Top Six 2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

The first Saturday in May is still many months away, but it’s never too early to start looking for those horses that might look good in red — as in rose red.

Below is my current top six:

classicempire

Comments: Although he hasn’t been particularly impressive in his wins — he’s captured four races by a combined margin of just 5 ½ lengths — he’s been to the winner’s circle of the ones that count. The son of Pioneerof the Nile annexed the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland prior to triumphing in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5.

mastery

Comments: I was curious how this guy would perform if he had to exert himself a little early and I got my answer in the Cash Call Futurity. After recording a -10 early speed ration (which happens to be the Kentucky Derby par) while battling with Bobby Abu Dhabi through six furlongs, Mastery drew off by 7 ¼ emphatic lengths in the Los Alamitos feature. Frankly, from a pace figure standpoint, he reminds me a bit of American Pharoah — another Bob Baffert trainee that oozed talent from every pore.

gunnevera

Comments: His race in the Delta Jackpot was very good. Sired by onetime Kentucky Derby favorite Dialed In (he was eighth in 2011), Gunnevera needs to show me he can make his late move earlier, like on the turn, but he definitely has potential.

irishwarcry

Comments: Yeah, I know, I’m probably being overly optimistic about this dude, but, boy, did his debut impress me. Not only was the speed figure good, but the late speed ration (LSR) was great! True, six furlongs at Laurel in November is not the same thing as 1 ¼ miles at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, but I’ll be anxiously watching to see how this Graham Motion trainee progresses.

mccracken

Comments: Love the fact that he improved his speed rating and ESR last time, while still recording a very solid -4 LSR.

hemsworth

Comments: His effort in the Grade II Nashua was sensational… but I’ll need to see a similar run from off the pace to take this one too seriously.

Speed Rations Explained

Derek Simon
Derek Simon is the Senior Editor and Handicapper at US Racing.