The post draw for the 2017 Kentucky Derby finally set the field for the 143rd annual kickoff for the Triple Crown season.
After entering the week as a 4-1 favorite, per OddsShark, Always Dreaming will line up in the No. 5 post and start at 5-1 to win in Louisville.
Classic Empire, the horse right behind Always Dreaming coming into the week, drew the No. 14 post and is now sitting at 4-1.
The oddsmakers have seemingly turned this into a four-horse field, with No. 17 post Irish War Cry (6-1) and No. 15 McCraken (5-1) coming in as the only other favorites better than 10-1.
Good news for Classic Empire: The favorites have become increasingly dominant at Churchill Downs. Four straight Kentucky Derby winners have been the pre-race favorite. I'll Have Another in 2012 was the last horse to win at odds higher than 5-1.
Of course, these patterns tend to self-correct. Before this recent streak, the Derby saw four straight years where no horse with better than 8-1 odds won, and only one (Super Saver, 2010) was at singe-digit odds.
With that in mind, let's take a look at a quick preview of the favorites heading into Saturday.
2017 Kentucky Derby Info
Post Time: Saturday, May 6 at 6:34 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live
|Kentucky Derby Posts|
|1||Lookin At Lee||Corey Lanerie||Steve Asmussen||20-1|
|2||Thunder Snow||Christophe Soumillon||Saeed bin Suroor||20-1|
|3||Fast and Accurate||Channing Hill||Mike Maker||50-1|
|4||Untrapped||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen||30-1|
|5||Always Dreaming||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||5-1|
|6||State of Honor||Jose Lezcano||Mark Casse||30-1|
|7||Girvin||Mike Smith||Joe Sharp||15-1|
|8||Hence||Florent Geroux||Steve Asmussen||15-1|
|9||Irap||Mario Gutierrez||Doug O’Neill||20-1|
|10||Gunnevera||Javier Castellano||Antonio Sano||15-1|
|11||Battle of Midway||Flavien Prat||Jerry Hollendorfer||30-1|
|12||Sonneteer||Kent Desormeaux||Keith Desormeaux||50-1|
|13||J Boys Echo||Luis Saez||Dale Romans||20-1|
|14||Classic Empire||Julien Leparoux||Mark Casse||4-1|
|15||McCraken||Brian Hernandez Jr.||Ian Wilkes||5-1|
|16||Tapwrit||Jose Ortiz||Todd Pletcher||20-1|
|17||Irish War Cry||Rajiv Maragh||Graham Motion||6-1|
|18||Gormley||Victor Espinoza||John Shirreffs||15-1|
|19||Practical Joke||Joel Rosario||Chad Brown||20-1|
|20||Patch||Tyler Gaffalione||Todd Pletcher||30-1|
|AE||Royal Mo||Gary Stevens||John Shirreffs||20-1|
|AE||Master Plan||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||50-1|
|Kentucky Derby on Facebook|
Always Dreaming (5-1)
The words "trained by Todd Pletcher" always mean promising things heading into the Triple Crown season, and perhaps the world's most famous trainer has a potential winner in Always Dreaming. The colt, winner of just two of his four career races, has come on strong during his three-year-old season.
A dominant win in March followed by a five-length win in April's Florida Derby has Always Dreaming looking like a breakout star. The horse's 1:47.47 time was the fastest at the track since 1978. Pletcher says that aggressive nature has carried over into Kentucky and his horse is raring to go.
"The thing about training horses is you're always looking to make the right adjustments," Pletcher said, per Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal. "Some horses in this field don't want to train. Some horses want to train too much. Part of your job as a trainer is to continue to make adjustments and make sure everything is going as smooth as possible."
Sullivan described Always Dreaming as "high energy and high maintenance," which isn't exactly a compliment. The talent of the horse is undeniable, but his high-strung nature might wind up playing at a disadvantage on the Derby stage.
He can best be described as a volatile favorite here.
Classic Empire (4-1)
For a while, it looked like Classic Empire would enter this race as the runaway favorite. He won four of his first five career races, including the Breeders' Futurity Stakes and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile—not exactly a bad start to a career.
But things started to fall apart. He finished behind Irish War Cry and Gunnevera in the Holy Bull Stakes in March and then refused to work in training. Trainer Mark Casse told John Clay of the Herald-Leader that back problems and a foot abscess were the root cause, but his horse still "wasn't happy."
Casse sent Classic Empire back to the farm briefly, and his method worked. The colt was back to his winning ways at the Arkansas Derby, winning by a half-length over Conquest Mo Money. Not exactly the type of dominant performance he was looking for, but good enough to give Casse confidence heading into the Derby.
"I've always said good horses win when everything goes their way; great horses win when nothing goes their way," Casse told Clay. "And I think he's a great horse. But I guess we'll determine that (Saturday)."
Like Always Dreaming, Classic Empire's performance level might wind up being wholly dependent on how he's feeling at the gate.
Irish War Cry (6-1)
Brilliance followed by bouts of inconsistency seem to be the theme with this year's horses. Irish War Cry has competed in five career races, and he's won four. The lone exception was an inexplicable seventh-place performance against a strong Fountain of Youth field, which has led some to believe elite competition will get the best of him.
Of course, Irish War Cry responded to that disappointment by taking the Wood Memorial by four lengths—the type of performance that put him right back into the mix as a top contender.
"He's definitely brightened the hopes of New Jersey thoroughbred racing," Rory Huston told Jim Hague of The Racing Biz. "It's a dying breed. We get less and less each year. So Irish War Cry has brought something back to New Jersey. Mrs. [Isabelle] de Tomaso deserves to have a good horse."
Of course, the pedigree here isn't going to make many national headlines. Trainer H. Graham Motion isn't on the national level of a Pletcher or Bob Baffer. He has a Kentucky Derby winner under his belt, but that was with 2011 shocker Animal Kingdom. Irish War Cry is arguably his best horse from a pre-race perspective.
Working in Irish War Cry's favor is the fact he's not seen as an overly moody horse. He just had one bad race. Of the three favorites, he's probably a bit of an outsider in Lexington circles, but it'd be a shock to not see him in contention.