All pointers from the TRC Global Rankings suggest Classic Empire is the most likely winner of the Kentucky Derby.
Our rankings are driven by an algorithm that tests its own predictions in ranking the world’s best Jockeys, Owners, Trainer and Sires, and we know that – in the absence of any other information - the horse with the lowest aggregate has the highest probability of success.
That horse is the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Arkansas Derby hero Classic Empire, who has the connections, breeding and ability to face the searching test of ten furlongs at Churchill Downs.
Classic Empire is a son of the #22-ranked sire, Pioneerof The Nile, who already has one Derby winner under his belt in the 2015 winner American Pharoah – also a winner of the Grade 1 at Oaklawn Park on his previous start. Okay, so Classic Empire did not match his illustrious predecessor’s eight-length win, but to win by half a length was plenty good enough, considering he was forced wide throughout in a messy race to navigate.
Julien Leparoux, the #23 jockey in the latest standings, takes the ride as usual, which is a big plus. Trainer Mark Casse, who stands at #18 himself, looks to have turned round his charge after a poor run at Gulfstream in February behind Irish War Cry.
After receiving post 14 at Thursday’s draw, Classic Empire is likely to have to navigate another wide trip, but this is often no bad thing in the Derby, and it did not stop Monarchos winning in 2001. The latter also raced in the colours of Classic Empire’s owner, John Oxley, who rests at #24 in our standings of the world’s leading owners.
So, Classic Empire has top 25 ranks in all four TRC Global Rankings categories, and he also earned the highest Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 123 in the race in last year’s Juvenile.
TRC Global Rankings for all 20 horses included in the post position draw are shown in the accompanying table. A very high or very low draw can be something of a disadvantage.
Lookin At Lee
L and N Racing
Lookin At Lucky
Saeed bin Suroor
Fast and Accurate
Brooklyn Boyz Et Al
State Of Honor
To Honor And Serve
Tale Of Ekati
Battle Of Midway
Fox Hill Farms
J Boys Echo
Pioneerof The Nile
Bridlewood Farm Et Al
Irish War Cry
Isabelle De Tomaso
Mr & Mrs Jerome Moss
Klaravich Stables Et Al
Mr & Mrs Jerome Moss
Al Shaqab Racing Et Al
Links to the reviews of all 27 Derby trials covered in our Road To The Kentucky Derby series are available here:
1. Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (Mastery)
2. Jerome (El Areeb)
3. Sham Stakes (Gormley)
4. Lecomte Stakes (Guest Suite)
5. Holy Bull (Irish War Cry)
6. Withers (El Areeb)
7. Robert B. Lewis (Royal Mo)
8. Swale Stakes (Favorable Outcome)
9. Sam F. Davis (McCraken)
10. San Vicente (Iliad)
11. Southwest Stakes (One Liner)
12. Risen Star (Girvin)
13. Gotham (J Boys Echo)
14. Fountain of Youth (Gunnevera)
15. San Felipe (Mastery)
16. Tampa Bay Derby (Tapwrit)
17. Rebel Stakes (Malagacy)
18. UAE Derby (Thunder Snow)
19. Sunland Derby (Hence)
20. Louisiana Derby (Girvin)
22. Wood Memorial (Irish War Cry)
23. Blue Grass (Irap)
24. Santa Anita Derby (Gormley)
25. Arkansas Derby (Classic Empire)
26. Lexington Stakes (Senior Investment)
27. Illinois Derby (Multiplier)
Two races worthy of particular mention for those looking to fill out their exacta or trifecta box are the G2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and the G3 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park.
Opinions were varied as to who the best horses was in the Blue Grass. Some of our sharper readers got in touch to advance the claims of runner-up Practical Joke, a dual G1 winner as a juvenile, who covered extra ground and threw down a persistent challenge without being too harshly treated by his rider.
In our view, Irap held him comfortably, however, and he could be improving at the right time for trainer connections who know what it takes to win a Derby. Trainer Doug O’Neill (#54 in the latest rankings) reports the son of Tiznow (#273) to be in great shape as he and owner Reddam Racing LLC (#44) and jockey Mario Gutierrez (#107) bid to follow up last year’s win with Nyquist.
Jockey, owner and trainer also teamed up with I’ll Have Another in 2012. Could this be a case of one more for the road?
Watch out for Hence
In addition to Classic Empire and Irap, the other particularly intriguing Derby contender is Hence, the Sunland Derby winner, who numbered Irap among his victims in New Mexico.
Hence has the services of #10 rider Florent Geroux, who we yield to nobody in the extent of our admiration. Geroux gets the majority of his ranking points for riding on turf, but he is also elite on dirt and will climb aboard a highly talented colt in the Derby.
Hence set up behind strong fractions in the Sunland Derby and made a hidden middle-move into the teeth of a strong pace before powering on again in the straight to clear away. He is already the highest-rated offspring of underrated sire Street Boss (#53) on our figures, earning a RPR of 118.
Yet the depth of Hence’s stamina hardly seemed to have been tested, and he is primed to run a big race at long odds in the Derby.