The 2017 Kentucky Derby takes place on Saturday, May 6, with 20 horses looking to achieve immortality during the "Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports."
This looks like one of the years without an overwhelming favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. There are certainly horses that boast strong resumes and have caught the bettors' eyes, but there isn't an American Pharoah or California Chrome that clearly stands out.
This adds more drama to proceedings, since there's more of a feeling anyone can win instead of focusing on one horse that will challenge for a Triple Crown or be an immediate disappointment.
|2017 Kentucky Derby Viewing Information|
|Date||Network||Coverage Start Time (ET)||Post Time (ET)|
|Saturday, May 6||NBC||2:30 p.m.||6:46 p.m.|
|2017 Kentucky Derby Field|
|1||Lookin at Lee||Corey Lanerie||Steven M. Asmussen||20-1|
|2||Thunder Snow||Christophe Soumillon||Saeed bin Suroor||20-1|
|3||Fast and Accurate||Channing Hill||Michael J. 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 F. 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 R. Leparoux||Mark E. Casse||4-1|
|15||McCracken||Brian Hernandez Jr.||Ian R. 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 C. 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|
|Source: Kentucky Derby on Facebook|
Always Dreaming is entering the Kentucky Derby as the betting favorite, though he doesn't have a deep track record to pull from.
The son of Bodemeister, who finished second at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2012, Always Dreaming has only run one stakes race leading up to Churchill Downs. He did win that lone appearance, dominating the Florida Derby with a five-length victory over State of Honor.
Because of that victory, it's not surprising to see the money coming in on Always Dreaming. Per Claire Novak of Blood Horse, Florida Derby winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby 23 times, most recently last year when Nyquist pulled it off.
Novak also noted in a separate report that Always Dreaming's winning time at the Florida Derby was the best in almost 40 years:
"After tracking pacesetter Three Rules' opening fractions of :23.28, :47.08, and 1:10.75 in the 1 1/8-mile test, Always Dreaming took over from second and drew off to an easy score in a final time of 1:47.47 on a fast track. According to Gulfstream, he registered the fastest clocking since Alydar’s 1:47 winning time in 1978."
Coming off his Florida Derby win in 1978, Alydar finished second at all three Triple Crown races because he had the misfortune to be running the same year as Affirmed.
Gunnevera started the Florida Derby as the betting favorite but was undone thanks to a slow start. He did rebound with a flurry at the end to finish third, so if jockey Javier Castellano gets him out of the gate strong, it bodes well for him to win at Kentucky.
Another factor that has to be taken into consideration this weekend is weather. Per Weather.com, it's expected to rain in Louisville every day until Sunday. That will leave the track at Churchill Downs a soggy mess to navigate.
ESPN's Jeannine Edwards highlighted five horses with success on wet tracks in their careers:
Jeannine Edwards @jeanninee12
#KYDerby horses who have done well on wet tracks: Classic Empire, Gormley, Gunnevera, Tapwrit, Hence. Most others have not raced in mud2017-5-1 23:50:12
Rainy conditions at the Kentucky Derby led to one of the most memorable upsets in the history of the race, per Gene Kershner of the Buffalo News:
"In 2009, Mine That Bird pulled one of the biggest upsets in Derby history, when Calvin Borel steered him up the rail to win the race at 50-1 sliding past Pioneerof the Nile in the stretch. Pioneerof the Nile was American Pharoah’s sire, who proved he could get it done in the rain in the 2015 Preakness."
That does offer hope to horses lower on the betting totem pole, including Local Hero, Fast and Accurate and Untrapped.
The weather also adds to the drama this year's Kentucky Derby is likely to provide. When there isn't a single dominant horse in the race, there is already a feeling that anything can happen on the track.
Add the rain and mud into the mix, suddenly the 2017 Kentucky Derby looks like one of the most difficult-to-predict sporting events of the year.