By Calvin L. Carter and Dallas Carter
©2017 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
For the past eight months, we’ve travelled down the Road to the Kentucky Derby which, now, brings us to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky where this Saturday a field of 20 young Thoroughbreds will enter the starting gate in Kentucky Derby 143.
Knowing as much as possible about the Thoroughbred and what it takes to produce a classic champion has been a passion of mine since the early 1990s and my research and study led to the creation of the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® which is an analytical tool I use to measure the graded stakes and classic potential of young horses.
In 2014, the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® was developed into a software program by my brother, Dallas, and it assigns each horse a numerical score which is the indicator of that horse’s potential. The higher the score, the more potential that horse has to become a quality stakes horse or classic champion.
Since the debut of the software, Dallas and I have continued to refine the profile. One of the biggest changes that have been made to the software is the addition of the Behavior Index which I wrote about in my wrap up for the 2015 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2).
The Behavior Index is proving to be a very valuable analytical tool, and, with its addition to the software, Dallas and I are now able to add behavioral analysis to the final equation of what it takes to produce a Classic Champion Thoroughbred or top quality graded stakes competitor.
Let’s take a look at the profile grade ratings for the horses in Kentucky Derby 143.
As you can see in the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® chart above there is a lot of parity in this herd of horses. Of the 20 horses entered, 20% have a grade rating of A or higher, 40% have a B rating and 20% have a C rating. So 80% of this year’s entrants have a grade rating of C or higher making this one of the better Derby fields in recent history.
In the Behavior Index chart, some horses that have a B or C profile grade rating like Hence, Always Dreaming, Irish War Cry, Classic Empire and Girvin can be moved up because their Behavior Index makes them competitive, enabling them to sometimes win races that are shorter than the classic 10 furlong distance.
For example, in my blog about the nine-furlong 2016 Wood Memorial Stakes (G1), I noted that Outwork, who had an E grade rating, was a horse I liked because his Behavior Index showed me he had the potential to be competitive. Indeed, he went on to win the Wood. However, in the Kentucky Derby (G1) Outwork’s grade rating had him ranked sixteenth and he finished fourteenth.
In addition to moving some horses up, the Behavior Index can also move down horses like J Boys Echo, Gormley, Tapwrit and Untrapped. I’ve liked Gormley since last fall and he was my upset pick in the FrontRunner Stakes (G1). Since then, he’s had issues and has not fully lived up to his breeding.
When horses like Gormley, J Boys Echo, Tapwrit and Untrapped fail to run close to their profile score, then the issue[s] preventing them from reaching their full potential needs to be investigated. And there can be many contributing factors for a horse not running to his profile score – Effinex is a good example of that.
Data Mining variables are another tool for analyzing potential and when added to the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® and Behavior Index, they can also move some horse up or down like Hence, Always Dreaming, Sonneteer, Lookin at Lee, Practical Joke, State of Honor, Battle of Midway and Gunnevera.
Any of the top five horses listed in the Data Mining chart above have the potential to win this year’s Derby. In addition to the top five, honorable mention goes to Girvin, Sonneteer, Gormley and Lookin at Lee who could be considered for a few exotic wagers.
Let’s take a look at the horses I like in Kentucky Derby 143:
HENCE (15-1) is a sire-line descendant of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd and he comes into this race for trainer Steve Asmussen with a 2-1-1 record in six starts including a win in the Sunland Derby (G3). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
HENCE was void of early speed, was gaining steadily along the backstretch, loomed five wide into the second turn, made a bid on CONQUEST MO MONEY at the three sixteenths pole, took the lead at that point and edged clear for the win.
Going into the far turn, Hence made a nice move that I like to see in young Thoroughbreds and moved up to take the lead from Conquest Mo Money to win by an easy 3¾ lengths. The time of 1:35.71 for the mile and 1:48.10 is pretty good and makes Hence competitive in Kentucky Derby 143.
Street Boss, the sire of Hence, was a multiple graded-stakes winner who compiled a 7-3-1- record in 13 starts with $831,800 in earnings.
Street Boss did not race until he was a three year old compiling a 1-1-0 record in for starts. At the age of four, Street Boss was 6-2-1 in nine starts with wins in the Bing Crosby Handicap (G1), Triple Bend Invitational Handicap (G1) and the Los Angeles Handicap (G3). He ran second in the Ancient Title Stakes (G1) and third in the Sentient Flight Group Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).
With a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating, Hence is competitive in this field and when you add Data Mining variables he’s ranked slightly above Always Dreaming.
