A big weekend awaits with three Kentucky Derby preps, including the return of early favorite Classic Empire in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park. The unanimous 2-year-old champion is expected to receive three prep races in advance of the Run for the Roses.

The Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita and Withers (G3) at Aqueduct also will be offered on February 4.

A total of 22 qualifying races remain in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, with 13 events already in the books.

Let’s take a look at the top BRIS Speed ratings earned by hopefuls in qualifying races so far (90 or better), with numbers from 2017 preps designated by an asterisk:

Horse

 

Race (finish position)

 

BRIS Speed

CLASSIC EMPIRE

 

BC Juv. (1st)

 

108

*GORMLEY

 

Sham (1st)

 

102

*AMERICAN ANTHEM

 

Sham (2nd)

 

102

MO TOWN

 

Remsen (1st)

 

101

*EL AREEB

 

Jerome (1st)

 

100

MASTERY

 

Los Al Futurity (1st)

 

99

NO DOZING

 

Remsen (2nd)

 

98

PRACTICAL JOKE

 

BC Juv. (3rd)

 

98

GORMLEY

 

FrontRunner (1st)

 

97

PRACTICAL JOKE

 

Champagne (1st)

 

97

*UNCONTESTED

 

Smarty Jones (1st)

 

97

GUNNEVERA

 

Delta Jackpot (1st)

 

96

CLASSIC EMPIRE

 

Breeders’ Futurity (1st)

 

94

MCCRAKEN

 

Ky Jockey Club (1st)

 

93

*GUEST SUITE

 

Lecomte (1st)

 

93

LOOKIN AT LEE

 

BC Juv. (4th)

 

93

WILD SHOT

 

Ky Jockey Club (2nd)

 

92

*PETROV

 

Smarty Jones (2nd)

 

91

*UNTRAPPED

 

Lecomte (2nd)

 

91

LOOKIN AT LEE

 

Breeders’ Futurity (2nd)

 

90

 

 

 

 

 

The first thing that jumps out is McCraken’s position on the list. The unbeaten colt was bet down to 9-1 odds in the Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager last weekend, the co-second choice among individual interests, but 10 prospects have earned better Speed ratings so far.

However, I place more stock in BRIS Speed ratings earned as a 3-year-olds, with juvenile figures typically holding little weight by the first Saturday in May. And given his stellar form last year, McCraken is eligible to earn better numbers as a sophomore.

We’ll get a better gauge when McCraken makes his seasonal bow in the February 11 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.

Less than 100 days remain until the Kentucky Derby and I will continue to analyze BRIS Speed ratings from qualifying races.