I picked Classic Empire to win both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and I might not get the Belmont Stakes right either, but it won’t be because I was wrong about Classic Empire, who declared from the race Wednesday morning with an abscess in a hoof.
That leaves me with the other horse I liked in the Kentucky Derby: Irish War Cry.
I typically don’t like scratching into another favorite as top pick, but I went into the Triple Crown series thinking Classic Empire and Irish War Cry were the two best horses, and even though neither has proven that yet, enough has happened in the interim to think proof is forthcoming.
All that is to say this isn’t a selection by default of Classic Empire’s declaration. Irish War Cry looked like he was poised to battle Always Dreaming for Kentucky Derby glory but sputtered on the outside part of the track while the eventual winner had a more favorable position. The pessimist could say Irish War Cry bounced off a huge Wood Memorial, but my view is that he looked great Derby week, ran well most of that race, and has had 5 weeks for trainer H. Graham Motion to prepare for the Test of the Champion.
I’ll address how I’m betting the race later in the week, but for now I’m pretty comfortable with making Irish War Cry a lone “A” for multi-race wagering purposes. The previous three races (in the all-Grade 1 Pick 4) and following two races to complete the late Pick 4 are all competitive enough that I’ll lean on my top pick in the Belmont, and hopefully I’m live to him and can play around with other scenarios in the vertical gimmicks (e.g. I’ll be boxing all the squares on the OptixEQ plot).