Jockey Florent Geroux picks up the mount on Hence. He’s been working well at Churchill Downs and a recent bullet work on April 17 could have him ready to run another good race and, perhaps, pull the upset at a nice price.
ALWAYS DREAMING (5-1) is also a sire-line descendant of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd and he comes into this race with 3-1-1 record in five starts.
I like how Always Dreaming was given a five month rest after his first two races as a two year old for trainer Dominick Schettino. He made his three year old debut for new trainer Todd Pletcher and since then he’s won his last three races by a combined 20 lengths. And he won his final Derby prep, the Florida Derby (G1), by five lengths. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
ALWAYS DREAMING steadied between rivals in the first turn, raced up close under slight restraint off pacesetter, steadily inched way up to lead in hand in far turn, moved up on equal terms with THREE RULES turning for home, responded willingly when shaken up for the drive, kicked clear four wide then angled in couple paths under right handed urging, pulled away to clear lead with amount of victory determined by the rider.
Always Dreaming’s split for the mile of 1:34.94 and final time of 1:47.47 is racehorse time and what I like to see a young colt run on the Derby Trail. His final time is just a few ticks off the track record of 1:46.83 set by Arrogate in January this year. It also is the sixth fastest time in the history of the Florida Derby (G1) and second fastest behind Alydar who won in 1978.
Bodemeister, the sire of Always Dreaming, did not race until the age of three when he made six starts for Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert, compiling a 2-4-0 record in six starts with $1,304,800 in career earnings.
He raced twice in the maiden ranks before finishing second in his third start, the San Felipe Stakes (G2). In his fourth start, Baffert shipped Bodemeister to Oaklawn Park where he was my pick to win the Arkansas Derby (G1). Bodemeister trounced the field, winning by an outstanding 9½ lengths. He then went on to finish second in both the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1).
With a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® Always Dreaming has the breeding to win this race and if he makes another move forward he’ll be tough to beat on Saturday.
PATCH (30-1) is a sire-line descendant of the Northern Dancer Ancestral Herd and he comes into this race for trainer Todd Pletcher with 1-2-0 record in three starts including a nice second-place finish to Givin in the Louisiana Derby (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
PATCH bumped with a rival at the start, settled on the inside, was urged along passing the half-mile pole, raced inside early on the far turn, moved to the two path near the five sixteenths, spun three wide into the stretch, chased into the final furlong, was carried in near the sixteenths-pole and finished with good courage to get the place.
Patch was my long shot pick in this race and, despite only having one eye, he “finished with good courage” just 1¼ lengths shy of victory. I like how he handled himself in this race and in his previous races he also appeared to run with no fear.
Union Rags, the sire of Patch, was a competitive colt on the trail to the 2012 Kentucky Derby (G1), compiling an overall 5-1-1 record in eight career starts with $1,798,800 in earnings.
As a two year old, he won the Three Chimneys Saratoga Special (G2) and Champagne (G1) stakes and finished second in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) stakes.
At the age of three, Union Rags won the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) stakes and finished third in the Florida Derby (G1) en route to a seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He finished his career with a narrow win by a neck over Paynter in the Belmont (G1) stakes.
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione rode Path in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and he retains the mount in this race.
With an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® ranking, Patch is one of the best bred horses in this field and he has the breeding to win. Another move forward off of his performance in the Louisiana Derby (G2) will make him competitive and I like him as a potential upset candidate at a nice price.
IRISH WAR CRY (6-1) is a sire-line descendant of the Mr. Prospector herd and he comes into this race for trainer Graham Motion with a 4-0-0 record in five starts including wins in the Marylander Stakes, the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) and the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
IRISH WAR CRY strung out three wide on the first turn, worked out a tuck closer to the rail after making it onto the backstretch, drew up and latched on to the runner up as the half was being completed, chiseled away at the deficit, arrived at the three-eighths pole on nearly even terms, inched his way to the top to lead the field into the stretch by a narrow margin, was almost at the eighth pole before asked for his best, gave it and kicked away.
Irish War Cry rebounded nicely off of his seventh-place, mystery finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). Despite that race, Irish War Cry has been nearly perfect on the trail.
Curlin, the sire of Irish War Cry, was an outstanding racehorse that compiled an 11-2-2 record in 16 career starts with $10,501,800 in career earnings.
Curlin did not start as a two year old. But, at the age of three, Curlin was 6-1-2 in nine starts with $5,102,800 in earnings including wins in the Rebel Stakes (G3) and Arkansas Derby (G2) en route to a third-place finish in the 2007 Kentucky Derby (G1). He went on to win the Preakness Stakes (G1) and he finished second in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
Other important stakes wins include the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), twice, Dubai World Cup (G1), Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), Woodward Stakes (G1), and the UAE Jaguar Trophy Handicap.
