Classic Empire, McCraken and Always Dreaming will be the top three in the projected order of finish for the 2017 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 6.
Irish War cry will be the closest among the chasing pack, but it's the big three who will wow the crowds and reward bettors in Louisville.
Todd Pletcher's training could give Always Dreaming the advantage needed to finish first, but a healthy again Classic Empire has the speed and power to win through and collect the $1,240,000 guaranteed share of the $2,000,000 overall purse.
Here is the full projected order of finish, along with payouts:
|Kentucky Derby 2017: Projected Order of Finish and Payouts|
|1||Classic Empire||Julien Leparoux||$1,240,000|
|2||Always Dreaming||John Velazquez||$400,000|
|3||McCraken||Brian Hernandez Jr.||$200,000|
|4||Irish War Cry||Rajiv Maragh||$100,000|
|9||Lookin' At Lee||Corey Lanerie||-|
|10||State of Honor||Jose Lezcano||-|
|12||Battle of Midway||Flavien Prat||-|
|16||Practical Joke||Joel Rosario||-|
|17||J Boys Echo||Luis Saez||-|
|18||Untrapped||Ricardo Santana Jr.||-|
|19||Thunder Snow||Christophe Soumillon||-|
|20||Fast and Accurate||Channing Hill||-|
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Favorites Will Lead the Way
Classic Empire, Always Dreaming and McCraken are expected to lead the way and will do so from the start in this year's Run for the Roses. All three horses are just too talented for the rest of the field.
Always Dreaming showed his ability by winning the Florida Derby with a comfortable margin of victory. Meanwhile, Classic Empire was similarly impressive in winning the Arkansas Derby.
The latter is a three-year old with the speed to set an unassailable pace over the one-and-a-quarter-mile distance at Churchill Downs. Being fully recovered from a troubling foot abscess will make this horse too quick to catch, even for Always Dreaming.
McCraken will also be in the mix, though. The three-year old has won four of his five career starts and has earned $410,848 in his career, per Terry Frei of The Denver Post.
The best of the outsider bets is undoubtedly Irish War Cry. The horse has an excellent pedigree, according to Mike Dempsey of OddsShark: "The colt is by two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, who in 2007 was third in the Kentucky Derby, won the Preakness and was second in the Belmont Stakes. He beat his elders later that year taking the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The mare Irish Sovereign has produced five other winners."
Dempsey also lauded the key influence of trainer Graham Motion, a winner at Churchill Downs back in 2011. With a heritage and guidance like this, Irish War Cry could easily upset the favorites.
The horse has also looked good in preparations, per David Grening of the Daily Racing Form:
Of the more obvious outsiders, Hence is worth keeping an eye on. In another article for OddsShark, Dempsey commended both Hence's speed as well as his win with room to spare at the Sunland Derby.
Even so, Hence is still obviously a long shot to upset the field. It's an order front-loaded with three legitimate potential Triple Crown winners. Of the three, Classic Empire can make a statement by nosing ahead of Pletcher's Always Dreaming.