The 2017 Kentucky Derby is inching closer and closer to a reality, as 20 horses and jockeys will take the track at Churchill Downs this Saturday, May 6, for a chance to cement their new names in history.
Out of the 20 horses competing, only a handful are truly contenders. Now that post positions have been set, all that's left is the race is itself. Let's take a look at the field of competitors heading into the race with updated post positions, odds and predictions for each horse.
|2017 Kentucky Derby Post Positions, Odds|
|1||Lookin At Lee||Corey Lanerie||+2800||11th|
|2||Thunder Snow||Christophe Soumillon||+1600||8th|
|3||Fast and Accurate||Channing Hill||+6600||19th|
|4||Untrapped||Ricardo Santana Jr.||+5000||17th|
|5||Always Dreaming||John Velazquez||+400||4th|
|6||State of Honor||Jose Lezcano||+4000||18th|
|11||Battle of Midway||Flavien Prat||+2800||14th|
|13||J Boys Echo||Luis Saez||+3300||12th|
|14||Classic Empire||Julien Leparoux||+425||1st|
|15||McCraken||Brian Hernandez Jr.||+650||2nd|
|17||Irish War Cry||Rajiv Maragh||+650||3rd|
|19||Practical Joke||Joel Rosario||+1600||9th|
Don't take your eyes off Classic Empire
Barring some unforeseen circumstances, it would be a shock if Classic Empire doesn't enter the winner's circle Saturday, as he is the bonafide favorite heading into the 143rd edition of the Kentucky Derby.
Although Classic Empire will be starting at the 14th pole position, a position that has seen only two horses win the race, according to OddsShark, there isn't another horse out there that can beat him when he's at his best.
Now fully healed from his foot abscess that slowed him down earlier this year, Classic Empire has the breakaway speed, strength and endurance to blow away his competition. And even if he falls behind, there aren't many horses in the world that has the ability to close the distance like he can.
Classic Empire showed in the Arkansas Derby last month that he is never out of the race, and jockeys from other horses in the field need to be wary of this otherwise they'll be left in the dust.
Keep on Dreaming
If there is a horse that can give Classic Empire a run for his money, Always Dreaming could easily be that contender.
With +400 odds (bet $100 to win $400), it's clear that OddsShark fancies the horse's chances in the race, and for good reason. After winning the 2017 Florida Derby with relative ease as he broke away from the field in the final lengths of the race, Always Dreaming is a legitimate threat to win it all.
But while he has the potential to put on a show, he has been inconsistent in the lead up to the race, particularly in practice sessions earlier this week, per Mike Welsch of Daily Racing Form.
It could be that Always Dreaming just needs some time to adjust to the track at Churchill Downs, but it could also be that Always Dreaming might be a little tired from a busy April and extensive training. Only a couple days out from competition, don't be surprised to see Always Dreaming struggle if he can't get his legs under him before the race.
McCraken has been turning heads all week during practice sessions and has seen his stock rise significantly over the past couple of days.
Steve Byk and Marcus Hersh from Daily Racing Form were both impressed with McCraken's performance during morning sessions going into Thursday, and with +650 odds, he might be a better's favorite on Saturday.
Known for his ability to kill off a race and finish strong, McCraken is a real possibility to knock off Classic Empire and the other contenders in the Derby.
If he can build up a quick lead, the odds would quickly shift in his favor to take home first place and the $2 million purse.