Is There a Mine That Bird in the 2017 Kentucky Derby Field?

Lookin At Lee (photo by Michael Cox).

Lookin At Lee (photo by Michael Cox).

It has been a wild Kentucky Derby trail season with inconsistency and numerous favorites getting beat.  It is probably unnecessary to say at this point, but the 2017 Kentucky Derby is wide open. In fact, I kind of get the feeling that this could be a Mine That Bird type of year, where you can throw out almost every analytic because some 3-year-old colt is going to surprise us on Derby Day.

So, this begs the question: Is there a Mine That Bird in the 2017 Kentucky Derby field?

Not exactly. Mine That Bird was a very unique horse, a gelding who scored one of the greatest upsets in sports history.  He accomplished this on a wet, sloppy Churchill Downs track, despite having never raced on an “off” track before. Very few saw that result coming because his success came as a 2-year-old on Woodbine’s synthetic surface.

Mine That Bird had to have had talent because he was invited to compete in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race. However, he bombed in that race with a last-place finish. He then had two lackluster Derby prep performances at Sunland Park, finishing second and fourth in two ungraded races.

So the next question is: What longshot in the 2017 Kentucky Derby field has the best chance of pulling off an upset?

In my opinion, it’s Lookin At Lee.

Lookin At Lee was made 20-1 on the morning line by Churchill Downs’ handicapper Mike Battaglia. Lookin At Lee drew the dreaded rail (post #1) which will scare off a lot of bettors. However, the 1-hole is the fourth-most winningest Derby post position with a 9.2-percent win rate, behind post 10 (11.3 percent), post 5 (10.3 percent) and post 8 (9.3 percent).

Like Mine That Bird, Lookin At Lee competed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Lookin At Lee finished fourth, 12 lengths behind race winner Classic Empire. He closed the gap in the Arkansas Derby by finishing two lengths behind Classic Empire. If you re-watch that race, you will really appreciate his performance, because he had to go to the inside, then move to the outside down the stretch and was finishing strongly. With the extra furlong that he will get in the Kentucky Derby, he should be able to close that gap even further.

Rain is another potential factor that could even up the field. The most recent forecast suggests there is a 60 percent chance of rain on Derby Day and if becomes a slopfest, Lookin At Lee raced in the muddy Iroquios Stakes at Churchill Downs as a 2-year-old and finished second behind Not This Time.

Lookin At Lee is a deep closer and, on a sloppy track, this is exactly the strategy Calvin Borel used with Mine That Bird, as he slipped up the rail and surprised the lead pack. It was such a surprise that legendary track announcer Tom Durkin failed to acknowledge that Mine That Bird had slipped by the leaders until he was three lengths clear!

Lookin At Lee has the late speed and jockey to pull off a Mine that Bird-type of performance. He will be ridden by another Cajun in Corey Lanerie, an 11-time leading rider at Churchill Downs, and he has one of the top three Brisnet Late Speed figures (behind Sonneteer and Gunnevera).

If you are someone who likes to try to beat the favorite with a longshot, I feel that Lookin At Lee is your best bet. He will be in some of my exotic bets and especially so if it rains.

Off-Track-Derby-Contenders

Michael Cox
Michael is a pharmacist by profession, author of “Masten Gregory: Totally Fearless” as well as a horse racing blog that can be found at: www.thederbyhandicapper.com. He attributes his love for horse racing to two things: his grandfather who used to listen to horse races on the radio broadcasted from the now defunct Ak-Sar-Ben race track in Omaha, Nebraska and a Sports Illustrated subscription in the 1970s.
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