There are few more tradition-packed events in all of sports than the Kentucky Derby, and the winning horse and jockey will etch their names in horse racing history Saturday at the 143rd running.
The story goes beyond just the racing at fabled Churchill Downs thanks to the mint juleps, Garland of Roses and singing of "My Old Kentucky Home," but a deep field of 20 contenders promises to make the race a memorable one.
With that in mind, here is a look at the predicted finish for every horse and jockey in the field.
|Predicted Order of Finish for Entire Field|
|1||Lookin at Lee||Corey Lanerie||18|
|2||Thunder Snow||Christophe Soumillon||5|
|3||Fast and Accurate||Channing Hill||20|
|4||Untrapped||Ricardo Santana Jr.||19|
|5||Always Dreaming||John Velazquez||2|
|6||State of Honor||Jose Lezcano||14|
|11||Battle of Midway||Flavien Prat||15|
|13||J Boys Echo||Luis Saez||16|
|14||Classic Empire||Julien Leparoux||1|
|15||McCraken||Brian Hernandez Jr.||3|
|17||Irish War Cry||Rajiv Maragh||4|
|19||Practical Joke||Joel Rosario||10|
Predicted Winner: Classic Empire
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The name American Pharoah rings a bell with even the most casual of horse racing fans. He captured the Triple Crown in 2015, starting with a Kentucky Derby win over Dortmund and others at Churchill Downs.
American Pharoah isn't in this year's field, but the eventual victor shares a pedigree with the legend.
Classic Empire's sire is Pioneerof the Nile, who was also American Pharoah's sire. That doesn't necessarily mean Classic Empire is going to capture the fascination of the sporting world in the same way American Pharoah did a couple of years ago, but there is potential dominance in his blood.
There were doubts about Classic Empire after a third-place finish at the Holy Bull Stakes and health issues, but he answered them in commanding fashion with a win at the Arkansas Derby to clinch a spot in this year's field at Churchill Downs.
Considering the Kentucky Derby is a similar 1 1/4 miles to the Arkansas Derby's 1 1/8 miles, he also demonstrated a blueprint to victory for Saturday's race. He charged from the outside down the stretch to capture the win and will be in similar position at the Kentucky Derby from the No. 14 post.
His trainer Mark Casse likes where the team is at following a bumpy road to reach Churchill Downs, per the Democrat-Gazette (h/t Arkansas Online), "It's been a crazy road, but we're right where we want to be. ... Because everybody was counting him out, but he was long from done."
The sheer fact Classic Empire is starting from the No. 14 position puts him in an ideal place to win, because he doesn't have to worry about expending too much energy out of the gates to avoid being trapped on the inside.
He can then size up the rest of the field from an outside middle spot early in the race and then tap into the speed he demonstrated at the Arkansas Derby on the finishing kick.
The result will be the first step toward a potential Triple Crown and spot in history alongside American Pharoah.