2017 Kentucky Derby Odds: Classic Empire, Always Dreaming, Early Betting Lines

OddsShark.com@@OddsSharkFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2017

CORRECTS JOCKEY'S LAST NAME TO LEPAROUX, INSTEAD OF VELASQUEZ - Classic Empire, with jockey Julien Leparoux, wins the Breeders' Cup Juvenile horse race at Santa Anita, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Arcadia, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville is less than two weeks away, and the draw for the 143rd Run for the Roses will be held on May 3. The odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark will change following the draw because post position is vital in a 20-horse field.

As of this week, however, the top two betting favorites are Classic Empire (+400) and Always Dreaming (+500).

Classic Empire, trained by Mark E. Casse, was the two-year-old champion last year after winning both the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity and Breeders' Cup Juvenile races. However, only two other eventual Kentucky Derby winners swept those races: Nyquist last year and Street Sense in 2007.

Classic Empire, a bay colt, opened 2017 with a third-placed finish in the Grade 2 Holy Bull behind fellow Derby contenders Irish War Cry and Gunnevera.

That dimmed Classic Empire's star a bit, but he then won the final Derby major prep race, the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in mid-April, by a half-length.

Classic Empire has good genes as he shares the same sire as 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Both are sons of Pioneerof the Nile.

That's the good news; the bad is that Classic Empire jockey Julien Leparoux is 0-for-9 in his Kentucky Derby career with a best finish of fifth.



Always Dreaming, a dark bay/brown colt, is 3-1-1 in five career starts. He impressively won the Grade 1 Florida Derby on April 1 by five lengths over State of Honor and Gunnevera.

Always Dreaming is trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, who is set to have a handful of entries in the Kentucky Derby as he looks to improve on his poor record in the race.

One of Always Dreaming's owners is Vincent Viola, who owns the NHL's Florida Panthers. Bodemeister, Always Dreaming's sire, finished second in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2012.

A step back of the favorites on the 2017 Kentucky Derby odds are Irish War Cry (+800) and McCraken (+1000).

Irish War Cry, trained by H. Graham Motion, had a puzzling seventh-placed finish in March at the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes, but that's his only non-victory in five races. The chestnut colt bounced back with a win in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial on April 8.

McCraken, trained by Ian Wilkes, won his first four races before a third at the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes on April 8.

One Kentucky Derby long shot, J Boys Echo (+3300), will have a new jockey for the race as usual rider Robby Albarado sustained a fracture of his lower left tibia and fibula at Keeneland on April 23. His replacement will be Luis Saez, whose best Derby finish is seventh.

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