Picking a Kentucky Derby favorite is a lot like filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket in that you can spend hours analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of every horse only to fail miserably as your mom cashes a huge ticket because she "liked the name."
If you don't have any set method for picking a Kentucky Derby horse, then why not pick the one that represents your favorite Cardinal? Here's this year’s guide:
Always Dreaming - Lamar Jackson (Football)
Like Lamar, Always Dreaming is incredibly accomplished and is the favorite individual performer of many who follow his sport closely. Still, there is a surprising level of disrespect for both. Always Dreaming will not be the morning line favorite on Derby Day, and Jackson is currently not the favorite to reclaim his Heisman Trophy in 2017. Also, while both are undeniably gifted, there has been a slight concern about over-aggressiveness with both.
Gunnerva – Quentin Snider (Basketball)
Just as Snider isn’t going to wow you with his measurables or athleticism, Gunnerva isn’t going to wow you with his workouts. He hasn’t been asked to showcase much speed in the days leading up to the Derby, so it’s a little difficult to know what to expect of him. That said, Gunnerva has the pedigree and the fire to surprise a lot of people. If he gets the right pace, he could be right there at the end.
McCracken – Brendan McKay (Baseball)
Both of these individuals make their dominance look so effortless. Whether he’s on the mound or at the plate, McKay overwhelms opponents while appearing to not break a sweat. Likewise, McCracken just glides on the track, and appears to kick himself into a different gear without expending a great deal of energy. Both have proven they are capable of having success in a variety of different fashions, and both have established themselves as unquestioned stars.
Classic Empire – Donovan Mitchell (Basketball)
There is no doubt about the talent of either performer, but both still come attached to some questions right now. For Mitchell, it’s whether or not he’s even going to be a Louisville Cardinal next season. For Classic Empire, it’s how he’s going to handle the crowd at Churchill Downs, and whether his disappointing effort in the Holy Bull was simply an aberration.
J Boys Echo – Myisha Hines-Allen (Basketball)
Neither get the attention they deserve. Both are extremely impressive physically, and both have bounced back time and time again after they’ve given disappointing performances.
Hence – V.J. King (Basketball)
Hence is getting a lot of hype because of his last race and because of his sensational workouts over the last couple of weeks. Likewise, King is the ultra-gifted player Louisville fans are hoping steps seamlessly into a bigger role in 2017-18. There’s no doubt that both have the ability to wow the crowd on the largest of stages, it’s just matter of us all actually seeing that happen with our own eyes.
Gormley – Reggie Bonnafon (Football)
Gormley has all the speed figures and measurables you could want in a thoroughbred. The biggest key for him is getting into a rhythm, getting comfortable, and finding a racing approach that works best for him. Bonnafon is the most versatile player and perhaps the best overall athlete on the Louisville football team. As he heads into his senior season, the biggest key for him remains finding the spot on the field that’s the best for him and getting comfortable there.
Thunder Snow – Dwayne Sutton (Basketball)
Thunder Snow was a late entry and a late arrival to Churchill Downs that a lot of people are excited about. Sutton, a Manual High product, put up great numbers at UNC-Asheville in his freshman season before electing to transfer to Louisville. Both could have huge impacts, or both could be easily overlooked. It’s hard to tell at this point.
Fast and Accurate – Mallory Comerford (Swimming)
Admittedly, there aren’t too many similarities between the horse and the person here, but this is all about the name: Fast and Accurate. What better description for Louisville’s newest national champion?
Patch – Every Louisville Walk-On
If you’re a fan of the underdog then Patch has to be your play on Saturday. The horse lost his left eye to an infection last year, but has still managed to do enough to qualify for the Run for the Roses. Remarkably, he had the name “Patch” before any of his eye trouble.
A version of this column runs in the current issue of The Voice-Tribune