Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby predictions: What the experts are saying about Saturday’s race

John Clay and Ben Roberts handicap Kentucky Derby 143

Herald-Leader sports writers John Clay and Ben Roberts give their picks and more info on the Derby field from Churchill Downs.
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Herald-Leader sports writers John Clay and Ben Roberts give their picks and more info on the Derby field from Churchill Downs.

John Clay

Affiliation: Herald-Leader

Win: Classic Empire

Place: Always Dreaming

Show: Irish War Cry

Comment: With all the talk about a wide-open race, chalk prevails.

Jared Peck

Affiliation: Herald-Leader

Win: Classic Empire

Place: Always Dreaming

Show: Irap

Comment: Cantankerous favorite is the hot horse for a reason. Arkansas Derby showed class.

Franklin Renfro

Affiliation: Herald-Leader

Win: Thunder Snow

Place: McCraken

Show: Always Dreaming

Comment: The winner will be an Irish-bred colt by an Australian sire out of a British mare with Arab owners and a Belgian-born French jockey, and the fact that he prepped by outdueling Japan’s previously unbeaten Epicharis only adds to my melting-pot pick.

Ben Roberts

Affiliation: Herald-Leader

Win: Hence

Place: McCraken

Show: Classic Empire

Comment: Hence has the talent and the mettle to handle this treacherous race, and he seems prime to take another step forward off of his Sunland Derby victory.

Maryjean Wall

Affiliation: Former Herald-Leader turf writer

Win: Irish War Cry

Place: McCraken

Show: Patch

Comment: Trainer Graham Motion knows how to hit a Derby home run.

Rick Bozich

Affiliation: WDRB

Win: Irish War Cry

Place: Thunder Snow

Show: McCraken

Comment: Not only is Irish War Cry talented, his name reads like it belongs on the Churchill Downs marquee.

Ed DeRosa

Affiliation: TwinSpires.com

Win: Classic Empire

Place: Irish War Cry

Show: Hence

Comment: In a so-called “wide-open year” I’m going with the horse who has flashed the most talent in a singular performance, and a repeat of Classic Empire’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile wins this race.

Bill Finley

Affiliation: National turf writer

Win: Irish War Cry

Place: Classic Empire

Show: Practical Joke

Comment: Irish War Cry has the early speed and the talent; Jersey bred figures to get good trip and visit the winner’s circle.

Jason Frakes

Affiliation: Courier-Journal

Win: Classic Empire

Place: Hence

Show: State of Honor

Comment: Classic Empire at his best is better than anyone else in the race at his best.

Katie Gensler

Affiliation: Keeneland analyst

Win: McCraken

Place: Classic Empire

Show: Gunnevera

Comment: McCraken goes into this race with an undefeated record of 3-for-3 at Churchill Downs and local rider “BJ” Hernandez Jr. opted to ride him over Louisiana Derby winner, Girvin. His latest breeze was very promising and suggests he’s ready for another dominating performance under the Twin Spires.

Neil Greenberg

Affiliation: Washington Post

Win: Gunnevera

Place: Classic Empire

Show: Irish War Cry

Comment: Gunnevera didn’t get a great trip from jockey Javier Castellano in the Florida Derby but he is running his best as a 3-year-old.

Steve Haskin

Affiliation: The Blood-Horse

Win: Always Dreaming

Place: Irish War Cry

Show: Gunnevera

Comment: Sticking with my top-ranked horses, but there’s no value. Win bets going on J Boys Echo and Practical Joke.

Tom Leach

Affiliation: UK radio announcer

Win: Classic Empire

Place: J Boys Echo

Show: McCraken

Comment: Classic Empire has certainly shown he can overcome some adversity and I think he’ll improve off that last race in the Arkansas Derby.

Marty McGee

Affiliation: Daily Racing Form

Win: Gunnevera

Place: Hence

Show: Tapwrit

Comment: 46 years after Canonero, here’s another great Kentucky Derby story straight out of Venezuela.

William Nack

Affiliation: Author and journalist

Win: Irish War Cry

Place: Classic Empire

Show: McCraken

Comment: Conditioned by a smart, successful Derby trainer and boasting a solid 10-furlong pedigree, he rose as leader of this bunch with a convincing victory in the Wood Memorial.

Ray Paulick

Affiliation: PaulickReport.com

Win: McCraken

Place: Gunnevera

Show: Lookin At Lee

Comment: McCraken can bounce back from his only career defeat in the Blue Grass Stakes, a race that should benefit him. He has looked strong and relaxed in his training for Ian Wilkes. Gunnevera and Lookin At Lee will be running late.

Laffit Pincay

Affiliation: NBC Sports

Win: Always Dreaming

Place: Irish War Cry

Show: Practical Joke

Comment: I believe Always Dreaming is the most talented of this year’s crop. Irish War Cry has tons of ability, and Practical Joke always fires and believe you’ll see his best effort.

Jennie Rees

Affiliation: WAVE-3

Win: Hence

Place: McCraken

Show: Irish War Cry

Comment: Going for a price, Hence comes off big race, has sensational works, should love mud and offers value.

Kenny Rice

Affiliation: NBC Sports

Win: Classic Empire

Place: Irish War Cry

Show: Thunder Snow

Comment: Had to earn Arkansas Derby win, good preparation for Derby traffic.

Tim Sullivan

Affiliation: Courier-Journal

Win: Classic Empire

Place: Irish War Cry

Show: McCraken

Comment: Hate to pick the favorite, but as they say on Wall Street: the trend is your friend.

Mike Watchmaker

Affiliation: Daily Racing Form

Win: Irish War Cry

Place: Gunnevera

Show: J Boys Echo

Comment: I really liked how Irish War Cry settled early and then pressed a strong pace in his decisive Wood Memorial win and he’s the only one in the field with two triple-digit Beyer Figures.

Alicia Wincze Hughes

Affiliation: The Blood-Horse

Win: Classic Empire

Place: McCraken

Show: Irish War Cry

Comment: Classic Empire has been the most talented member of his generation and has proven form at Churchill Downs, including breaking his maiden over a sealed sloppy track. Has been nothing but professional since arriving at Churchill Downs.

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