The countdown is officially on for the Kentucky Derby as post positions have been drawn, and trainers and jockeys are now able to figure out strategies that can lead to the winner's circle.
The first Saturday in May is often the most anticipated day of the year in the Sport of Kings, and this year's Kentucky Derby should be no different. A full field of 20 horses will go to the post at Churchill Downs Saturday evening.
2017 Kentucky Derby Details
Where: Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky
Post Time: Saturday, May 6, at 6:34 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live
|2017 Kentucky Derby Post Positions and Odds|
|1||Lookin At Lee||Corey Lanerie||Steve Asmussen||28-1|
|2||Thunder Snow||Christophe Soumillon||Saeed bin Suroor||16-1|
|3||Fast and Accurate||Channing Hill||Mike Maker||66-1|
|4||Untrapped||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen||50-1|
|5||Always Dreaming||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||4-1|
|6||State of Honor||Jose Lezcano||Mark Casse||40-1|
|7||Girvin||Mike Smith||Joe Sharp||16-1|
|8||Hence||Florent Geroux||Steve Asmussen||22-1|
|9||Irap||Mario Gutierrez||Doug O’Neill||25-1|
|10||Gunnevera||Javier Castellano||Antonio Sano||12-1|
|11||Battle of Midway||Flavien Prat||Jerry Hollendorfer||28-1|
|12||Sonneteer||Kent Desormeaux||Keith Desormeaux||33-1|
|13||J Boys Echo||Luis Saez||Dale Romans||33-1|
|14||Classic Empire||Julien Leparoux||Mark Casse||19-4|
|15||McCraken||Brian Hernandez Jr.||Ian Wilkes||13-2|
|16||Tapwrit||Jose Ortiz||Todd Pletcher||25-1|
|17||Irish War Cry||Rajiv Maragh||Graham Motion||13-2|
|18||Gormley||Victor Espinoza||John Shirreffs||16-1|
|19||Practical Joke||Joel Rosario||Chad Brown||16-1|
|20||Patch||Tyler Gaffalione||Todd Pletcher||33-1|
While horses like Always Dreaming and Classic Empire are favored, there is an excellent chance that a long shot can win the race.
This race at Churchill Downs is not necessarily about the most talented runner winning; the crowded field means tactics will play at least as important a role as speed.
Veteran jockeys have to use all their knowledge and experience to avoid the pitfalls of getting boxed in or being caught way outside if they are going to have a legitimate chance of winning.
McCraken is not a long shot at plus-650 (per Odds Shark, which translates to 13-2 in traditional horse-racing odds), but he should have an excellent chance to put his imprint on the race.
McCraken has performed extremely well at Churchill Downs, winning all three of his starts over the course. His running style seems to suit the 1 ¼-mile race as he enjoys coming from off the pace and turning it on down the stretch.
The horse will start out of the No. 15 position, and he is trained by Ian Wilkes and ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr.
McCraken is the feisty sort, according to owner Clay Whitham.
"He came out of nowhere," Whitham told Terry Frei of the Denver Post. "He really has an interesting personality. He is very much full of himself. He feels like he must be a champion. He's a lot of fun to be around and he's a challenge for his trainer and his groom."
Irish War Cry will go postward with the same 13-2 odds as McCraken, and this horse opened a lot of eyes when he started his career by winning three races in a row.
While that streak came to an end, Irish War Cry won the Wood Memorial with Graham Motion as his trainer and Rajiv Maragh in the saddle.
He will start from the No. 17 hole.
J Boys Echo is a true long shot with odds of 33-1, but he is the son of Mineshaft and that means he should be able to handle the Derby distance.
He is trained by Dale Romans, and he was well-prepared and strong in the Gotham when he had an excellent trip on the rail for victory.
J Boys Echo is a competitive horse who has been training well and has impressed handicappers like Steve Haskin of the Blood-Horse. He is favorably positioned out of the 13th hole.
Practical Joke starts out of the 19th hole, and that means he must have a sharp start or he could easily get shuffled back in the field.
Trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Joel Rosario, Practical Joke has failed to win in his last three starts, and that explains why he is no better than a 16-1 shot at this point.
However, he won two important races as a two-year-old in the Champagne and the Hopeful, so he has shown he can run with quality horses.