The first Saturday in May means that the most exciting two minutes in sports is at hand.
Horse racing may no longer be a dominant sport the way it was in the first half of the 20th century, but the Triple Crown races—and the Kentucky Derby, particularly—can still command the attention of the American sports fan in the 21st century.
The Derby is usually a wide-open race as a full field of 20 horses regularly goes to the post. That is again the case this year, and this race could once more belong to a long shot at the end of the 1 ¼-mile test.
However, the horses that will have the shortest odds are all strong and may not necessarily yield to one of the long shots.
Classic Empire is the favorite in the race, according to OddsShark. The website lists Classic Empire as a 4-1 shot (plus-400).
Classic Empire is trained by Mark E. Casse and is scheduled to be ridden by jockey Julian Leparoux; he has five wins and a third-place finish in his seven career starts.
He likes to run near the front and stalk the pace, and that's a style that can be quite successful in the Run for the Roses. Classic Empire won his last start in the Arkansas Derby, running all-out and winning by a half-length.
Classic Empire was sired by Pioneer of the Nile, and his dam was Sambuca Classica.
Always Dreaming comes into the Derby having won three races in a row, including the 1 ⅛-mile Florida Derby which was contested April 1. The 5-1 shot is trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John R. Velasquez.
In his victory at Gulfstream Park, Always Dreaming raced outside the leader for much of the race, and when Velasquez asked him to turn on his speed, he pulled away and won by five lengths.
|2017 Kentucky Derby|
|Girvin||Joe Sharp||Mike E. Smith||Catch the Moon by Tale of Ekati|
|Classic Empire||Mark E. Casse||Julien. R Leparoux||Sambuca Classica by Pioneer of the Nile|
|Gormley||John A. Shirreffs||Jose L. Espinoza||Race to Urga by Malibu Moon|
|Irap||Doug F. O'Neil||Mario Gutierrez||Silken Cat by Tiznow|
|Irish War Cry||H. Graham Motion||Rajiv Maragh||Irish Sovereign by Curlin|
|Thunder Snow (IRE)||Saeed bin Suroor||Christophe Soumillon||Eastern Joy by Helmet|
|Always Dreaming||Todd A. Pletcher||John R. Velazquez||Above Perfection by Bodemeister|
|Gunnevera||Antonio Sano||Javier Castellano||Unbridled Rage by Dialed In|
|Practical Joke||Chad C. Brown||Joel Rosario||Halo Humor by Into Mischief|
|J Boys Echo||Dale L. Romans||Robby Albarado||Letgomyecho by Mineshaft|
|State of Honor||Mark E. Casse||Jose Lezcano||State Cup by To Honor and Serve|
|Tapwrit||Todd A. Pletcher||Jose L. Ortiz||Appealing Zophie by Tapit|
|Hence||Steven M. Asmussen||Florent Geroux||Consequential by Mr. Prospector|
|Fast and Accurate||Michael J. Maker||Channing Hill||It's Heidi's Dance by Hansen|
|McCraken||Ian R. Wilkes||Brian Joseph Hernandez Jr.||Change Water by Pretense|
|Battle of Midway||Jerry Hollendorfer||Flavien Prat||Polly Lee by Midway Circle|
|Patch||Todd A. Pletcher||Tyler Gaffalione||Windyindy by Union Rags|
|Untrapped||Steven M. Asmussen||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||Exit Three by Trappe Shot|
|Lookin at Lee||Steven M. Asmussen||Corey J. Lanerie||Langara Lass by Lookin at Lucky|
|Sonneteer||J. Keith Desormeaux||Kent J. Desormeaux||Gay Sonnet by Soy Numero Uno|
Always Dreaming was sired by Bodemister, and Above Perfection was his dam.
Irish War Cry looks like a legitimate contender at Churchill Downs, and he may be the best horse in the race. He comes into the Kentucky Derby with odds of 8-1.
Irish War Cry has won two of his three races this year, whipping a field that included Classic Empire and Gunnevera in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 4.
After a poor showing a month later in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, he returned to winning form at the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in New York on April 8.
Irish War Cry is out of Irish Sovereign by Curlin, and he has the kind of running ability that should allow him to be a factor if he is close when the field turns for home. He is trained by H. Graham Motion and ridden by Rajiv Maragh.
Gunnevera comes into the Kentucky Derby with odds of 10-1 at this point in the week, and he has a couple of victories to his credit, including a win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.
Trained by Antonio Sano and ridden by Javier Castellano, Gunnevera was sired by Dialed In, and that horse was one of last year's leading sires.
Girvin is listed at 20-1 by OddsShark, but he could be one of the race favorites as the week progresses. He is trained by Joe Sharp and ridden by Mike E. Smith. Girvin is out of Catch the Moon by Tale of Ekati.
Girvin has won three of four races, but there are doubts about his ability to run 1 ¼ miles as a result of his blood lines.
All information from KentuckyDerby.com unless otherwise noted.