'Neill said.

    Pletcher's lone victory came in 2010 with Super Saver. He is set to tie mentor D. Wayne Lukas (48) for most career starters.

    ''Our Derby record is not as good as we'd like it to be,'' he said. ''We've had some horses overachieve on their way to getting there and in some cases, underachieve in the race itself.''

    Besides Always Dreaming, Pletcher's other horses are: Patch and Tapwrit. He said Saturday that Battalion Runner and Malagacy won't run.

    There's Girvin, the Louisiana Derby winner in a race against time to mend a crack in his right front hoof. His 32-year-old trainer Joe Sharp, the husband of retired jockey Rosie Napravnik, is doing everything he can to heal the colt in time to saddle his first Derby starter. Girvin had a similar crack earlier in the year and responded quickly to treatment.

    ''I'm not saying that I think I'm going to win the Derby, but I definitely wouldn't trade places with anybody,'' Sharp said. ''He's always consistent and he's got the kind of running style that wins big races.''

    As usual, a full field of 20 is expected. The final lineup won't be known until Wednesday, when entries are drawn and post positions assigned.

    Graham Motion, who trained 2011 Derby winner Animal Kingdom, is back with Irish War Cry, the Wood Memorial winner. His sire is Curlin, a two-time Horse of the Year who finished third in the 2007 Derby.

    Still looking for his first Derby win is Steve Asmussen, who will saddle Hence, Lookin At Lee and Untrapped.

    The Desormeaux brothers are back again, too. Trainer Keith has Sonneteer, who will be ridden by his brother Kent. Last year, they teamed to finished second with Exaggerator.

    Olympic skier Bode Miller recently bought into his first Derby starter, Fast and Accurate, winner of the Spiral Stakes. For years, Miller has been a guest of his pal Baffert during Derby week, but now he's got some skin in the race.

    For the fifth straight year, the field is determined by points from designated prep races. The top 20 earn a spot in the starting gate.
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    Tirico takes over NBC's horse coverage
    April 25, 2017


    Mike Tirico is taking the reins from Tom Hammond as a host of NBC's Triple Crown horse racing coverage.

    Tirico adds the job to his recently announced duties as host of the network's prime-time Olympics coverage starting next winter in South Korea.

    Hammond has accepted a reduced role after covering racing for more than 30 years at the network. He turns 73 on May 10.

    He will host a 30-minute special called ''My Kentucky Home'' on NBCSN during the first week in May. Hammond is a native of Lexington, Kentucky.

    Hammond, who has covered a dozen Olympics, will be part of the network's coverage of the Pyeongchang Games in February.

    ''As I embark on a less demanding schedule at NBC, I can rest assured that the coverage of thoroughbred racing is in good hands,'' Hammond said Tuesday. ''That sport is very close to my heart, so I am pleased that Mike, a highly accomplished professional, will assume the role as leader of the superb NBC horse racing team.''

    Tirico will make his Triple Crown debut at the Kentucky Derby on May 6, working on the show's main set with analysts Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss. As usual, Bob Costas will open the telecast and do pre-race interviews, an essay, and winner's circle interviews.

    Tirico will work the Preakness on May 20 and the Belmont on June 10.

    The 50-year-old broadcaster joined Hammond for his first horse racing assignment last fall during NBC's coverage of the Breeders' Cup.

    ''Tom's professionalism, presence and passion for the sport enhanced Triple Crown viewing for so many of us over the years,'' Tirico said. ''He perfectly set the tone, and in the process set the standard for this role.''

    Hammond is also giving up his anchor position on the Breeders' Cup, in which he had participated since the event began in 1984. A network spokesman says no decision has yet been made on his replacement. However, it's possible Tirico could be freed from his NFL broadcasting duties to cover the event Nov. 3-4 at Del Mar near San Diego.
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    Harry Connick Jr. to sing national anthem at Kentucky Derby
    April 12, 2017

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Harry Connick Jr. knows his way around a racetrack, having watched the horses with his dad at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans.

