The Kentucky Derby is typically known for it's unpredictably as 20 talented horses with limited racing experience come together for the biggest showcase of their career to date. That storyline has changed in recent years, though, and the Run for the Roses has suddenly become predictable.
Four consecutive times, ranging from Orb in 2013 to Nyquist in 2016, the favorite has crossed the finish line first in the year's opening Triple Crown race. Those who prefer the more wide-open, long shot-oriented Derby could finally see a return to form with the 2017 edition.
Let's check out all of the important information for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. That's followed by a closer look at the top qualifiers following the prep schedule.
2017 Kentucky Derby Details
Where: Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky
Post Time: Saturday, May 6, at 6:34 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live
Top Qualifiers From Prep Races
Girvin (150 Points)
Girvin has looked special from the beginning. He won his debut race at Fair Grounds Race Course and has continued to shine at the New Orleans track ever since. He's won three of his four career starts, including the Risen Star Stakes and the Louisiana Derby, both Grade 2 events.
Trainer Joe Sharp caused a stir leading up to the Kentucky Derby when he changed the horse's workout schedule late in the process. The Paulick Report noted he downplayed the issue following the cancellation of a planned session at Keeneland.
"He's the same Girvin," Sharp said. "People will dissect and analyze the move. If we win, I'll be a hero. If we lose, I'll be a young trainer who made a mistake. I'm confident in our decision."
Along with providing plenty of second-guessing ammo if the colt doesn't win the Derby, the timing of the move raises serious questions. There isn't much reason on the surface to change the approach of a successful horse so close to Triple Crown season.
The talent is clearly present with Girvin, and if not for the question marks, he could have been a top choice heading into race day. We'll soon find out if the concerns were legitimate.
Classic Empire (132 Points)
Classic Empire looked dominant at times during the early stages of his career. He quickly established himself as a horse to watch with an eye toward the first Saturday in May by scoring back-to-back victories in a pair of Grade 1 races—the Breeders' Futurity Stakes and Breeders' Cup Juvenile—last fall.
He's tossed in the occasional off day to keep bettors honest, though. He finished last in the Hopeful Stakes—his third career start—against Grade 1 competition and only mustered a third-place result in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes in February.
He rebounded to win the Arkansas Derby last month to bolster his stock, but it wasn't his best overall effort. It was more of a grind-it-out victory. TVG relayed post-race remarks from trainer Mark Casse about the triumph:
Hypothetically speaking, if every horse in the race ran their absolute best, Classic Empire would likely be the 2017 Kentucky Derby champion. That said, it's no guarantee he'll be able to produce a high-end effort on the big stage amid a crowded field.
Gormley (125 Points)
Gormley fell off the radar a bit after finishing a distant seventh to Classic Empire in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile back in November. He's been mostly strong since that point, however, winning two of his three starts, highlighted by a Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby victory last month.
While winning one of the most hyped races of the prep calendar is always going to move a horse to the forefront of the Derby conversation, not everybody was impressed. Scott Shapiro of Brisnet believes it was more of perfect circumstances than a great run:
Add in a fourth-place showing in the San Felipe Stakes, and there's some uncertainty within his resume, just like the other top qualifiers.
That's why this year's Kentucky Derby could return to its roots as the "Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports." There isn't a horse who's clearly better than his counterparts, and the door is open for a long shot to steal the spotlight at Churchill Downs.