With a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® Irish War Cry has the breeding to be competitive in this race and it remains to be seen if he can take another step forward and earn classic stakes honors.
CLASSIC EMPIRE is a sire-line descendant of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd and he’s been tabbed as the 4-1 morning line favorite.
He comes into this race for trainer Mark Casse with a 5-0-1 record in seven starts including wins as a two year old in the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3), the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
As a three year, Classic Empire has had some issues. With a third-place finish in the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2) and a win in his final Derby prep race, the Arkansas Derby (G1), he’s yet to show the same form he flashed as a two year old. Here’s the video and chart call of the Arkansas Derby:
CLASSIC EMPIRE bobbled slightly at the start but broke in mid pack, steadied nearing the wire the first turn, moved out in the three path while a bit keen in the first turn, in some traffic approaching the far turn, patiently handled three out to four wide through that bend, asked for run when straightened for home, finished with good resolve to be up in time.
Classic Empire needed to win this race in order to qualify for the Derby and, despite his previous issues he showed his true class to get up for the win by one half of a length over Conquest Mo Money.
Pioneerof the Nile, the sire of Classic Empire, was a pretty good middle-distance runner and multiple graded-stakes winner that compiled a 2-0-1 record as a two year old including a win in the CashCall Futurity (G1) and a third-place finish in the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (G1).
As a three year old, Pioneerof the Nile was 3-0-1 in five starts with wins in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2), San Felipe Stakes (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1) in route to a second-place finish in the 2009 Kentucky Derby (G1).
An interesting historical statistic to consider is that horses like Classic Empire, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) or other major end-of-year prep stakes races, do not usually go on to win the Kentucky Derby (G1).
In my December 26, 2014 blog, I took a look at the major end-of-year prep races going back to 2000: the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Hollywood Futurity (G1), Remsen (G2), Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and Boyd Gaming’s Delta Jackpot (G3).
Analysis of those prep races showed that only a few runners from those races went on to compete in the Kentucky Derby. And only five horses that competed in those prep races went on to win the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Street Sense won the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and the 2007 Kentucky Derby (G1); Super Saver won the 2009 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and the 2010 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Nyquist won the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and the 2016 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Giacomo finished second in the 2004 Hollywood Futurity (G1) and won the 2005 Kentucky Derby (G1). Mine That Bird finished 12th (dead last) in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and won the 2009 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Since 2000, there have been no winners of the Remsen Stakes (G2) that went on to win the Kentucky Derby and the same is true for the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) which began racing in 2002.
So, it will be interesting to see if Classic Empire can buck that historical trend.
Regular jockey Julien Leparoux retains the mount on Classic Empire and this Saturday, Classic Empire will have been racing for over one year. When he finished third in the Holy Bull Stakes (G2), it’s possible that he reached is limit.
However, Classic Empire is a proven competitor on the Derby trail and he rebounded nicely in Arkansas Derby (G1). He has room to improve in his third start of the season.
2017 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Final Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Girvin, 150, Joe Sharp, $849,800
2. Classic Empire, 132, Mark Casse, $2,093,820
3. Gormley, 125, John Sherriffs, $884,000
4. Irap, 113, Doug O’Neill, $760,000
5. Irish War Cry, 110, Graham Motion, $676,660
6. Thunder Snow, 100, Saeed bin Suroor, $1,621,063
7. Always Dreaming, 100, Todd Pletcher, $589,000
8. Gunnevera, 84, Antonio Sano, $1,137,800
9. Practical Joke, 74, Chad Brown, $966,000
10. J Boys Echo, 63, Dale Romans, $305,000
11. State of Honor, 62, Mark Casse, $310,364
12. Tapwrit, 54, Todd Pletcher, $325,570
13. Hence, 50, Steve Asmussen, $401,429
14. *Fast and Accurate, 50, $320,712
15. McCraken, 40, Ian Wilkes, $385,048
16. Battle of Midway, 40, $224,000
17. Patch, 40, Todd Pletcher, $200,000
18. Untrapped, 34, Steve Asmussen, $212,858
19. Lookin at Lee, 32, Steve Asmussen, $428,600
20. Sonneteer, 30, Keith Desormeaux, $236,000
*Owner Kendall Hansen has indicated that the late supplemental nomination fee of $200,000 will be paid. Not This Time, retired to stud at Taylor Made Farm. Mastery is off the trail with a condylar fracture. El Areeb is off the trail with an injury to his right knee.