    The Grammy and Emmy award-winning entertainer will make it to horse racing's biggest stage next month when he sings the national anthem at the Kentucky Derby.

    The jazzman, actor and former ''American Idol'' judge will perform the anthem in the Derby Winner's Circle at Churchill Downs on May 6. His performance before more than 160,000 fans will be broadcast live as part of NBC's coverage of the 143rd running of the Derby.

    Connick, who has performed the anthem at the Super Bowl and World Series, said it will be his first time at the Derby. He's also scheduled to perform this spring at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival - the annual celebration of music known as Jazz Fest.

    ''I've played in front of some pretty big crowds, but I'm sure this one will be one of the best,'' he said of his Churchill Downs gig.

    Churchill's invitation was popular with another member of his family.

    ''My wife, Jill, has always wanted to go to the Kentucky Derby,'' he said. ''That was an easy `yes.'''

    He has some deep family connections to horse racing in his hometown of New Orleans. ''My dad is a huge race fan,'' he said. ''I have nice memories of going to the Fair Grounds with him.''

    Connick will be the ninth artist to perform the anthem since Churchill Downs started the tradition in 2009.

    ''He's one of the finest entertainers in the world and his performance will help make 2017 another great year at the Kentucky Derby,'' said Churchill Downs track President Kevin Flanery.

    Previous Derby national anthem singers include Lady Antebellum, Mary J. Blige, Jordin Sparks, Rascal Flatts and LeAnn Rimes.

    The debut season of Connick's daytime talk-variety show, titled ''Harry,'' resulted in five Emmy nominations, including a nomination for best host.
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    Kentucky Derby Breakdown
    May 4, 2017

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the field for the 143rd Kentucky Derby!

    2017 BREAKDOWN

    PP - Horse ML Odds Jockey (Derby Record) Trainer (Derby Record)

    1 - Lookin At Lee (20-1) Corey Lanerie (0-2) Steve Asmussen (0-15)
    Notes: Is HE the “wiseguy” horse this year? Was on the outside looking in until last weekend and my phone blew up with texts and tweets. If all of those people bet on him he might be 10-1. He’s never won a race around two turns in six tries, which is hard to believe since he’s always gaining ground and weaving through fields in the stretch. The distance should help him but he comes from the moon. And it’s so hard for those horses to get the right trip in here unless things completely fall apart. I’ve been saying for three months that this is the year a horse like him picks up the pieces and pays $65 to win but after looking at the race I feel it’s going to be super tough for him to get his picture taken. I will use him in all of my exotics and maybe on a saver multi-race wager for my sanity’s sake.

    2 - Thunder Snow (20-1) Christophe Soumillon (0-1) Saeed bin Suroor (0-7)
    Notes: Like most of the “Derby Rules,” a horse will in all likelihood travel over from the desert one day to win America’s greatest horse racing prize. I doubt it’ll be one that arrives less than a week before the race, doesn’t train until the Tuesday before and was being considered for two other races in Europe before they finally made the decision to come here. He looked great going a mile, less so going 9.5 furlongs last out. Plus, this seemed like a weak bunch over there this season. Not for me.

    3 - Fast and Accurate (50-1) Channing Hill (Debut) Mike Maker (0-9)
    Notes: He’s won his last three since the addition of Lasix but they’ve came over the synthetic surface at Turfway and on turf. His win in the Spiral last out was completed with a final three furlongs in over 40 seconds. He was abysmal in his lone start on conventional dirt at Parx. I believe we’ve found the winner……for the worst case of Derby Fever this season. Toss.

    4 - Untrapped (30-1) Ricardo Santana, Jr. (0-2) Steve Asmussen (0-15)
    Notes: Eligible for an entry level allowance contest, he tried his hand at both the Fair Grounds and at Oaklawn this winter and though he got a piece of the pie on three occasions he’s yet to grab the brass ring in a big one. Maiden win was over the course. His sire was best at middle distances and he’s lost ground in the stretch in his last three starts. Toss for me.

