On the eve of the Kentucky Derby, we give a news update on some of the main contenders. Not everything has gone smoothly in the battle to make the big day in one piece.
So in our final Kentucky Derby update, here are the latest factors that could affect the outcome. It’s a ‘must read’ before making your final decision and placing your bets. We also give a betting prediction and pick of our own.
Is Thunder Snow Set for Kentucky Derby Raid?
Thunder Snow, the UAE Derby winner owned by Godolphin racing, is set to run in the Kentucky Derby and cleared quarantine on May 2 for his first look at Churchill Downs. Trained by Saeed Bin Suroor, Thunder Snow ran his first six races on turf, winning at the highest level in his final start as a juvenile in the 2016 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud.
Thunder Snow had an entry in the 2,000 Guineas in England but the decision to drop the turf at Newmarket and head for the Kentucky Derby was made last weekend. This season Thunder Snow successfully switched surfaces and won his two starts, both on dirt in Meydan. As a son of Helmet there was no guarantee that dirt would suit him but he triumphed in the UAE 2,000 Guineas in February over a mile and followed up in the UAE Derby over an additional furlong and a half in March.
Bin Suroor has saddled seven Kentucky Derby runners, his highest placed runner to date was China Visit who took sixth in 2000. Bin Suroor is convinced that Thunder Snow is his strongest ever contender and hopes to improve on Godolphin’s best result, when Frosted finished fourth for Kiaran McLaughlin in2015.
Lady luck is smiling on his eighth Kentucky Derby runner, Thunder Snow has been drawn in gate two. There are pretty big question marks over the Kentucky Derby betting market leaders and Thunder Snow is not without a chance of delivering a first win for Godolphin and Christophe Soumillon, a top jockey in France.
Always Dreaming Tamed in Draw Reins
Always Dreaming, the Florida Derby winner and Kentucky Derby favorite, worried his trainer Todd Pletcher by being very headstrong on his first training session at Churchill Downs, bucking in retaliation after being constrained by draw reins for the first time on May 1. This son of Bodemeister has always been a handful for his exercise rider Nick Bush but accepted the draw reins situation and put in a piece of work that pleased and relieved his trainer on May 2.
A quick look at Always Dreaming’s form suggests that he has been more consistent than most of his rivals when you look at his sequence of wins this season but in two of his starts he beat absolutely nothing, starting as the 1/5 and 1/10 favorite.
Always Dreaming has only been tested in top class company once, when he beat Mark Casse’s State Of Honor five lengths in the Florida Derby. He was helped by his relatively low draw in gate four whilst Gunnevera, the favorite, had to start wide from stall ten. We do not know if he can follow up on that level of form against the best around and his exuberance could be his downfall as he cannot wear draw reins in this race.
Girvin Troubled By Hoof Issues
Meanwhile Girwin, the Louisiana Derby winner, has given his trainer Joe Sharp a headache as he has been suffering from a badly timed quarter crack in his right front foot. Girvin had to be fitted with a therapeutic bar shoe and was on the easy list for some time. This son of Tale of Ekati has been swimming rather than galloping and utilising the hyperbaric chamber at the Kentucky Equine Medicine and Rehabilitation Center.
On April 27 Sharp admitted that Girwin had not breezed for two weeks but, as he is now sound on that leg, breezed successfully last weekend. Sharp has been admirably candid about the problem and did not want to give Girwin’s supporters false hopes that he could certainly produce him in perfect condition on May 6.
Girvin has a history of hoof problems, popping a quarter crack in his left hind hoof in January. Sharp says that hoof issue was resolved and did not pose any enduring problems. We have to hope that his recent problem is not going to affect his run but he has had certainly suffered from a compromised preparation. Mike Smith will ride him from gate seven.
Casse is Positive on State Of Honor as well as Classic Empire
The juvenile champion Classic Empire has given people plenty to talk about this term and has tested the patience of his trainer Mark Casse. After his shock defeat in the Holy Bull and subsequent physical problems Classic Empire decided to take himself off the work tab by refusing to breeze. Casse wisely moved him to a new location where he consented to go along with his trainer’s exercise regime and confirmed his wellbeing by taking the Arkansas Derby in efficient rather than mega impressive style.
Classic Empire’s more zealous stablemate, State Of Honor, delighted Casse by breezing half a mile in a good time recently but he was pleased with his leading contender too. Casse knows that Classic Empire has become a bit of a ‘thinker’ but his talent as a juvenile seems to have been carried forward. If the saying ‘class is permanent but form is temporary’ holds true Classic Empire could be a good bet here.
Casse thinks that State Of Honor could be an overlooked horse as the focus has always been on his juvenile champion. State Of Honor starts from gate six while Classic Empire has to handle a less promising draw from stall 14. Fortunately Classic Empire is flexible in his style of running so he stands a better chance of overcoming a bad draw than most.
Can Gunnevera provide another Rags to Riches Story?
Gunnevera is one of those horses that never runs a bad race and has rewarded his owners by accumulating a significant prize fund without winning at the top level. Gunnevera won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth by over five lengths, helped by the fact that the 11/10 favorite, Graham Motion’s Irish War Cry, failed to follow up on the promise he showed in the Holy Bull.
Our Kentucky Derby Betting Prediction & Pick
If you are planning on having a wager with one of the top American offshore sportsbooks then selecting a potential Kentucky winner seems particularly challenging this term but our money has gone on Classic Empire, who is more appealing than most.