Kentucky Derby 2017 Contenders: Blind Patch Is My Winner Prediction [Opinion]

Can a half-blind horse win the 2017 Kentucky Derby? I am predicting that Patch will win the Kentucky Derby with win, place, or show — and I also feel that from reading about blind horses that longshot Patch might have an edge in the 2017 Triple Crown races because he is legally blind.

With less than a week until the Kentucky Derby, horse racing fans are carefully making their lists for the best Kentucky Derby contenders to win the race. As someone who lived for almost 20 years within a couple of miles of Churchill Downs, I take special care to review all of the information to pick my winner each year.

This year, there was one horse that was immediately close to my heart because we both share a trait of being legally blind, and I knew Patch was my 2017 Kentucky Derby contender right away.

Truthfully, when you are getting ready to predict the winners list for your 2017 Kentucky Derby contenders, you need to look at information such as the breeders, the pedigree, and the way horses have performed in other races leading up to the Kentucky Derby.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby points system and listening to Churchill Downs picks experts are also helpful to predicting the winner, and yet I picked my best horse Patch without reviewing any statistics.

Regardless, when I started reading more about Patch and blind horses, I began to feel that Patch would definitely be at an advantage in a thoroughbred horse race because he was blind.

Kentucky Derby horses are getting ready for the race by arriving at Churchill Downs early.
The horses are beginning to arrive for the 2017 Kentucky Derby, and Patch is already a fan favorite. [Image by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]

As I always say, “my disabilities give me abilities” — and I am predicting this will be Patch’s story about the 2017 Kentucky Derby.

The piece of information that stood out to me was from a website called Blind Horses that gives advice about what it is like to own a blind horse as a pet. One of their tips was to keep the horses “out of the herd” because the blind horse can get bullied by other horses because “blind horses can’t read the visual social cues of other horses.” For a racing horse, this is not really an issue because many horses are raced with blinders/blinkers to improve their performance.

They also noted it was not a good idea for blind horses to be incorporated in a big horse herd because “it will try to keep up with the herd.” All of these tips sounded like ideal horse racing traits to me, and it seemed to indicate Patch would be competitive and driven to go toward the front of other horses.

As it appears, when Patch does come in the top three of a race, no one is expecting it. Overall, Patch seems to have what it takes, and being blind might be a benefit for him, but Patch’s current longshot status also reminds me of another Kentucky Derby winner and underdog: Mine That Bird.

When Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby, everyone was completely surprised because he was at the bottom of the contenders’ list that year. Plus, everyone was a little bit confused because Mine That Bird was not even going to retire and use his Kentucky Derby victory to fetch high breeding prices for the owners.

As a gelding that could not reproduce, many people speculated that it was not even worth it for Mine That Bird’s owners to pay the fees required to be a contender in the 2009 Kentucky Derby.

Like Mine That Bird, Patch barely made it onto the Kentucky Derby contenders list and was tied for 18th place with at least three other horses because Patch only collected 40 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby system.

Patch is Todd pletcher's second blind Kentucky Derby horse.
Patch is not the first blind horse to enter the Kentucky Derby, and his trainer, Todd Pletcher, entered another blind horse in the Kentucky Derby in 2004. [Image by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]

Regardless, there is one more tip that I learned from the Blind Horses website that reassured me Patch was my top pick for the 2017 Kentucky Derby. They discussed that one of the main ways people benefit from owning a blind horse is a deep relationship of trust and intuitive communication the horse gives their owner.

When I tested this theory with Patch’s second-place win at the 2017 Louisiana Derby, I heard something important when I was listening to the commentator give the details of the race.

Namely, Patch was not even in the top four at the beginning or middle of the Louisiana Derby. Instead, it was all about the jockey, Tyler Gaffalione, and their ability to communicate with Patch to both reserve energy early in the race and to fire up his engine right before the end of the race.

The commentator for the 2017 Louisiana Derby was talking about other horses for almost the entire race, and then Patch suddenly appeared in the top four. Right before the race ended, Patch sailed into second place right at the finish line.

Seasoned horse racing fans will hear this Louisiana Derby commentary and know exactly why Patch is a great horse. Namely, Patch has the basics of what makes a horse a winner — and he also does what some thoroughbreds have trouble with: working well with the jockey.

Calvin Borel rode Mine That Bird to victory in 2009, and he was trained by Chip Woolley, D. Wayne, Lukas, David Cotey, and Richard Mandella. Calvin Borel is a seasoned and award-winning jockey with decades of experience — so it is no surprise that Mine That Bird had a chance at winning with Borel on his back.

For now, there are no news updates that state Patch will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione: but I don’t need him to be the top jockey pick for this horse for the 2017 Kentucky Derby.

For example, Tyler Gaffalione has only been a pro jockey since 2014, according to Horse Racing Nation.

While Calvin Borel might have been a good reason that Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby in 2009, Patch might not need a seasoned jockey for the 2017 Kentucky Derby. This ultimately seals the deal for me that Patch has the edge required to take a Kentucky Derby victory this year.

If there is one more story that sticks out to me besides the fact that Patch is from Calumet Farms and is being trained by top trainer, Todd Pletcher; Patch is also the son of the famous Union Rags.

Kentucky Derby fans might remember that it was Patch’s daddy, Union Rags, that took first-place over Mine That Bird’s third-place at the 2009 Belmont Stakes.

As far as not believing in the longshot, it should be noted that Mine That Bird was a win, place or show winner in the 2009 Triple Crown. Mine That Bird won first place at the 2009 Kentucky Derby, second place at the Preakness (to Rachel Alexandra), and third in the Belmont Stakes.

If Patch wins the 2017 Kentucky Derby, he will be joining a list of other top-ranking blind horses such as thoroughbred Tough Sunday and dressage winner, Valiant. Fox Sports points out that Tough Sunday was not only born blind, but also deaf.

Since 2014, deaf and blind Tough Sunday has entered 10 graded stakes horse races and won first place in one race, second place in two races, and third place in five races. In other words, Tough Sunday got win, place, and show in almost every race he’s ever been in except two.

For anyone interested in stories about blind working horses like Patch, Hallmark made a movie called The Long Shot based on a true story. In the movie, Tolo is a dressage horse that goes blind and his trainer helps him make the journey back to the winner’s circle.

[Featured Image by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]