    5 - Always Dreaming (5-1) John Velazquez (1-18) Todd Pletcher (1-45)
    Notes: You knew this guy was special when Johnny V. took a Wednesday off from riding at Gulfstream Park to go break his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs. That was back in January in his first start for Pletcher and around two turns. He’s perfect in all three tries for his new barn, including two at nine furlongs, something no other horse in the race can say they did. His Florida Derby was eye-catching….he sat just off the early and galloped home by five. But he was aided by a speed-biased course and his trainer owns Gulfstream. Since his arrival at Churchill he’s been very amped up in the morning, so much so that they had to change some equipment and the way they train him. You don’t want your hose to be dull but you don’t want a raving lunatic either. And it is tough to look past his trainer’s record in the race. I’ll use him underneath in my exotics.

    6 - State of Honor (30-1) Jose Lezcano (0-4) Mark Casse (0-3)
    Notes: He’s eligible for an entry level allowance contest. He’s lost ground in the stretch in his last four starts. He’s winless on conventional dirt. His pedigree screams “middle distance.” He figures to be a major part of the early pace despite the fact that he came from just off of it when he was second in the Florida Derby. I can’t see him playing any better in the outcome.

    7 - Girvin (15-1) Mike Smith (1-22) Joe Sharp (Debut)
    Notes: Of all the Derby contenders, his stock has dropped the most in the last month and he hasn’t even raced. Over the years, I’ve grown more and more suspicious of the Fair Grounds form and this might have been the most suspect bunch down in the bayou in recent memory, so I wasn’t a fan to begin with. Then his trainer piped up, avoided most reporters and it was unearthed that this colt was training with Z bar shoes. Sharp has said he’ll race in conventional shoes but his foot/feet is/are likely in shambles. Hernandez opted to stick with McCracken, which isn’t a great sign, even if you think there were some politics involved in the decision but you do get one of the best in the game on his back. I just don’t know how you can have any confidence that this horse is close to 100% and believe you me that’s what he’d need to be to have any chance in here under optimal conditions. Toss.

    8 - Hence (15-1) Florent Geroux (0-1) Steve Asmussen (0-15)
    Notes: The love affair some have with this guy boggles my mind. He’s run some average races in his career. I’m always skeptical when a horse breaks his maiden on a wet track, like he did. And he couldn’t have gotten a better setup then he did in his Sunland Derby win when they flew on the front end and he beat second-stingers, at best. That race came back significantly faster than any other he’s been a part of that it’s hard for me to believe it. He has the feel of a “wiseguy” horse and I think he’s going to take a lot of money. I want no part of him.

    9 - Irap (20-1) Mario Gutierrez (2-2) Doug O’Neill (2-5)
    Notes: It took him eight starts to break his maiden, then he did so in grand fashion taking the Blue Grass. He was aided by a speed favoring racetrack, a slow pace and likely by the fact that he was being chased after by a horse that likely has distance limitations. Oh, he was on his wrong lead, too. He does have strong connections in his corner as these guys have teamed up two of the last five runnings of the race. But I’ll Have Another was lightly raced and Nyquist was a juvenile champion. This horse was in the right place at the right time last out. I don’t believe that to be the case in here. Plus he’ll probably take some action. Not for me.

    10 - Gunnevera (15-1) Javier Castellano (0-10) Antonio Sano (Debut)
    Notes: Every year, we hear how so many in the Derby want no part of the added distance and how one or two are going to relish the ground. It certainly looks like this guy falls into the second category. He’s won at Gulfstream, Saratoga and on a “bullring” at Delta Downs, three places that historically favor front runners. While he is a bit pace dependent I feel the extra furlong negates that a bit. The obvious blip is that deep closers have so much trouble winning this race because of the bulky field and the traffic usually associated with it. He does have the winner of the last four Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Jockey on his back and he’s one of the few in here whose pedigree leads you to believe the 10 furlongs is ideal. I don’t see a lot NOT to like and he’ll be running through the lane while others will appear to be in quicksand. A win contender. I’m using him in most of my multi-race wagers and all my exotic plays.

