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The Arizona fan’s rooting guide to the Kentucky Derby

Can we get another American Pharoah situation?

2016 Kentucky Derby - Previews Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

In 2015, Arizona Wildcats fans found an interesting story to get behind as American Pharoah, trained by UA alum Bob Baffert, won the Triple Crown. Pharoah also went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic later that year, completing the grand slam of horse racing.

So here we are on Kentucky Derby Day 2017. There are no Baffert horses in this year’s Run for the Roses (he won the Kentucky Oaks by 1 14 lengths with Abel Tasman on Friday, then proceeded to dab), but there are three horses trained by fellow UA alum Todd Pletcher that will be racing at Churchill Downs in Saturday’s main event.

These are the three horses that Arizona fans should be pulling for:


(5) Always Dreaming

Morning-line Odds: 5-1

Kenny Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography

Always Dreaming is the son of Bodemeister, who won the 2012 Kentucky Derby and was runner-up in The Preakness. Bodemeister also happened to be trained by Baffert, so Always Dreaming is the ultimate U of A horse to root for.

The jockey for Always Dreaming will be John Velazquez, who won the 2011 Kentucky Derby on Animal Kingdom.


(16) Tapwrit

Morning-line Odds: 20-1

Horse Racing: Kentucky Derby-Workouts Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Tapwrit was sold for $1.2 million as a yearling, but finished dead last in his racing debut, which had him shipped off to Pletcher’s second-string barn at Gulfstream Park.

This year, Tapwrit has done fairly well, picking up a win and a close runner-up finish to McCraken, who is one of the favorites to win the Derby. Tapwrit’s jockey, Jose Ortiz, is an up-and-comer, just like the horse he’ll be riding.


(20) Patch

Morning-line Odds: 30-1

Horse Racing: Kentucky Derby-Workouts Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re looking for an underdog story to root for, Patch is your horse. Not only has he not raced very much, but Patch only has one eye. This is actually Pletcher’s second one-eyed horse to race in the Derby. Pollard’s Vision finished 17th in the 2004 edition.

Patch’s sire is Union Rags, who won the 2012 Belmont Stakes. It will be interesting to see what he looks like after running just one graded stakes race. That runner-up finish in the Louisiana Stakes is what got Patch into this year’s field.

The jockey for Patch, Tyler Gaffalione, is a Kentucky Derby rookie, but is perceived to be a rising star in the horse racing world.


A week before the race, Pletcher pulled Battalion Runner and Malagacy out of the Derby lineup. Malagacy is tentatively scheduled to run in the Preakness.