Irap puts Reddam, O’Neill back in Kentucky Derby picture

Apr 10, 2017 by James Scully/

The purple silks of Reddam Racing are well-known to Kentucky Derby fans, with victories in two of the last five runnings. Nyquist proved best as the 2-1 favorite in front of 167,227 patrons at Churchill Downs last year and I’ll Have Another captured the first leg of the American Triple Crown in 2012 for owner J. Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill.

As a result of Irap’s stunning upset in the $1 million Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland, Reddam Racing and O’Neill will be seeking their third Kentucky Derby win on May 6.

And Mario Gutierrez, who piloted Nyquist and I’ll Have Another and serves as first-call rider for Reddam Racing, is expected to join them. Gutierrez remained in California last weekend, guiding So Conflated to an 11th in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) for Reddam/O’Neill as Julien Leparoux picked up the mount on Irap, but Leparoux is expected to stick with either Arkansas Derby (G1)-bound Classic Empire or Florida Derby (G1) runner-up State of Honor in the Kentucky Derby.

Overlooked at 31-1 odds, Irap became the first maiden to win the Blue Grass in the race’s 93-year history, entering the 1 1/8-mile event with a 0-for-7 record. He had finished second in a trio of stakes, including the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) in mid-December and Robert B. Lewis (G3) in early February, but the bay son of Tiznow was exiting a well-beaten fourth in the Sunland Derby (G3) on March 26.

He shipped a couple thousand miles and wheeled back off a 13-day rest against a well-regarded group of Blue Grass rivals, parlaying a front-running trip into a game win. After surging to a clear lead in upper stretch, Irap withstood a serious challenge from multiple Grade 1 winner Practical Joke to prevail by three-quarters of a length. McCraken, the 8-5 favorite and early Kentucky Derby favorite, finished another three lengths back in a third.

Irap registered a 100 BRIS Speed rating, seven points higher than his previous best, and moved to third on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 113 points.

Improving form is a commendable trait and Irap will bring positive momentum into the Kentucky Derby. However, he won’t be considered a top contender as bettors make him prove the Blue Grass wasn’t a fluke. The 3-year-old raced on the wrong lead through the stretch and figures to catch more pressure on the front end next time. And the stretch out to 1 ¼ miles rates as a possible concern considering he’s a half-brother to champion sprinter Speightstown.

Irap will try to exceed expectations once again for high-profile connections in the Kentucky Derby.

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