    11 - Battle of Midway (30-1) Flavien Prat (Debut) Jerry Hollendorfer (0-5)
    Notes: Another lightly raced, Apollo Curse candidate, he was ultra-game in the Santa Anita Derby when second. He was part of a quick pace and was the only one the lived to tell the tale in deep stretch. My problem with him is that I feel like he’ll bounce off that effort, which to me was easily his best to date, and it’s so hard to win this on the lead. I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned into a player in the division later on this summer but I’m not a fan in here.

    12 - Sonneteer (50-1) Kent Desormeaux (3-19) Keith Desormeaux (0-1)
    Notes: He’s looking to become the first maiden over 80 years to win the roses in his eleventh start. Deep closer type tried the Arkansas route to Louisville. I wouldn’t bet him in a maiden race at this point, let alone in here. Toss.

    13 - J Boys Echo (20-1) Luis Saez (0-4) Dale Romans (0-7)
    Notes: He owns the highest Beyer Speed figure run by any remaining sophomore this season by way of his Gotham win. But when you look closely at his PPs you realize that race is the exception and not the rule. It sticks out like a sore thumb. Plus, he beat a horse in Cloud Computing who was making just the second start of his career. There was no apparent excuse in the Blue Grass flop. He’ll take some money because many feel Romans has a Derby with his name on it. That might very well be the case but I’m betting it doesn’t say “2017.”

    14 - Classic Empire (4-1) Julien Leparoux (0-9) Mark Casse (0-3)
    Notes: Perhaps no horse has overcome more this year to get to Louisville than the two-year-old champ. After a flop in his seasonal bow, he developed a foot abscess, a hind-end issue and his old behavioral problems crept up on him. Casse had to call a number of audibles along the way, all of which led to an Arkansas Derby win. Now, he has to repeat that performance in just three weeks. I hate the fact that all of his issues made him miss a prep – that’s one thing that really bugs me but there is no doubting his talent. My other issue is his mental make-up. Who knows what’s going to happen when $150K screaming fans proverbially smack him in the face when he comes out of the tunnel and heads to the gate. The only three-time G1 winner in the field may just have enough talent to win this but I feel it’s hard to take him as the favorite. An obvious win contender, I’ll use him in some multi-race wagers and all of my exotic plays.

    15 - McCracken (5-1) Brian Hernandez, Jr. (0-1) Ian Wilkes (Debut)
    Notes: He hit the wire at Tampa on February 11 a perfect four for four and the likely Derby favorite. A strained ankle and third place Blue Grass finish later and he’s almost like the forgotten horse. His name hasn’t come off as many lips as you’d expect of late, especially with his rider opting to stay aboard. He’s won all three of his starts over the surface, a huge plus, but they were all last season. He missed some time and a prep, a big no-no but you look at his pedigree and it’s hard to completely dismiss him. I don’t think he can win but I do think he can get himself into the exotics.

    16 - Tapwrit (20-1) Jose Ortiz (0-2) Todd Pletcher (1-45)
    Notes: He ran two dynamite races at Tampa to start the season then flopped in a big way in the Blue Grass. He didn’t break well that day, something that must be rectified if he’s to have any chance in here and was up against the dynamic of race and surface biases. Thunder Gulch threw in a clunker in the Blue Grass then upset the Derby for D. Wayne Lukas, Pletcher’s mentor, back in 1995. Maybe Todd can take a page out of the coach’s book. He’s by Tapit but the bottom half of his pedigree doesn’t lend itself to the distance, so you’re in a bit of a conundrum there as well. I can’t blame you for tossing him but I have a feeling he’s going to rebound enough that he can grab a minor award. I will use him underneath in my exotic plays.

