are only 80 days to go until Kentucky Derby 2017, and the top contenders are beginning to make their move for
Louisville in earnest. To have the best opportunity to win the big one, it
helps to have great training on your side. With that in mind, I’ve done a
little handicapping of the trainers who look most likely to be celebrating on
May 6. Below are my early odds, for the trainers, and their current top
1) Bob Baffert 9-2 (Mastery, American Anthem, Reach the World, Dabster &
No trainer has had the success in the last 20 years of the Kentucky Derby that
Baffert has. He’s also the only trainer on this list with a Triple Crown
winner. His hand looks strong once again, with several interesting California
2) Ian Wilkes 6-1 (McCraken)
The native of Australia knows how to get a horse ready to win the Derby, having
been around a couple of good ones while working under Carl Nafzger. In McCraken,
he has the current favorite in his barn.
3) Mark Casse 7-1 (Classic Empire, Lookin for Eight & State of Honor)
Proving to be one of the top trainers in the nation, Casse is due for a
breakthrough in the Derby, Preakness, or Belmont. Classic Empire should bounce
back from his Holy Bull loss, and State of Honor was very game at Tampa.
4) Todd Pletcher 8-1 (Battalion Runner, Tapwrit, Theory, Always Dreaming, Malagacy,
One Liner & Fact Finding)
Despite only winning the Derby one time, Pletcher’s barn is always deep with
talent, and therefore must be respected. Look for any number of his
current youngsters to shine on the road to Louisville.
Motion 10-1 (Irish War Cry)
Motion has been down this road before, winning a few years ago with Animal
Kingdom. His current star, a son of Curlin, looks like he has the goods for his
English-born trainer to make another serious run at the roses.
6) John Shirreffs 10-1 (Gormley & Royal Mo)
Zenyatta’s main man also has a Derby win. His came at big odds with Giacomo. This
year, he has two interesting candidates who could well be heading in the right
direction at the right time.
O’Neill 15-1 (Iliad, Ann Arbor Eddie & So Conflated)
Last year’s winning trainer with Nyquist is starting to heat up again on the
West Coast. If any of them can keep improving, O’Neill will have a shot to win
his third time on the first Saturday in May.
8) Chad Brown 20-1 (Practical Joke)
Last year’s Eclipse Award winning trainer has yet to find Kentucky Derby
success, but he’s starting to make more of a run at it. He’s got plenty of
talent in his barn, led by the Champagne winner, who should be returning soon.
Hollendorfer 20-1 (Unique Bella)
If they announce the filly is going to point for the Derby, rather than the
Oaks, look for these odds to drop in a hurry. Unique Bella is that good.
10) Tony Dutrow 20-1 (Mo Town)
His brother won it with Big Brown, perhaps he can equal the feet with Mo Town.
The impressive winner of the Remsen has the Risen Star Stakes on his radar.
11) Antonio Sano 20-1 (Gunnevera)
Sano, a native of Venezuela, has been winning plenty of races in South Florida
of late, but in Gunnevera, he has his first true Derby horse, and a legit one
12) Steve Asmussen 30-1 (Lookin at Lee & Hence)
The winner of the most recent Triple Crown race, with Creator in the Belmont,
the Hall of Fame trainer looks to get his top contender, Lookin at Lee, off to
a good start to the season in Monday’s Southwest Stakes.
13) Cathal Lynch 30-1 (El Areeb)
This is new territory for the Maryland-based trainer. He’s never before run a
horse in the Derby, but in the Jerome and Withers winner, he looks to have a
horse talented enough to get him there.
14) Neil Howard 30-1 (Guest Suite)
It’s been 27 years since Howard trained Summer Squall to a Kentucky Derby
second-place finish, and then a Preakness victory. I’m hoping that Guest Suite
is the kind of horse to get one of the good guys in racing back on the Derby
15) Wayne Catalano 30-1 (Uncontested)
The veteran trainer could be another with dropping odds soon, as his impressive
Smarty Jones winner looks primed and ready as the horse to beat in the
16) Field 12-1 (Everyone else)
There is still plenty of time for a horse and trainer to step up in a big way …
it’s happened before.