With Saturday's Kentucky Derby upon us, it's time to break down the schedule information, purse information and the field.
Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky
When: Saturday, May 6
Post Time: 6:34 p.m. ET
TV: NBC (Coverage will run from 2:30 p.m. until 7:20 p.m.)
Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Purse: The Derby's purse this year is expected to be $2,395,800, with the winner claiming $1,635,800, per Beth Harris of the Associated Press (via the Denver Post).
|Kentucky Derby Field|
|1||Lookin At Lee||Corey Lanerie||Steve Asmussen||20-1|
|2||Thunder Snow||Christophe Soumillon||Saeed bin Suroor||20-1|
|3||Fast and Accurate||Channing Hill||Mike 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 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 Leparoux||Mark Casse||4-1|
|15||McCraken||Brian Hernandez Jr.||Ian 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 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|
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Of the favorites, Always Dreaming came away with the best post position. From Gate 5, he can potentially avoid the pack and race out toward the front of the field, putting him in a position to stay away from the type of interference that can swallow horses in the opening stages of the race.
Given some of his recent behavior, that may be key.
"Always Dreaming has perhaps the best current form, but his recent aggressive behavior in the mornings, which caused him to be trained in draw reins and with a new exercise rider, invites concern over how he'll react when the gate opens, he's surrounded by 19 rivals and 150,000 fans fueled with mint juleps let out a roar," Jay Privman of the Daily Racing Form wrote (via ESPN).
Classic Empire is the most recent Arkansas Derby winner and looked like the strongest horse available in the field after he won last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Consistency hasn't been the horse's strong suit, however, leaving questions about what type of form he'll be in come race time.
Both Classic Empire and McCraken shouldn't be too hampered by posts at Nos. 14 and 15 respectively, so long as they break well. Most post positions aren't death sentences, though the inside and outside are the most difficult placements to overcome.
In this field, every little advantage—or mistake—will loom large.
"I think it's as wide-open a Derby as we've seen in a long time," trainer Dale Romans told Privman. "I don't think it means it's a bad group of horses. I think it's an even group of horses."
Another interesting factor in this year's race will be an unusual lack of diversity when it comes to strategy, as Tim Layden of SI.com wrote:
"Confusing the issue even further, there seems to be no obvious speed horses in the race. Customarily, the Derby's 20-horse field includes equal numbers of horses who start fast, stalk the pace or come from behind. (The entry-by-points system that sorts out the field from among countless owners with Derby Fever tends to knock out speedballs, because they can't win long races).
"This year seems to be thick with horses who would all like to be in third place and then make a move. Somebody will lead. Maybe somebody will steal the Derby, as [Bob] Baffert's War Emblem did in 2002. But it hasn’t happened since."
Add it all up, and you have a truly interesting and utterly unpredictable race. There isn't a horse in the field without question marks. There also don't appear to be many horses incapable of taking the win.
Parity often breeds intrigue. At this year's Kentucky Derby, that appears to be the case.