    17 - Irish War Cry (6-1) Rajiv Maragh (0-4) Graham Motion (1-4)
    Notes: No one, including Motion, knows exactly what happened when he got beat a pole in the Fountain of Youth and if they do they aren’t saying. I’ll speculate that he caught a track not kind to speed, found himself on the chase for the first time and had a bad day overall. I do know that he came back to sit an almost identical trip to run his best race to date. The rest of his form, save the FOY, is flawless. He has tactical speed, he’s not losing ground in the lane and his figures come back fast. He’s posted two Beyer figures of 101 this year. Only one other horse in here, J Boys Echo, has even seen a triple digit fig. He’s by Curlin, so the distance shouldn’t be a problem and he’s bred to adore a wet surface should the track come up off. Should be (0-15)sitting a few lengths off the early pace and have first crack at them. I think three horses have a chance to win this and he has the best one. The pick to win the 2017 Kentucky Derby!!!

    18 - Gormley (15-1) Victor Espinoza (3-8) John Shirreffs (1-3)
    Notes: The stranglehold California runners have had on this race, winning the last three runnings and four of the last five, seems to have been released this year. All of the preps out there were S-L-O-W, save Mastery’s San Felipe win. This guy won the Sham and then the Santa Anita Derby last out and did so after getting himself involved in a couple of stretch duels. If the West Coast were to keep the Derby I think this guy is the most likely to help it do so. But it is really hard to endorse him as a serious win contender when you look at his final time and speed figures. Shirreffs taught him to race from off the pace last out but I don’t think it’ll help him get anything more than a minor award. I’ll use him underneath.

    19 - Practical Joke (20-1) Joel Rosario (1-7) Chad Brown (0-3)
    Notes: Every single season there is a horse that gives me fits. Ladies and gentleman, version 2017. I know he is one of the more talented horses in this crop. To me, that’s certain. But it’s hard to ignore that he’s undefeated around one turn and winless around two. He couldn’t get by a maiden on the wrong lead in the Blue Grass. Let me repeat: A MAIDEN ON THE WRONG LEAD. It’s like they come off of the second turn and he goes one-paced. He grinds and grinds but never moves up. Granted, he hasn’t had the most pleasant of trips in his route races but at some point you have to stop making excuses. I’ve reached that point. I’m using him in my exotics simply because his talent may be enough to get him a slice.

    20 - Patch (30-1) Tyler Gaffalione (Debut) Todd Pletcher (1-45)
    Notes: Apollo Curse time, as this guy didn’t race until mid-January. He has only one eye, which has made for a curious story on the Trail this season. Maiden win came against a decent field and his second in the Louisiana Derby was ok. Only two horses have won the Derby with four starts or less in the last 99 years. I don’t think he’s fast enough to win but he may be worth a look in the exotics. And, when you take his pedigree into account, may be one to keep in mind for five weeks from now in the Belmont Stakes.

    21 – Royal Mo (20-1) Gary Stevens (3-22) John Shirreffs (1-3)
    Notes: The first also eligible, many feel he ran the best race in the S.A. Derby when he settled for third after attending the pace. Biggest claim to fame was winning one of the weakest renewals of the Robert Lewis in the history of the event. Pedigree doesn’t necessary lend itself to the distance and he’d be stuck with a terrible post. Pass.

    22 – Master Plan (50-1) John Velazquez (1-18) Todd Pletcher (1-45)
    Notes: Many were surprised when he was even entered since his connections didn’t mention it in the past several weeks. A hard-charging third in Dubai, he needs not one but two scratches to get into the field. I don’t think he’ll do much damage if he does. Toss
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

  14. #14
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    Kentucky Derby Odds

