Outside of Classic Empire and Always Dreaming, the list of contenders in the 2017 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is thin.
Saturday's race promises to be an entertaining one with 20 of the world's best horses and jockeys competing for the $2 million purse. Now that post positions have been announced, the field is becoming clearer as each day passes and the odds for each horse begin to take shape.
Which horse will come out of nowhere and leave their stamp on the 143rd annual Kentucky Derby? We'll take an in-depth look into this year's crop of competitors below but first, let's take glance at the field of horses racing this Saturday with updated odds and post positions.
|2017 Kentucky Derby Lineup|
|1||Lookin At Lee||Corey Lanerie||Steve Asmussen||+2800|
|2||Thunder Snow||Christophe Soumillon||Saeed bin Suroor||+1600|
|3||Fast and Accurate||Channing Hill||Mike Maker||+6600|
|4||Untrapped||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen||+5000|
|5||Always Dreaming||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||+400|
|6||State of Honor||Jose Lezcano||Mark Casse||+4000|
|7||Girvin||Mike Smith||Joe Sharp||+1600|
|8||Hence||Florent Geroux||Steve Asmussen||+2200|
|9||Irap||Mario Gutierrez||Doug O’Neill||+2500|
|10||Gunnevera||Javier Castellano||Antonio Sano||+1200|
|11||Battle of Midway||Flavien Prat||Jerry Hollendorfer||+2800|
|12||Sonneteer||Kent Desormeaux||Keith Desormeaux||+3300|
|13||J Boys Echo||Luis Saez||Dale Romans||+3300|
|14||Classic Empire||Julien Leparoux||Mark Casse||+425|
|15||McCraken||Brian Hernandez Jr.||Ian Wilkes||+650|
|16||Tapwrit||Jose Ortiz||Todd Pletcher||+2500|
|17||Irish War Cry||Rajiv Maragh||Graham Motion||+650|
|18||Gormley||Victor Espinoza||John Shirreffs||+1600|
|19||Practical Joke||Joel Rosario||Chad Brown||+1600|
|20||Patch||Tyler Gaffalione||Todd Pletcher||+3300|
First Dark Horse to Know: McCraken
A strong finisher with breakaway speed, McCraken has the opportunity to play spoiler this Saturday after showing off this past week in training sessions, per Marcus Hersh of Daily Racing Form.
Marcus Hersh @DRFHersh
Did anyone make a more favorable appearance this morning than McCraken? His stock is going up for me.2017-4-28 12:57:14
At +650 odds, McCraken is certainly on the outside looking in, but the horse has constantly been in the conversation for a top-four, possible top-three finish this weekend. Even at his best, McCraken would still need a lot of help to pull ahead of either Classic Empire or Always Dreaming.
If Classic Empire races to his potential, there isn't much hope for McCraken. Always Dreaming has been inconsistent in his practice sessions over the past few days, which could raise some alarms, and it can only benefit a horse like McCraken if Always Dreaming struggles to gallop in control.
Mike Welsch @DRFWelsch
Always Dreaming a little more aggressive than yesterday but after a bit of an anxious start under control throughout his 1 1/2M gallop 1/22017-5-3 09:57:54
McCraken will begin Saturday's Derby at post position No. 5, but his jockey and trainer will hoping he translates that to finish No. 1 after the "Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" is all said and done.
Second Dark Horse to Watch: Irish War Cry
Outside of McCraken, there aren't many more horses at the Kentucky Derby getting more attention than Irish War Cry.
Marcus Hersh @DRFHersh
My first morning seeing Irish War Cry in person. My reaction: "Wow."2017-5-2 15:00:20
Entering Thursday with +650 odds, the same as McCraken, Irish War Cry is in a position to make history as he could become the first horse to ever win the Derby in post position No. 17, a statistic that his trainer Graham Motion knows all too well, via Childs Walker of the Baltimore Sun.
"Someone's going to win from the 17 hole one day," Motion said. "I was very happy with it. I think it suits the horse, actually. It doesn't bother me at all."
Whether Irish War Cry can actually pull off the victory is yet to be seen, but according to reports from his practice sessions in the lead up to the Derby, he might have a puncher's chance.
Marcus Hersh @DRFHersh
Leaning this way for top pick. If I had to make top 4 today it'd be 1 - Irish War Cry 2 - Always Dreaming 3 - Hence 4 - Lookin at Lee2017-5-2 15:01:23
Picking the Top Three
Barring a major upset, the winner of the Derby will be Classic Empire. Last year's Kentucky Derby was a lot easier to predict, as Nyquist was, by a large margin, the best horse in the field and showed it when it mattered most.
This year, however, there is uncertainty as to which horse will cross the finish line first. Sure, the mounting anticipation of a very competitive race is much more exciting than the prospect of a predictable outcome, but picking against Classic Empire is foolish.
Always Dreaming may have the best odds and the better post position heading into the race, but he hasn't looked like a top-five horse all week. Look for Always Dreaming to fall by the wayside as McCraken and Irish War Cry round out the top three in what looks to be one of the more competitive horse races you'll see all year.
1) Classic Empire
3) Irish War Cry