Despite a thunderous win at the 2017 Blue Grass Stakes, three-year-old Irap still remains a veritable question mark to handicappers. It was the maiden victory for the Doug O’Neill trainee, but he fended off some serious competition in the colt age grade to earn the win. That probably goes without saying since Irap was a 31/1 underdog.
Practical Joke was the second-choice and came through at 7/2 in a dogfight with Irap down the stretch. The actual favorite was McCraken who was 8/5 and came in at third. The Blue Grass was supposed to be a shodown between those two, but ended up being something so much more unbelievable as Irap fended off Practical Joke with a monstrous effort.
It’s worth watching:
It’s very tough to say whether or not Irap is a one hit wonder or not. He’s always in contention, but never a true standout. And he was timed at 1:50.39, which falls in line with the results we saw from the other prep races that same weekend. Gormley won the Santa Anita Derby in 1:51.16 and Irish War Cry was solid in the Wood Memorial with a time of 1:50.90.
Anyone who’s been close to horse racing knows that covering 1 1/8th miles in a time of 1:50 isn’t anything special. Gormley’s Santa Anita win was the second slowest of all time. By comparison, Always Dreaming ravaged the Florida Derby a week earlier in a time of 1:47.91.
Most recently, Classic Empire won the Arkansas Derby in 1:48.93.
This isn’t just a bit of hard analysis on Irap in the Blue Grass Stakes. It’s also very telling of McCraken and Practical Joke. The speed ratings that Brisnet releases will shed some further light as we approach the 2017 Kentucky Derby, but I wouldn’t start pushing interest in Irap just yet.
If his number comes in high, it will be for good reason. There still isn’t a clear cut favorite in actuality despite what any handicapper tells you. Irap could be trending upwards, but it would take some hard convincing to sell me on a bet thrown his way.
Don’t tell that to trainer Doug O’Neill. His optimism as the reigning winning trainer of the Kentucky Derby exuded through during a work session with Irap. “We go into these big races very optimistic, but realistic as well. We knew he was an outsider going into the Blue Grass but we had faith in him and to see him run the way we hoped he would have run earlier was pretty phenomenal. We figured it was our last chance to have a chance at the big dance with him.”
They’ve got that chance. Now O’Neill and his lead contender just have to dance to a much faster tempo.