Tensions are bubbling and excitement levels are rising as the opening leg of this year's Triple Crown gets under way with the 2017 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville this Saturday.
"The Fastest Two Minute in Sports" will mark the return of the most eagerly anticipated period in the American horse-racing calendar and bring a climactic end to a fortnight of action at the Kentucky Derby Festival.
Classic Empire features among the favourites running in this year's meeting, but Always Dreaming and Irish War Cry are following up closely in the odds ahead of what's sure to be close run this year.
That being said, a bolter might emerge from the pack to upset the start to this year's Triple Crown and grasp their chance to clinch a piece of horse-race history.
Read on for a comprehensive breakdown of the runners comprising Saturday's race as things stand, complete with odds, previews and finish-place predictions.
|2017 Kentucky Derby Odds and Predicted Finish|
|Classic Empire||+400 (bet $100 to win $400)||First|
|Irish War Cry||+800||Second|
|Irap||+1400||10th or worse|
|Tapwrit||+1400||10th or worse|
|Girvin||+2000||10th or worse|
|Conquest Mo Money||+2500||10th or worse|
|J Boys Echo||+2800||10th or worse|
|Hence||+2800||10th or worse|
|Lookin At Lee||+5000||10th or worse|
|State of Honor||+5000||10th or worse|
|Cloud Computing||+5000||10th or worse|
|Patch||+5000||10th or worse|
|Battle of Midway||+5000||10th or worse|
|Sonneteer||+5000||10th or worse|
|Royal Mo||+5000||10th or worse|
|Untrapped||+5000||10th or worse|
|Fast and Accurate||+6600||10th or worse|
All odd provided courtesy of OddsShark.
Despite taking root as one of the also-rans of the field, according to bookmakers, United Arab Emirates Derby-winner Thunder Snow will be among the lurking outsiders vying for a top finish in Kentucky this Saturday.
Trainer Saeed Bin Suroor has spoken highly of the colt in the buildup to Saturday's meeting and said he was "so happy" with the progress he's made of late, both in training and in terms of the results he's produced:
Breaking News! #SaeedbinSuroor has announced #ThunderSnow will go in the @KentuckyDerby @ChurchillDowns on May 6. Hear from the trainer here https://t.co/plLsnwEbn72017-4-29 15:31:43
The official Kentucky Derby Twitter account posted footage of Thunder Snow arriving at Churchill Downs on Sunday, and the Godolphin resident is set to take to the track on Tuesday for training:
Bin Suroor has had seven runners in the Kentucky Derby in the past, but Thunder Snow—his eighth—will be his first since 2009, perhaps an indication as to how much he trusts the three-year-old following three successive wins.
All three of those victories have come with jockey Christophe Soumillon atop the contender, and the Belgian will be back aboard Thunder Snow this Saturday as they look to continue their flourishing relationship.
Classic Empire has been heavily tipped as the favourite to win this year's Kentucky Derby since it emerged he would be contesting, although much will come down to what version of the runner we see on the day.
Guy Martin of Forbes mused the result would lean on whether "the top of his head is gonna pop off," and OddsShark's Jon Campbell recently discussed his chances with analyst Michael Dempsey:
Trainer Mark Casse also has great faith in his charge and indicated to Blood Horse's Erin Shea that he's upbeat about their chances of success:
Erin Shea @BH_EShea
Mark Casse said he wishes #KyDerby was today, Classic Empire doing great. Will gallop tomorrow.2017-4-30 13:29:11
It's almost poetic that Classic Empire's first race—and career win—came at Churchill Downs in July 2016, and he returns to the scene of that debut feat almost a year on seeking much greater accolades this time around.
A bruised foot did throw some doubt over Class Empire's health, but after winning at the Arkansas Derby in the middle of April, any lingering concerns over his fitness may have been laid to rest.