One thing I got right about this year’s Kentucky Derby is that two of the four favorites would run well and two wouldn’t.
That happened, as favorite Always Dreaming won and Classic Empire ran an OK fourth after some trouble early and a wide berth into the final turn.
Unfortunately, Always Dreaming was the favorite I most dismissed—choosing to read too much into his morning antics and not enough into his world-class trainer Todd Pletcher making needed adjustments to have his colt ready for the Kentucky Derby.
I never worried much about Pletcher’s supposedly futile record in the Kentucky Derby, but did take stock in Always Dreaming prepping in Florida when his lone Kentucky Derby winner had gone another route. Credit to my colleague James Scully for realizing early on that this year is different.
Classic Empire was the one I got right. Obviously not right enough, as he was a nonthreatening fourth, but he had the most adventurous trip, and I don’t feel that I was wrong about his ability.
The other two favorites—Irish War Cry and McCraken—had no big excuses. Irish War Cry was no match for the winner trying to range up on the backstretch, while McCraken made a similar move as the Blue Grass before flattening out. He might be this year’s Caleb’s Posse.
No real complaints on my second tier horses. Hence was just too far back. I got the sense from the trainer Steve Asmussen camp that they wanted to make one big run, but even with that being the plan, it’s tough to think they’d have wanted to be that far back (stablemate Lookin at Lee got a great rail trip from the rail post position).
Practical Joke ran OK as well. He didn’t stay on when looking he could get as much as 2nd or 3rd (never really looked like a winner) but was in the mix a lot more than others who took money.
Gormley was one horse I latched onto late, and I have no complaints about coming into his camp. He made a nice move into contention on the backstretch and was rebuffed. At the price I’m just happy to be on a horse who can get into the race.
From a wagering standpoint I pitched a shutout but no real criticism there (other than my handicapping sucked). I was just plain wrong, so there’s really no way I’d have made money. Tough to key around your top pick for fourth.
I’d like to see Classic Empire in the Preakness for obvious reasons. This is a wedding-funeral situation for me, and after passing on 9-to-2 in the Kentucky Derby, I don’t foresee a scenario where I’ll take 9-5 in Baltimore.