April showers bring May flowers, and for the horses who will be competing in the 2017 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, that means a chance to win the most coveted flowers of all: the rose garland.
The post-position draw for the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown, will take place Wednesday, with the race to be held on Saturday, May 6. According to the Derby's official site, "the field for the Kentucky Derby will be limited to 20 horses with preference given to horses with the most graded stakes earnings."
The Derby website has a list of the leaders heading into Wednesday's post position draw. We'll take a look at the top 20 horses competing for a spot in this year's field and, in particular, which ones are best suited for the track at Churchill Downs.
|Kentucky Derby Top-Ranked Horses|
|1||Girvin||Joe Sharp||Mike E. Smith||Catch the Moon by Tale of Ekati|
|2||Classic Empire||Mark E. Casse||Julien. R Leparoux||Sambuca Classica by Pioneer of the Nile|
|3||Gormley||John A. Shirreffs||Jose L. Espinoza||Race to Urga by Malibu Moon|
|4||Irap||Doug F. O'Neil||Mario Gutierrez||Silken Cat by Tiznow|
|5||Irish War Cry||H. Graham Motion||Rajiv Maragh||Irish Sovereign by Curlin|
|6||Thunder Snow (IRE)||Saeed bin Suroor||Christophe Soumillon||Eastern Joy by Helmet|
|7||Always Dreaming||Todd A. Pletcher||John R. Velazquez||Above Perfection by Bodemeister|
|8||Gunnevera||Antonio Sano||Javier Castellano||Unbridled Rage by Dialed In|
|9||Practical Joke||Chad C. Brown||Joel Rosario||Halo Humor by Into Mischief|
|10||J Boys Echo||Dale L. Romans||Robby Albarado||Letgomyecho by Mineshaft|
|11||State of Honor||Mark E. Casse||Jose Lezcano||State Cup by To Honor and Serve|
|12||Tapwrit||Todd A. Pletcher||Jose L. Ortiz||Appealing Zophie by Tapit|
|13||Hence||Steven M. Asmussen||Florent Geroux||Consequential by Mr. Prospector|
|14||Fast and Accurate||Michael J. Maker||Channing Hill||It's Heidi's Dance by Hansen|
|15||McCraken||Ian R. Wilkes||Brian Joseph Hernandez Jr.||Change Water by Pretense|
|16||Battle of Midway||Jerry Hollendorfer||Flavien Prat||Polly Lee by Midway Circle|
|17||Patch||Todd A. Pletcher||Tyler Gaffalione||Windyindy by Union Rags|
|18||Untrapped||Steven M. Asmussen||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||Exit Three by Trappe Shot|
|19||Lookin at Lee||Steven M. Asmussen||Corey J. Lanerie||Langara Lass by Lookin at Lucky|
|20||Sonneteer||J. Keith Desormeaux||Kent J. Desormeaux||Gay Sonnet by Soy Numero Uno|
Horses Best Suited for Churchill Downs
Always Dreaming may be in seventh place in the Kentucky Derby official rankings, but per Odds Shark, he's the favorite heading into the race:
The three-year-old colt raced to a five-length victory over fellow Derby contenders State of Honor and Gunnevera in the Florida Derby on April 1.
During Monday's training hours at Churchill Downs, Always Dreaming sported draw reins, which are "longer than a regular set and used in special circumstances," according to Paulick Report.
"The reins basically give the rider more leverage," the colt's trainer, Todd A. Pletcher, said, per Paulick Report. "It allows him to control his head more; to take it down. Nick [Bush] is our draw rein specialist. That's why he's up."
The Derby will be the first start in five weeks for Always Dreaming, who has been energetic in training at Churchill.
Per Paulick Report staff, Pletcher's biggest focus in the coming days is to conserve Always Dreaming's energy ahead of the big race.
Don't let Untrapped's sixth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby allow him to slip out of your consideration to win the Kentucky Derby.
Though he isn't currently ranked among the top six highest odds by OddsShark, Untrapped's trainer, Steven M. Asmussen, has learned a few things about his horse's racing preferences.
The dark bay colt wore blinkers for the first time in Arkansas, which may have contributed to his low finish (consider that the horse has won once and finished second three times from four starts).
"We have taken the blinkers off," Asmussen said, per Paulick Report. "That was an experiment that did not work out. We're very happy with how he's training over the Churchill track."
According to the Derby website, Untrapped's pedigree "suggests speed more than stamina."
Battle of Midway
If any of the contenders in this year's field are loving the limelight and the atmosphere at Churchill, it seems to be Thor-bred Stables' colt Battle of Midway, who traveled from southern California.
"He's taken everything in stride since he's been here," said trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's East Coast assistant, Christina Jelm, said, per Paulick Report. "He loves the people, he likes the attention, he likes the commotion. He's a very alert horse and nothing seems to faze him at all."
That's good news for a colt about to compete in one of the best-attended spectacles in all of horse racing.
During his training run, Jelm noted that Battle of Midway's "ears were pricked and he was looking around. He did everything perfectly."
Like Untrapped, Battle of Midway isn't currently sitting atop the Vegas favorites to win the Derby. But don't sleep on him; he finished second in the Santa Anita Derby, behind Gormley, to earn his 40 points on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
He'll need to keep up his stamina to have a shot at winning the rose garland.