Classic Empire is the early favourite to win the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, closely followed by Always Dreaming and Irish War Cry.
The trio head the betting ahead of this year's Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs, where an open field of 20 horses will be competing for a $2 million purse in one of the sport's most thrilling showdowns.
With the race spanning a distance of just 10 furlongs, there's always an element of unpredictability with the Kentucky Derby, too, while much can change after the release of the post positions, which determine the gates the horses start from.
Here are the latest odds, courtesy of OddsShark, and read on for some early predictions as to how the race might go down:
|Kentucky Derby 2017: Betting Lines|
|Irish War Cry||+800|
|Conquest Mo Money||+2500|
|J Boys Echo||+2800|
|Lookin At Lee||+5000|
|State of Honor||+5000|
|Battle of Midway||+5000|
|Fast and Accurate||+6600|
Classic Empire Leads the Betting
Classic Empire comes in as the favourite at 4-1.
The colt has shown his winning pedigree with victories in two Grade 1 stakes to close out 2016, while in April he enjoyed an outstanding warm-up for Kentucky by winning the Arkansas Derby.
He won the race with an impressive late surge down the final stretch:
Classic Empire made his successful comeback in that race after finishing third behind fellow Kentucky contenders Irish War Cry (8-1) and Gunnevera (10-1) at the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes in February.
Per USA Today's Dan Wolken, the emergence of an abscess on his right foot two days later offered some explanation for the defeat.
Now recovered and coming into the Derby on the back of his win in Arkansas, trainer Mark Casse believes Classic Empire is in excellent shape. Per Wolken, he said, "He's happy, he's on his game and he likes it here."
According to the odds, the colt's biggest rival will be Always Dreaming at 5-1.
Trained by seven-time Eclipse Award-winner Todd Pletcher, who also trained 2010 Kentucky winner Super Saver, Always Dreaming romped to victory in the Florida Derby:
However, that is his only prior Stakes experience, and he's likely to face a much sterner test at Churchill Downs, so there's a question mark over his ability to handle that.
Always Dreaming has also been up and down in his preparations for Kentucky, per the Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman and Mike Welsch:
Jay Privman @DRFPrivman
Pletcher was extremely happy with Always Dreaming, as you'd imagine. That was work of day to me. He called drill "exceptional."2017-4-28 13:19:38
Mike Welsch @DRFWelsch
Always Dreaming one of 1st horses on track at 545 still very unsettled galloping especially through stretch and around club turn.2017-4-30 10:24:55
He may well have enough talent to win, but whether that translates into a good performance on the day is another matter.
At 10-1 McCraken is a slight outsider, but he may well be in contention when the horses face off on Saturday.
McCraken is likely not among the top favourites because a minor injury saw him come third in his last outing the Blue Grass Stakes in April, but he has four wins under his belt prior to that and three came at his local Churchill Downs.
He's looked excellent in training for the Derby, per the Daily Racing Form's Marcus Hersh and BloodHorse.com's Steve Haskin:
Marcus Hersh @DRFHersh
Did anyone make a more favorable appearance this morning than McCraken? His stock is going up for me.2017-4-28 12:57:14
Steve Haskin @SteveHaskin
What is so impressive about McCraken is the way he hugs the rail on both turns. So athletic and balanced with smooth lead changes. Loves CD.2017-4-30 13:11:34
A strong finisher, McCraken is experienced in coming from behind to win and could well be a contender on Saturday.
The picture will become clearer once the post positions are released on Wednesday, but he has the ability to seriously rival Classic Empire and Always Dreaming.
Prediction: 1. Classic Empire 2. McCraken 3. Always Dreaming