    2017 KENTUCKY DERBY ODDS

    Post Position Horse Jockey Trainer ML Odds

    1 Lookin At Lee Corey J. Lanerie Steven M. Asmussen 20/1

    2 Thunder Snow (IRE) Christophe Soumillon Saeed bin Suroor 20/1

    3 Fast and Accurate Channing Hill Michael J. Maker 50/1

    4 Untrapped Ricardo Santana, Jr. Steven M. Asmussen 30/1

    5 Always Dreaming John R. Velazquez Todd A. Pletcher 5/1

    6 State of Honor Mark E. Casse Jose Lezcano 30/1

    7 Girvin Mike E. Smith Joe Sharp 15/1

    8 Hence Florent Geroux Steven M. Asmussen 15/1

    9 Irap Mario Gutierrez Doug F. O'Neill 20/1

    10 Gunnevera Javier Castellano Antonio Sano 15/1

    11 Battle of Midway Flavien Prat Jerry Hollendorfer 30/1

    12 Sonneteer Kent J. Desormeaux J. Keith Desormeaux 50/1

    13 J Boys Echo Robby Albarado Dale L. Romans 20/1

    14 Classic Empire Julien R. Leparoux Mark E. Casse 4/1

    15 McCraken Brian Hernandez, Jr. Ian R. Wilkes 5/1

    16 Tapwrit Jose L. Ortiz Todd A. Pletcher 20/1

    17 Irish War Cry Rajiv Maragh H. Graham Motion 6/1

    18 Gormley Victor Espinoza John A. Shirreffs 15/1

    19 Practical Joke Joel Rosario Chad C. Brown 20/1

    20 Patch Tyler Gaffalione Todd A. Pletcher 30/1

    Morning Line Odds are created by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia - Updated 5.3.17 - 11:25 a.m. ET
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

  15. #15
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    Paradise Woods the favorite in Oaks
    May 4, 2017


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Bob Baffert knows a good horse when he sees one.

    And the Hall of Fame trainer likes what he sees in Paradise Woods. All he had to do was watch her run away from his Abel Tasman in the Santa Anita Oaks.

    ''Paradise Woods is an extremely talented filly,'' said Baffert, who trained 2015 Triple Crown winner of American Pharaoh. ''I watched her school the other day at Santa Anita and, wow, she's imposing. She's really, really special.''

    She is the 5-2 favorite for Friday's $1 million race for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs on the day before the Kentucky Derby.

    She has had back-to-back runaway victories, including an 11-length romp in the Santa Anita Oaks. The daughter of Union Rags was also second in her debut at the California track. Paradise Woods will start from the No. 4 post position in the 14-horse field.

    Trainer Richard Mandella thinks that's a great spot for the horse as he goes for his first Oaks win in four tries.

    ''We're here to do the best we can,'' he said. ''I've been here and know the obstacles involved with a race like this. The crowd, the competition. And I haven't had a lot of luck at Churchill.''

    Paradise Woods faces a strong field in the 1 1/8-mile race.

    The second choice is Miss Sky Warrior, who is listed at 9-2 and has won five of six starts, with four straight graded stakes triumphs. There was no catching her in last month's Grade 2 Gazelle at Aqueduct, where she won by 13 lengths. She drew the No. 10 post.

    ''I don't know if I could've drawn it up any better,'' trainer Kelly Breen said. ''If they let me draw the (post position) pills and decide who went where, the 10 post is probably the best spot for us. Paco (Lopez) is a great gate rider with a good head on his shoulders. He'll be able to see what we're going to do.''

    Miss Sky Warrior's 160 points earned toward the Oaks were just 10 behind leader Farrell, who has five wins and a third in seven starts. He has won four in a row by a combined 15 1/2 lengths. Farrell will make her longest start from the No. 7 post as the 5-1 co-third choice with Abel Tasman.

    The distance doesn't concern Farrell trainer Wayne Catalano.

    ''She's had a few under her belt, so I don't think that's going to be a problem,'' he said.

    Abel Tasman has three wins and two seconds in six starts with Baffert. Salty carries 6-1 odds and, like Paradise Woods, has won two of her last three starts.

    Post time is 6:12 p.m.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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