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Always Dreaming Of Another Triple Crown: A Preview Of The 2017 Kentucky Derby

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Always Dreaming Of Another Triple Crown: A Preview Of The 2017 Kentucky Derby

As the 143rd Kentucky Derby approaches, many horse racing fans are evaluating the field to determine not only the winner of the Run For The Roses, but whether there is a strong candidate for what would be the thirteenth winner of the elusive Triple Crown.

In 2015, American Pharoah ended the 37-year drought after several recent near-misses were witnessed; he restored national interest in the sport of kings.

Moving away from the prospect of another Triple Crown and toward predicting the winner of the Kentucky Derby, many handicappers look to the winner of the major prep races for guidance.

One Stride At A Time: The Kentucky Derby

Most likely, the winner of the Arkansas Derby, Classic Empire, will be the favorite, which is not always a good thing; only one-third of the time has the favorite won in the race's 143-year history. However, the chalk has triumphed in each of the last four years.

Moreover, Classic Empire was crowned the best two-year-old in 2016, after winning the Breeders' Futurity and Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Nevertheless, winners of the Juvenile have not transferred well to Derby victories over the years, as only two of those colts have accomplished the feat. More importantly, the horse has been dealing with injuries this year, which does not bode well for the grueling 1 ¼ mile race.

Classic Empire Not Alone In Top Bids

If you're leaning away from the chalk and still wanting to stick with a Derby prep victor, then look to the impressive winner of the Wood Memorial, Irish War Cry. In addition to winning the Wood Memorial, the horse went wire-to-wire in his victory in the Holy Bull Stakes and soundly defeated the likely Derby favorite, Classic Empire, who was hampered by a foot abscess that was only discovered after the race. The only question for wagerers on this horse is the reason for his lackluster performance in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes (finished 7th), which his trainer blamed on lack of rest after his victory in the Holy Bull Stakes.

Over the years, the winner of the Santa Anita Derby has duplicated that feat in the Kentucky Derby numerous times. This year's winner, Gormley, warrants some attention after a strong stretch move in Pasadena. One knock against this usual front-runner is his inconsistent racing pattern of following a victory with a less-than-stellar one (7th and 4th place finishes) following his other two wins.

One other longshot worth mentioning is the winner of the Louisiana Derby, Girvin. The lightly-raced colt has been victorious in three of his four starts, with the other notable win in the Risen Star Stakes, which was also at the Louisiana Fair Grounds. Although the colt has increased the distance of his races in every start since his inaugural one (only 6 furlongs), his pedigree does not suggest he has the stamina needed to win the Derby.

For Combo Betters

Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming should be included in some combination bets. The primary reason being his gutty win from the far outside (No. 14 post) included a solid stretch run that did not seem to exhaust him in the least. This colt was lightly-raced as a two-year-old; veteran trainer Todd Pletcher, who is seeking his second Derby win, has been gradually increasing the distances in each of Always Dreaming's three 2017 victories. Also, the colt handled his step-up in class in the Florida Derby easily, when he stalked the leader on the outside, before pulling away to a five-length victory.

Keep in mind that Pletcher will be sending two other horses to the Derby and may have them dictate an early pace that is favorable to Always Dreaming's running style.

Now that the stage is set with a few possible scenarios for the race, it's time to put on a fancy hat, make a batch of Mint Juleps, sit back and enjoy the most exciting two minutes in sports.

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Image Credit: "American Pharoah (the most recent Triple Crown winner) wins 2015 Belmont Stakes" By Mike Lizzi from Nassau County , USA (American Pharoah - 2015 Belmont Stakes) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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